March 24th, 2008

operesque

Blog snubbed by snob

Sarah Boxer's anthology Ultimate Blogs: masterworks from the wild web continues to be reviewed, which means that people who would never normally read these pages are being paid to check them out. Since the book hypes Click Opera as a "masterwork", this can lead to put-downs as well as puffs.



This weekend it was the turn of New York Times writer David Kamp to turn his paid attention to my prose. Kamp didn't find it very stimulating; in fact, he nearly fell asleep.

"There’s too much stuff in this book that is, well, a snooze. I found it a chore to get through the excerpts from Click Opera, the dullsville blog of the cult musician Momus (né Nick Currie)," Kamp wrote. "What he does — the political-cultural landscape as seen through the eyes of an obtuse, arty person born in Scotland — is done a thousand times better by David Byrne, the former Talking Head, on his blog."

Now, I like Byrne's blog too. It's much more "normal", sensible and adult than my blog -- recent entries editorialize about the Spitzer prostitution resignation, the "dire situation of the record business", and Takashi Murakami. I personally wouldn't bother blogging about these things -- I'm bored with "hypocrisy" as a subject, especially the hypocrisy of politicians, I'm even more bored by the problems of the record business (as far as I'm concerned it can vanish), and I've charted Murakami's plunge into the arc of the sky and "the abyss of ubiquity" over the past eight years.



The standard rebuttal of a New York Times jibe about one's irrelevance or dullness would be to point out how the paper is so consistently behind the trends that you can set your watch by it: the paper recently told us that Nakameguro "has emerged as a sort of Japanese Notting Hill" -- information that you could have read on the Momus website seven years ago, while it was still vaguely true and relevant (most of the interesting stuff has now been torn down).

But of course we love the Grey Lady (collage of the paper above by James Goggin) for this sort of fumbling, percolated commentary. I personally have no axe to grind with the paper itself, which has been fantastically supportive of my music and art, running positive reviews of CMJ performances and Chelsea art shows I've staged. In fact Sarah Boxer, who picked Click Opera for the blogs book, is a New York Times writer of long standing (she was their first web critic).

So if the NYT now fails to agree with Chris Mitchell ("Momus writes lengthily but never windily - his is a truly absorbing, original journal, a great example of what blogs can actually be. I reckon it would make for a great book"), the problem seems to be with Kamp himself. He's actually a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a self-proclaimed snob, co-author of The Rock Snob's Dictionary, The Film Snob's Dictionary, The Food Snob's Dictionary and The Wine Snob's Dictionary. In fact, if something doesn't have "snob" in the title Kamp won't touch it with a gondola pole. Even his website is called Snobsite.com.

I couldn't resist googling the man's picture, and he does indeed look like a terrible snob. I imagine being stuck next to him at some Long Island dinner party (not that I'd get invited to anything remotely like that) and struggling to find any common ground whatsoever. We'd probably end up discussing The Sartorialist, and after panning the site I'd find out that not only is Scott Schuman a good personal friend of his, but he's sitting directly opposite us, listening intently. Kamp would then attempt to save my embarrassment by asking what it's like to live in Tokyo, and how he's heard that Nakameguro is the new hip district.

Or is it a problem with today's New York, which is a city more and more for people of Kamp's stripe -- wine snobs and sartorialists? I think it was a whiff of the same preppy sensibility which made me resist the charms of Vampire Weekend last month (now there's something I'd like to see Byrne blogging about -- honestly and openly). That dispute got surprisingly widely reported -- misreported, in fact, since I was hardly telling the Columbia graduates to "bugger off", just saying I had reservations about their music because it didn't have enough Black Dice and Xiu Xiu in it.

Ultimately, that's a nonsensical statement -- why would I even listen to a band who were too preppy for my tastes, and not broken-sounding enough? Today's fraggy tastescape means never having to say you're sorry -- if a band or a blog isn't to your taste, you most likely will never have to hear, read or snub it. Unless... unless hype or paid reviewing forces you to expose yourself to something you'd never normally consider. Something like Click Opera when it's in some book of blog meisterwerks, or a band who sing about the exact placement of an Oxford Comma when they're on the cover of Spin magazine.

The other mention of Momus in the mainstream press this weekend came in The Guardian, where a new band called Black Kids were said to "cultivate such waspish cult songwriters as Stephin Merritt, Momus and Hefner's Darren Hayman".

Waspish and cult -- now that's something I don't mind owning up to. It certainly sounds better than "obtuse and dull". Meanwhile, when Kamp comes to write The Blog Snob's Dictionary in, oh, seven years or so, I expect this blog will be in there. Whether or not Click Opera still exists. I'm setting my watch on it.