Thursday, March 27, 2008


In this week's New Yorker, while discussing Erykah Badu's New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) (which I have not heard), Sasha Frere-Jones, whose work is highly regarded in some quarters, writes the following sentence with what I will go ahead and assume is a straight face:

"Like 'Voodoo' - and like Miles Davis's 'On The Corner,' as several critics have noted - 'New Amerykah' is a relatively short record that feels infinitely relaxed, and favors sound and mood over choruses and verses." [Emphases mine.]

Last time I checked (which was this morning, as I listened to my iPod on the train into NYC), On The Corner had a running time of 54:46 - "relatively short" compared to Morton Feldman's String Quartet No. 2, or Agharta, but not to, say, Rocket To Russia. And certainly not short given the storage capacity of a single vinyl disc - its original format. So let's call that use of "relatively" questionable at best.

The part where SF-J really loses me, though, is his next adverb-adjective combo. Many, many words have been expended describing and analyzing On The Corner. I've written a few myself, here and there. But "infinitely relaxed" is a description I gotta say pretty much anyone with functioning ears can agree does not apply. (The weaselly deployment of "several [unnamed, mind] critics have noted" seems like rockcrit kin to the political campaign tactic of appending "some say" to a hallucinatory critique of one's opponent. If there are really multiple sentient humans who find On The Corner relaxing, I'd like to gather them all in a room sometime - preferably one with an MRI machine.) But hey, when you're making New Yorker money and gadding about the city hosting events and what-all, I guess it's easy to stay relaxed, even with Miles et al. jabbering and squealing in your ear.

1 comment:

David said...

I have a feeling that SFJ meant to cite In A Silent Way, a record that he's referred to lovingly in the past, and one to which both "short" and "infinitely relaxed" at least arguably apply. My bet is extended brain fart by Sasha (see also, e.g., views on race & music) and total lack of context among NYer fact checkers.