Music as Porn

Here’s a provocative point from Helen Rittelmeyer:

None of that was especially clear, perhaps because my take on Pulp is sadly un-British and therefore weak. Maybe the American translation would have something to do with Neutral Milk Hotel, the band that led a generation into thinking that the ideal love affair would be one between a two-headed boy and the ghost of a teenager fifty years dead. In each case, the effect is to make real life seem tawdry compared with our more and more stylized expectations, even as our public fantasies get more and more tawdry (and this is where Elvis Costello’s second album comes in). Fairy tales are “erotic novels for children”—hear that, Jeff Mangum? For children.

Badmouthing Pulp,  the Soft Boys, and Neutral Milk Hotel in one blog post is quite a feat – my teen-aged soul cries out in anguish. Having had a few otherwise promising dates ruined by the colossal weight of “There is a light that never goes out,” I’m inclined to agree with Ms. Rittelmeyer, though that’s not going to stop me from wearing out my (third) copy of “The Queen is Dead.”

I’m also struck by the parallels between her argument and Naomi Wolf’s take on pornography, another medium that makes real life seem tawdry and unsatisfying in comparison. But unlike porn, good music is more of a complement than a replacement for real interaction. Maybe “There is a light” is silly and melodramatic, but I don’t think anything does a better job of capturing that elusive  sense of anticipation felt right before knocking on her door than “Ask Me.”

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