Saturday, April 09, 2005Spring has finally decided to show herself. We Southerners can speak of having a nice spring, but what that really means is roughly one month of temperatures somewhere above sixty degrees, about two and a half weeks of sunshine and fewer than three tornadoes. It's lovely now, but by May the weather will be scorching. And then the humidity. Lord, the humidity. It envelopes you, like the embrace of a large sweaty man, the kind who sits in the outfield bleachers at Wrigley Field, shirtless, reaking of Miller Lite and salty pretzels.
So I here I sit, endowed with a mild redneck tan, the result of an afternoon on the steps of Amelia-Gayle Gorgas Library studying for the accursed GRE and reading Francis Schaeffer. After two stops at the Crimson Cafe and some time spent watching the Masters, I made my triweekly stop at the large corporate bookstore in search of magazines. The catches this time around were National Review, Time, the Atlantic and Paste. Good reading on all counts, I suppose. Paste has quickly become one of the few music magazines I can stomach, but it still has its flaws. Its calling card is its willingness to spotlight "signs of life" in culture, which is code for "we'll talk about music made by Christians that doesn't qualify as Christian music." Bands in this category will include the usual suspects: Damien Jurado, Pedro the Lion, Over the Rhine, the Innocence Mission, all longtime personal favorites. The problem here is that Paste seems only interested in signs of life without any overarching concern for what those signs might be. Then again, the magazine doesn't pretend to have any overarching worldview or ideology controlling its content, so I suppose it's pointless to complain.
I'll tell you where I will complain. "Christian" publications that seem unwilling to comment on content. I'm speaking primarily of Relevant Magazine, which is all the rage for all the cool kids in Christian circles these days. When the magazine reviews albums - "progressive culture" they call it; I prefer something simple, like rock and roll - comments are made on the lyrical content. This is as it should be, for rock and roll is a two part art, music and words. The problem is that while Relevant has a more open mind in reviewing "secular" music than most Chrisian publications, the reviews seem to reach the same conclusions as its nonChristian counterparts. Take this online review of the most recent Bright Eyes record. My major annoyance is with passages like this:
Oberst's lyrics are steeped in political protest, which is not a shock since this past summer and fall he joined luminaries such as Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder on the Vote for Change tour. And while I do not agree with some of his political statements, there’s no denying the passion with which he believes what he believes. He writes and sings with a conviction that most of his peers could only dream of. I've never been one to let political disagreements get in the way of enjoying good art, so I'm not gonna start now.
Now I know Conor Oberst is a leftist songwriter, and I'm comfortable with that. He's not so belligerent that he ruins things for the two or three of us conservatives who buy his records. At the same time, passion only gets you so far. I can be passionate about pink bunnies dancing around my bed, but if they're not real, I'd hope someone would haul me off to the nuthouse. Likewise, if Oberst's political rhetoric doesn't square with reality, someone needs to call him on it. I'm not asking Relevant to be conservative in the same sense as National Review, but I am asking for intellectual honesty. There's more to life than passion and emotion; there has to be a line drawn between real and not real. Oh wait, I forget. Relevant is trying to be...um...relevant to the post-modern culture. Absolutes don't matter anymore, apparently. Francis Schaeffer would call this all rubbish. And as a twenty-something pretty well immersed in what Relevant defines as "progressive culture," I am completely unimpressed by such nonsense. I listen to Bright Eyes and the Shins, but I'll stick to reading First Things, thank you very much.