Tunnel Blanket


Band: This Will Destroy You
Album: Tunnel Blanket
Best song: “Little Smoke,” no doubt.
Worst song: “Osario” isn’t great.

Back at my old job, I used to talk with one of our reporters –Doug is his name — about various stuff. A lot of the conversations got pretty strange, like the time we discussed history’s greatest monster (we settled on Stalin, I believe) or the most effective way to a group like Al Qaeda to terrorize DC.

(Side note: It’s important to note that we weren’t talking about the highest body count, but rather the most terrifying thing. Terrorism plays on fear. I think Doug thought the Memorial Bridge would be a good place to bomb to share the shit out of commuters. I went with the Metro.)

We also often talked about music. Doug is a bit older than I am and fits more into the boomer generation than whatever generation is my generation (Y, the digital general, X jr., whatever). So, he’s got a completely different perspective than I do. He loves Dylan and the Stones and all the regular Boomer stuff. With that said, he’s an incredibly great dude and has some eclectic tastes — big fan of Steely Dan’s Aja, for example — and I learned a lot from chatting with him.

These music conversations eventually turned to the Rolling Stone list, which would eventually turn me toward the epic project by which I made my — albeit still very unimportant — name. Doug had trouble with the list, largely in the placement of some of the Springsteen records. I had trouble with the list for the reasons I’ve already stated.

But, the discussion simply started with my question as to how many of records I owned. It turned out I had about 300 of them, which then prompted my mind to wander: What if I reviewed each of the records.

So, I did.

It took a lot of trips to the library, a ton of money spent on Amazon and iTunes, and a fair amount of borrowing of CDs from friends, but I acquired the final 150-200 albums. My MP3 library is now littered with tons of shit I do not want like a bunch of U2 records, more than one Red Hot Chili Peppers record (my least favorite band in history), several Springsteen albums and, ugh, Hotel California.

But, that’s the point. While the list is a specific thing put together by a bunch of Boomers intellectually masturbating, it’s also the kind of that becomes important because of the imprint of the magazine. Like it or not, Rolling Stone is a big deal.

I think of this project because I was recently flattered by an open letter written to me by a gentleman echoing my project. I’m still working through his writing and I’ll absolutely recommend it to whoever has read mine. For one thing, he’s actually put some time into writing. For another, he’s got a completely different perspective — he’s younger than I and has very different tastes than I do.

(It’s worth noting that a dude commented on my Last.fm page that I had inspired him to listen to the 500 albums, though he never followed up. If you’re reading this, Last.fm dude, please let me know how it turned out.)

He’d e-mailed me recently asking me to read his open letter. I mostly told him that it’s a long slog and to take more care than I did. My biggest regret, of course, is that I did not take enough time for certain albums. And due to my policy not to rewrite a review for an album — a stupid, arbitrary policy that will certainly be lifted at some point — I can’t even look at some of my old piece. All of the first 10 are, basically, crap one-paragraph pieces of shit.

But, for what it’s worth, I’m probably more proud of my Weezer piece than anything else, though it looks woefully dated and pales in comparison to pieces written by others treading the same ground. And for pure bile, I really loved writing the one on Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

I really hate that band.

It’s kind of an awesome journey, to be honest. There’s beauty in the youthful nature of thinking you know everything; I was convinced I was the music nerd to end all music nerds upon graduation from high school. College learned me good and I found out that I wasn’t that, but rather a kid with a stack of Beatles LPs and a rudimentary knowledge of post-rock. The RS project certainly got repetitive and it absolutely got cumbersome, but, it was a way to do some research into music of which I was not aware beforehand. And, most importantly, it was a way for me to rediscover and reevaluate the music I’d mostly taken for granted.

The grand of example, of course, is that I rediscovered and completely rethought of my impressions of what I now consider the greatest album ever recorded and only perfect piece of art. The project also dovetailed with half of my two years in graduate school. Which is to say that I was similarly retraining my way of thinking. These two things combined to change my approach quite a bit. I had stopped being as lazy as before and took more care in my approach to work.

Our friend Jaded Seven asked me in his letter a little about getting a following. And, sadly, I don’t have a lot of advice about that. I mentioned some stuff about my famous friends and the like, but that’s not the way to go.

Worrying about web traffic isn’t really my game anymore, nor should it be, I’d say. But, I can say this: The best advice I’ve ever received about writing online is to be unique (Henry Abbott, of True Hoop said it, I believe, but I can’t find it). There’s a lot of shit on the Internet for people to read.

Grantland‘s Michael Kruse, paraphrasing a talk by Michael H. Goldhaber at Berkeley’s Center for Research on Social Change nearly 20 years ago, wrote this, in terms of the modern attention span:

Economics is the study of the allocation of resources that are scarce. These days, more and more, information isn’t scarce. Stuff isn’t scarce. What’s scarce is attention. The companies that win in an attention economy are those that win the eyeballs of people who have too much to look at. Too many ads. Too many screens in too many places. Too many games on too many channels on too many days of the week.

Kruse quotes Goldhaber’s “attention economy” theory in the bit and he’s not incorrect. Being unique is the most important thing; you need to get someone’s attention. I wish I knew how to do that. Hell, Grantland‘s patron saint and grand poobah Bill Simmons was particularly adept at creating something interesting and unique in his writing, which is how he became the giant he is today.

Personally, I’m not funny or interesting. I’m just a guy.

This Will Destroy You, in a lot of ways, is like this site. The band doesn’t do anything particularly different and, certainly, bands like Explosions in the Sky do it better. But, there’s something very moving and personal about Tunnel Blanket. As cliché as it sounds, the record speaks to me in a way that I cherish and enjoy.

The record has the typical post-rock-y things: electronic tinges, lots of dynamism, rhythm-heavy sections. Like the best slow Mogwai records, it evokes without pounding you over the head in the anticipated way.

Though, like all great hard music, there are head-pounding moments like the middle section of “Little Smoke,” the best 12-minute song you will hear. Or the droney excellence of “Communal Blood.” Or the shoegaze-y “Killed The Lord, Left For The New World.”

The RSproject was a different project than this one. This one is more an example of an “online journal,” the precursor to the “blog” and something of a more personal place. It’s not necessary for me to write about the music here. It’s not to say that I probably shouldn’t go back to that; my web traffic was far better when I was working off a list and writing about mellotrons, guitar work and such. It’s personal and it’s about me and I cherish that. People can read it, they can avoid it. I don’t really care. I’m just glad the Internet lets me do it.

And, I guess, that’s my final piece of advice to young Jaded Seven: Write for yourself. As mentioned, I garnered what little skill I have in writing during that project. I gained the discipline and I learned a lot about myself. That’s valuable.

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