A few days ago I was asked to compile a music list about any matter that I wanted to. Given the time of the year, the most obvious topic would be the best things I found during 2014, or whatever the top things I could filter from the whole past year. While I love and dig more than I’m willing to admit these lists, I presume you´re already overwhelmed with the amount you received so far. So have no fear and let me bother you with something more painful.
Going through the different topics I could use to make my list, I kept coming back to the albums that defined 2014, and one album in particular kept coming back to me; Mark Kozelek’s Benji. What stroked me wasn’t just that a 47 year old man with zero interest in becoming well recognized -and who writes mostly intimate and not very accessible folk songs- made it to the top of last year’s recommendations; but the fact that his personality could bring down the most enthusiastic devoted no self-respect fan you could ever imagine. By now, a lot of us heard about the unnecessary beef that Mr Kozelek started against The War on Drugs, probably the coolest guys you could ever find these days in the music scene -and also responsible for one of the most notable albums from the previous year. This was just the last (or by now the second last) attack by Mr Kozelek to someone whose only fault seemed to appreciate Kozelek’s music or –a far more terrible fault, show up to one of his shows.
I am not going to get into the details of Kozelek’s outrages, there is already enough said about that. What I find more interesting to explore, is how do we manage to respect and enjoy the art (specially in music, where the artist presence is more obvious than in other forms) of someone that we positively know we wouldn’t even stand for an elevator conversation. This is a subject that occupied hours and beers of conversations between me and my friends. Is it legit to enjoy, and even recommend the work of someone that we know to be a very questionable person? In my case, and based on my behavior, the answer is yes, I think.
I used Kozelek’s example because he just happened to record one of the most interesting works of the past year, at the same time that he managed to insult fans, threat people in his audience and make songs like “War on Drugs: Suck my Cock” . But I’m sure that we all know different examples of artists which work we love, that suddenly become monsters or questionable people. We haven’t forgotten that open letter that Dylan Farrow wrote about his life with Woody Allen under the same roof, or Lars Von Trier´s unfortunate press conference at Cannes a few years back. Are all these examples comparable? I don’t think so.
Point is that it´s a sticky issue and we all somehow set our own limits, arbitrary limits that we respect on us but not necessarily on others. I personally feel attracted by how a purely art discussion can get into the moral/ethic levels, and complicate even more an already complex conversation. I guess it is something that we have to live with. Art is usually produced by human beings after all. And if you are lenient with that friend or relative or neighbor, even knowing that he is possibly a jerk, are you not willing to give the same treatment to that One who takes you to places that no one else can? Probably not.
Well, bottom line of all this, is that I keep listening and recommending last Kozelek’s album, I walked out of his last show fed up with him, and my friends and I keep debating about this for hours and beers; all clear on my end. Oh, and I haven’t made my list, the list of Monsters that I Love. Maybe not a good idea in the end.