Shane MacGowan is dead.
His songs were simultaneously beautiful and horrific, heartbreaking and lustful. From The Nips, to The Pogues, to The Popes. Glorious. Disgusting. The picture that he painted of life, from the down trodden to the rebels to the lovers to the adventurers, was more vivid and authentic than anything his peers were doing at the time.
Contrast “A Pair of Brown Eyes” with “Boys From The County Hell” with “Old Main Drag” with “Sunny Side of the Street” and try to find that musical and topical range anywhere else. I dare you. Shane could write in a way that made a homeless drunk sound glamorous and aspirational, effortlessly bouncing between politics to religion to sex to every other aspect of the human experience. Poppy upbeat songs about the broken underbelly of it all right into slow beautiful songs about lost love. He could make straight edge kids want to drink whiskey with a song. God I fucking loved this guy. His ‘Friends of Shane’ is the only fanclub I ever joined, and in hindsight regret how many times I wrote in asking if Shane had been to a dentist recently.
I was introduced to The Pogues with “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” and it shattered my entire idea of what punk rock was and could be, and set me off on a journey that would lead from Gainesville Florida to decrepit pubs in the back alleys of Cork, and basement record stores in Dublin. It’s possible that I may have taken some of the same roads that I did if I’d never heard of Shane but I think it would have been far less likely.
I wrote more about it on my blog if you want to read more of my thoughts on him. I was just telling Jason Dooley that I remember the first time I saw Shane and The Popes in Chicago I was disappointed when the show started because he shuffled out on stage and was so obviously drunk already. Right away I started thinking of every other experience where I’d seen a band come out drunk and just suck. But not here, immediately I was like ‘holy crap’ the band was sharp and on it, and there was a dude who kept bringing Shane out lit cigarettes and beers mid song, without missing a beat, and he delivered completely. Shane actually puked during a song, right in the middle on stage, but wasn't phased at all and kept going right into the next verse. It was the most rock and roll thing I've ever seen, to this day. Long live Shane.
Speaking of music and blog posts, I also wrote about a show that I didn't go to recently, it's actually less about the show and more about wrestling with personal anxiety and growing up and fitting in and finding a place you belong, and also not fitting in there anymore. It's seriously introspective but maybe some of you will relate to it. It was a hard piece to write, but I think it helped. I forgot how much writing like this has always been my best therapy.
One final music bit, if you like lofi and hiphop then you need to immediately check out the new track from 8TARI. It's a cover a Jump Around and it's perfect.
So this was a wild one. I'm a fan of Jerry Saltz, I'm also a fan of Refik Anadol. I own work by both of them. I don't love everything they've done, but I like more than I dislike, and agree more than I disagree. This year Refik has had a big piece installed in the lobby at MoMA in NY and back in February Jerry reviewed it for New York Magazine. He didn't like it. More accurately, he said he didn't see what all the fuss was about, that he felt it was mediocre and became predictable 30 seconds in. I disagree, but he's certainly welcome to his own opinion.
Now, in most other cases when a well known art critic gives a high profile work a "meh" review one of a few things happens. Most often, nothing happens, people understand that different people have different opinions and get on with their lives. Sometimes an artist will use a bad review as motivation, in a kind "I'll show them!" way and funnels that emotion back into their work. Very rarely you end up with someone naked in a street waving a gun and screaming. None of that happened here. This is even crazier.
If you are unfamiliar, in addition to reviewing art in NY, Jerry Saltz frequently travels and gives talks. I saw him speak in Los Angeles in the mid 2000's and it was delightful. I still laugh thinking about how he said the very first thing he thinks every time he meets someone is "could I be married to this person?" and then based on that answer decides how the conversation will progress. Anyway, during COVID the talk circuit dried up and Jerry really leaned into social media. Now, dude was almost 70 so that's quite the feat in and of itself, but even better is that he often used it self depreciatingly. He'd latch on to criticism of his reviews and "pick fights" with people, often involving him photoshopping himself into hilarious photos. It was usually obviously tongue in cheek, and he developed quite a following by doing it.
So anyway, he gives Refik a "meh" review and goes about his life. But the internet doesn't just let that slide, Refik has a posse and they are pissed and they demand Jerry take back everything he said and issue a new review saying Refik is a genius or whatever. Jerry lols. Because, yeah right. So he starts having fun with this and starts on Twitter calling Refik's work a screensaver which makes the Refik fanbois even angrier. This goes on for months, with the occasional barb here and there setting the whole thing off again. Finally, earlier this month things came to a head when Refik replied to Jerry directly on Twitter. This was not his best moment, and probably not Jerry's either. Refik took the "you never talked to me" stance and Jerry took the "I never talk to an artist before writing about their work" stance and Refik took the "you don't matter!" stance and it just devolved from there.
A lot of Refik fans jumped on Jerry, saying he was a nobody just trolling for engagement which is not true, and a lot of Jerry fans jumped on Refik saying he isn't a real artist. It got nasty. And this is the point that I'm taking way too long to get to - Jerry wrote about Refik's art, not about Refik. But this turned into personal attacks in all directions and is an example of how polarized the world has become, that for so many people the only way to deal with an opinion they don't agree with is to entirely demonize the other person. There was no "Jerry is a thoughtful critic who just didn't like this piece" it was all "Jerry is an idiot" and there was no "Refik is a talented artist but this piece doesn't work for me" it was all "Refik is a moron with a computer."
It's sad honestly. I miss the days when you could like someone and just disagree with them on something. Or separate a piece of work that you don't like from the person who made it. I don't like this all or nothing thing we have now. It's a bad look for everyone, and we lose all the nuance and rich discussion that you get when people who respect each other can discuss a topic to which they've reached conflicting conclusions. Anyway, the result here is that Refik announced he is now in discussion with Jerry and they've kind of made up personally. Which not puts all their fans who took a scorched earth stance in an awkward position.
Maybe next time just just STFU?
I'm playing Frenpet which is kind of like a blockchain tamagotchi. Well, exactly like a blockchain tamagotchi. I mean, that's what it is, it's a tamagotchi on the blockchain. It's on Base, an Ethereum L2 and if you are into that kind of thing it's sort of fun. I have one invite code for whoever wants it ( fp-49iauru ) and if that gets used and someone else wants one just ping me online somewhere and I'll find another. But also, manage the expectation. You get a pet and have to feed it or it dies. And you can bonk other pets, but there's not a ton more happening right now.
Next month I'll be briefly swinging through Miami for a day of Art Basel and Crytpopunk adventures, then bouncing to Los Angeles to try and clear some stuff out of storage. Looking to quickly sell some music equipment, maybe some art and furniture. If we know each other in person keep an eye on my instagram and get ready for high five hand shake cash money exchanges. No shipping, no holding, in person only, fast fast fast.
OK, that's all for today kids. I hope you are well.