October 12, 2018

THE WORLD AS IT IS (profanity alert):

Liner Notes for Jeff Tweedy's "WARM" (George Saunders, September 24, 2018, The New Yorker)

After many years of asking myself what art is for, I've arrived at this: the role of the artist is to reach across space and time and console--to offer not a cure or a prescription but, rather, non-trivial consolation.

Jeff is our great, wry, American consolation poet. I don't mean this abstractly: to see him play is to find yourself in a crowd of people being actively consoled--being moved, reassured, validated, made to feel like part of a dynamic aural friendship. Jeff told me once that what he's trying to communicate to his listener is, "You're O.K. You're not alone. I'm singing to you, but I also hear you." A testimony to the value Jeff places on this connection: after playing a number of solo acoustic shows in 2016 and 2017, he decided to make an album of those songs that seemed to speak most directly to those audiences. [...]

For a long time now, it seems to me, our culture has assumed that the function of art is to warn, to blame, to critique, to scoff, to dismiss. And those are some of its functions, for sure. But an art that only does those things is destructive. Destruction already being the dominant mode of our culture, we don't need any more of it. Anyone who advocates "burning down the house" has likely never been inside a building on fire. By what do we really live? Our lives--our real lives--are made almost wholly of attempts at tenderness. We work hard on behalf of those we love, daydream about their future happiness, go out of our way to save them even the slightest pain, comfort them when the pain arrives just the same.

Jeff is, to my mind, a warrior for kindness, who has made tenderness an acceptable rock-and-roll virtue. By "tenderness" I don't mean that New Age thing, where someone drives a spike through your head and you place hands palm to palm and do a cheesy deep bow while thanking them for the new coat rack. No: Tweedy-tenderness is sophisticated and badass and funny. It proceeds from strength and good humor and does not preclude being angry or tough or peeved. It is based on the premise that you are as real as he is and as deserving of attention, and that the world is worthy of our full and fearless interest, just as it is.



Posted by at October 12, 2018 4:42 AM

  

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