Intro & The AV Club's #50 - #31 — The AV Club's #30-#11
The AV Club's Top 10 & Afterword — Alan Greenspan Presents Our Top 10
by MOBUTU SESE SEKO with RIGAMAROCK & SHWAYWHAT
Few best-of lists that are not your own ever seem any good. Even if you cheer the inclusion of a few favorites and respect the probity of choices you wouldn't make, you still grit your teeth through the rest to keep from saying, "How the fuck could they pick that?" The AV Club's list of 50 albums deemed the "Best Music of the Decade" is no different, but its poorness seems as much institutional as it is personal.
The AV Club garnered mainstream attention as a semi-funny look at pop culture inside a funny newspaper. The name was self-aware, paying homage to the dorkiness of being a cinephile/audiophile or book wonk in high school. Even though it's still stuffed inside a funny paper, the AV Club is its own beast now. As well it should be, because continued name-association with a satirical paper would point up The Onion media group's commercial self-interest in not making fun of the AV Club almost constantly.
Its updates serve up enough deadly serious nerdbites for anyone to have a field day, with feints at comedy mainly coming as either token gestures or the stubborn persistency of staffers who cannot be fired. The AV Club now effects something between Gawker Media and Pitchfork. It's a self-aware machine that wants to have its fawning pop favorites and its twee enthusiasms — then eat them too, and have you clap your hands by your head in wonderment that they so deftly manage to avoid taking sides.
Nothing exemplifies this quite like "The Hater," a regular pop-culture column about hating on pop-culture figures and pop-culture coverage. It burrows into its meta-commentariat niche without any sense of understanding that it rips on gossip mongering and starfucking while employing the same lusty pageload-humping enthusiasm of a Gawker site without the pithiness. Gawker at least avoids pretensions to innocence, but the AV Club adds a few diffident sentences in the hopes of making you complicit in being self-consciously gossipy. This false modesty is standard procedure for their newswire links, which cut-and-paste press releases and try to dignify them with extra sentences, like there's a paragraph-to-link ratio that masks trading in the sort of celebutainment trash you'll ostentatiously deride as soon as it can fill column inches and Search Engine Optimization at the same time.
On the "aching sincerity" side of the pop-culture fence, nowhere is the lurch toward full-on mimicry more apparent than the AV Club music reviews, which initially tried to keep up a tongue-in-cheek tone as a means of creating a distance from the wonky DIY indie twerpiness of something like Pitchfork and the establishment bloviating of Rolling Stone. The result of years of this is a hybridized format just as entrenched as both, one that invokes indy buzzwords while also trying to sardonically eyeroll at them with establishment gravitas (and vice-versa), all within the same piece. "Oh, there go those kids with 'shredding distorted chords' followed by 'plangent chords' again. If only they knew neither was real rock, which is what you'll find from this new side project by... you guessed it... Jack White, who we just spoke to here [LINK PLEASE CLICK]."
The AV Club periodically makes a hobbled attempt to obfuscate sounding like everyone else by declaring their determination to do what everyone else does — while questioning its validity. How subversive. Hence the frequent gag of their [time period]-in-review pieces that poke fun at the silliness of trying to encapsulate a span of time with randomly selected pop-culture artifacts, then attempt to do the same. Why? Because no one is going to click on the same essay about why the AV Club won't publish lists, but people will click lists a shitload of times to argue about who or what is on them.
As said, this year the AV Club published a decade-in-review music piece without even bothering with a bit of frontloaded irony about it before plunging into the same thing they used try harder to be ironic about. They're now locked into a recursive loop of pop-cultural fawning and self-aware meta-commentary about their fawning that tries to sabotage it with a wryness that's hopefully just enough to seem exculpatory. Only they keep missing the mark, a fact almost impossible to hide in the blurb-length format of pop-culture lists, where even reading the piece while brutally shitfaced makes it painfully clear that it's the infection toying with the doctors and not the other way round.
Naturally, the AV Club's list of Best Music of the Decade sucks. What's interesting, though, is that it sucks completely. There are 50 entries on it, and every single band named, review written and posture taken is incorrect — comprehensively incorrect, obnoxiously incorrect... incorrect in the sort of way that hurts small kids and gives you brain damage if you read it in an unventilated room. Reading it sincerely twice makes the reader contract Nazi AIDS. And ass cancer. As a matter of fact, this list basically turns you into Glenn Beck.