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Fakin’ It in the Sweet Calcutta Rain

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I'm a big fat faker.

Heck, even that statement is false. I'm not fat at all!

When I read other writers' music criticism, I marvel at the number of artists and bands they refer to, often including lots of bands I've heard of but never heard, as well as bands I've never even heard of, but every one of which — if the tone of the review I'm reading is to be taken seriously — I ought to be thoroughly familiar with.

Almost all of us feel like fakers at times. At job interviews, as creative people, as professionals, on dates — we so often feel like we're making something up in order to impress someone, whether it's an audience or a potential friend, boss, or lover.

One of my personal issues is that because I was born back in 1963, a whole lot of "indie rock" passed me by. The last time I felt fully engaged with a pop-music movement was the early 90s, with the heyday of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains, and my "formative" music is a good deal older than that. So when I review a new recording, the comparisons that spring to mind are older than those a younger reviewer would think of.

But while my references may be a few decades in the past, they're easy for me to come up with, and they're also (I like to think) as apt as any. Which tells me something:

Not a lot changes. There's very little truly new under the sun, especially in popular music. The ways we communicate and connect, and listen to music, have evolved some in the digital age, but the factors that make a good singer good or a memorable song memorable have stayed basically the same. And not just since the 1960s. Since at least Mozart.

So who cares if "Everything's Goin' My Way" on the new Mark Stuart CD reminds me of Leon Russell's stuff from the 60s and early 70s? No doubt it would remind you of something different, maybe something much more recent. My cultural references are just as good as your cultural references. Yours are just as good as mine. Each one of us is just as insecure as the next person. It's natural. Only the stupid are utterly confident. But we needn't be so anxious. Each of us is a fully entitled citizen of the world. As an ancient rocker once wrote:

   California sunlight, sweet Calcutta rain
   Honolulu starbright – the song remains the same.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is an Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. He writes the blog Park Odyssey, for which he is visiting and blogging every park in New York City—over a thousand of them. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. By night he's a working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.