The Easy Appeal of The Talkhouse: Turning Artists Into Fans

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If you're familiar with The Talkhouse, journalist and Our Band Could Be Your Life author Michael Azerrad's new music site, chances are you came upon it when he managed to get Lou Reed to pen a raving paean to Kanye West's Yeezus. That review, both outrageous and fascinating, turned out to be Reed's final written dispatch to the mortal world—and a strangely fitting dispatch at that. This week, the site managed to nudge its way back into the music presses with an impassioned take on the Arcade Fire's Reflektor, by St. Vincent.

The concept of The Talkhouse, as you've probably surmised it, is so simple it's ludicrous it hasn't been done before: musicians writing about music, typically reviewing new releases. It's no wonder the St. Vincent piece captured some degree of public notice; besides tackling one of the year's biggest records, it's a colorful, caps-lock-addled take, padded out with actual Google searches the writer made while listening ("Very-tall-men-fronted rock*^ bands," "Madonna 'Like a Virgin' bass sound") and bizarrely enthused similes, like such:


The review grabs attention because of its author's fame, yes, but it holds onto it because of The Talkhouse's simple, crucial charm: it transforms your favorite artists into fans, inviting them to rave and ramble and froth at the mouth like you.

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Suddenly, Amanda Palmer is no longer onstage, pounding a piano—she's behind a laptop somewhere, nerding out about Janelle Monáe ("janelle, you an ipanema alien, and i love you"), just as Converge's Jacob Bannon is letting his hardcore guard down to wax nostalgic about Pearl Jam. It's a simple ruse to humanize the artists, letting them be the listeners rather than the ones controlling the music for once, and Azerrad doesn't seem to edit the copy much; some—like Ezra Koenig's Drake-inspired storytelling—have the feel of rambling old LiveJournal entries, full of all-caps sentences and parenthetical asides. 

And then there's the basic thrill in the odd connections the site affords: learning that Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg has complicated feelings about Paul McCartney, for instance, or that Lou Reed not only managed to fall in love with Yeezus in his final few months, but actually saw hints of his own artistry in Kanye West's characteristic defiance. And that's key to the discourse that The Talkhouse sets forth: thoughts on popular (and not-so-popular) music from the ones who know what it's like to make it—the one insight most professional critics understandably lack.

Top photo by Athene cunicularia via Wikimedia Commons.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.