Monday, May 19, 2008

Heeb News Flash: Jews Are Neurotic!

Back in October, in a post on Jewish Emo music, I grumped that "I'm not a huge fan of Heeb [magazine]. I find the writing to be an exercise in hip irony with little substance. My one year subscription lapsed without much sadness." In particular "the music writing ... was pretty poor stuff. A lot of 'lets get some random person (someones aunt or rabbi) to write about contemporary music that they have no context for and then giggle about it'"

This morning I got a nice note from Arye Dworken, a music writer associated with Heeb and a variety of other outlets. He said "You should pick up Heeb again when you get the chance. We've been really tight with the music coverage in the past few issues. No more of that shticky comedian-review bit. I think you'd dig."

Marrisa NadlerCool. I'm always ready to give something a second try. Thanks for suggesting it. So I went to the Heeb online archive figuring I'd read the music writing from the last couple of issues. Issue 16. Nothing. Issue 15. Nothing. Issue 14. Bingo. Heeb writer Todd Goldstein has an article on Marrisa Nadler "The Little Freak-Folk Artist Who Could." The article is generally well written, if a bit vanilla, talking admiringly of Nadler's "finger-picked acoustic guitar and ... wispy, disembodied voice" and chronicling how she "originally had hopes of being a painter, but became disillusioned with the creativity-stifling competition at Providence’s Rhode Island School of Design." Then comes the money quote “I have a neurotic impulse to create that I think is very much a Jewish thing.”

Now, let's be clear. I'm not picking on Nadler. I haven't heard her music (for some reason I can't get her MySpace page to play her tracks) but she's gotten lots of good reviews. And I'm really not picking on Goldstein. (Ok, maybe a little bit). But mostly I'm picking on Heeb for letting Goldstein anchor the last paragraph of the article on this clunker. Is this really the best you can do, folks? Jews are neurotic? Thats it?

What's the point of having a Jewish magazine if passing off 30? 50?100? year old stereotypes about the urban Jew is the best you've got? If Nadler can't make a interesting connection between her music and her religion (not that she needs too), let it go at that. Or demand that your writers be real interviewers and help her explore the connection (if, in fact, there is one).

But this, to be blunt, is crap and the reason I let my subscription die.

I do appreciate Ayre inviting me to take another look at Heeb. I sent him an email asking if there were better examples of recent writing that he could point me to. If he can point me to a couple of examples of good Heeb music writing I will let everyone know. Until then...bleah.

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