Carl Wilson: A New Record Geek Hero

Colbert gets off on the end

Colbert gets off on the end

On Wednesday March 4th, a man named Carl Wilson appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss his new book, Let’s Talk About Love. OK, any self-respecting (or otherwise) record nerd who heard this announced on television would immediately think, “Beach Boy Carl Wilson’s exploits on asshole band member Mike Love?” Immediately following that would be the second thought, “Oh, no, Wilson’s been dead for several years.”

This was my experience as I watched Colbert (consistently one of the funniest shows on TV) last night. A simple case of false name recognition was enough to get my attention for one of the most awkward interviews I have ever seen. However, I believe Mr. Wilson brought something very valuable to the table, something that closely mirrors a project I have recently undertaken.

Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste is part of the 33 1/3 Series, which are short books written by people in music about their favorite albums (for instance, Joe Pernice of the Pernice Brothers wrote one about Meat is Murder by The Smiths). In this case, the album is one by Canadian diva superstar Celine Dion. The book details Wilson’s self-imposed journey from completely loathing Dion, her music and everything she stands for, to actually coming to respect her as an artist and “really like” some of her songs. Stating that he tends to appreciate the “more subversive aspects” of music, Wilson wanted to write a book that would actually “account for taste,” as Colbert described it. But, remember the old saying? There’s no accounting for taste, right?

Wrong, according to Wilson. As he sat in his chair, visibly nervous and shaking under the looming presence of Colbert’s often intimidating persona, Wilson attempted to wholeheartedly state his case. He was awkward, but I listened, because I have been having similar thoughts. This is what I got out of it: we all have our own stories of how we came to have certain musical tastes, and if one can come to understand a person’s background, maybe we can all bring ourselves to like music we initially can’t stand.

Intriguing, particularly because some of the more recent studies have shown once a person passes a certain age, it becomes harder and harder and pretty soon damn near impossible for them to like anything new (this could apply to more things I guess, but I’m still mainly referring to music). I read this article about it and I don’t remember who the guy was; I’ll find a link for it or something. Wow, if only all essays could be like this. But seriously, it seems that if Wilson really is onto something, all of this other research would be proved kind of obsolete. Basically, all we have to do is…try!

The question on some people’s brains, I know, is “Why the hell would you want to make yourself like something?” I would simply answer that it’s better than making yourself hate something, which there is way too much of these days, so let’s put a 180 on that trend already. This is why I have undertaken a project which I like to call “Hear It For Yourself”—listen to something you have heard endlessly bad things about, or something you have heard a few bad things about, but you have never actually heard yourself. For instance, I’m about to start listening to Binaural by Pearl Jam. Why? Well, I was a Pearl Jam fan once, a long time ago, and I was done with them after No Code. Now that I’ve come to appreciate some (although not that many) of their songs, I’m ready to check out the rest of their output. Who knows? Maybe they got really good… Most likely not, but you never know.

Kudos to Wilson for this research (considering his subject, it must have been rough going). He has shown the soul-stirring powers of music reach far beyond and are far more powerful than taste, which is essentially a human invention. Carl Wilson, you’re a new record geek hero.

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