Actually, the moderate kerfuffle in the comments box re my dissing of MBV as pissweak forces me to qualify and also extend things a bit.
So, let’s imagine that you spend a certain amount of time enjoying other people’s enjoyment of something that you enjoy. For example, that someone, for argument’s sake let’s call them Ping, discovers the joys of all the American guitar stuff you grew up with, most significantly The Meat Puppets circa “Up on the sun” Big Black circa “Songs about…”, The Buttholes’ “Locust” and “Hairway” and most enthusingly of all Dinosaur’s “ You’re living all over me.” You haven’t listened to any of them in a long, long time but suddenly they mean so much to someone else, they’re so revelatory and they get off so much on listening to them, that it’s almost impossible for you not to share in the delight, you like these records anyway but suddenly now they’re making someone whose happiness you care about happy. This re-intensifies the pleasure. You express enthusiasm for the record; you both pay close attention to it. You say things like, “this bit's fucking great” or simply laugh out loud at a particularly spectacular “moment”. It takes on a kind of hyper-vivid quality, becoming suffused with al other kinds of emotional colourations, becomes something that in a small way you intensify and mould together. In the same way that forced laughter can become real and convulsive, so shared enthusiasms can start from the smallest nudge and then snowball.
So you get it into your head that this person, Ping, should hear Loveless and Isn’t Anything because as far as you remember they’re the daddies, the absolute guitar-reinvention zeniths of the period, peerless, everybody says so. You buy them as a gift to send to said Ping. You listen to them on your own. Your immediate feeling is, Ping’s not going to like this much. It’s not rocky enough. The record sounds lacklustre. You wonder what all the fuss was about. Whether Ping likes it or not I’ve yet to discover, but very possibly, on the basis that Ping does, my own appreciation of it may well be amplified.
Now that may make me, in fact, piss weak in some ways. Don’t you know what you think about anything/like, man? But it kind of raises the question of the degree to which enjoyment is ever not enjoyment of/through the other. The people I have had the most consistent musical dialogue with, my brother in law and sister, are a huge factor in my listening experience. The minute I hear something and think that either Jackie and/or Niall are going to like this, my pleasure in it is boosted. An excellent recent example would be the Shockheaded Peter’s “Are you happy or are you real” the moment I heard it I imagined my sister dancing about the living room to it. Instantly I liked it. There is a deep and gratifying reciprocal element to music appreciation of course, swapping tapes, breathlessly naming tracks and artists in reverence sessions down the pub etc, but I think it goes deeper than that. Even if the people for whom/on whose behalf you’re always listening aren’t concrete others, family members, friends, lovers etc, it's non-contentious enough surely to suggest that you are always listening for someone, in terms of critical voices, political ideas and ideals, a sense of the tradition etc, so a reasonable question might not be, what do you think of that, but, do you have anybody to listen to that for? And with Loveless, I didn't.
Best of all, of course, is when the ones you’re listening to it all for are also the ones you’re listening to it with.