the Genre divide

26 September, 2006

A couple of days ago, I decided to have a crack at importing all my music into iTunes. I’m not sure why. The CD’s all live next to the stereo, and the laptop speakers sound crap. But it’s an exercise. And it’s reminded me of a whole lot of musics I had forgotten I owned. Gems like Sandpit, and Oliver’s ’10 minutes away’.

I’m about halfway through, sitting close to 10gig so far (I seem to have lost alot of CD’s somewhere in the past) and I have noticed a rather strange thing: If I were to make a Smart Playlist of “All music that is not of the Genre ‘Alternative & Punk'” I am left with one (yes, just one) album. Something appears to be rotten in the state of Gracenote.

I’m not averse to having some ‘Alternative & Punk’ music in my collection – some of my best friends are ‘Alternative & Punk’. But it seems to me that someone, somewhere, has painted the musical genres with an enormously wide brush. A quick flick through my ‘Alternative & Punk’ collection shows The Underground Lovers (Melbourne indie pop/electronica, surely?), Velo-Deluxe (indie-rock, anyone?), and The Knack. I could probably handle the first two being classified as alt.punk. I’m happy to embrace ‘punk’ as an attitude, I’ll happily wear a ‘Ween ist Punk’ t-shirt, but I draw the line at The Knack. The Knack were really the antithesis of the Punk movement. The Knack were also performing about 10 years before the youth were first branded as ‘Alternative’.

I don’t really know whether the problem lies with Gracenote themselves, or if it is just the ‘Intrepid Little Websters’ who categorise their own music and it gets propagated back up the line, but it’s just plain silly.

Take bands like The Steinbecks (disclaimer: I am a member) and the Sugargliders: I know they would be happy to be thought of as punk, but they are not. They are Pop. Pure and Simple. Call it ‘indie pop’ if you like, to avoid the Gweneth, Britney and Fergie baggage.

But if it’s bad enough that everything is alt.punk, what about my one maverick album, that refuses to stand in line, who could it be, and what genre does it lie in?

Stephen Duffy’s ‘Music in Colours’ featuring Nigel Kennedy. In the genre of Classical. That’s right – one of the founders of Duran Duran, a master of 80’s pop, and the wildest child of the Symphonic set – Classical.

I am out of steam, I can marvel no longer at this madness – I need to save my energy for the long job of reclassification.

Have you noticed any genre madness in your collection? Have you spent hours trying to rectify the problem? Let me know, I don’t want to be alone in this dark, cold place.


14 Responses to “the Genre divide”

  1. antman Says:

    Gizo, I feel both your pain and your joy. Having spent dawn ’till dusk for close to a month ripping CD’s onto iTunes for our impending overseas life, I understand the ambiguity of genre assignment……

    Perhaps hardest to cope with was Pedro the Lion. One album came up as “Gospel and Relgious”. I get this, given some of David Bazan’s lyrics and outspoken beliefs. But other Pedro albums came up as “Alt.punk” and even “country”


    Another anomoly was that an older EP by the Art of Fighting came up as “Metal”. That is really stretching the love….

    Sufjan Stevens has a folk album and an Alt.punk album

    I’ll scan the pod and let you know any other strange ones

    You can change them manually in iTunes though – This was essential for the AOF one

  2. antman Says:

    Nada Surf defy classification and are in the “unknown” genre

    Most Beastie Boys occur in Hip Hop/Rap, but “To the 5 boroughs” is classified as “other”

    At least it adds genre variety in addition to confusion

  3. antman Says:

    Oh Yeah, and apparently the record label “Matador” are a genre unto themselves. I’m starting to think this is me and not iTunes

  4. book boy Says:

    I’m sure I’ve noticed some oddities in my collection too. But I can’t remember what they are and I’m at work right now far far away from my iTunes. So there’s really no point to this post.

    However, I can say that until Friday I classify things for a living. Sometimes it’s tough to know where to put things when you have to pick one out of a few possible locations. Sometimes I’m surprised at where other people put things. I presume they feel the same about me.

    On my desk I have a book about a guy who made millions through online gaming. Is it about computers? Games? A biography? How to make truckloads of money?

    I might put it down as alt.punk.

  5. gruntski Says:

    Classify everything according to a section of your house, and by-pass the generic classifications that someone else has thought up. So you can have genres like: Porch; roof void; sub-floor; dining room; window; basin (HAH!); door knob; fireplace etc. etc. etc.

    Stand out from the crowd and create your very own genres. 😉

  6. book boy Says:

    I actually meant where to put them in the library shelves, not where to put them in my house. But I like your idea.

    I like your idea though. I might modify it a bit and re-classify my music that way. Music for the dining room, to eat by. Music for the lounge room, to lounge by. Music for the hallway, to walk by. Music for the study, to procrastinate by, or to blog by. Music for the bedroom. Music for the bathrom.

  7. gizo Says:

    antman: Matador *are* a genre unto themselves. It’s written in law somewhere.
    bookboy: It goes under ‘biography->computers->cash me up’
    grunter: i like yr idea, although i would tend towards the less troublesome seasonal genre-fication – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.

  8. br.other Says:

    My “alternative & punk” collection includes, among others: The cranberries, Coldplay (Mrs Bookboy’s) and Tom Waits,

    Also, apparently Simon & Garfunkel are “rock” stars.

  9. book boy Says:

    Oooh. This is fun.

    All bar one of my jazz CDs come under “jazz”. The one that has the more specific genre of “modern jazz” is a 3 disc set by James Morrison in which each disc features a different style of jazz.

  10. gruntski Says:

    I’m going into the easy rock to listen to some sub-floor.

    so there.

  11. seebs Says:

    Great blog Giz. I had to rush home just to check my iTunes.
    My Star Wars “Christmas in the Stars” album’s classified as “holiday”. (which is spot on I guess. I just never knew of a genre called holiday)
    The Godfather of “Soul”, James Brown came up as ‘R&B’, and Wilco joins Neko Case to represent the “Rock” genre.

    I couldn’t resist changing the Melbourne Victory Theme Song’s genre to “Easy Listening” Hee hee!

  12. gizo Says:

    Thank goodness I am not alone. Last night I managed to break the alt.punk cycle by importing the Beatles (Rock, and some Pop) and Nirvana (Rock, oddly). Then alt.punk made a resurgance with Cake (who are neight alt nor punk).
    I think I am going to import our Boosh radio shows – now that’s alt.punk.

    oh, and br.other bookboy, I find it interesting that you feel the need to emphasise that Coldplay is not part of your collection… hmmmmm

  13. […] His wonderful suggestion of house-area genres is good, but in all honesty, there are too many areas. So I pondered back with the 4 season genres. But even still, that’s four differnt things to think about. […]

  14. Squozen Says:

    I have a hatred of the ‘Alternative & Punk’ genre. I changed Grant-Lee Phillips back to FOLK where he belongs, returned Matthew Sweet’s Pop t-shirt… and created an ‘Alternative’ genre for certain bands that truly deserve it (hi, Pixies, I’m looking your way).

    I have only 3 bands in my playlists that count as Alternative & Punk… Hüsker Dü, the Ramones and Rocket From The Crypt…. because each of those bands truly are an alternative to ‘punk’ if you consider true ‘punk’ as being the Sex Pistols, or Bad Brains, Black Flag, Misfits, what-have-you.

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