Joe Pug Album Review – The Great Despiser

As I sit in this Phoenician desert at a little coffee house in the Melrose district trying to write end of the year reports on my students (my last act as a teacher at Glendale Prep) I can’t help but think about this article I began to write but never finished; well procrastination is the mother of all side projects, and so I’ll finish this instead of do my work.

Joe Pug’s new release  “The Great Despiser” is a slight departure from Joe’s previous work.  I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I fell in love with Joe for certain reasons, and to see those downplayed a bit in the new album is disheartening.  On the other hand, an artist must be growing experimenting changing developing in order to realize their fullest potential.  An authentic musician who is sincerely devoted to his craft and to beauty should always be striving to improve and develop rather than feed off of a trademark sound or become in some way stagnant.  Music has to have a dynamic sound.

I must qualify my previous statement by saying that dynamism and development in a musician’s career is good only insofar as the divergences are authentic and good (not only for the sake of change).  It seems to me that music is good if it achieves goodness or excellence in its craft and intellectual conception.  This transcends genre.

I might digress here for a minute to consider the idea that goodness in music must also have a relation to the good or the public good the res publica.  I’m fairly certain that goodness is always related to others (isn’t it the case, as Dostoevsky reminds us) because we are all responsible for each other?  I suppose I am implying that an artist’s music, in order to be good, must also be in line with the common good.  I always protest that I’m not a Platonist, but it is probably one of those “the lady doth protest too much” situations.

But back to the matter at hand: Joe Pug’s new album (I suppose it’s no longer new, as Chris Brown will surely remind me).  So what is the final word?  The final word is this: you should still listen to it, but be warned that it is going to be somewhat more produced and less Dylan-like than the Joe you might have been used to; however, it does still contain the essential qualities of a Joe Pug.  Also, it grows on you, and perhaps this is a better test of whether or not it is good art: that, if you take it seriously, it grows in your estimation the more you participate with it (bad pop-music does the opposite in my experience).

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