Pop gets schooled

Four years of my misspent youth were whiled away as an English major at a piney liberal arts college where, when not playing beer pong as it’s meant to be played, I was in the library muddling through abstruse academic texts like Julia Kristeva’s Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art, Gilles Deleuze’s Empiricism and Subjectivity,
Felix Guattari’s Psychoanalysis and Transversality.

It wasn’t always easy going. Trying to decipher word clusters like "the almost astrologically lush plurality of its overlapping taxonomies of physical zones" or “a narrowly and severely normative, difference-eradicating ethical programme has long-sheltered under developmental narratives and a metaphorics of health and pathology” — those are from Epistemology of the Closet, by pioneering queer theorist Eve Kosovsky Sedgwick, who died earlier this month — can be challenging in the best of times, never mind when one has indulged in a few postprandial bong hits.

I don’t smoke pot anymore, and I also try very hard not to read much in the way of dense intertextual deconstruction. But San Francisco designer Nikolay Saveliev has made me wistful for those long-ago days.

With help from our neighbors down in Providence at Brown Student Radio, Saveliev’s Pop Matters project screen printed 140 vinyl record sleeves, each with a two-sided insert featuring “
faux-academic material on pop music and the state of the record industry, seeded with promotional material for indie radio stations.” These were then secreted into used & new record stores and sneaked onto the shelves.

And so, some unsuspecting platter flipper alighted surprisedly on Kanye West’s new auto-tuned glitch-trip Profit Margins in Coupling, or Nickelback’s self-recriminatory nu-MOR flagellation Relations: The Recursiveness of Professional Mediocrity. Or any of these

Even more so than those spot-on titles, I dig the album art. It reminds me a lot, of course, of Sonic Youth’s bone-dry SYR series.

Come to think of it, actually, the sleeve art was my favorite thing about those records too. I’ll confess I never really listened too much to the airy experimental jams contained within. With apologies to Thurston & Lee, I suppose I just wasn’t meant for egghead music or fancy book larnin’.

But, hey, If you’re so inclined, it is true: a little Lil Jon is a fine soundtrack for a re-reading of Alan Sokal’s “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.”

BONUS FUN: Chomskybot!!!

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