“…me have me herbs and me matches and skin
sometimes guinness or sometimes gin
bong bong bong bong bong biddly biddly biddly dong ding…”
I think we need to make some distinctions in this bad/good writing discussion.
You could probably draw one of those matrix things, with two axes – one for technique and one for “edge” or whatever you want to call it.
So, to map out the extremes
1) Lots of technique but no edge: Really “well” written stuff that you fall asleep reading because it’s so dull. Musical equivalent, probably Robson and Jerome or some dull AOR business.
2) Lots of edge by no technique: Rambling writing which isn’t structured or spelt well but it actually ABOUT something – where the personality and energy comes through regardless. The musical equivalent of this is I guess what punk was supposed to be. But also anything where people are just trying to figure out how the equipment works and making a joyful racket.
3) Lots of technique and edge – writing that continually knocks you over… (?) musical equivalent – NERD? Public Enemy? King Tubby?
4) No technique and no edge – rambling cobblers which isn’t about anything discernable and is clearly by someone who either isn’t interesting or interested. Musical equivalent: some of the dodgy “experimental” cassettes I used to get sent in the 90s.
Now clearly most people have a bit of both, but I think I’d mostly prefer edge over technique. I’d rather listen to DJ Scud than some plodding AOR nonsense which is “well” produced and written by people who can play their instruments “well”.
That said, I think Matt is quite right when he talks about the exoticism thing. This is people fetishing the lack of production values as a good thing in and of itself. For example it’s clearly true that a lot of great reggae has been made in situations of economic depravation, often not on the best equipment. But the musicians were generally top notch and Coxsone or whoever made sure that it sounded the best it could. Fair enough. But you still get people obsessing on this and the fact that Coxsone presses up his sevens on really crappy vinyl… holding aloft their crackly discs as if they were religious artifacts.
It also has to be said that grimy production values are in some way an assault on the whole glossy magazine shop window stick thin model…. Spectacle. Making stuff sound “bad” has a long history (at least back to fuzzy guitars?).
The beauty in punks “ugliness” was a reaction to the ugliness of the mainstream’s “beauty”.