sixteen years ago good negro problem article

Posted on December 29th, 2013 by Scraps.
Categories: Music, Music Criticism, Musicians.

Sixteen years ago -- my god -- there was the Negro Problem's first album, Post-Minstrel Syndrome. People got tired of my championing their cause long ago. Still, I never heard lots of information contained in this article, and it contains many frank* Stew thoughts.

* when I use "frank" it doesn't mean "offensive".


"lines you rarely read in reviews": old post from the well, #38, 7 sep 02

Posted on April 7th, 2010 by Scraps.
Categories: Comedy, Literary Criticism, Music Criticism, Old Posts, Words.

While my opinion runs counter to the critical consensus, it has nothing to do with unusual bravery and insight on my part, or cowardice and conventionality on the part of my colleagues. I'm just a bit odd.


perhaps not exactly what you meant

Posted on September 4th, 2008 by Scraps.
Categories: Badness, Music, Music Criticism.

From the excitable reviewer files at RateYourMusic:

I can't believe that there are people out there that don't like this. The Exploited paved the way for all the shitty bands that are out today.


dave marsh, fathead

Posted on September 4th, 2008 by Scraps.
Categories: Badness, Music, Music Criticism.

Tom Nawrocki over at One Poor Correspondent yesterday wrote about Dave Marsh's bizarre assessment of Television's Marquee Moon in the 1979 edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide, a review that was still present in the 1983 edition he's quoting from. This provoked me to find the piece I wrote several years ago about the awfulness of the 1979 edition, and discovered that apparently I never reprinted the piece over here. So:

I've always found Dave Marsh's rock criticism dislikable, but revisiting the Rolling Stone Record Guide has deepened that dislike into contempt. It's an old edition, 1979, edited by Marsh and John Swenson; a blurb on the back advertises it as "witty, opinionated, and, above all, knowledgeable," and while a 33% truth score on a blurb isn't bad, anyone can have opinions and most people do; witty (and, above all, knowledgeable) would have been better.

Marsh has the most entries, naturally, and he seems to have taken particular delight in reserving to himself entries on famous or critically lauded artists whom he disdains. Many of the albums he puts down have since become widely accepted classics, which has the effect of making him look either brave or out of step with rock and roll, depending on how generous you feel. Any slack I might have granted him is vitiated by the needless bile of his putdowns, and the clunky predictability of his language; Pere Ubu's Dub Housing is labeled pompous, pretentious, and irrelevant, the last of which has been proven manifestly untrue; he also calls it "anti-rock for anti-rockers," whatever that means, though I gather if I like it I don't like rock, or something. Of Television Marsh writes that they were "somewhat mysteriously" "the most widely touted band to emerge from the New York New Wave"; Tom Verlaine was "an interesting Jerry Garcia-influenced guitarist who lacked melodic ideas or any emotional sensibility." Even his positive opinions frequently bewilder: Steely Dan, says Marsh, were "Not the greatest American rock band . . . but [they] remain unquestionably the weirdest." In 1979? Weirder than Talking Heads, Tin Huey, Pere Ubu, the Residents?

How about this judgment of Squeeze, then still U.K. Squeeze: "Not to be confused with U.K., this group produces anonymous, pedestrian hard rock of the same vintage as the other's. By the end of 1978, this band was so defeated it changed its name to the simpler Squeeze." You may recall that immediately after this ignominy Squeeze turned out "Pulling Mussels from the Shell" and "Another Nail in My Heart," two of the great modern pop songs. As U.K. Squeeze they had recorded "Cool for Cats," "Up the Junction," and "Goodbye Girl." Regardless of his idiotic assessment of their worth, though, his description is factually inaccurate: Squeeze are not a hard rock band by any definition and never were, and they sounded nothing like U.K., an art-rock band led by Eddie Jobson and Bill Bruford. Who is spelled Buford by this above-all-knowledgeable reference book.

Let's touch on that for a paragraph before returning to the invective. Rock and roll reference books are supposed to be opinionated, though by my yardstick the Rolling Stone Guide goes about four feet too far. While the Spin and the Trouser Press record guides certainly pursue agendas -- the Trouser Press guide less so -- the trade is supposed to be accurate information. A book that neither gives you a reasonably objective view of bands' relative importance nor accurate information is worthless. Basic errors abound in the Rolling Stone Guide, from editorial errors such as listing Pere Ubu under U, to discographical errors such as describing Richard Thompson's Live (More or Less) as including his first solo album (it doesn't; it includes Richard & Linda Thompson's I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, which is neither solo nor his first album after leaving Fairport Convention). The book is also fundamentally flawed by only including albums that were in print at the time the book was published, leaving gaping holes in many artists' discographies; inexplicably, everyone's albums are listed in alphabetical rather than chronological order.

But the saddest thing about the book is Marsh's pathetic invective. When putting down his betters he embarrasses himself, but he doesn't even redeem himself with his dismissals of true stinkers; he just isn't very clever or original or vivid, rarely rising above high-school newspaper level. A few examples of insult on automatic: "Laid-back drivel from the former Eagle. [Randy Meisner in this case.] Makes John David Souther sound like Led Zeppelin." "Great title for a hot delta blues band. Too bad this isn't it -- or much of anything else, for that matter." "Hard rock at its most wrongheaded and overweening, and without either rhythm or emotion." "Your usual mid-seventies rock: dull and conservative." "Dreary seventies funk." Each of these is an entire band summary, by the way. The string of insults hurled -- well, lobbed -- at various incarnations of the Osmonds achieves a kind of wretched somnambulance: "Well-crafted garbage -- trash is too elevated a description," "Wretched excess, accent on the wretched," "All of them deserve to be melted," "Epitomizes stupidity."

Then there are the ones that are outright clumsy, windbaggy, and smarmy: "Talking about half of the Righteous Brothers is like talking about one Siamese twin, and listening to one is little improvement." "Dabbles in Caribbean rhythm, with essential purposelessness." "Yes, [Stella Parton is] Dolly's sister. No, they don't have anything in common, musically or (ahem) physically."

Ugh, I can't go on. As a critic, Marsh is a blowhard, and he's entitled to be one (and I to ignore him). But as a reference book editor he's an irresponsible, offhand fathead. A snide dismissive review is only an act of contempt for one band, but a shoddy reference book is an act of contempt for everyone who bought the book trusting the Rolling Stone name. Rolling Stone should be ashamed. (Edited to add: To be fair, later editions of the Record Guide are far more responsible and useful.)


try listening

Posted on August 16th, 2008 by Scraps.
Categories: Badness, Music, Music Criticism.

I'm going to start collecting instances of music writers dismayed at the bad taste of their idols. Musicians frequently display more open-mindedness about music than the people who write about them -- not just more adventurousness, but more open admiration for uncool music, and less inclination to care what others think; more willingness to take music on its own terms, and to unironically give themselves over to the music they enjoy.

This one's several years old, and I can't even find a byline on it: a piece in the Telegraph celebrating the re-release of the obscure 1975 Phil Spector-produced Dion album Born to Be With You. The piece hovers between the writer's admiration for the album and conviction of its neglected classic status, and Dion's utter indifference toward it. Ultimately the story becomes more about Dion's polite disinclination to talk much about the album, and an air of sad head-shaking by the author takes over; by the last three paragraphs, the author's word choices and quote selections make it clear that Dion is pitiable:

...It is certainly an anomaly next to both his pre-1975 catalogue of intuitive, streetwise New Yoik rock'n'roll and his post-1975 descent towards his doo-wop roots via gospel and Christian music. Dion "found it" with Born to Be with You, but lost it too.

Today, Dion wants to talk about religion, his daughters, The Wanderer - anything but Born to Be with You, basically. "This week, I had dinner with some dear friends and we talked about how we could be better at loving our wives," he tells me, apropos of nothing. "Life is great. I give thanks every day for being alive. We're all snowflakes, y'know."

Poor Dion descends from "streetwise" to religion, family, happiness; in case you were wondering whether the author wanted you to think Dion "lost it", the author spells it out for you, and chooses a presumed inanity ("We're all snowflakes, y'know") as the last thing we hear out of Dion's mouth, a deliberate bit of manipulative tone-setting. Also note the "apropos of nothing": presumably Dion thought it was apropos of something, though we don't know what he was responding to; we do know that it isn't what the author wants him to be interested in, therefore apropos of nothing.

I said last three paragraphs, but I only gave you two. This was the capper of the piece:

Fine. But then he really, really shocks and appalls me: he tells me that he likes the music of Alanis Morissette. Final confirmation, perhaps, that it was some higher power, and not Dion, who sang those songs after all.

Poor fanboy writer, whose idol loves his wife and daughters and Jesus and Alanis Morissette. This can't possibly be the same man who made the music the writer loves. Final confirmation, perhaps, that the writer can't learn anything he doesn't already know.

1 comment.

what does post-punk mean to you?

Posted on July 24th, 2008 by Scraps.
Categories: Music, Music Criticism, Songs.

"Before they were the biggest band in the world, U2 made three records of flag-waving, populist post-punk," says the blurb for Joe Tangari's Pitchfork review of the reissue of the first three U2 albums.

It would never cross my mind to use "post-punk" to describe U2, except in the most literal sense. U2, even on those first three albums, were a straightforward rock band. "I Will Follow", "Gloria", "New Year's Day", and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" are excellent songs, but there's nothing strange or form-breaking about them, nothing that couldn't have happened without punk, nothing that challenges the listener's idea of what rock n roll is or what it can do.

"Post-punk" has been from the start a very broad descriptor, a catch-all for an explosion of innovation that happened in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a set of styles and approaches to rock that reverberate to this day (and when the term is used for new music, it no longer means music that is innovative and form-breaking; it means music that sounds like the innovative and form-breaking music of the original post-punk era).

Post-punk can probably be most quickly exemplified by pointing to the massively influential 1980 compilation Wanna Buy a Bridge? on the Rough Trade label. There are some other obvious touchstones -- Gang of Four's Entertainment!, in particular, has had such a persistent influence on subsequent rock that its aggressive, jagged style often seems to be all people mean when they say "post-punk" -- but Wanna Buy a Bridge gives a good sense of how sonically varied the post-punk landscape was. And if you dropped an early U2 song into that context, it would have stood out for what it was: a well-executed, passionate, conventional rock song.


musical mythmaking

Posted on October 1st, 2007 by Scraps.
Categories: Music, Music Criticism.

Phil Ford at Dial M for Musicology has written a fine post about (among other things) the self-perpetuating mythmaking of musicals, taking off from the example of Richard Dyer, and this quote from Gerald Mast:

Americans take musicals for granted because we do them so well and like them so much. Because they are so close to us, we simultaneously take their enjoyment and dismiss their art. The ruse that musicals are supremely unimportant is the masquerade that gives them their power to move and amuse.


Entertainers famously give audiences what they want, but this is not all they do, because, as Richard Dyer notes, their professionalization places them at a level of discernment above that of their audience. And so entertainment has a pedagogical function: it also teaches the audience what it wants, or might want. A routine like "Make 'em Laugh" makes a point of “getting back to the classics,” which in this case means old vaudeville routines executed at lightening speed, one after the other, to the accompaniment of a song that in effect instructs the audience to find this sort of thing funny. It is funny, but both the song and Donald O’Conner’s virtuoso physical performance make an implicit argument that you should find this funny, because the audiences of the past thought it was funny, and future audiences will too.
[. . .]
Professionalized entertainment therefore relies on a sense of its own history, expressed as myth. [. . .] The idea embodied in the phrase “the King is dead; long live the King” is never so well illustrated as in showbiz, where the radically different personalities, styles, audiences, and historical/cultural/social backgrounds of successive stars are papered over in a historicist myth of continuity. In That’s Entertainment! stars anoint their own successors—Bing Crosby introducing Frank Sinatra, for example.
[. . .]
And yet this practice of myth-making is taking place within a historical period of mass disenchantment. [. . .] The fundamental incongruity between the willful myth-making of musicals [. . .] and American society as a whole is understood in terms of "escapism." [. . .] Marxists critics are more apt to see this as a bad thing and to value art that “tells the truth” about society, while those in the entertainment industry are apt to wave away all such concerns with appeals to “entertainment”: both sides are indulging in a certain ideology, and each ideology adopts its own strategy of self-protection. As Gerald Mast points out, musicals always insist on their fluffiness, their lack of substance -- they protest, a little too much, that they are “only entertainment,” which places them outside of critical argument and into that realm protected by the words de gustibus non est disputandum.
[. . .]
Entertainment is fully able to reabsorb any revisionist narrative back into its own narratives. The musical is a tougher animal than we once thought, because it can metabolize the foreign matter of its fans' cynical and secret knowledge. Judy Garland is fired from MGM, and it becomes more and more widely known that Judy Garland is a pill-popping emotional wreck -- and a few years later we get A Star Is Born, which transmutes the revelations that had shattered her youthful myth back into . . . myth.

There's a good deal more.

1 comment.

cool ain't shit (a continuing series)

Posted on September 12th, 2007 by Scraps.
Categories: 70s Survival, Music, Music Criticism.

No one wants to hear that something they like is crap. People will come to that conclusion on their own -- and often enough enjoy the crap anyway -- but no one, expressing a sincere appreciation of something, is interested in being told why it's crap. And why should they be? If someone shows me how to like something, they have enlarged my life. What do they do for me by teaching me how to dislike something? Especially since what I've been probably taught is not how to dislike something but why. The visceral reaction -- I like it -- will remain, even if I am only muttering it to myself.

Of course there are good reasons to write negative criticism. It's useful to explore the way one's own taste works; it can articulate things for other people who share your reaction; there are few things that are perfect, and analyzing flaws is interesting, and can improve one's appreciation of things one likes; etc. But anyone who trashes something and thinks they're setting anyone straight -- thinks they're doing anything other than writing for the people who agree with them -- is fooling themself. I write some cutting things, but I don't imagine or hope to change anyone's mind. I'll defend my opinions only as things that are there, not the whole thing; part of the truth, not The Truth.

A friend reacted with incredulity to my assertion that the Captain and Tennille's version of "Shop Around" could stand with the original. (By which, to be clear, I don't mean it's necessarily the equal of the original; I mean that it does not shame the original, and more than adequately justifies its own existence.) The friend said his faith in my taste was badly shaken -- I'm not sure how rhetorically he meant this -- and invited me to convince him. This didn't make me angry -- it's par for the course in casual music opinion-slinging -- but it did solidify a position I've been working toward for years. Which is: I'm not going to justify my reactions, and I'm not going to try to convince anyone. Explain, yes -- this is why I like what I like -- but not justify; not participate in the social hierarchy of taste, not try to move the Captain and Tennille up the ladder nor put deodorant powder on the stink of my appreciation for them. Your resistance is your own, and I'm not going to make extra effort to overcome it.

I invited the response by saying "yes it is" after my initial assertion: a rhetorical acknowledgment that I was making an extraordinary claim that was bound to be questioned. I oughtn't do that. I am interested in explorations of the social hierarchies of taste -- the kind Phil Ford does at Dial M for Musicology, for example -- but I want to keep those hierarchies out of my own reactions to music. Much of the point of the Seventies Song Survival project is to come at everything with fresh ears, as much as possible. Hearing the Captain and Tennille's cover of "Shop Around" as though for the first time was exciting, intensely pleasurable, a kind of joy. And I'm long past the point of needing to define myself to others by my taste in art.


varieties of cultural ignorance

Posted on March 2nd, 2007 by Scraps.
Categories: Badness, Music Criticism, Words.

Colin Harper, the writer of the liner notes for the reissue of Bert and John by Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, begins with:

From the strangely compelling cover shot, of two young men playing some now unfathomable board game in a half darkened room on a sunny day, oblivious to the camera, to the total idiosyncrasy of the music inside, Bert and John is an album with an atmosphere all its own.

The now-unfathomable board game in the cover shot is Go.



Posted on January 22nd, 2007 by Scraps.
Categories: Badness, Music Criticism, Words.

Today I read a review of an album that the writer praised as "nigh on worthy of rejoicing over".


bad writing, allmusic division (a continuing series)

Posted on January 15th, 2007 by Scraps.
Categories: Badness, Music Criticism, Words.

I hadn't encountered the byline Kelvin Hayes before. Here he is, effusing over Do-Re-Mi's Domestic Harmony:

A record of sturdy resonance which keeps faith with their indie roots and tittered on the verging mega-sales, which in the end never came. Nestling between Dorland Bray's punchy drumming, Stephan Philip's nifty guitar hooks, and Helen Carter's wonderful bass work lies one of Australia's finest if not the world's most powerful female voices -- Deborah Conway. Domestic is indeed just that in sound and lyric. "Theme From Uncle Jim" sounds a little tawdry now but it's followed by some of the best examples of Aussie rock from that period; "After the Volcano" and "Idiot Grin" both exude a fresh jangly guitar sound married to rock prowess. The result resides somewhere between the Church and INXS. Their biggest hit, "Man Overboard," features the words "penis envy," which got it banned in the U.K. More startling -- it isn't even the best track. Further wonderment and for those seeking an altogether Aussie sound should hear "New Tabboos" and "1000 Mouths"; great for air drumming also.

I think you could randomly replace all the adjectives and adverbs and it wouldn't be any worse. (A MadLib-proof piece of writing!) Never mind the utter emptiness of the description, if that's the word I'm groping for -- I have no idea what this band sounds like, other than "fresh [what?] jangly guitar sound" and "somewhere between the Church and Inxs", two bands with little in common other than being rock bands from Sydney -- what I want to know is, who is editing this? Erlewine can write -- most of Allmusic's writers aren't bad -- so how does this ineptitude pass? The first and last sentences alone should disqualify this piece for a high school newspaper: phrases like "tittered on the verging mega-sales" and "Further wonderment and for those seeking an altogether Aussie sound should hear" aren't just banal or dumb, they are broken.


bad writing, allmusic division (a continuing series)

Posted on December 31st, 2006 by Scraps.
Categories: Badness, Music, Music Criticism.

Lindsay Planer of Allmusic -- I pick on Allmusic a fair amount because I use them as a resource a lot, so I feel compelled to note that they are a fine resource and that most of their writing isn't bad -- is an adherent, a subscriber, a practitioner, a follower of the Thesaurus School of Bad Criticism:

Joining Brubeck are Paul Desmond (alto sax), Bob Bates (bass), and Joe Dodge (drums), whose support of Brubeck is uniformly flawless, ultimately producing what many consider as the most memorable music in the artist's cannon [sic]. "Balcony Rock" commences the platter from sides documented at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The heavily improvised tune is formed on an eight-bar blues as Desmond steers the combo via his inspired and lyrical leads. The bouncy "Out of Nowhere," comes via a show at the University of Cincinnati and centers on Brubeck's uncanny timing as his passages quickly vacillate between edgy and atonal to decidedly more fluid and melodic. Again, Desmond is nothing short of exemplary as his sax weaves around the rhythm section. "Le Souk" hails from Oberlin College in Ohio and provides Desmond another strong vehicle. His lines tie Bates' prominent propulsions together with Dodge's solid backbeat and Brubeck's similarly aggressive bashing. This takes place behind Brubeck's emphatic and frenetic pounding and garners considerable appreciation by those in attendance. The sturdy bop supporting Duke Ellington's "Take the 'A' Train" is given further fuel thanks to the combination of Desmond's straightforward and unfettered blows and Dodge's punchy interjections. "The Song Is You" is a minor masterpiece as Desmond's efforts resonate his exceptional fluidity. In fact, practically the whole track is marked by his cool, limber phrasing, with Brubeck taking the helm only briefly at the end. The refined and stately reading of "Don't Worry 'Bout Me" reaches far beyond the blues intimated by the sense of forlorn in Brubeck's contributions, thanks to the simple if not austere arrangement. The converse can be said regarding the striking energy of "I Want to Be Happy" as the band leans in hard with a purpose and finesse that can be eloquently summed up in the final phrase as all four members seemingly draw the song to a dynamic and dramatic conclusion. Indeed the genre gets schooled on Jazz Goes to College, a (dare say) perfect representation of the Dave Brubeck Quartet's pre-Time Out (1959) antics in the preferable concert performance setting.

I love this kind of prose. What kind of ear thinks "commences the platter from sides documented" is better than "begins the album with songs recorded"? "Platter" alone should get Planer's typing privileges suspended for a week. His mindless synonym-flinging is bad enough, but his syntax is worse: "his passages quickly vacillate between edgy and atonal to decidedly more fluid and melodic" and "a (dare say) perfect representation of the Dave Brubeck Quartet's pre-Time Out (1959) antics in the preferable concert performance setting", for example, show that he can't manage the selection or placement of conjunctions (, parenthetical interpolations, or adjectives (preferable) without botching the meaning. "Antics" is just the cherry on top.

It's hard to choose a favorite awful phrase -- "'Le Souk' hails from Oberlin College", "prominent propulsions", "garners considerable appreciation", "Desmond's efforts resonate his exceptional fluidity", "intimated by the sense of forlorn" -- but my choice for the standout sentence, displaying all of Planer's stylistic pimples, is the penultimate one:

The converse can be said regarding the striking energy of "I Want to Be Happy" as the band leans in hard with a purpose and finesse that can be eloquently summed up in the final phrase as all four members seemingly draw the song to a dynamic and dramatic conclusion.

This is why I'll always treasure sincere bad writing over the exercises in the Bulwer-Lytton contest: You just can't write this badly on purpose. Another page could be written about this sentence alone, but I'll settle for pointing out the beautiful grace note of "seemingly". That's the kind of touch that will always be missing from deliberate bad writing. Where did "seemingly" come from? What was he trying to accomplish with it? No one with an ear can tell you.


bad writing, allmusic division

Posted on November 23rd, 2006 by Scraps.
Categories: Badness, Music Criticism, Words.

I continue to be astonished, given the general usefulness of Allmusic and the decent quality of most of their appraisals, at the awfulness of the worst writing on their site.  Here's a byline I hadn't encountered, Kim Summers, on Samantha Sang:

A one-hit wonder from the late 70s, Samantha Sang made her professional singing debut because of Barry Gibb and Maurice Gibb.

Born in Australia in 1953, Samantha Sang entered the music world in 1978 singing "Emotion." Unfortunately for the singer this would be her only pop rock hit. The song was written by the popular songwriting duo Barry and Maurice Gibb, who also had their own band, the Bee Gees. The song "Emotion" was on the album of the same name. Besides this song the album included favorites from other well-known 70s soft and pop rock singers. Hits included Eric Carmen's "Change of Heart," Denny Rendell's "You Keep Me Dancing" and Arty Simon's "But If She Moves You." The Bee Gees also had two of their hits, "Charade" and "Love Of A Woman" on the album. Samantha Sang has also provided backup vocals for artists such as David Wolfert, Francis Lai and Carole Bay Sager.

Although only popular from her "Emotion" song, Samantha Sang is a very talented vocalist. In 1996 "Emotion" was on the Bee Gees album release Soul of the Bee Gees. She also performed background vocals for Eric Carmen's Definitive Collection. Despite the fact that Samantha Sang has only one solo song to her credit, she has taken the music industry by storm, performing with such singing groups as the Bee Gees and Eric Carmen.

Also, she has worked with the Gibb brothers, aka the Bee Gees.


hey, europeans: you can love rocknroll, but you can't make it

Posted on May 20th, 2006 by Scraps.
Categories: Music, Music Criticism, Untruths.

At the same EMP conference where Stephin Merritt got pilloried for liking "Zip-e-dee-doo-dah," David Thomas presented his latest expansion upon his theories of the incontrovertible Americanness of rocknroll and the falseness of anything claiming to be rock that is not American, and excited no controversy whatever. Thomas has been beating this cultural purity theory of rock for years, and appears to get a free pass because, well, Thomas is a lunatic anyway, right?

The Existence Machine has a fine and thoughtful roundup of Thomas's statements on these matters over the years. Some Thomas quotes:

Rock is electrified folk music. It is not catholic but parochial, not a wide tent but a narrow road. It is in the blood. [...] The answer to 'Can foreigners play rock music?' is no. No. Not under any circumstances. But sometimes they can sure sound good if they don't try.

[. . .]

Rock music is the native music at the heart of American culture. Artemy Troitsky said to me, "The most ordinary rock band playing in a garage in Nebraska has an authenticity and urgency that cannot be found in even the best bands from England because they are playing their own music." Rock music is in my blood. It's not in yours. You presume too much to think it is. I do not claim Tolstoy. You cannot claim Elvis. Your question also presumes that culture is something that can be frozen in time. It presumes that rock music was never anything other than a youth phenomenon designed to sell clothes and provide tight-jeaned boys to chicken-hawkers. It assumes that what is popularly believed must define the reality of any situation. The Beatles will be a footnote in 50 years and forgotten totally in 100. Don Van Vliet, Sky Saxon and Brian Wilson will still be honored.

[. . .]

[M]usic should be regional, it should speak directly of a specific place on the planet, of a specific geography, of a specific time, otherwise music is a function of merchandise and market. If it is not related to a specific geographical location, if it doesn't speak of a small community of people, then it isn't music. I have a real simple way of looking at things, so most of the stuff you hear on the radio by definition isn't music. I've got no problems, it's everybody else who has to deal with labels and confusion. I suggest to everybody that they adopt my model of thinking. It's easier this way.

1 comment.

flatulent prose, allmusic division

Posted on May 13th, 2006 by Scraps.
Categories: Badness, Music, Music Criticism.

Faithful readers will know that I adore flatulent prose, especially the kind that masquerades as rock criticism. Here is a stunningly wondrous example combining empty adjectival crit-speak with semiliteracy, from Mr. Shawn M. Haney at Allmusic:

Complex, awe-inspiring, and fresh with fretwork excitement, John Darnielle steps up to the mike with guitar in hand, revealing sentimental and emotionally charged acoustic gems. Leader of the Mountain Goats, Darnielle doesn't hide any sense of creativity while composing the material for this record. All Hail West Texas has juicy bits and pieces of melodic tapestry, with a forceful percussive background statement keeping the music afloat. Perhaps what most often reveal themselves during this lush and stylistically complex endeavor are the mature and naturally contemplative lyrics that Darnielle has been able to put together into his songs. Highlights such as "Riches and Wonders" and "Distant Stations" jump at the chance to grab the listener. Other tunes that break through indie-level barriers are the eclectic "Fall of the Star High School Running Back" and the original "Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton." The textured feel of the variety of sounds and notes created by the Mountain Goats is appealing and gripping, a foray into sounds chilling and pristine. The delivery of the lyrics is wondrous and breathtaking during certain moments. The band's instrumental ability possesses dexterous flair, and the result is the charm of the record's immediacy and absorbing emotional impact. The tragic weakness of All Hail West Texas is perhaps its need for persistent listening in order to understand the direction of the music. However, maybe that just proves to be the magic key, and the route to further appreciation of this particular period of the Mountain Goats' music.

There's something hilariously awful about each sentence -- each clause -- and everyone will doubtless have their own favorite. I think mine is "a foray into sounds chilly and pristine," though "Darnielle doesn't hide any sense of creativity" is a fine head-scratcher.


wretched criticism, allmusic division

Posted on November 20th, 2005 by Scraps.
Categories: Badness, Music Criticism, Words.

I just can't get enough of the awfulness of Mackenzie Wilson. I think this one has something bad in every sentence:

"While their fourth album The Sword of God chafed at religious mainstream, Quasi is once again unapologetic for their own social criticisms with another set of indie rock fun. Hot Shit, the band's second for Touch and Go and fifth overall, is Quasi's soap box for ridiculing post-September 11 actions, mostly by those non-liberal leaders of the U.S. of A. Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes aren't outright harsh or rude; they're funny in that cunning sort of way. This time, the 11-song set is much more organized; the lush cinematic feel found on the last effort is replaced with a sparsely foliated atmosphere, and that's what makes Hot Shit's theme so important. Quasi makes an impression without being high-handed. Shared vocal duties from Coomes and Weiss is their finest glazed pop effort yet, their closest to sounding like the Flaming Lips at times ,and the album's slick title track and the piano-driven honky-tonk ballad "Seven Years Gone" find Quasi's pop/rock work-in-progress enjoyably funkadelic. Surf-rock energy of "Good Time Rock N Roll" is a reminder of why they do the thing they do -- Quasi aren't spokesmen, they just want to make music that's artistically modern and intellectually amusing. Hot Shit works in this mold and it works well. Hints of string arrangements loom in and around the album's rowdy rock sound. Once the quirky avant-garde/indie rock jaunt "White Devil's Dream" arrives, it's pretty obvious that Quasi doesn't particularly care for conservative ideals. Coomes pretty much gives America's right-wing rulers (John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell) the finger and calls Tony Blair a sellout in the process. Quasi's crass sense of humor is in full force, but throughout their witty criticisms Quasi are imaginative songwriters and conscious of their curiously cool indie rock style. Hot Shit does it again and does it better!"

She gets paid for this! Someone gets paid to "edit" her!


  • There were fifty varieties of beans. Some jumped and some didn't. It's the same today.
    - Will Cuppy