This is the review that finally made me lose it and start this blog. It is a truly infuriating piece of garbage that is permitted to exist by Pitchforkmedia.com, a site that repeatedly draws my ire. Samir Khan is allowed to review Robert Wyatt's "Rock Bottom" with seemingly zero knowledge of the artist. In fact, he believes he can get by with a snarky attitude and a 0-10 ratings system. Let's dive in:
Former Soft Machine drummer and socialist rock and roll icon Robert Wyatt has been getting a whole bunch of press thanks to the release of his latest record, Shleep. As is the case with other old- school art rock weirdos Mayo Thompson (of the Red Krayola) and John Fahey, the kids are finally catching on to the fact that every era has its set of underappreciated talents.
So, the review starts and we know Samir Khan has a vendetta against musical weirdos. That and he is already assuming that kids are bigger idiots than himself. Really Samir? You mean there were other bands in the 60's and 70's besides the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Who and Jefferson Starship? Besides those bands, who gives a rat's ass? The rest were talentless hacks!
Also, this guy seems to have an ulterior motive. I'm not sure we'll find out this soon, though. Let's read on.
Now, it's all fine and well to say that, but what's this old codger really all about? Is he punk? Is he prog? Is he psychedelic? And most importantly, is he really cool?
Wait, isn't this a music review? Am I lost? Oh right, I am lost, this is a review of Robert Wyatt's creative persona, not of the album. "...Is he really cool?" Are you fucking kidding me? How does the music sound?! You've wasted seven sentences pimping yourself as the Ultimate Arbiter of Cool.
We'll begin with Wyatt's first solo record, Rock Bottom, his first after he fell out of a hotel window and became paralysed from the waist down. For those who've never heard Wyatt or the prog-jazz flailings of the Soft Machine, keep in mind that this is some pretty strange stuff.
Here we go, the meat of the sandwich so to speak. Pretty solid background info, although to describe Soft Machine's output as Prog-Jazz flailings reveals two things: Firstly, Samir has a taste for a critic's worst fallback mechanism: to pigeon-hole music into a genre. Secondly, Samir hates musical improvisation, or as he so tastefully regards it, "flailings." I'll get back to the improv stuff later.
Eerily melodic, yet forsaking virutally every convention for conventional songcraft, Wyatt uses some cheesy keyboard drones, free jazz squawks, minimalist piano playing, and random guitar noodling to create something Syd Barrett would take drugs to.
Alright, Samir starts strong by getting into the the atmospherics of the record, something Wyatt and his wife discussed at length while he was in the hospital for 30 months constructing the songs in his head. He decided to stretch out his sometimes overly-busy song structures, letting the music come at a more languid pace with an emphasis on atmosphere. But according to Samir, Wyatt's "eerily melodic" music is aided by cheesy keyboard drones and free jazz squawks. Does that sound eerie to you? Usually cheesy keyboards are jarring and too-present in the mix, and the same goes for jazz squawks.
Note, Samir hates Jazz, and he HATES musical improvisation. Flailings and random guitar noodlings does not a great music make.
Also, Syd Barrett took drugs to everything, not just psychedelic music. Syd Barrett took drugs to life, you blithering idiot.
That is to say, if you're Syd Barrett (i.e. if you're totally insane), songs like the endless prog jam of "Little Red Robing Hood Hit the Road" or the ambient wankery of "Alife" may send you off into some sort of other dimension.
According to my copy of "Rock Bottom," the endless prog jam of "Little Red Robing Hood Hit the Road" is 7 minutes and 40 seconds. So one can assume that if Samir Khan were to be impatiently waiting in a long check-out line at his local grocery shoppe, he would turn to his friend and say, "Man, the line is so long! It's 7 minutes and 40 seconds long!" Also, Samir, the title is "Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road." Nowhere in the song is the term "robing" thrown around. Does Pitchfork edit this shit!?
Remember when I said Samir hates improv? He just dropped the "wankery" bomb. What a fuckface. The dude doesn't have the nuts to reveal that he hates an ENTIRE form of music. He just cloaks his hatred with snarky vocabulary. Way to go Samir.
However, if you're not, you'll use this sort of record as ammunition against all of us wimpy chin- rubbing types.
What?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!??!! Wait, you like this record? Where in the depths of hell did this opinion pop up from? And wait, I'm supposed to feel sorry for you because you're wimpy? I like this record, but that doesn't make me a wimp. What the hell? And chin-rubbing? Yeah, I'm with you on that one Samir, I constantly rub my chin when I listen to "Rock Bottom." I surmise that at this point in the review, Samir shut off his brain and typed anything. He was lucky to form words.
Maybe the penultimate and final sentences will give us some clarity here.
"But wait!" we'll say. "You didn't hear the other Robert Wyatt stuff... It's really great!" The debate continues.
Sigh. That's it. That's the end of the review. In two succinct sentences he reveals that he's judging this record against Wyatt's overall discography. Wow. Samir Khan is a fucked-up jazz-hating monster. He asks a lot of questions, never answers them, and besides giving a rudimentary description of some of the instruments and part of the sound, good ol' Samir drops a turd on the record. If I was someone wondering whether or not to pick up "Rock Bottom," this review would deter me.
I'm not finished with Samir Khan. No way, no how. The dude has started a war. Game on.