Friday, August 31, 2007

Professionally Scribed Bullcrap (and it's horrible effects)

If you have trolled the pages of Pitchforkmedia recently, you would've noticed their obsession with naming albums they love as "Best New Music."

They review 5 albums a day, and they usually manage to sneak in a best new music every week. Seems like a lot, huh?

Well, it is. Anyways, a little while ago they busted their collective nuts over Deerhunter's Cryptograms. I was working in a record store at the time of its impending release. It's an album of drones and quasi-psychedelia, a pretty safe sounding indie venture. Nothing to write home about, just a predictable second album.

Well, Pitchfork will not shut up about them, making it their mission to boost visibility for the group and ride the critical coattails if any fame is found (a la Dismemberment Plan). So, they write anything about the band. Anything.

You think I'm kidding? Look at this piece of tripe titled "Hey, Remember Deerhunter? We Haven't Written About Them in, Like, a Week! Did You Miss Them?"

No, I didn't miss them. In fact, I was just getting used to your stupid webpage forgetting about your stupid mission of hype. Perhaps I'm jumping the gun here. Let's see what this bit of news has to say about the band's music.

In the market for a Macbook Pro battery? Perhaps a slightly used pair of men's sneakers, sized 10.5? Or how 'bout an embroidered "Makaveli Branded" Tupac t-shirt? I knew we'd get you with that last one.

Typical indie sarcasm leads off this bit. And no, I don't want any of these items. I thought this article was about Deerhunter.

You'll want to make your way over to the world's dustbin-- eBay, that is-- where Deerhunter frontguy Bradford Cox is selling all this and more.

This is a music website. It is about music and music criticism. This article's, well, a plug for an eBay sale. Unless they were superdrunk, they didn't have any reason to write this, other than the fact that they are obviously in bed with Deerhunter and their label, Kranky. Sorry Kranky, I love you as a record label, but this is some fucked up collusion shit. There is no other explanation for this article. Since when has a band used a well-regarded music website to trumpet their eBay sale? Never, and for a good fucking reason. It's wrong.

The article goes on a for a little while but the damage was done. I'm sure it's not the only reason, but guitarist Colin Mee left Deerhunter today for the following reasons:

"This sense of being overwhelmed was exacerbated by the fact that I felt we were receiving (and creating) too much press that had nothing to do with any new music being created. I don't want to be overexposed. I don't want the world to know what our excrement looks like or what we are selling on eBay or whether we got robbed. I think that it devalues the music and it is just a way to maintain attention when the music should just speak for itself.

Nice one Pitchfork, you contributed to the loss of a guitarist! Now YOU, Pitchfork, are the news, which is what you wanted all along, right? It was pathetic enough to let that article be printed and available to read to the general public, but now, upon realizing that your article had an impact on the band, you must be REALLY pleased with yourselves.

This is the exact kind of bullshit I can't stand. The critics and music news companies should be respected, and yes, they have to push their own product, but it's depressing and sad to see this display of media manipulation.

Who the fuck needs needs to know about a fucking eBay sale?! Save that shit for the band's unofficial fan website, where they probably talk about the band's wardrobe, who played Magic: The Gathering growing up, or who sucks at checkers. Save the bullshit for the fans.

Don't become the bullshit.

Having Good Taste is So Awesome

i came across this article in pitchfork the other day. the twenty words or less version: people should chuck their old music and expand their taste. sort of an unremarkable argument, no?
but there's something rather perfect about this piece, as if the author actually set out to prove his own deeply embarrassing snobbery. take, for instance, this second paragraph boast: "I had friends who were music heads but among them I was the chief music head. I would give my records away to them!" (mirabile dictu! who on earth but a true chief head would do such a thing?!) this establishes the perspective the whole article is written from: there may be other people who like music, but heck if this guy isn't cooler than all of them. adolescent as that may sound, there's a deeper flaw here, one that shows just how shallow mr. ewing really is.
you see, he says he loves talking about music -- loves the idea of music as a social lubricator. "I'd found myself adrift and lonely at 18, then had made friends with a bunch of people who were as passionate about music as I was. We talked and argued about it non-stop." liking "cool" music, then, is a way for lonely people to make friends. in that respect, it's fine. but the curious thing is that these lonely people, seemingly peer-pressured into their interest in music, have become exactly the people america goes to for suggestions. how could someone so painfully self-centered and image-conscious become a trendsetter?
answer: by knowing MORE than YOU. to critics, telling people about music is more fun than listening to it, which explains quite a lot. the goal is to know as many bands as possible (think of this as the liberal arts approach, which understands the height of intelligence to be a well-prepared jeopardy contestant). the entire concept of expertise has been fundamentally altered, and by a bunch of english majors in tight pants.
part of the motivation for the article seems to be genuine. dude wants people to know that their tastes needn't be set in stone. thing is, most people are already aware of this, because most people have a hidden cache of shameful, tasteless purchases. for example, before pubic hair, i was into r & b (tony, toni, toné; TLC; etc.) and commercial hip-hop (craig mac's "brand new flava in ya ear" is more or less always stuck in my head). if i were to hear that music now, it would strike me as corporate, uninspired, lacking ingenuity. clearly, my tastes have changed. most people, even those who don't particularly like music, have experienced something like this more than once. this, alone, cannot be ewing's point, because even for pitchfork it would be too inane.
ewing's revelation -- and remember he got paid for this epiphany -- is that there are all sorts of totally neat ways to find new music. you can search for random words on P2P software! you can make yourself an expert on a single year! (his two examples are 1975 and 1984, because there wasn't any music made before marketable rock.) you can even listen to some of the crazy shit that foreigners like!!!
this sounds more like the conduct of a man at a wine-tasting (sampling all sorts of things, but spitting them all out without once getting drunk) rather than some sort of music connoisseur. ultimately, ewing admits this: "I had the luxury of detaching myself from [my taste] and trying new ones as I might clothes or haircuts."
there you have it: music as accessory, from the very person whose job is ostensibly to judge music on its artistic merits. how can ewing be expected to recognize good music when he actually BRAGS about liking it superficially? i've always suspected that various year-end "best of" lists are actually counting down fashion statements rather than works of art. now i have my proof.
finally, my childhood hero was patrick ewing, a truly divine man. it has pained me to criticize someone with his last name. if you're reading this, patrick -- come back! the knicks need your sweaty, sweaty brow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Keith Richards Plays a Good Show

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) - Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has demanded an apology from Swedish newspapers for their scathing reviews of the group's performance in the country earlier this month.

Tabloids Expressen and Aftonbladet gave thumbs down to the Aug. 3 concert at Ullevi stadium in Goteborg, with Expressen suggesting Richards was "superdrunk" on stage.

"This is a first!" the 63-year-old rock star wrote in a letter published by Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter. "Never before have I risen to the bait of a bad review.

"But this time ... I have to stand up ... for our fans all over Sweden ... to say that you owe them, and us, an apology."

This is awesomely dramatic stuff. Keith Richards being offended by a rando music critic calling him superdrunk. Not just drunk, but superdrunk. And why does this offend the king of drugs and drink? Let's talk about the letter.

Dagens Nyheter said it received the letter from concert organizer EMA Telstar. Company head Thomas Johansson told The Associated Press that Richards wrote the letter and gave it to him after reading translations of the Swedish reviews.

"There were 56,000 people in Ullevi stadium who bought a ticket to our concert - and experienced a completely different show than the one you 'reviewed,'" the letter said.

"How dare you cheapen the experience for them - and for the hundreds of thousands of other people across Sweden who weren't at Ullevi and have only your 'review' to go on.

Look, I'm sure the 50,000 or so Swedes had a great time at the show. They were all happy and superdrunk with you. It's true, going to a great show and enjoying the experience is one thing. Reading that your great experience was actually a hugely shitty time by one dismissive critic can sometimes kill the buzz. But leave the complaining to the fans, Keef. Maybe all of these fans gave you the benefit of the doubt and clapped no matter how crappy your old hands play the guitar.

"Write the truth. It was a good show."

In his review, Aftonbladet's music writer Markus Larsson gave the concert a score of two on a five-point scale, and said Richards appeared "a bit confused."

"I am not going to apologize for my subjective opinion," Larsson told the paper's Web edition on Wednesday. "It is Keith who should apologize. After all it costs around 1,000 kronor ($145) to see a rock star who can hardly handle the (guitar) riff to 'Brown Sugar' any more."

This is a great example of critic's affect on the musician. Of all the bizarre times for Keith to complain about a bad critique, this takes the cake. They are band of old older guys who famously said they wouldn't be playing their old hits when they were 60. Well, here we are, wallowing in your stale remakes and terrible solo outings.

Do I think the review was wrong in its harshness? No, that's what Larsson felt, and if he wants to be cynical and hard-to-please, that's his prerogative.

Also, the part about how he can't even play 'Brown Sugar' is classic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Rock and Roll NBA Foreva

Yup. Manute Bol and Muggsy Bogues know how to fucking rock shit up!* If only the hippo had a bigger drum kit...also, what kind of music would they play?


*Thanks to JJ for pointing out that I confused my tiny guards. No disrespect meant towards Spud, Mugsy, Earl Boynkins, basically everyone who's small but rocks with a huge heart.
It's been a long couple of posts, this one will be brief. As much as it may sound like I want to physically harm these critics, I don't. Sometimes I just want to read a record review that talks about the music.

In these glorious days of watered-down media that is shared between 5 huge companies, it's easy for stuff to fall through the cracks.

Like this guy, being swallowed from all sides by a ridiculously great drum set up. That guy's gonna have to get to makin' some drummin' babies or most of the those drums will go through life without ever being touched.

In order to play all of these drums, the stickman would have to held in midair by cables so he could hover and glide around. Not sure how he would man the kick, but who gives.

Stuff I've been listening to lately:

Pearls Before Swine: Amazing late 60's to mid 70's acid folk. The original masters were lost a while ago, so if you want to hear what your parents blazed to, find the vinyl. Otherwise, the CD I have of the first two records is great (try to avoid wasting the money and get them together, fool!). One Nation Underground and Balaklava are both packed with obscure goodies, like the ghostly clavinet on "Another Time" and the broken-down garage of "Uncle John", coupled with the power of "I Saw the World" as Rapp calls and a full orchestra responds. Aging acid-heads can't be wrong!

Neil Young - On the Beach

I don't just like that Neil 'cause he hates critics. This record is almost flawless in my mind. The mood of the music, the talent of the players, the emotional depth of the songs, it's all here. Coupled with one of Neil's best album covers, song for song you can't do better. Graham Nash stops by to blaze and play electric keys on the title track, Rusty Kershaw plays some unbelievably beautiful microphone-knocking fiddle, and half of the The Band make "Vampire Blues" shudder and stomp. Neil actually chased super-engineer Al Schmidt away from the recordings with his band's antics. Made under the influence of honey sliders (pot cooked in a lot butter and honey), this record kicks ass and takes names, and then the second side lets you float into the sea with all of your friends.

J Dilla - Donuts

This record just keeps growing and growing on me. It's bar none the best hip-hop record of last year, despite Clipse's attempts to win my heart over with their crack deal swagger. Almost 40 tracks, packed to the brim with more ideas than 20 Neptunes records put together, all with the now-familiar chugging beats and swirling psychedelic neo-soul grind. I can't start my day with hearing "Workinonit", it just doesn't happen. Even though it sounds dense, the beats are usually simple as all hell. As my good friend Jonathan would say, Soooooooooooooooooooo good.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Music? What music?

Ever since Pitchfork gave And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Death... a 10 out 10 rating, I've been obsessed with finding out what makes the least perfect record in their eyes.

Liz Phair has done the deed. 20 to 30 year olds males fell in love with her indie-rock raunch and roll, and fell even harder when you realize you can kind of see her nipple in the liner notes.

Anyways, nothing kills a hipster erection like a mainstream cross-over, and Liz did just that, although she did talk about cum and other fun eyebrow-raising matter. Matt LeMay hates this album more than he hates Smashmouth and U2 combined! Also, he doesn't know how to talk about music, so he uses words like "depth" and "transparent." All in a days work at Pitchfork!

It could be said that Liz Phair's greatest asset has always been her inability to write a perfect pop song.

Nope. That's wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. She wrote great songs, kaput. And indie producer Brad Wood helped wrap it in nice little gems. To say that she was never able to write perfect pop songs

On her 1993 debut, Exile in Guyville, Phair's gruff voice wrapped awkward non-hooks around flimsy, transparent chord progressions, resulting in (to everyone's surprise) a certifiable indie roadtrip classic. It still stands as a powerfully confrontational album, skirting convention yet marked by Phair's striking awareness of her own limitations.

I like this early pattern of putting down Phair's talent. Non-hooks? Transparent chord progressions? So, the progressions aren't even there? This is retarded. Please learn how to write about music. And wait, "indie roadtrip classic?" Why is it only roadtrip worthy?

Unfortunately, it seems that Phair has spent the better part of her post-Exile career trying to gloss over the very limitations that made her original statement so profound. Though her second album, Whip-Smart, had a few choice moments which recalled the insight and complexity of Exile, it ultimately seemed like a much more calculated affair.

I can't say this enough, but, what the fuck? He just said that Exile was full of non-hooks, and was apparently transparent. How did it suddenly become complex and insightful? Are you paying attention to what you're writing?

Things didn't start to go horribly awry, of course, until Phair's next album, Whitechocolatespaceegg. That record's attempts to radio-ize her sound only dismantled the depth of her music-- if not the awkwardness-- resulting in an odd batch of songs that perhaps encapsulated Phair's faulty view of what constitutes a radio-friendly album.

This is such a clusterfuck. I need to go back and figure out what the F he's talking about

Exile In Guyville - imperfect, gruff, full of awkward non-hooks, flimsy, transparent, limited, insightful, complex, deep

Read that again. He's describing the same album, and no, it's not complimentary. Does he like the album? Does he hate it? This is crap. This guy is writing an entirely schizophrenic piece. Within the first two paragraphs he's contradicting himself. Awful.

And he hasn't even touched the record he's supposed to be REVIEWING yet! This is madness!

Ten years on from Exile, Liz has finally managed to achieve what seems to have been her goal ever since the possibility of commercial success first presented itself to her: to release an album that could have just as easily been made by anybody else.

I'm pretty sure that wasn't her goal. She just did, so deal with it. Oh yeah, you're just filling this review with empty anti-mainstream rhetoric, so what's the point?

Even the songs on Liz Phair that could be considered "shocking" or "profound" are gratuitous and overdetermined, eschewing the stark and accusatory insights of Exile in favor of pointless f-bombs, manipulative ballads, and foul-mouthed shmeminism.

You threw a lot of big words in there, but what are you saying? Anything about the music? Maybe? Anytime soon?

Liz Phair has always been known for her vulgarity, but on Exile and parts of Whip-Smart, she put that trait to good use. On "Fuck and Run", a standout from Exile, Phair used the word's negative connotations as a means of pointed self-deprecation and lamented, "Whatever happened to a boyfriend/ The kind of guy who makes love cause he's in it/ I want a boyfriend/ I want all that stupid old shit/ Letters and sodas."

Hi, my name is Matt LeMay. I'm in love with the past. I want to always live in 1994. I want Liz Phair posters hanging above my bed. I can't come to terms with my sex rock idol selling out and making a cheesy rock record, so I give the album a 0.0 because I'm an idiot. Also, I apparently have no idea how to talk about music without using vague adjectives that better describe articles of clothing.

"Flower", Phair's most notorious track to date, reads like a laundry list of graphic sexual desires, but rather than paint a uniformly flattering portrait of her love interest, he's immature, he's obnoxious, and despite it all, she still wants to fuck his brains out-- a simple, necessarily crude semi-contradiction that speaks volumes.

OK, I get it now. Matt LeMay is immature, obnoxious, and still gets jiggy with rando girls. Liz was the only rocker who got him. I now understand his problems with this album. Oh yeah, he's STILL NOT TALKING ABOUT THE NEW RECORD.

"Flower" would seem to have a descendent in "H.W.C." ("Hot White Cum"), in which Phair extols the virtue of semen as a beauty aid ("...Dear Cosmo: Splooge, The New Rouge!"). But, unlike the complex, alternatingly cocky and self-effacing sexuality of "Flower," "H.W.C."'s unqualified sperm-praise is entirely vain and degrading. Even more degrading is the constipated donkeyfuck harmonica solo towards the track's end, a hilarious sideshow that only magnifies the triteness of the song's glycerin-slick production.

Alright, I'll at least concede that the donkeyfuck harmonica thing is funny, but can I point out that he referred to none of the music on the track? Anything? Guitars, bass, keyboards, fucking kazoo? I don't think that's unreasonable to ask for in a music review.

Though "H.W.C." is without question the best water-cooler conversation piece on Liz Phair, "Rock Me" makes for a close second. Here, Phair sings exuberantly about the benefits of an affair with a younger guy including-- I shit you not-- "[playing] Xbox on [his] floor." In between choruses of, "Baby baby baby if it's alright/ Want you to rock me all night," Phair declares, "I'm starting to think that young guys rule!" without a trace of self-doubt or reflection.

Here we go, another specific song mentioned. He has an entire paragraph to mention a single note of the music and he strikes out. I know the music is trite and recycled, but can you at least write that out? It would help.

It's hard to imagine that the Liz Phair of ten years ago wouldn't have had something profound and devastating to say about older women who shack up with clueless college kids, but on "Rock Me"-- as on the rest of Liz Phair-- vapid, clich�-filled rhyme couplets dominate.

What? Isn't it "profound" to say that she wants to suck off a young dude? Isn't that well within her crude/saucy tastes? He's really sticking to the lyrics here when I'd like to hear about the music.

Take, for example, the album's first single, "Why Can't I", "co"-written by Avril Lavigne songwriting team The Matrix. With a chorus of, "Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you?" and a cookie-cutter rock/pop background, the song could easily pass for Michelle Branch. The lyric, "We haven't fucked yet/ But my head's still spinning," seemingly seeks to set Phair apart from the teen-pop crowd, but the use of the word is completely gratuitous-- change it to "kissed" and stick a 16-year-old girl in front of the mic and no one could tell the difference.

Awesome. He finally talked about music, using the "cookie-cutter" thing. I know that the music is formulaic, but that's just half-assed at this point. I've already waxed poetic about this shit, everyone knows it happens. Liz Phair ages, needs money, tries to make a crossover record, perhaps for her and her daughter's well-being. That's all you had to write. I know it sucks when artists do this, but it happens. The cash comes-a-callin'. If you watched TV for 24 hours you can hear 10 Who songs, I guarantee it.

Only on "Little Digger" does Phair attempt to tackle subject matter unique to the circumstances of her own life as a 36-year-old single mother. The song has received positive press for addressing a difficult issue, as Phair sings to her son about his absent father and the new men she's dating. But the fact that anything positive could be said about this track speaks only to the overwhelming lack of substance on this record. From its cloying synthstring arrangements to its ballad-in-a-box drumbeat to its infuriatingly manipulative chorus of, "My mother is mine," "Little Digger" offers up all the insight and emotion of a UPN sitcom.

Woo hoo!! Synthstrings and a drumbeat! Let the music review begin!!

In recent interviews, Phair has been upfront about her hopes of mainstream success, and claims full awareness that Liz Phair is likely to alienate many of her original fans.

Notice the use of "claim". It means that Liz might not know what she's doing, which is preposterous. Do you honestly think someone can make an album of cloying sound-alike mainstream tracks without realizing the intent/impact? You're wrong.

What she doesn't seem to realize is that a collection of utterly generic rocked-out pop songs isn't likely to win her many new ones[fans]. It's sad that an artist as groundbreaking as Phair would be reduced to cheap publicity stunts and hyper-commercialized teen-pop.

Remember what I said about the Who? How about the Eagles? The Beatles? The Rolling Stones? ELO? The Kinks? Elvis? The Fall?

What do they all have in common? All of them are groundbreaking. And they all have sold their songs to terrible commercials, usually ones involving cars driving around and a voice-over saying something about APR. I'd say that's a cheap publicity stunt, and it's hyper-commercialized. So, are you going to write about that shit as well? I thought not.

But then, this is "the album she has always wanted to make"-- one in which all of her quirks and limitations are absorbed into well-tested clich�s, and ultimately, one that may as well not even exist.

Hold it against her, man. Really, she let you down, shattered your expectations, you know, the ones you set in your head 10 years ago? Also, Matt, she's never going to fuck you, so let it go.

Next time you give a musical recording a 0 out of 10, list the musical reasons. Don't list shit about how she let you down. Save it for the Waahhhmbulance, dude.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Expectation Machine

I've been obsessing about it all week: how one's expectations affects the way an album is experienced. As if hearing my complaints echoing in the depths of the interweb, Jason Crock of decides to address the subject at hand with much aplomb. Unfortunately he doesn't really conclude anything. So much for all of that aplomb.

One thing about Pitchfork: the first thing I noticed about the site was their overwhelming support and almost deranged love of the Dismemberment Plan. Let me direct you to their "Best Albums of 1998" list.

At least I wish I could, as they seem to have taken it off of their website. I found that they gave "Emergency & I," the band's breakthrough the number 1 album of the year in 1998. Even though it came out in 1999. They even admitted to it.

When listing why an album that only they, the staff of Pitchfork had heard(the album hadn't been officially released), they just said they were excited. This is an embarrassing example of a band and an entire music publication holding hands, looking dreamily into each others eyes, and saying,"I'll help you if you help me." I'm sure there are better examples of this mutual handjob, but that's for another post.

Anywho, time for some endless postulations. This involves Crock's review of former-Dismemberment Plan leader Travis Morrison's new record All Y'all.

Is it them, or is it me? Or is it all of us? Do we as music fans hold our heroes in too-high regard, forcing them to live up to arbitrary standards that we decided they've met and can never really accomplish again?

One could say it is all of us, really. And yes, part of growing up and finding music you love is the hero worship. I was younger man when my younger brother received Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dreams, one of those albums that kill you with awesome fun. Radio-friendly weirdery like "Today" coupled with the prog-metal-drone of "Silverfuck" really moved the group into a world of hero worship. My expectations were admittedly high when Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was released, and boy howdy did that record kick MORE ass than Siamese. Not many times have bands been able to meet ridiculous expectations. For every The Bends/OK Computer there are hundreds of Doolittle/Bossanova's.*

The standards couldn't be more arbitrary. But this is where critics come in. They need to temper their own expectations and review these albums with a clear mind. Pure expectations are a good basis for a fan's opinion of an album. Expectations should not be the defining element in a review, and that's where critics fall short. I'm not saying critics should completely ignore expectations, but they shouldn't use it as the back-bone of a bad review. Whew.

Is it fair to beat up on Travis Morrison for breaking up his former band and then daring to try something different?

No, it's not fair. We good? Cool.

His self-admitted heroes, often worshipped via the D-Plan's website...were Neil Young and Prince-- two musicians who mangle the expectations of their numerous fans almost yearly.

Yeah, and those guys suck. No, scratch that. Those guys are popular and legendary because they took those chances, Neil more so than Prince in my opinion (although big shout-out to The Black Album). Critics hated a lot of Neil Young stuff when it came out, especially after Harvest. Neil was expected to make quiet acoustic singer-songwriter material for the soft-rocking 70's. This he did not do, over and over again. He played with Crosby, Stills and Nash, and then he broke off. Then he played with Crazy Horse, and then left them in the dust. The guy built his career on constant change and abrupt departures.

At one point he was expected to release Homegrown, a Harvest-like down-home collection of tunes. After getting high with Rick Danko and playing him some raw tracks from an abandoned project, Rick convinced Neil to can Homegrown (much to the chagrin of his record company) and release the derisive Tonight's the Night. I've heard the Homegrown bootlegs, the thing would've sold millions.

Just to make sure, Jason Crock is holding Travis Morrison up to the same standards as Neil Young and Prince. Therefore, should he not judge the album knowing well in advance that the record may not sound the way he thinks it should.

It shouldn't have been a surprise when Morrison, free of the checks and balances of his old band, followed his muse to wherever it would go, even when those ideas were embarrassingly toothless or undercooked on his first solo record.

You're right, it shouldn't have been a surprise. It seems to me that you were surprised and a little offended at what your Holy Travis Morrison created. But you've spent all this time talking about the effects of expectation...

Is it any different than before, really, or have I changed as a listener? The D-Plan were a near-constant soundtrack to my years around the turn of the century-- would anything Morrison ever does afterward hold up?

Where to start? Notice the reference to D-Plan? Notice that fact that he's not reviewing a D-Plan album? I beg the critic to stop living in the past and fast-forward a bit.

Secondly, yes, you've changed as a listener. Everyone knows it, but no one wants to face the reality. You grow older. You're sitting there listening to Merzbow, Skip Spence and Pere Ubu. Suddenly it's 5 years later and you're loving softer tones, lighter tracks, even the 10,000 Maniacs are fine for your tender ears. What once exhilarated you is now gathering dust on your shelves. Fast forward 20 years and your ear and brain have aged quite a bit. You can't hear tones in the high frequencies, you find yourself turning down the bass and pumping the treble. And then you realize that you're listening to this guy:

You get the picture. To wish this record sounded like D-Plan is to ignore the process of aging.

Crock goes on to slam every element of this album. Nothing is safe, the arrangements, lyrics, sequencing and mixing are all not only called into question but outright slammed on. And then we're left with this ultimate paragraph.

It's a bleeding-heart fan's paradox: We keep giving favorite artists more chances because their music meant so much to us at one point in time, even though it gets increasingly less likely it ever will again.

This makes me angry. He's a die-hard D-Plan fan. How could his review not be stained by ruined expectations? Notice this: "...because their music MEANT so much..." You like an artist because their music MEANS so much to you, present tense. Crock obviously cares not for anything his beloved ex-D-Plan members try, so why have him review this album? Oh yeah, Pitchfork is based on solid support and the deranged obsession with Dismemberment Plan.

If we could listen to this record in a total vacuum, maybe we'd see All Y'all shows a lot of promising ideas with sometimes hoary execution, which is miles of improvement over the inadvisable Travistan.

As a critic, you should be able to listen to a record in a vacuum of some sort. Least of all, you should be able to measure a record fairly against past output, not just cling to past glories and frown upon any deviation from the assigned expected path you set in your head.

It's not that hard. If you don't like an album, you're allowed to talk about the past, but you can't use "in the good old days" rhetoric as the foundation of your criticism. Unless you're an old, old man, Crock. And I will assume that you are. You'll probably need these:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Music Shoppes in NYC (The Rub)

I won't do this often, but semi-quasi-partial-contributor Mattie-O just posted on his lovely site (shared with wild fire-insured Traw Shatraw)

The entry concerns itself with the state of record-buying in Neu Yark Shitty, and the fate of Virgin record stores. Also,

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Midnite Bastard

It's time for fun! Stephen Thomas Erlewine has a vendetta against Midnite Vultures. Why? I'm sure that there must be something lacking in the music, something specific. Surely he won't find a tiny element of the record annoying and then hate the whole durn thing as a result. Let's find out!

By calling the muted psychedelic folk-rock, blues, and Tropicalia of
Mutations a stopgap, Beck set expectations for Midnight Vultures unreasonably high.

EXPECTATIONS. There it is, the ultimate red flag in a review, and S.T. Erlewine shies not away from this beast, but beckons it forth. Let it be known that Mutations was NEVER called a stopgap record. He wanted to record another album for his old label, Bong Load, and did so, cutting the whole thing in two weeks with Nigel Godrich. The album sounded so good that DGC, his current label demanded that they be able to release under their name as well. And then the critics invented this idea that Mutations was not the true sequel to Odelay because it wasn't a patchwork collection of sample-heavy tunes. This is wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

Ironically, Midnite Vultures doesn't feel like a sequel to Odelay -- it's a genre exercise, like Mutations.

God damn it, this isn't ironic, it's true! The reason it doesn't FEEL like the sequel is because it IS NOT the sequel! The sequel to Odelay is Mutations you hack! Also, the reason we all love Beck is that he hops from sound to sound, never satisfied with comfort (although recently, he's toeing the sound-alike line). Last time I checked, Mutations was a folk record. Erlewine calls it a genre exercise. So, when Led Zeppelin made III, that was just a genre exercise, not a folk album. And when Captain Beefheart recorded Trout Mask Replica, that was just a dalliance with musical extremism, not an avant-garde rock album. God, I hate this review soooooooooooooooooo much!

This time, Beck delves into soul, funk, and hip-hop, touching on everything from Stax/Volt to No Limit but using Prince as his home base. He's eschewed samples, more or less, but not the aesthetic.

Pretty spot on with the sound, except Beck's fascination with electronic music, which is heavily favored on this album. Also, you're wrong about the samples. On Midnite Vultures Beck sampled his own band and sketches and then incorporated the samples into the songs. So, yeah, you're pretty wrong, which is why the sampling aesthetic remains.

Even when a song is reminiscent of a particular style, it's assembled in strange, exciting ways. As it kicks off with "Sexx Laws," it's hard not to get caught up in the rush, and "Nicotine & Gravy" carries on the vibe expertly, as does the party jam "Mixed Bizness" and the full-on electro workout "Get Real Paid," an intoxicating number that sounds like a Black Album reject. So far, so good -- the songs are tight, catchy, and memorable, the production dense.

Pretty good, only I feel like there's something wrong here. Something really pissed off S.T Erlewine before he even started this review...

Then comes "Hollywood Freaks."

There it is. Let's see what he hates about this one song on the album.

The self-conscious gangsta goof is singularly irritating, not least because of Beck's affected voice. It's the first on Midnite Vultures to feel like a parody, and it's such an awkward, misguided shift in tone that it colors the rest of the album.

OK, there is a lot of things that offend me in these two sentences. Where to begin?

First off, Beck's music is the opposite of self-conscious. Especially this song, which is a really funny track anyways. It's a joke, what's wrong with that. I have fond memories of yelling lyrics of this song in my high school hallway, and getting shouts back. A slice of the lyrics:

"Norman Schwartzkopf, something tells me you want to go home"
"Automatic bzooty, zero to tutti fruitti
Sex in the halls, Niagara Falls
Local shopping malls receive
Anonymous calls"

How are you not supposed to laugh at that? I guess when you're S.T. Erlewine, and you don't want Beck to have fun or make fun of himself. Zero to tutti fruitti? That's gold right there, gold. Not to mention the beat underneath, which is a slammin' Dust Bros. track. Remember them Erlewine, the guys who helped produce your favorite Beck album, Odelay? Well, you're criticizing the one track that they worked on. Why are you so fucking confusing?

Tributes now sound like send-ups, allusions that once seemed affectionate feel snide, and the whole thing comes off as a little jive.

Holy shit, one single track on this album ruined it for Erlewine. Now he wants to ruin the whole record for you. Isn't that nice? He's making Beck out to be a some kind of high-and-mighty diva who hates his fans. Awful awful awful. Can't a guy record some music that's in his head? Isn't it possible that Beck wanted us to have fun after the somber grandeur of Mutations? I'll put my money on the fun, Erlewine.

Musically, Midnite Vultures is filled with wonderful little quirks, but these are undercut by the sneaking suspicion that for all the ingenuity, it's just a hipster joke.

I know I've already said it, but, this is awful. People who are getting into Beck are going to be turned the fuck off of this record because of a "sneaking suspicion." Also, hipster joke? This review is a fucking hipster joke.

Humor has always been a big part of Beck's music, but it was gloriously absurd, never elitist. Here, it's delivered with a smug smirk, undercutting whatever joy the music generates.

Alright, quit it already Erlewine, now you're just lashing out for no reason. Beck made the record he wanted to make. You didn't like it, and instead of figuring out why, you just lashed out using false truths and slander.

Please listen to Midnite Vultures. The first side is hilarious and fun, while the second half lags a little bit. Still, given Beck's refusal to be boring, the sonics alone are worth it, as well as Jonny Marrs' mystery appearance. I'd give it 4 stars out of 5, instead of Erlewine's baffling 3 out of 5.

Too Good to be True

I briefly mentioned Kids Incorporated this past week. And then I found this little slice of heaven.

These kids were born to rock your socks off of your feet! And what's that in the corner but a gorgeous key-tar, surely pumping out some sweet synthesized goodness!

Also, what similarity do the blonde girl sitting front and center,and the tiny Asian girl in the back share?

If you said, "It's the motherf-ing tambourine!" then you are right my friends!

Once again, the pure innocence of the tambourine brings together cultures to create a very denim, very tiny kind of world, where all children are musical prodigies with type A personalities.

Eat it Mickey Mouse Club!

And eat it Mickey, you'll never conquer us!!!
Why do you want to destroy our great nation of America, Mickey?

You dirty traitor rat! You'll never succeed!!!

Your blind optimism will get you nowhere, Benedict Arnold!
Also, stop flying your UFO's over our crops. Every last acre is necessary
to keep the Great Nation thriving! Also, no more anal probing!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Critics are Critics, Fans are Deranged

This has quickly become my favorite segments of Music Writemare. has set up a list of reviews of the newer Interpol record Our Love to Admire. It was reviewed pretty well, if not lazily. And then the readers get to chime in, rating the album from 0-10. Let the fun consume you!

L P gave it a 10: Critics don't have a clue...that's why they're critics and not musicians. It's their best yet.

Nice LP, wait to stick it to the critics! And then give no explanation as to why it's the best. You must be a musician...

Yannis gave it a 9: Don't let the critics disappoint you. This is an album of great musical depth. Needs some listens to reveal all of its beauty, but then it turns into pure aural pleasure. The guitar work is haunting, the structure of the songs wisely designed. It lacks the spontaneity of "Antics", but then, make no mistake: this is not punk. I would say it is rock near the borders of classical and soundtrack music.

Once again, the critics are disparaged. I always encourage this mentality. And then Yannis tells us that the record is full of "haunting guitar work" and "wisely designed songs" which lack the spontaneity of the previous release. Why give it a 9 if it's not exciting, and sounds exactly like the other releases? Also, it's not punk. It's soundtrack music. That's not a good thing, Yannis.

elmo . gave it a 9: Our love to admire is epic start to finish. Less joy divison than the last two albums and has more to say aswell. Great one!

Awful. They never really sounded like Joy Division anyways. Paul Banks sings like a dead puppet, that's the only decent comparison. Also, horrible review elmo. Great one!

ben f gave it a 10: 3rd masterpiece in a row by the greatest band ever.

Terrible. I can easily list 10 bands that are better than Interpol. Rolling Stones, Joy Division, Beatles, Beach Boys, The Kinks, The Smiths, Radiohead, Bob Marley & the Wailers, Nirvana, The Pixies. That took me one minute. You suck.

Bob B gave it an 8: solid record. streets ahead of antics. indie wankers are full of excrement.

This is a confusing masterpiece. Bob B is truly the Hemingway of meta.critic users. His short, concise, almost heartless words paint a vivid picture. There is honesty here, a cold pop to the nose. The final sentence is a profoundly brilliant mess. I agree with him, indie wankers are indeed full of excrement. But who is he slandering, those who thoughtlessly enjoy the record because it's "indie-sounding", or the wankers who write snarky off-putting reviews only to cast doubt on said record? We'll never know. Bob B, you are sadistic bastard.

Daniel gave it a 10: Round, beautiful short-novel

I can't wait to listen to this round album. It will be awesomely corpulent!

Edward S. gave it a10:
This cd is fucking GREAT, screw all the critics, they like listening to queer shit! Viva Interpol!!!!!!!

Not really sure what to say. Viva Interpol? Interpol may be the least Latin American band in the history of rock and roll, besides the bass player named Carlos. Apparently, critics jam strictly to the Pet Shop Boys, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Cher and Judas Priest. Thanks for the dirt on the critics, Edward S.

Brandon C. gave it an 8: I don't know what everyone is complaing about, it's an Interpol album. I think every review should just simply say "It sounds like an Interpol album." If you like Interpol you will like this CD. If you don't you won't. Duh.

Great spelling of "complaining", but this is a valid point. Mainly because it lends its agreement to my belief in expectation clouding critic's minds. So, thanks for than confirmation, Brandon, you make me feel self-satisfied.

Dave m. gave it an8:
It's at least an 8 just cause it's Interpol and that fact alone means it s**ts all over 95% of anything out there. Pitchfork are some haters - 6/10? Keep smoking.

Yeah,, fuck you! Also, pass that shit that you're smoking. No one likes a bogart, you jonesers.

Sara B. gave it a 10:
A muscular, bipolar stomper of an album.

According to Sara B, this is how the album sounds:


Guitar Boner!

I actually came across this a couple of weeks ago, but still:

Y'know what that is?

That's the new J.Mascis Special Edition Fender Jazzmaster.

Those are the sweetest 5.1 words I've ever written in my life.



Sunday, August 19, 2007

Drum Boner Shout-out, Mattraw Style


Guess what, you suck at the drums. In fact, the only way you could be useful to the percussive world is if you wriggled your way into his drumset, and stood there all night, waiting for Neil to wail you with a drumstick. Understand this:

It's a drum boner, and you have one right now.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The 3-Word Query (Clone Turds)

Five for Fighting, Against the Day, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Plain White T's, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, !!!, Boy's Like Girls, A Fine Frenzy, the list goes on and on and on. See the trend?

Shatraw, the earthquake-proof member of proposed the following hypothesis:

"I have a theory. my theory is that NO band who has come forward in the 21st century and has a 3-word name is any good. care to explore this?"

He then gave me that list of bands you see at the top of the screen, plus I added a couple.

Discrepancy number one: Yeah Yeah Yeah's met and formed at Oberlin College in 2000, making them a pre-millennial three 3-word band.

I can't really say that any of your choices are wrong in terms of being horrible and 3-worded, but I can say there are a nation of 11 to 17 year olds in this old, crumbling nation who would disagree with us. These kids didn't grow up with Young Marble Giants, Rites of Spring, Husker Du, Sunny Day Real Estate, early Modest Mouse, basically the roots of Emo as we know them.

This Post-Millennial music, to a snobby 20-somethings trained ear cavity, sounds of an ill-informed collision of Green Day and Blink-182, with a touch of Sunny Day Real Estate. Any edge to the music is sawed off by The Industry. In fact, if you removed the vocals and just had the backing tracks going for some of these songs, you may have an issue distinguishing a single difference.

Two guitars + melodic bass + tight fast drumming + harmonized angsty vocals = $$$$$$$$

The industry believes in the following credo: If ain't broken, don't fix it.

And right now the shit machine will keep pumping out clone turds. Another fake scream-core band, another AC/DC rip-off, more fake-indie, although no one ever figured out what indie was (besides Robert Pollard, who declared it dead recently).

So, in my opinion, outside of Yeah Yeah Yeah's and !!!, most of the 3-Word bands are simply a product of history-ignorant bands combined with the hyper-controlling labels. These are bands of 17 and 18 year olds who are scooped up by major labels. They've probably been into music for two or three years and know how to play a couple of their favorite bubble-punk songs.

Record labels salivate over situations like this. A band that is competent but not sure enough of themselves to write or depend on original material. The band is simply happy to be there and playing shows that are set up for them. Their sound is crafted and controlled, streamlined for a better bottom line.

To give a ridiculous comparison, most of these fake 3-word bands are like a human body; the band is the vessel, the record label the true soul of the music. You are not hearing the band's true sound, but a neutered, auto-tuned bastard squall.

To Shatraw and myself, it's hard not to hear these bands without hearing the base derivative sound, the safe cleanliness, hell, just the plain suck of it all.

But as friend St. Dynamite pointed out in a three word response to the 3-Word Query: Stone Temple Pilots.

I loved those grungy motherfuckers in my tender youth. They were Led Zeppelin-lite as far as I was concerned. I remember when "Big Empty" appeared on The Crow Official Soundtrack. That song was the shit.

And then I remember that I was young and easily influenced once, and I remember the mission of this site. As much as I cherished the terrible music I used to listen to on KROCK, in hindsight I wish the experience was more pure. The children must be protected from the ever-scheming entertainment industry! People everywhere should be able to choose which emo they want to listen to!

Be vigilant, readers, and next time you hear My Chemical Romance, punch someone in the face. They'll thank you later.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's a Fuck You Kind of World

Charlie Parker. Dizzy Gillespie. Louis Jordan. Benny Carter. Duke Ellington. Miles Davis. Charles Mingus. Bud Powell. Sonny Rollins. Cecil Taylor.

These are just some of the greats that Max Roach played with. The guy WAS the drums. He almost single-handedly changed the sound of the kit, with his shift from the swing emphasis on the bass drum to the exploratory pulse of the cymbals. You cannot listen to modern jazz without hearing his influence.

He passed away today at the age of 83, outliving his contemporaries by a long shot. Another legend gone.

And CBS gave him a fitting tribute on their Evening News with Katie Couric. The segments went like this:

5 minutes given to the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death.

1 minute given to the announcement of Max Roach's death.

6 minutes given to High School Musical On Ice.

I shit you not. Read it again, newly abridged.

1 minute for Max Roach, one of the greatest and most influential percussionists in modern music.

6 minutes of a Disney teen fad.

Dear CBS News and the world as we know it:

Yummy. White. Skinny. Hairy.

Kids are allowed to watch whatever they want. Or at least I think so. Parents can only do so much to curtail their viewing or listening of illicit material. I remember owning Rage Against the Machine's Evil Empire, which was F-bomb heaven as far as I was concerned. And then one day I didn't.

I couldn't find it anywhere. It must have been taken from me. I blamed my parents and they denied their inherent guilt, because when it came down to it, I know that they were secretly happy. One less curse word in the household, or so I thought.

Their guilt is not important. I could still go over to my friend Casey's house and listen to Green Jelly. Those guys were fucking awesome. "Shit Man" and "Three Little Pigs" were great songs, because there was a lot of swear words, and swearing was and still is cool. Back then, the freedom of being able to scream the word "Shit" in the middle of a song was akin to the joy of owning a Lego monorail system. In other words, it brought about a frenzied pre-hormonal state of ecstasy.

If my parents had allowed swearing in the household, I might have been a different person. Someone who did not covet the curse as an object of guilty obsession may in fact use it less. But I would probably swear every other word if that were the case. The same could be said about my parent's ban on sugared cereals (excluding Frosted Mini Wheats, Honey Nut Cheerios and Honey Bunches of Oats). I covet those cereals, but I'm glad I'm not a fat fuck.

I digress. My parents realized I was a young music obsessive, and after some pressure gave me a year-long subscription to Rolling Stone. For a while, this is all I had for reference. Even at the tender age of 13 I recognized some strange contradictions; Jennifer Aniston on the cover, Britney Spears photographed almost completely naked except for a guitar, dubious celebrity worship, all set against supposedly serious music criticism. My problem is that this magazine is known, especially amongst youths around the world, as a top MUSIC magazine, when in reality it only pretends to be so (much like the soon to be fucked with MTV as a music station). Entertainment is the name of the game here, and Rolling Stone is just another player looking to make connections with the Music Business. Remember them?

Well, they remember you.

This is my thing. Zac Efron is on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. This is the guy from Disney's High School Musical and the recently released High School Musical 2. After more than a half-century of fine-tuning, Disney has produced the perfect teen idol. A squeaky clean motherfucker with the charm and teen-abs that 7 year-old girls and 30 year-old women drool over.

Don't deny it, all you 30-somethings!!

And now Rolling Stone has thrown in their hat and joined in on the tortured collusion. This is the kind of Rolling Stone cover that makes me throw up in my mouth. Rolling Stone knows how to pick their teen idols, don't they? Now parents don't even need to censor the television! They can just cut the cable and play an endless loop of High School Musical!! Huzzah!!

Remember your favorite and mine, Mr. My Guitar is Talking Peter Frampton? Yeah, well who and what was responsible for the application and then re-application of "teen idol" status that killed any attempt Frampton could make at becoming a "serious artist"?

Yummy. White. Skinny. Hairy.

Yup. None other than Rolling Stone. Disney only wished they could have been in on this shit. We were still several years away from the brilliant mindfuck that was "Kids Incorporated" so they would have to bide their time.

Also, notice the author of the offending article, every one's favorite teenage-rock-writing misanthrope Cameron Crowe. Frampton may have been a one-trick-pony, but Rolling Stone and the Business needed a cash cow. And they had him for a while until he matured and was tossed to the curb.

And now we have this shit pile of a cover. I know that Rolling Stone has always toed the "Tiger Beat" line, but fucking c'mon! How can you possibly take a music magazine seriously when a teenage heartthrob decides to take his shirt off on the cover. Wow, that's pretty racy stuff (sigh).

And the article itself? The blurbs I've been able to uncover are almost too upsetting to copy and paste. But to get to the gold, you've got to slog through the fecal matter...

"As long as I stay boring, I think I'll be fine," he (Efron) declares.

So that's your strategy for success? Just stay boring? "Yeah, seriously," he says. "I'm going to try."

This is a gripping article. I'm on the edge of...yawn. Your strategy is surprisingly effective, Mr. Efron.

He picks at his scrambled eggs and brown rice with his fork. "I've never done interviews like this before," he says. "I'm still so new to this, it's literally a one-in-a-million chance that I'm here."

Couldn't disagree with you more, Zac. Maybe when you were first signed by Disney you could still say that. But there is a 100% chance that you're there now. Rolling Stone likes money, so they had a little talk with Disney, and voila! There you are. Once the Disney machine starts cranking, there's no stopping it.

Also, would you like to know why I think this article doesn't belong in a MUSIC magazine? Article author Neil Strauss provides us with some pretty accurate reasons:

On Zak's landmark film, High School Musical: High School Musical has no double-entendres, visionary artistry or adult appeal. It is not even bubblegum enough to be enjoyable on an ironic level. It is plain vanilla, no sprinkles; it is the type of hormone-drained, rebellion-free idealized teen fantasy that parents want their kids to see (the lovers in the movie don't even kiss).

Plain vanilla. Ugh. We have officially entered Tiger Beat territory here. It's rebellion-free! It's a teen fantasy! It's the cover story in an internationally recognized music magazine!

On Zak's contributions to the music: Of course, he barely even sang on the album, but we'll get to that later.


However, Efron now has the clout to play by his own rules, so he fought Disney -- and won -- in order to be allowed to sing on the movie and album this time around.

"I didn't even sing on the first album," he admits. "It wasn't my voice in the movie. Even though I wanted to do it."

You know what you fought for, Zak, in fighting to sing on the record you're supposed to sing on? You fought for your right to sing badly and have studio techs auto-tune your vocals. Congratulations, you've...won?


"If I had to hear the High School Musical songs anymore," he confesses, "I probably would have jumped off something very tall."

Awesome. May your exploited image inspire teenagers everywhere to do the same.

This is music to the Industry's ears.

"My ears hear beautiful music. Thank you Zac Efron,
soon teenagers everywhere will only enjoy
vapid safe entertainment. I'll tell the others!"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Curse of the Fourth Album Pt. 1

I'll admit to focusing my bile on some easy targets, but I did not expect this kind of behavior from Steven Thomas Erlewine. I'm not looking to chom this guy on a regular basis, but when he does a horrible job reviewing the album I'm writing a piece on, well, them's the ropes as they say.

For the first installment of this series, we'll focus on a post-punk underdog called Magazine and their fourth doomed album Magic, Murder and the Weather. Formed when founder Howard Devoto split from the Buzzcocks, the band laid low for most of 1977 before they debuted their brand of arty post-punk. After the relative success of Real Life, the band released a murky, keyboard heavy sophomore question mark named Secondhand Daylight. While not terrible, it left many wondering if the band had any magic left.

Enter Martin Hannett, everyone's favorite Joy Division producing junkie maniac who helped create their third record, the wonderfully titled The Correct Use of Soap. Such a collaboration makes pale, skinny, averted to cool people like me boil over with nerdiness. And for good reason, as the record delivers on its promise of strange sounds and icy precision. In fact, the man responsible for both of Joy Division's LP's, the original Spiral Scratch EP that jump-started the British punk explosion, an EP by ESG that spawned the most sampled piece of music in history (UFO), claimed that The Correct Use of Soap was the greatest album he had worked on in his career.

One can then expect a downturn, and indeed this is the big one. The band followed up with Magic, Murder and the Weather which was indeed the band's final record. The curse strikes again!! However, the record wasn't as bad as the critic's words read. There's nothing like the critic's 300 pound gorilla, otherwise known as expectations. You hear a band's album and are blown away. You begin to wonder what their next release may sound like, and...Boom!

Imagine that this building embodies your expectations. They're toast, son.

You are setting yourself up for disappointment. Critics especially seem to believe they know how good a band COULD be. They cook up a vision in their criticBrains with the loftiest of expectations. Meanwhile, the unassuming band doesn't give a shit about the critic. They are going to make the kind of music they want to make. Critics get it wrong because they believe that they know MORE about the direction the band should be going than the band themselves!


Alright already, I'm making myself crazy here. Let's read this wonderful review of the album from

Magazine's final studio album, Magic, Murder and the Weather, finds Dave Formula's washes of cold, brittle keyboards dominating the bitter and cynical music.

Alright, we already find the reviewer has an issue with the keyboards. He doesn't want those keyboards, not one bit. Maybe I'm putting words into his mouth...

Howard Devoto's weary lyrics surface through the icy mix, but it's clear that Devoto and Magazine have both had better days.

Maybe I'm confused, but I'm pretty sure Devoto's lyrics have always been weary. A sample of Devoto's lyrics from the 3 previous albums:

"A frightening world is an interesting world to be in."

"You think I'm a lame duck, I don't give a blue luck, I don't give two hoots..."
"Clarity has reared, its ugly head again, so this is real life"
"Then I got tired of counting all of these blessings, and then I just got tired"

If these lyrics aren't weary or bleak, I will hit myself in the face with a baseball bat.

It's not a graceful way to bow out, but the album has enough strong moments to prevent it from being an embarrassment as well.

What!?! That's it? As far as I can discern, the album contains icy keyboards and weary lyrics. Give me a break. This is a terrible review. He cites the band's signature sounds and lyrics as weird stylistic choices specific to this album. Even stranger is the complete lack of musical criticism. Completely brutalizing. Also, notice the critical about-face at the end of the review. Let's enter Steven Thomas Erlewine's criticBrain:

"Hmm...I only wrote two sentences in this review. Maybe I should listen to the album so I can be a responsible critic and inform the public about the content of the record. Or, I could just cop out with a final sentence that will leave everyone confused and turned off."

Thanks for nothing, S.T. Erlewine.

The Pathetic Paragraph

Rob Sheffield, you're kind of funny, but you're the opposite of informative. They're paying you to write this shit, so why is it so hard? This album, Sinead O'Connor's Theology is probably garbage. But what kind of garbage?

How awesome is it being God? Not only do you get Sinead to praise you in her reggae hymn "The Glory of Jah," you get a bonus acoustic version! Damn, Jah – that's a heck of a lot of glory! If you are not Jah, however, you may lack the stomach for Sinead's megasincere tributes to Curtis Mayfield and Jesus Christ Superstar.


My readers and I know how awful this album may truly be. But guess what Rob Sheffield? You still have to review the MUSIC.

Just because you don't like it doesn't mean we shouldn't find out why it's so megasincere.

Are there sappy orchestral numbers? Plaintive, stark confessions to God accompanied only by cliched piano, or even better, harp?

Rob Sheffield, you're trying too hard to be funny. Also, because Rolling Stone finds it necessary to provide an endless dearth of horrible one paragraph "reviews", there will be a daily blog only concerning them. No Stone shall be left unturned.

Coming soon: The Curse of the Fourth Album

Monday, August 13, 2007

Diamond DogFood

Props go to Mattie-O from for cluing me in on this slice of terrible pie.

Few artists in the history of recorded music are able to survive the curse of the fourth album. After recording three albums of material that both the critics and masses enjoy, an ensuing dud kills the untouchable mystique of the band. The band/artist are forced to quickly patch together a placating collection of tunes to satisfy the critiques (Dylan, New Morning), or they fade away and have a comeback record 3 years later.

And then there is David Bowie. It can be argued that there will never be another artist quite like him. From The Man Who Sold the World (1970) to Scary Monsters(1980) Davey recorded 13 albums. Read that again. In a decade, he simply crushed shit like it was his job, not even counting live records or that Peter and Wolf thing. Also, his production and arranging work for Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Mott the Hoople speak volumes of his work ethic. Outside of Neil Young's output, no one even came even close in the 1970's.

Now, by the time Diamond Dogs came around, he was 6 albums deep into this run. Six albums of brilliance, from the singer-songwriter gem Hunky Dory to the glam-opera magnificence of Ziggy Stardust. I guess Stephen Thomas Erlewine decided Davey had it too easy, deciding to shit on Diamond Dogs for no apparent reason. His rating of 2 1/2 stars out of 5 is absolutely baffling. Erlewine is usually above this tripe, so let's see where he went wrong.

David Bowie fired the Spiders From Mars shortly after the release of Pin Ups, but he didn't completely leave the Ziggy Stardust persona behind.

A little historical backdrop, and for Erlewine the problem starts here. Bowie is confused and doesn't know who he is as an artist. I think this is interesting plot line for an album, and would initially view this record as a cool document of the struggle. Just based on that, this album already has a 3 star rating.

Diamond Dogs
suffers precisely because of this -- he doesn't know how to move forward. Originally conceived as a concept album based on George Orwell's 1984, Diamond Dogs evolved into another one of Bowie's paranoid future nightmares.

Alright, so the album suffers because he doesn't know how to move forward? This is starting to smack of an opinion piece. Erlewine wants this to be a cohesive piece of music, but it isn't. Just because Bowie at first thought it would be a concept record doesn't mean it's a failure. Remember Low? It was a failed movie soundtrack. It also turned out to be a masterpiece.

Throughout the album, there are hints that he's tired with the Ziggy formula, particularly in the disco underpinning of "Candidate" and his cut-and-paste lyrics. However, it's not enough to make Diamond Dogs a step forward, and without Mick Ronson to lead the band, the rockers are too stiff to make an impact.
Wouldn't you be tired of the Ziggy formula, considering that he was 3 albums and 2 years removed from that album? Hmm...wasn't it the music critics who desperately clung to his Ziggy image? And wait, "cut and paste" lyrics are a negative? I hate this: an artist goes in a specific direction with their lyrics, and because they don't follow the specific rules they themselves have laid down, they are slammed. I like to call this artistic growth, or experimentation. You can't possibly know that these are throw-away lyrics unless you were David Bowie. And you're not, Stephen.

Also, the band is too stiff to make an impact? What impact were you looking for? Did you need every single song to chart? You can't throw around language like that.

Ironically, the one exception is one of Bowie's very best songs -- the tight, sexy "Rebel Rebel."

Is it really that ironic, Stephen? Couldn't you have realized that most of this review is flawed by your bias? How could a stiff band of rockers produce one of Bowie's best? Also, in this sentence you've claimed that this song is the one good song on the record. We'll revisit this thought soon.

The song doesn't have much to do with the theme, and the ones he does throw in to further the story usually fall flat.

What?! What theme? I thought you said this album was based on a failed 1984-based concept? If it has failed, why are you still holding Bowie's music up to that theme/story? This is really confusing the hell out of me.

Diamond Dogs isn't a total waste, with "1984," "Candidate," and "Diamond Dogs" all offering some sort of pleasure, but it is the first record since Space Oddity where Bowie's reach exceeds his grasp.

Remember when Erlewine said that this record only had one good song? Oh, well, three other songs have joined it. Great. Also, what the hell? You don't know what kind of pleasure good music brings people? How about "aural pleasure"? Or just ear pleasure. Jesus Christ.

Also, let it be known that Erlewine cites Space Oddity as a failure. Guess who wrote that review? Steve Thomas Erlewine. Cool, so I guess he knows Bowie better than anyone. Yuck. Diamond Dogs, based on this review, should have at least received 3 stars. This is just another case of ONE guy reviewing an ENTIRE discography of an artist. To make it seem like he doesn't have ulterior motives(like, creating the definition of a brilliant Bowie release), he unnecessarily rips this album a new anus.

Bad form, bad form.

Mr. Not Good

Friends who know me are well-versed in my love of MF DOOM and his former group K.M.D. So it should come as no surprise that I read their album reviews. One should be surprised that a horrible review was found at, usually a touchstone of solid criticism.

Anyways, here is a terrible review.

K.M.D. - Mr. Hood (Two stars out of five)

K.M.D. are young...and fairly politically astute...Passionate and fired-up, K.M.D.'s political aggression is founded on black nationalism. As with peers the Jungle Bros., Queen Latifah, etc., their raps strike a strong balance between simple hectoring, reason, and flat-out parody...

There is a lot of truth here, and some points are earned for the use of "hectoring". Although I'm not sure there is a lot of "aggression" involved in the album.

The recurring motif is "Mr. Hood," a dullard who appears via samples from what seems to be some kind of instructional record, clipped straight out of the Ozzie and Harriet storybook.

This is also true. A little dead for me though. I need some more content here.

K.M.D. drops mini-verbal assaults and samples that offer a context wherein Mr. Hood's "Proclamations" are rendered ludicrous...

Okay, the samples and mini-verbal assaults offer context. How about content? Isn't this a little general? Can you talk about a single song? As a hip-hop fan, you're boring-as-Coldplay review is turning me off like a light switch.

Yet for all the playfulness and urgency this disc radiates, there is still something simplistic about its rhetoric...

And that's all folks. That's it. John Dougan wrote a music review without talking about any of the music, and queasy generalizations about lyrics capped off a fantastic shitpile of words. He doesn't agree with the band's simplistic rhetoric and then trails off in thought, apparently. What an asshole. He wasted my time and yours. This is what I can say about the record in one paragraph:

K.M.D.'s first solo record, mainly composed by DOOM(then known as Zev Love X), his brother Subroc and Onyx is a great find for several reasons. The music is smooth but doesn't get caught up in the smooth R and B syrup. The production sounds modest but is quietly brilliant, bolstered by an array of percussion, fluttering and thumping bass, with guitar and keyboard samples floating in and out of the mix. A guest appearance by Brand Nubian and production help from the likes of the Stimulated Dummies helped create a community-minded sound, very relevant in the early-90's Tribe Called Quest/De La Soul NYC era. The verses are standard, but the beat sometimes goes unrecognized as the MC's ponder and muse freely. This combination of tight, smart beats and intelligent tongue-in-cheek philosophizing makes for great example of the high quality music coming out New York City in the Post-Golden Age of hip-hop.

It only took me five minutes to write this paragraph. Writing a one paragraph review doesn't take much effort, but this example shows that with a never-ending supply of records to review, even lets awful content slip under their collective editorial noses.

Simply put, Dougan's review is a thoughtless, empty, and thoroughly frustrating turd.