Monday, May 9, 2011

Music Critics DO Suck

Yesterday I was e mailed the article "Why Music Critics Suck" by Kelly McClure. Aside from the potty-humor related giveaways (those who know me at all know the words "fart sandwich" would never, ever appear in anything I wrote - other than, for instance, to tell you how I'd never ever write that) the piece could have been written by me. Go read it, and then let's talk about it shall we?

All done? Ok. I appreciate McClure's honesty when she makes this point:
"... when I sit down to type out a 150-200 word review, my primary goal is to show the reader how funny, cool, and clever I am. If they also come away with a rough idea of what an album sounds like, then whatever, I guess that’s cool too." Haha! It's funny because it's true! Have I been guilty of this myself as a music writer? There's no doubt. But to be fair, I think I'm way too much of an earnest nerd about music (and more importantly a nerd in general) to let that be my primary objective. So maybe I'm doing it wrong. Regardless, it certainly does seem to be the primary objective for a whole lot of music writer types.

In "Why Music Critics Suck" McClure does a little exercise where she flips to a review and critiques it. Because she encourages the reader to do this along at home, and because I like to follow instructions, I have done this as well. My review is of the new Panda Bear record
Tomboy from the newest issue of Rolling Stone with Adele (who I totally don't get - but that's a whole different topic) on the cover. I figured this review would serve the purpose well since I've heard some of Panda Bear's music but nothing from this new record. Let's look at the first two sentences, shall we?
"Noah Lennox makes music swathed in so much synth noise, ambient voices and ricocheting stereophonic WTFs, it can feel like you're swept into a tidal wave of bong water. But life can feel that way too." Hmm. Yes. There is not a single part of that lead sentence that doesn't read like a first person account of a horrific drug induced seizure. It makes me feel sweaty and like I'm going to throw up. Oh, but now with that second sentence, you've opened it up into a metaphor about life. Well - now I get it. We can all relate to those bong water tidal wave days, right? I mean, how many of us haven't had a day that left us feeling like we were being washed away Katrina-style by a stagnant, stale, smoke scented wave of putrid liquid? This is life, people! And we're living it!

What about the rest of the review? Who cares. I already have a direct association between Panda Bear and bong water that will last me the rest Noah Lennox's career. Nice aversion therapy work,
Rolling Stone. But I don't think the blame lies solely on the shoulders of the reviewer (in this case a Mr. Will Hermes). An editor - maybe even more than one editor - at Rolling Stone read that and said, "Yes. Let's print this in our magazine." Cool choice, editors.

Toward the end of her piece, McClure writes: "I personally can barely find it within myself to care about the memories and feelings of my closest friends, yet alone some critic who lives god knows where and looks like god knows what. Don’t tell me how an album makes you 'feel,' you jerkstore, just tell me how much it costs and I’ll figure out the rest." I agree with this sentiment, but would insert "tell me what it sounds like" for her "tell me how much it costs." I've never once looked to a review for price information. I have read a lot of complaint and criticism about reviews that compare a band or record to other bands or records, and I've never really understood why that's so wrong. First of all, forgive me, but since virtually everything had been done a hundred times before, nothing being created today is so amazingly unique as to allude any comparisons. Secondly, I really don't want to read more of your self-important overly-thesaurus reliant review than I have to. So the more I can get out of it with a cursory glance, the better a review it is. "Something, blah... blah... Trompe le Monde era Pixies meets Bad Brains..." Ok! Let's listen to that! "Something, blah... blah... meandering melodies with superfluous smokey overtones swirled with ether..." Jesus Christ. NEXT!

I'm pretty excited about this Collapse Board business though. I think we'll get along well.
Go to there and see what you think...

1 comment:

Jean-Luc Garbo said...

One Week One Band is full of these problems, especially the "how it makes me feel" one. There's some stellar stuff on there - Hole, Liz Phair, The Mountain Goats - but there's also some chaff that's better for some memoir or bad Livejournal post. I mention them because I think it's an encouraging look at the future, but the problems are still hiding out there as well. This post just reminded me of some problems I've been having with One Week One Band of late. I'd still encourage everyone to ask for a week to write about their favorite band, though.

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