Music "criticism"
July 13, 2005 10:44 AM   Subscribe

The Shins Will Change Your Life A collection of fawning music "criticism" updated a few times a week. No commentary from the author, just excerpts from reviews.
posted by mlis (106 comments total)
 
Don't put your life in the hands of a rock-and-roll band.
posted by docgonzo at 10:56 AM on July 13, 2005


With the exception of the Grateful Dead.
posted by nervousfritz at 11:01 AM on July 13, 2005


Go and tell that to the man who lives in hell.
posted by mr.marx at 11:02 AM on July 13, 2005


It's like they're all copping the exact same writing style...

My favorite:"Hide and Seek" at the climax of The O.C.'s second season finale was one of those pull-over-to-the-side-of-the-road moments where space and time collapse and the world holds its breath.

Ummm, you can't have a moment like that watching television, unless if everyone really does have televisions in their car ala "Pimp My Ride."
posted by drezdn at 11:03 AM on July 13, 2005


Do people actually get paid to write these?
posted by cmonkey at 11:07 AM on July 13, 2005


Doesn't everybody hate music critics?
Steve Martin said it best. "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture".
posted by thisisdrew at 11:07 AM on July 13, 2005


Do people actually get paid to write these?

Some do, but most just get free music before it hits the streets, which for some is compensation in its own way.
posted by Rothko at 11:08 AM on July 13, 2005


With the exception of the Grateful Dead.

Nah, they'd get stoned, eat all your food, and abandon you in Akron or something.
posted by jonmc at 11:08 AM on July 13, 2005


I doubt it. I remember looking at the Pitchfork hiring guidelines once, and don't recall any mention of financial remuneration--I think you just get a lot of free CDs.
To be fair, these aren't any worse than the shit reviews people do get paid to write...

on preview, Rothko's got it.
posted by hototogisu at 11:09 AM on July 13, 2005


Henry Rollins once called music critics "ants at the picnic of life."
posted by Atom12 at 11:09 AM on July 13, 2005


Steve Martin said it best. "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture".

That was Frank Zappa.
posted by Rothko at 11:10 AM on July 13, 2005


Also, with the prevalence of good p2p software out there, it's a little bit of an music-nerd ego thing too--no one is going to get an album "before it hits the streets" that they can't find online (with maybe the exception of a reviewer from some online mag like Dusted, which often reviews some pretty obscure stuff).
posted by hototogisu at 11:11 AM on July 13, 2005


Generally speaking music writers do suck. And I say that as someone who writes a lot about music.
posted by jonmc at 11:12 AM on July 13, 2005


I sent that to a coworker who immediately sent me this.
posted by sciurus at 11:14 AM on July 13, 2005


Steve Martin was also Frank Zappa? That man never ceases to amaze me.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:15 AM on July 13, 2005


I hate all that gushing. That crap reminds me of ultragrrrl.blogspot.com, probably the most heinous thing I have ever encountered. It's nothing to do with music. Where are these great saviours of music? Who's that brother sister act who dressed up as mice on stage? Last I heard they were operating out of a free Hotmail account. Terris, Warm Jets, Les Rythyms Digitales?....we hardly knew ye.

And Steve Martin actually said "Talking about art is like dancing about architecture."
posted by fire&wings at 11:16 AM on July 13, 2005


Also, with the prevalence of good p2p software out there, it's a little bit of an music-nerd ego thing too--no one is going to get an album "before it hits the streets" that they can't find online (with maybe the exception of a reviewer from some online mag like Dusted, which often reviews some pretty obscure stuff).

I review a lot of electronic music, and I'm know I'm hip and cutting edge if I pop the disc into iTunes and the CDDB lookup returns blank.

/types in track information with smug smile
posted by Rothko at 11:16 AM on July 13, 2005


And Steve Martin actually said "Talking about art is like dancing about architecture."

Not to be pedantic, but it is generally attributed either to Frank Zappa or Elvis Costello, but more often to Zappa. I know this, because I had to use the quote in a music review.
posted by Rothko at 11:18 AM on July 13, 2005


Ultragrrrl is the worst sort of hipster trash. When your taste is suborned by The New, you deserve all the mockery the real geeks can throw at you.

I'm sure you are Alex. To be fair, I've found lots of albums online that no one had entered into CDDB. Mostly improv stuff, but there you have it.
What kind of electronic music? And for what publication/station/whatever?
posted by hototogisu at 11:20 AM on July 13, 2005


Rothko - I was just pointing out Steve Martin used in the context of art, not music. Not trying to attribute it to him. I've mostly heard it was Zappa.
posted by fire&wings at 11:27 AM on July 13, 2005


I recently started writing reviews for DOA. Having never written proper reviews for albums before this, it is quite difficult to not fall into a formula. I've also found that I listen to albums more astutely and find it harder to be pleased as a casual listener. I do not get paid to write them, but I do get to keep the cds, or end of giving them to someone who would enjoy them more than I would. It annoys me to see one or two paragraph reviews for albums so I try to give as much content as possible ... it's the least I can do for getting a free cd out of it. It also annoys me when I get hate mail for my opinion of as band that isn't up to par to some of their fans.

On a side note, I think this overused words in music reviews post at coolfer pretty funny.
posted by jasonspaceman at 11:28 AM on July 13, 2005


Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be music writers.
posted by badger_flammable at 11:37 AM on July 13, 2005


I'm on a pretty strong anti-rock-critic streak right now... I think that, even though the "dnacing about architecture" line gets trotted out a lot, there's a lot of truth to it. With rock writing, you're using one artform to critique another, unrelated form. that's pretty awkward to begin with, but it gets worse when you consider that criticism is inherently analytical, and rock is primarily emotional (unless you're talking about, say, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, and that's just shitty anyway). And you can't really anazlyze emotion all that well.

So, to me, most rock writing (and this includes the stuff I've done) winds up being someone trying to use fancy prose to justify their own gut reactions to music. This is fine-- the gut reactions are what rock music is all about-- but it's a bad mistake when they act lik they're working from some objective, universal aesthetic rules.

Like, if you're writing about rock with the attitude that you're bringing the rules of rock down from Mt. Sinai, I think you suck.
posted by COBRA! at 11:39 AM on July 13, 2005


I know this, because I had to use the quote in a music review.

So you're one of them.
posted by pracowity at 11:41 AM on July 13, 2005


Rothko: Heh. I've done that too. But I used to review "world music" (worst music label ever) and so it wasn't as surprising.
posted by docgonzo at 11:47 AM on July 13, 2005


from Stylus: "Distracted and crippled by modernity, Skeletons and the Girl-Faced Boys want to soundtrack your coma daydreams. They make Chaplin pop for the Wasabi era—eyes twitching in mercurial swirls of neon street-signs, flashing abundances, and crude techno-glamour. Skewed and schizophrenic, the band revels in absurdity and whimsical rhythmic crossroads. Join in their star-burned messages to alien audio-patterns and Kubrickian moonscapes and you might just put that Maximo Park record behind you forever."

Also: "It is not only the animals that are poor in the world, but us—for we think them poor. When Jan Jelinek recycles and recontextualises the phrase La Nouvelle Pauvreté, he does so with the intent of referencing the '80s Belgian anti-fashion movement, sampling this prudish reductionism to the excesses of the '80s in an attempt to question the current state of electronic music—a state plagued, according to Jelinek's press release, by the overabundance of both overprocessed sound and overly-conceptual albums. Electronic music has entered an age of poverty. We are close to the era of progressive electronica. This is one side of La Nouvelle Pauvreté, the obvious side. But there is another side to the record."

(too lazy to check his archive and see if he caught these)
posted by fleetmouse at 11:47 AM on July 13, 2005


I've honestly never understood the reason to write music reviews. I mean, obviously people need a way to find out if music is good or not, or if they would like it or not, but a simple "it's good" or "it's bad" would suffice.

The best (and really only) way to write a music review would be to say something like "If you like A, B, C and D you'll probably like this".

Describe the music as well as you can, and leave out this breathless bullshit.
posted by delmoi at 11:47 AM on July 13, 2005


I love this. It's only a shame it doesn't include bits from the British press. They can be the worst when it comes to shameless hype.
posted by funambulist at 11:50 AM on July 13, 2005


An acquaintance of mine at university would write music reviews like fleetmouse just referenced without any idea of what the album sounded like. Complete hogwash. It was hilarious if you were in the know.
posted by sciurus at 11:52 AM on July 13, 2005


At the risk of completely derailing the thread, there's a long-standing controversy about the "dancing about architecture" quote, which has been attributed to about a dozen people over the years. At this point, there is no definitive answer.
posted by me3dia at 11:56 AM on July 13, 2005


I think Spartacus said it.
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker at 11:59 AM on July 13, 2005


An acquaintance of mine at university would write music reviews like fleetmouse just referenced without any idea of what the album sounded like. Complete hogwash. It was hilarious if you were in the know.

A few years back, I invented a fake band with a fake release, wrote a review and got it published, no questions asked.
posted by Rothko at 11:59 AM on July 13, 2005


The best (and really only) way to write a music review would be to say something like "If you like A, B, C and D you'll probably like this".

Agreed. I gravitate towards the aggregate ratings of a site like metacritic.com rather than basing my choices on one positive review.

For example, Pitchfork, as much as they are derided, has written the oddly occasional good review, but usually it's in the form of some literary insight into the lyrics, not actual analysis of the music, because a) the critics aren't qualified to comment on it's structure/arrangement b) readers like me don't know what the hell they are talking about most of the time even when it's non-technical. I usually just go to the Best Music section, or pick any review near or above an arbitrary 7.0 rating and try and find a free, legal mp3 to download from the band's website. Not stream. Download. So I can listen to it when I'm not at my computer and evaluate whether or not I want to buy.

What I really want in Pitchfork are comparisons. For example, if they had compared Wolf Eyes to 'incoherent screeching sounds' I would never have bothered to download an mp3. Instead they gave Wolf Eyes a 9.2 or something.
posted by tweak at 12:00 PM on July 13, 2005


I think the Zappa quote about rock journalism was something like "people who can't write interviewing people who can't think and then writing articles for people who can't read".
posted by reidfleming at 12:03 PM on July 13, 2005


[this is good. this one of those threads that comes a handful of times in the span of one's life, wherein one can simply cry in sheer ecstasy at the soul-destroying brilliance of this thread, this thread that compels us to once again recognize humanity as divine.]
posted by ori at 12:04 PM on July 13, 2005


I am waiting for a Coldplay remark. Anchors, aweigh!
posted by sian at 12:08 PM on July 13, 2005


This is nothing. You want absurdly efflusive praise, you should read (not that I actually recommend doing so) French film criticism from the 1950s, when they were all into auteur theory. I remember reading (i.e. skipping through) a twenty-page pants-creaming article by Andrew Sarris (an honourary Frenchman) on the Hitchcock cameo in Marnie...which, if memory serves, consisted entirely of him coming out of a hotel room and looking at the camera.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:10 PM on July 13, 2005


I don't even think the Shins are that good. It's like everyone forgot what people with acoustic guitars sounded like.
posted by kevspace at 12:20 PM on July 13, 2005


[this is good. this one of those threads that comes a handful of times in the span of one's life, wherein one can simply cry in sheer ecstasy at the soul-destroying brilliance of this thread, this thread that compels us to once again recognize humanity as divine.]

Whereas this thread makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

I love the "breathless" stuff, if it's honest and well written. I love hearing someone trying to communicate the joy of a perfect musical moment, the excitement and complexity of it. Lots of the text quoted at this link is bad (see also Garden State's Shins discussion), but a lot more is just fine, simply written in a style that a lot of people don't like. Fair beans - I'd smash my head against a wall if the only musiccrit I saw was "If you like x you'll like y". Given how important music is to a lot of people, I thank goodness that there are people willing to engage with it, to write about how it makes them feel, and that we don't just need to stand po-faced and talk about the band's biography, the album's time-signatures, their influences. This has nothing to do with "shameless hype" and everything to do with expressing the way art meets individual experience, so often like a sharp kick to the heart.
posted by Marquis at 12:21 PM on July 13, 2005


Here you go, sian:
It’s a brilliant record of paranoia. Oasis third album was an overblown opus to the excesses of cocaine and the good-life. Radiohead’s was a claustrophobic, intense look at the end of the world. Coldplay ’s is about love and fear. When ‘Fix You’ kicks in, which NME will concede must be about Paltrow (‘Tears stream down your face/When you lose something you can’t replace… and I will fix you’), it’s an old-fashioned hair on the neck moment. It’s a wonderful song that shifts from simple stark piano and voice to a ringing, clattering burst of intent and proto-prog four-part harmony. It will become a massive live track. Elsewhere, you don’t have to dig too deep to find the influences Coldplay have mined. There’s the Kraftwerk lift (from ‘Computer Love’) on ‘Talk’, a nod to Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’ on ‘White Shadows’, some Lennon-driven Beatles rocking through on ‘A Message’ and Echo & The Bunnymen here and there. They even sneak in ‘Til Kingdom Come’, the song they wrote for Johnny Cash that he never got to record, as a simple acoustic secret track.
The first half of the review is all about ridiculing both record company and band, and then it just has to rescue it all with that bit of drooling hype and references overdose right at the end. Ka-ching.
posted by funambulist at 12:24 PM on July 13, 2005


The best (and really only) way to write a music review would be to say something like "If you like A, B, C and D you'll probably like this".

That's a good way to help someone decide which record to buy next, and it could best be done by surveys and database analysis (love this, hate this, etc.), but it's not a good way to understand why you like some things and not other things, not a good way to become a better listener, a better player, or a better composer.

Music is worth writing about and discussing. Good musicians do it all the time. They just don't like people saying negative things about their music, understandably, so they say things like, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture," trying to make it sound like a stupid thing to do, when in fact there is no reason why you shouldn't write about music (or dance about architecture).

But Zappa was correct to a large extent in saying, "Rock journalism [not all writing about music] is people who can't write, preparing stories based on interviews with people who can't talk, in order to amuse people who can't read" or [there are several versions kicking around] "Definition of rock journalism: People who can't write, doing interviews with people who can't think, in order to prepare articles for people who can't read."
posted by pracowity at 12:26 PM on July 13, 2005


It's just a shame these people can't write.
posted by wakko at 12:27 PM on July 13, 2005


Marquis: I love the "breathless" stuff, if it's honest and well written.

That "if" makes a lot of difference. You're talking genuine passion, not marketing.
posted by funambulist at 12:36 PM on July 13, 2005


No site dedicated to pretentious rock-crit-speak can truly be complete without some Greil Marcus. I haven't got my copy of Invisible Republic handy to quote from, but as much as I find much of what he writes valuable and interesting...he tends to gush about his idols a bit, would be the polite way to put it. His upcoming book devoted entirely to "Like A Rolling Stone" is sure to contain more than a few choice Marcus-isms.
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker at 12:38 PM on July 13, 2005


"Talking about music is like dancing about architecture."

Mark Twain said it. Or Oscar Wilde. They said everything.
posted by kozad at 12:39 PM on July 13, 2005


On "dancing about architecture", the art of dancing is rather less useful for conveying information between humans than is the art of writing.

But saying it "dancing about architecture" makes folks smile, and in the end that's enough.
posted by dsquid at 12:41 PM on July 13, 2005


Talking about music on Metafilter is like inviting jonmc to a wine-tasting party. (I keed, I keed.)
posted by Rothko at 12:42 PM on July 13, 2005


Mark Twain said it. Or Oscar Wilde. They said everything.

No, no, Benjamin Franklin. He's the one who said everything.
posted by Captain_Tenille at 12:47 PM on July 13, 2005


Marquis says : I love the "breathless" stuff, if it's honest and well written. I love hearing someone trying to communicate the joy of a perfect musical moment, the excitement and complexity of it.

What you're describing is, in my opinion, an act of literary masturbation. Yeah, you liked the song. Yeah, it will change your life. Yeah, it's a candy-coated dream wonderland of psychedelic pop debris floating in a claymation sea of reptiles that can only be compared to the sound of Keanu Reeves attacking a glacier. So freakin what?

If the purpose of a music review is to attract people to a band that they may not have heard of, it should be short and accessible enough to catch the attention of a casual reader. If the purpose is to analyze a given work, the review should have SUBSTANCE, not just a bunch of hyperbole.
posted by afroblanca at 12:52 PM on July 13, 2005




Writers also complain about critics writing about their writing. It's not really a mixing-genres issue; it's that creative people seem to believe there's no way to analyze creativity.

While I don't think you need to understand the analysis to be a better artist, I do think you need to understand the analysis (or at least believe that analysis is appropriate in general) to be a better reader/listener/patron.
posted by occhiblu at 12:53 PM on July 13, 2005


(Which is not to say all criticism is good.)
posted by occhiblu at 12:56 PM on July 13, 2005


If the purpose of a music review is to attract people to a band that they may not have heard of, it should be short and accessible enough to catch the attention of a casual reader. If the purpose is to analyze a given work, the review should have SUBSTANCE, not just a bunch of hyperbole.

There aren't just two choices (or two mutually exclusive extremes).
posted by Marquis at 12:58 PM on July 13, 2005


The best way to find out about cool new (to you) music is through the websites of specialized record stores, e.g., Dusty Groove. You get a short blurb about the album that roughly describes it in the context of similar albums. That's all you need.
posted by Eamon at 1:02 PM on July 13, 2005


I might as well link to my favorite album review ever.
posted by Tlogmer at 1:11 PM on July 13, 2005


Writing about music is hard. I should be doing it now.
It's hard to go into something and be honest about what you like and what you don't like, it's hard to articulate that, and it's hard to give a sense to someone else whether or not they would like it.
And, after all that, prepare to be hated. By bands, by fans, and by anyone else who happens to read the review and agrees or disagrees.
I keep doing it because I love music. And because, every now and then, I read a review that nails something, that's written the way that I should write, and that communicates.
The hardest reviews to write aren't the ones where the album is great or terrible, the hardest reviews to write are the ones where the album is mediocre. Where you're trying to tease out what's good and what's disappointing without relying on the easy hyperbole that fills out so many reviews.
Oh, and something else: A good review is never about the reviewer, which is really hard. You're taking something that's inherently subjective, and trying to write about why YOU like it without writing about yourself. Why? Because no one gives a shit about you, douchebag. They care about the music.
posted by klangklangston at 1:12 PM on July 13, 2005


Talking about music on Metafilter is like inviting jonmc to a wine-tasting party.

*guzzles bottle of Cisco*

you take that back....

*passes out*
posted by jonmc at 1:12 PM on July 13, 2005


Rothko, I did a similar thing. I was the arts editor of my campus newspaper, and my writers, assistants and I would invent fake bands, tour schedules, write reviews, etc. We actually got phone calls asking when they were playing nearby and some folks sounded very disappointed when we told them groin injuries had caused the current tour to be canceled.

The only point to music writing should be to entertain. It's not very useful as purchasing advice. As someone above noted, a simple [this is good], [this is bad] or [this is offensive] would do the trick just fine.
posted by luriete at 1:13 PM on July 13, 2005


My favorite review: "Shit sandwich."
posted by klangklangston at 1:14 PM on July 13, 2005


And I should note that one of the very best music reviews ever written was put to paper in the Sacramento News & Review. The review, of a John Spencer Blues Explosion album (I think, can't remember - this was years ago) read simply, "Motherfucker."

See? Simple and concise.
posted by luriete at 1:15 PM on July 13, 2005


My favortie movie review (in the shit sandwhich vein), of Last Man Standing (Bruce Willis remake of Red Harvest):

"Last Man Standing? More like first man leaving."
posted by Divine_Wino at 1:19 PM on July 13, 2005


The VCR review posted by Tlogmer above (thanks!) is a perfect illustration of what great criticism does - discussing one piece of art while making another. (In this case, I would guess the article is far better than the album.) Criticism isn't just a thumbs up/thumbs down, "should I buy this or not?" enterprise. A good critic enters into a sort of cultural conversation about a piece. (And yes, I admit, I'm a critic, too - books, not movies - so I'm not exactly unbiased.)
posted by piers at 1:21 PM on July 13, 2005


sorry, "books, not music"
posted by piers at 1:21 PM on July 13, 2005


Dave Marsh did a one word review of a band called Phyrework: "Pheh."
posted by jonmc at 1:22 PM on July 13, 2005


I'm a music review writer, and even guilty enough to have been featured in the aforementioned link (hangs head and cries).

I'm also one of those reviewers who doesn't think that it's a faux pas to mention the name of other artists in a review. While I try to describe how a particular album sounds when I'm writing a review, I also think it's helpful to have rough guides for reference.

I also don't really understand the anti-critic tirades. Sure, some of the prose out there is pretty flowery and hyperbolic, but everyone has an opinion. The only difference between some buddies sitting around and talking about something at the bar and the guys at Pitchfork (or me, for that matter) is that our thoughts are out there in the public to be dissected.

I read a lot of music reviews myself, and have discovered some great things through them. I've also had conversations with readers of my site (started from both good comments and bad comments sent my way) about albums and artists and have learned a lot that way. For me, it's just about finding new music that I like, so if I have to plow through some crap on the way it's no big deal. That's basically how it goes with everything in life.

The review that I can't believe hasn't been mentioned yet is Brent DiCrescenzo's classic Kid A review at Pfork. Holy hell it's awesome.
posted by almostcool at 1:25 PM on July 13, 2005


Lord, have mercy on me. I'm a reformed rock critic. Somebody forgive me! Wash away my sins with your absolution!
posted by keswick at 1:26 PM on July 13, 2005


Back in like '96 I read this review of a DJ Rap album in Select; "Wrong on both counts."
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:29 PM on July 13, 2005


The review that I can't believe hasn't been mentioned yet is Brent DiCrescenzo's classic Kid A review at Pfork. Holy hell it's awesome.

Let me try. "Kid A? Zzzzzzzz......"
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker at 1:32 PM on July 13, 2005


Give credit to Robert Christgau's old Village Voice reviews, they were great like this one on
Sting. or this one on Yanni... sorry I dont know the Shins, been meaning to download some and check 'em out ... aren't they the same idea as the New Pronographers, sound wise?
posted by celerystick at 1:32 PM on July 13, 2005


Writing about music is not like dancing about architecture. That's an annoying quote that isn't half as true or clever as people who repeat it seem to think it is.

Now this is the type of music writing I really enjoy, but it's not for everyone.

And I don't see what's so bad about some of those quotes, in and of themselves. If I listened to the music and found that the quotes didn't describe it at all, that would be different. But I haven't heard most of those records, so I can't say if the descriptions are accurate or not.

Now, for a review that's either truly awful or rather clever, read this review of weezer's new album. I for one can't imagine how it couldn't be a joke, but I know some weezer fans who insisted it must have been sincere. It's another one that you have to have heard the (horrible) record to really appreciate, but it's still pretty funny on its surface.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:46 PM on July 13, 2005


celerystick, the Shins often get grouped with New Pornographers under a neo-Beach Boys label. It's fair to an extent. I would say the NPs are generally weirder, harder, edgier--more apt to sound sentimental while being actually indecipherable--especially on Neko Case's songs on their first record. They are certainly more Canadian (except Case, who is some kind of honky tonk woman from honky tonk land).
posted by oldleada at 1:49 PM on July 13, 2005


Funny, I thought Neko Case was from Tacoma.
posted by keswick at 1:51 PM on July 13, 2005


And a great tidbit of that musicOMH weezer review for those who don't bother to click:

"There has never been anything like this album. It is coherent but strange, complex, ambiguous, and ultimately disturbing - and very, very good. The rich Weezer sound-painting is deployed as subtle punctuation to texts that are drawing sustenance from an awkward and unsettling post-modern, post-rock world."
posted by ludwig_van at 1:51 PM on July 13, 2005


Also, I'm going to find Christgau and kill him for his review of Son Volt's Trace.
posted by keswick at 1:54 PM on July 13, 2005


I hardly read reviews myself (usually find music through friends' recommendations) and reading some of these (especially that Kid A review) reminds me why: I don't believe a word out of these people's mouths. It's rare to have such an orgasmic, life-changing experience, but reviewers have to have them on a regular basis. It turns music into fashion -- "what music should I wear to communicate how cool I am?"

When my friend who I've known for twelve years suddenly starts frothing at the mouth over a band like I've never heard him do before, THAT means something. Not some shmuck with a simile fetish who buys his words in bulk.
posted by papercake at 1:54 PM on July 13, 2005


The Kid A review that almostcool references is totally pristine and wonderful and completely impossible to read. It's one of the worst pieces of writing EVAR. It's also one of the best pieces of writing EVAR, simply because it's an almost perfect example of how difficult it is to satirize something that involves the concepts or "glamour" or "cool" or "legitimacy". If I were to write a parody of a flowery, effusive album review, it would be largely identical to the Kid A review.

Music reviewing isn't hard. Satire is hard.
posted by gramschmidt at 2:10 PM on July 13, 2005


One of my favorites is this complete review of Sade's Stronger Than Pride:
...and quicker than Sominex
posted by kirkaracha at 2:15 PM on July 13, 2005


you might just put that Maximo Park record behind you forever.

Who the hell are Maximo Park? I do have a PS2 game called Maximo which is like Ghosts and Goblins only 3d. Can I put that behind me forever instead? Because I never liked it that much and only got it 'cause my flatmate really enjoyed it and she never used to play games at all, but she's in Korea now so I haven't played it since.

This is the essence of my beef with music critics. Nobody cares as much as they do and I feel embarrassed for them ejeculating rainbows about a bunch of ephemeral irrelevence.
posted by Sparx at 2:22 PM on July 13, 2005


I rarely read reviews for anything more than their entertainment value and I occasionally write for a site that reviews music.

That said, I often enjoy Douglas Wolk's music writing.
posted by shoepal at 2:27 PM on July 13, 2005


The link didn't point to a Shins review, I looked around, but.....

I love the Shins. If the review is pithy, I'm glad I didn't read it and discovered them by hearing a song and liking it. Hmm, interesting, I thought.

Arcade Fire, 'nother great band.

Reviews whether music of film are dependant on who is writing it and what the reader thinks of their taste.
posted by alicesshoe at 3:21 PM on July 13, 2005


[*first-time poster here, hello!*] ...Well, I tried. Oh, how I tried to like The Shins. Because I really, really wanted to. And I initially liked their trippy, Beatles-y flair. But in the end they bored and annoyed me.....kind of the same way that They Might Be Giants annoys me, but without being quite as twee and annoying--and also without having as catchy hooks. With The Shins I blame the the vocals--which, personally, leave me cold. To my ears, they have that certain whiny-suburban-white-boy-singing-through-his-adenoids quality that tends to make me expect someone's mom to walk into the garage any second with a tray full of Sunny Delight ("packed with the vitamins your kids need, and they taste they love!" etc.) What I mean is that the guy's voice sounds whiter and safer and more hairless than a baby's ass on a TV commercial, and that's my distraction. On the related topic of rock reviews, my vote for best ever record review is a <1 word record review that defines pithy: J.D. Considine's 1982 review of prog/hair-metal band GTR's debut album, as follows: "SHT". (--and I had that album!!)
posted by applemeat at 3:32 PM on July 13, 2005


James Mercer has quite the range, though.
posted by ludwig_van at 3:35 PM on July 13, 2005


Moldy Peaches, EGADS.
posted by fire&wings at 3:41 PM on July 13, 2005


Moldy Peaches, EGADS.

What about them? I saw Kimya Dawson a few weeks ago with Jason Anderson. Jason was great, Kimya was pretty good.
posted by ludwig_van at 4:07 PM on July 13, 2005


Sounds good, man. Moldy Peaches were undiluted shite.
posted by fire&wings at 4:54 PM on July 13, 2005


Just to echo a few previous comments, the main problem with reviews is that the vast majority are written by people with zero musical knowledge. Most reviewers have a literary background which is fine for reviewing the lyrical content, but when they try to talk about music, all one gets is adolescent verbal ejaculate. It's really quite amazing that this situation has carried on for so long. It isn't so much "dancing about architecture" as it is getting a bunch of dancers to write about architecture having no background in the discipline. As a musician I find this deeply frustrating. Still, it's good for a laugh though...
posted by ob at 5:18 PM on July 13, 2005


What Frank Zappa really said was this:

She's a teenage baby and she turns me on
Gonna make her do a nasty on the White House lawn
I'm gonna cover that girl in chocolate syrup
And boogie til the cows come home
posted by rdone at 5:41 PM on July 13, 2005


This thread cannot go on without mentioning Tanya Headon's I Hate Music.
posted by euphorb at 6:22 PM on July 13, 2005


rdone wins.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:27 PM on July 13, 2005


Is this music critic criticism meta-criticism? or have we moved on to criticizing the meta-critics?

can't I just love my music?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 6:59 PM on July 13, 2005


i guess there are people served by good reviews of music, but i've avoided reviews for quite a long time now...not as much because i might disagree with the reviewer's general opinion of a band or album, but because i feel like it distances me from the music to have it interpreted through someone else. i used to feel dumb that i could not talk about music or say why i like one song or not another, but over time i saw that the words themselves are a kind of barrier to receiving the music, which i think we more solidly interpret at a gut level based on our own experiences and memories and quirks and fears and shortcomings and joys. even talking to myself about it seems to break the direct flow. it's different from one person to the next...different aspects of music appeal to different people--some appreciate the technical, and that's something to talk about; some take the cultural identification route and focus on mainstream or anti-mainstream stuff; some get off on the classifications and lines of influence; and i guess there are those, maybe reviewers among them, who can juggle these approaches at will and get even more out of it. but for myself, i've generally found that when i go the route of a verbal interpretation--even intepretation by the artist/songwriter--there's some magic that's discarded along the way. (a reason i tend to look down on the criticism of others' musical tastes--and that i wouldn't appreciate having someone else denigrate the personal relationship i have with some piece of music, and i'm not particularly immune to liking something that could be generally considered crap)

luckily, i've got friends who are very much into music and yet do not feel the need to talk about it all the time. if i'm seeking out some new trails, the most solid recommendations i get are from my friends and from musicians i respect. (and if we get to say our favorites to recommend to our friends here, i'll go with Grandaddy and Built Like Alaska)

that all sounds dorky, i guess...but i'll go further and say that i've undergone some pretty radical personal transformation in the last couple years owing to my relationship to music and the people i've met who share that passion...if you rely on reviews to point you in the right direction, that's cool, but at least give it a shot to encounter something on a personal basis without the outside interference...
posted by troybob at 9:05 PM on July 13, 2005


I'll never be able to explain how Wonderwall makes me feel. (I can say that. Learn to play an instrument and you too can praise Oasis without people getting mad.)
posted by Tlogmer at 10:29 PM on July 13, 2005


There is a worse form of music criticism than the emo-lit-crit rock review however, though it shares similar traits - the pointlessly technical dance review, which merely give a blow-by-blow description of the track:

"As the next sequence initiates, a continuous loop slowly rises and falls, as if it is searching for it's next instruction. This comes in the form of some low frequency breakbeats echoing and fluctuating below the loop as spacey atmospherics emerge and the main program of Boileroom initiates, as the breakbeats fluctuate between low notes and deep treble, with the atmospherics bridging the gaps in between perfectly. As the track evolves the breakbeats are replaced by a heavenly melody that signals one last instruction before the beats give way to a low rumbling bassline that drives right in as the synth arrangement rides right over the top, leading the way before bassline gains intensity and the synths rain down, interrupting the flow of the bass, before harmonious synth melodies enter from both the left and the right, as the hi hats trickle down the track evolves into a tougher driving direction towards the end"

What? Piss off.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:24 PM on July 13, 2005


Jon Mitchell -

That's hilarious! Was that really a review somewhere? It sounds like a blow-by-blow description of me debugging some code.

"....and then, I hit F5, and executed another instruction! This time, I instantiated an SqlConnection, and boy, was that connection ready to be assigned to the connection property of an SqlCommand object...."
posted by afroblanca at 11:36 PM on July 13, 2005


It's a review of Sasha's Airdrawndagger, which is a pleasant enough electronic album - if a little overwrought and samey, production wise. Here's the full thing:

http://www.progressive-sounds.com/reviews/sasha-airdrawndagger.asp
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:20 AM on July 14, 2005


I had forgotten about I Hate Music. It's brilliant and hilarious, especially when I disagree.
Tlogmer: I like a bit of Oasis, and I can't play a damn thing (well, aside from a harmonica poorly and Smoke on the Water on a guitar). They have a huge, tidal sound when they do it right, and I think that they stole most of the good parts of the Beatles without crap like Blackbird. That said, I almost never listen to full Oasis albums.
(As far as the Brent Kid A review, I woulda trimmed about a quarter of it out. That's one of my biggest beefs about Pitchfork: no one edits their crap.)
posted by klangklangston at 8:23 AM on July 14, 2005


can't I just love my music?

That's the best idea put forth in the thread so far.
posted by COBRA! at 8:58 AM on July 14, 2005


Moldy Peaches were undiluted shite.

You're missing the point.

i used to feel dumb that i could not talk about music or say why i like one song or not another, but over time i saw that the words themselves are a kind of barrier to receiving the music

You could've tried to rectify that by studying music a little. I don't understand why several people seem to be saying that they'd never want to discover music from reviews, but it's ok when they get recommendations from friends. I don't see much of a difference.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:00 AM on July 14, 2005


I don't understand why several people seem to be saying that they'd never want to discover music from reviews, but it's ok when they get recommendations from friends. I don't see much of a difference.

I'd say it's because you generally know how your friends' tastes are calibrated, so you know how likely their opinion is to align with your own... for the most part, you're less apt to know where a critic is coming from unless you read him a lot.
posted by COBRA! at 9:09 AM on July 14, 2005


Yeah, but maybe you do read that critic a lot. Maybe it's one guy who writes a music blog and you read him every day. Maybe the critic tells you where he's coming from in the body of his review. Obviously it makes sense to value the opinions of someone you already trust more than those of a total stranger, but I think it's silly that people seem to be advocating discovering music "on your own" when what they really mean is "only listen to your friends and not critics." What if your friends are critics, too? Then you can't listen to anyone, and just have to hope that you stumble on new things?

Discovering new music that one enjoys is always a good thing, no matter the source of the recommendation, so I don't see a reason to be closed-minded about where they ought to find out about new music.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:24 AM on July 14, 2005


Obviously it makes sense to value the opinions of someone you already trust more than those of a total stranger

And that's pretty much all I'm saying.

but I think it's silly that people seem to be advocating discovering music "on your own" when what they really mean is "only listen to your friends and not critics."

I think you're overreaching a little with this part. I don't think that anyone's saying you should never listen to critics; just that, taken as a body, they tend to be hit-or-miss as music sources (and that they're frequently shitty writers).

Discovering new music that one enjoys is always a good thing, no matter the source of the recommendation

Agreed.
posted by COBRA! at 9:36 AM on July 14, 2005


You could've tried to rectify that by studying music a little. I don't understand why several people seem to be saying that they'd never want to discover music from reviews, but it's ok when they get recommendations from friends. I don't see much of a difference.

what COBRA! said to an extent...and mainly because friends don't presume to tell me why i should or should not like something, just that i might like it...to my recollection, reviewers not only do this (even still, rather poorly), but they are often, consciously or not, supporting some agenda...my friends tend to be absent such motives...

...and a brief note about my 'feeling dumb' comment and music study: my original post, within the same sentence, attempted to indicate that there is an transcendent aspect to music that i feel is given up with certain aspects of intellectualizing it (no matter the level of expertise), so the line you picked out lacked appropriate context.

and your (unnecessarily belittling, i felt, but consistent with your defense of reviewer culture) presumption doesn't pan out either: i play piano a minimum of 15 hours per week, self-taught from the age of 12 (until i finally got a teacher last year, to fill in some technical gaps, at 36). i'm no prodigy, but i've given a significant chunk of my life to playing and writing, which i think qualifies as more than 'a little' bit of study.
posted by troybob at 2:38 PM on July 14, 2005


You said you didn't know how to talk about music. You might play an instrument, but if you haven't studied theory/composition, which is what I meant, I could see you having that communication barrier anyway. I apologize for the tone.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:52 PM on July 14, 2005


yeah, i should have clarified that more...i don't know how to talk about how i relate to music at a certain level--that's more correct i guess; and true, the theory and composition are my weakest points--but i don't know that my betterment in those areas would change my view...or there's more to the undiscovered country than i've realized. time will tell. my apologies as well--my tone was overly defensive and bitchy. at heart, i'm glad music has found those of us who are moved by it, and there i think we agree.
posted by troybob at 3:10 PM on July 14, 2005


dancing about architecture

When my good buddy the bearman and I were backpacking around Europe back in the 80's and had washed up in Athens, we were compelled, of course, to go wander around the Acropolis. Being wonderchicken and bearman, sobriety-fighters, we also felt compelled to take a bottle of Ouzo with us, and we plunked down on the hillside behind some shrubbery for a while and drained it, while looking out over the city and feeling weirdly elated that we were there. And drunk, again.

Once the bottle was empty, we did in fact do the happy dance, and yes, it was about architecture. So there.

Also, speaking of reviews, I like this one.


posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:55 AM on July 15, 2005


Rove!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:11 AM on July 15, 2005


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