Review Revue

The AP’s Soul Patrol

July 22, 2008
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This came across my RSS Feeder just this afternoon. I’ve been rueing the day that I ever started subscribing to the AP’s Entertainment headlines through Yahoo. I can’t tell if it was written on a deadline or the author, Jake Coyle, is just a lazy hack. Here’s how it begins:

The first half of 2008 has already seen some great albums. There has been the majestic (Sigur Ros’ sunny new opus), the super hip (Vampire Weekend’s much-anticipated debut), the ultra current (Girl Talk’s sample-mad “Feed the Animals”) and the chart-topping classic (Death Cab for Cutie with “Narrow Stairs”).

But many of the best rock discs of the year so far have been defined by a strong connection to older, natural forms of folk, country and blues. For the listener unsatisfied by a music landscape that seems to offer two roads — broad pop this way, cultish hipsterism that way — these acts offer a refreshing and unpretentious third option.

I don’t know how “ultra current” Girl Talk can be considering how much it relies on samples from 2005 or anyone else who would consider Death Cab’s Narrow Stairs a “classic”. I’m also not sure about how “super hip” Vampire Weekend are, but that’s another topic for another day.

That second paragraph is what bugs me, though. The #1 record in the country right now is Nas’ Untitled– is that “broad pop” or “cultish hipsterism”? What about Erykah Badu’s phenomenal New Amerykah: Part One? 

Coyle rhetorically asks – and then answers – “You want soul? Here’s soul.” He lists six records he’s digging right now (all, like the ones previously mentioned, by white people): Fleet Foxes, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, The Black Keys, The Constantines, Dr. Dog and Firewater.

When Coyle mercifully ends his piece I wonder if he threw his thesaurus across the room before getting around to coming up with something for Firewater. He might have just run out of adjectives or didn’t have time to contact a publicist and find something to plagiarize but he closes up by, yes, quoting Firewater’s MySpace page to sum up their sound: “music from the … heart, words that say SOMETHING.”

I guess that is an improvement over “I’m Rick James, bitch.”


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The only important thing that could ever be important about a thing, no matter what that thing may be

July 19, 2008

Is apparently whether Lindy West liked it or not.

Please, don’t mistake me for a person who doesn’t acknowledge that all human beings are basically self centered, and writers are possibly the worst of all. I am not that person. I am not going to offer any evidence to support that statement, I’m going to expect you to take it at face value. In that respect, Lindy West and I are very similar people.

Now that we’ve established that writers are self important douchebags to begin with, and that I, a writer, am cognizant of that fact, let’s move on to why Lindy West is the douchiest of them all. Why it is that I have, in fact, declared her a scooby dooby douchebag.
Now, you’re thinking it’s because in every review she has ever written, she fails to actually review the thing she is supposedly reviewing. That’s a fair basis for a diagnosis of douche, to be sure, but that’s not really the biggest issue I have with her “work”.

You’re wracking your brains, trying to remember one interesting or unique feature of her writing right now, aren’t you, to help you figure out just what it is I might hate so much? If you are, you’ll probably dig up some vague recollection of fluffy worthless ideas, but no specifics. You might dredge up the fact that she has almost never written an entire review without saying the word shit at least twice. This isn’t annoying because I’m a prude who has no tolerance for obscenity, it’s annoying because goddammit, synonyms exist for a reason, and thesauri exist to alert you to which synonym might give you a helping hand whenever you’re tempted to just play with suffixes instead of developing a functional vocabulary.

Neither of these things are the primary reason that Lindy West needs to never touch any sort of writing utensil ever again.

Are you ready? Here it comes, the number one reason for this pile of invective and bile directed at a relatively tiny person:

Hold your breath, take a seat, make sure your pants are fastened tightly.

Lindy West desperately wants you to like her, and she needs you to think that she is clever, charming and just the kind of girl you want to date, fuck, hire or be best friends with.

That’s it. That’s what makes her absolutely insufferable. Read her review below. Then read the interview below that, by one Shane Mehling.

I think once you’ve done these two things, you’ll understand what I’m saying. It’s okay, actually, to not review the thing you’re supposed to be reviewing. I totally understand that the prospect of watching/listening to/reading some things is so heinous that the brain simply cannot be forced to endure it. I do. I really am a reasonable person, and I try to see situations from all possible angles.

However. If you’re going to choose the protection of your brain and senses over your job, please do so on a somewhat less than constant basis, and above all things, be good at it. Make us laugh. Make us forget that you haven’t done what you presumably get paid to do, at all. Stop being, in turns, ridiculously pleased with yourself and so insecure it drips off the page.

But most of all? Just stop annoying me. Because the most important thing about everything ever isn’t whether Lindy West enjoyed it. It’s whether I did. Obviously.

Lindy West, a randomly selected example used to illustrate just how pointless and lackluster a “review” can be.

Shane Mehling, delivering a Mortal Kombat style fatal blow to an album, also without ever actually reviewing it.

There’s nothing more to say, following that.

-tired pseudonym not indicating cowardice at all, no sir.

When good magazines publish lame articles

July 14, 2008
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Slate is not normally known for their excellent music coverage. That’s a shame because they have two good critics on staff, Hua Hsu and Jody Rosen. They also used to publish Sasha Frere-Jones before The New Yorker came calling, as well as Eric Weisbard. Slate makes an good effort to cover music – much better than, say, NPR with sports.

That is what makes this article by Ben Mathis-Lilley so puzzling. It is called “When good rappers collaborate with lame rockers“. Mathis-Lilley, according to his byline, is an editor at New York magazine. He might even be a good editor but he sure is a terrible music writer.

He starts out his piece writing about how he was excited that his beloved hip-hoppers The Roots had a record forthcoming. Then he was crushed because the band has a song on it called “Birthday Girl” that has Patrick Stump, of Fall Out Boy fame, singing on it. Then he offers this confession:

Now, I don’t really know anything about Fall Out Boy, but I understand that I’m expected not to like them. They wear hair gel, and one of the guys in the band dates Ashlee Simpson, so it’s fair to assume that they suck and that their fans are vapid teeny-boppers whose heads would explode if they heard what real rock ‘n’ roll sounds like. What kind of lame middlebrow loser do the Roots take me for?

That turns out to be okay because “I gave “Birthday Girl,” the Roots-Patrick Stump song, a courtesy listen and was greatly disturbed to discover that I liked it.” What kind of person hates their life so much that they’re disappointed in their own enjoyment? “I was a bit taken aback; cultural snobbery is such an integral part of my personality. I’d have to rethink a lot of things if it turned out I liked listening to Fall Out Boy, Maroon 5, and Linkin Park.” Oh.

But there’s a happy ending in all this soul-searching: “Fortunately, a quick zip through the iTunes store reassured me that I don’t.” Phew. That was a close one.

Mathis-Lilley doesn’t lose his focus though and still wants to answer the question of his article. He draws the conclusion that “[those lame rockers] are seen by their hip-hop collaborators, I think, as living samples, picked out of the musical spectrum because their voices have some distinctive quality that the Roots or Kanye West or Dr. Dre want on their track….Adam Levine has an indisputably fantastic voice for the wistful soul of ‘Heard ‘Em Say.'” Case closed; end of story, right? He could have fared better by using that as his thesis and building from there.

He spends the article with a premise that he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about and has some biases against things he isn’t supposed to like, gets disappointed in himself when he finds that he does in fact enjoy it. His research concludes that they were right he was wrong and maybe these “lame rockers” were the correct choices for the songs. So, unsurprisingly, he concludes with the premise that he began with, and in a bit of Rumsfeldian denial, still sticks with it:

In these last days of the record business as we know it, established indie-rockers are as good a sales bet as anyone else. So why not get the best rap acts and the best indie acts in the studio together? It might produce some great songs, it could move a lot of units, and—I say this with significantly less condescension than I would have a few weeks ago—it might introduce some vapid middlebrow teeny-boppers to bands they’ll like even more than Fall Out Boy.

Yeah. I’m sure the next thing this world needs right now is a Snoop Dogg/Iron & Wine collaboration and for 50 Cent to tell more people about Spoon. Moreover, just why was there no mention of Lupe Fiasco working with Matthew Santos?

Mathis-Lilley wanted to ask just what in the hell was ?uestlove thinking but he and his editors need to answer that same question first.

Posted in Music

Lindy West Liked High School Musical. Or did she hate it? Who the hell can tell?

July 14, 2008
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You know what would be awesome? If I could get and keep a job writing for a well known and (arguably) well liked local paper by taking other people’s ideas and opinions, rewriting them slightly with repetitive and boring language, and foisting them upon the reading public. That would be fantastic, and I think I could totally do it. The only problem I’m having is that someone beat me to it, and that someone? Is Lindy West.

Take her “review” of the High School Musical films. No, take it, please. (Benny Hill jokes are always funny. Fuck you if you disagree.)

So, we start with the admission, apparently free of guilt, that the author of this review reads US Weekly. Now, I don’t want to be judgemental, and I don’t want to make broad sweeping statements, but anyone who reads US Weekly anytime other than when trapped in a waiting room or checkout line? Is a fucking moron and should never be listened to on any subject, ever.

We move on to find that this article is inspired by a party invitation the “author” received, for a viewing party dedicated to watching the High School Musical movies. Superb. So you admit that it wasn’t even your idea to write this incredibly bad, irrelevant review? I appreciate your honesty.

And what’s this, in the very next paragraph? Thinly veiled racism that, if someone called you out on, you’d insist was ironic? Classy, Lindy, classy. Yes, let’s, throughout the entire terrible review, refer to one character in the movie as “the black one” while naming everyone else specifically. Cool. That’s exactly right. I don’t think you could have done anything more flawlessly you than that. It’s good that you stay true to yourself, and to how relentlessly terrible you are.

The rest of the “review” is riddled with sentence fragments, vague references to the plot of the film, and a whole lot of quotes from the films, presumably used so that the “writer” wouldn’t actually have to write anything.

I do so love it when a “review” manages to contain racism, laziness, theft, and just plain shit-tastic writing.

Thank you ever so, Lindy West. No one is quite as uniquely godawful as you, and for that? We salute you.

– tired pseudonym indicating cowardice or a strong sense of self preservation.

Posted in Film
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To The 5 Boroughs With Pitchforks

July 12, 2008

For the inaugural post I want to illustrate one of the true classics of BS music reviews. This review comes from Pitchfork in June 2004 and it is Brent DiCrescenzo’s review of The Beastie Boys’ To The Five Boroughs. It isn’t one of the usual hatchet-job from Pitchfork (it’s actually a very respectable 7.9). It is a bit wordy (DiCrescenzo was nothing if not a blowhard) and spends a lot of time dwelling on how a publicist for Nasty Little Man led DiCrescenzo on a wild goose chase across Europe for a promised interview with Radiohead (NLM represents both Radiohead and the Beasties). This review is worth mentioning because Pitchfork had to issue this retraction:

Last Tuesday, June 15th, Pitchfork published a review of the Beastie Boys’ To the 5 Boroughs by Brent DiCrescenzo, a frequent and trusted contributor. In his review, Brent detailed experiences with the Beastie Boys’ public relations firm Nasty Little Man, and its president Steve Martin, over the course of several years. Pitchfork has since determined that a number of DiCrescenzo’s assertions were false, based on corroborated statements from the two parties he claimed were participating in the chain of events referred to in the review. With apologies to Steve Martin and Nasty Little Man, we have retracted the original review in its entirety, and would like to make the following known publicly, to correct any and all falsities perpetrated by Brent’s review:

1) Radiohead were never in Milan in June 1999.

2) Radiohead never moved a concert from Villa Reale in Milan to Monza in 1999, 2000 or otherwise.

3) Steve Martin never “forgot to tell” Brent that the concert was moved, as it was not.

4) Neither Steve Martin, nor anyone working for Nasty Little Man, ever confirmed a Radiohead interview with Brent DiCrescenzo or Pitchfork.

5) Brent DiCrescenzo’s declaration that Steve Martin had not gotten back to him or Mean magazine about a possible Beastie Boys interview after six weeks is untrue: Martin was in constant contact with Mean publisher Kashy Khaledi and editor Andy Hunter throughout that period.

6) Mean magazine never “delayed their publication to accomodate [Martin’s] procrastination.” Kashy Khaledi did so of his own volition in order to keep the Beastie Boys cover story Martin had confirmed and saw through with him every step of the way.

7) Steve Martin has never, to Brent DiCrescenzo’s knowledge, “dangled [his] major artists… like carrots to the media in an attempt to blackmail press for features” on less established artists or bands.

Pitchfork Media

Here’s the full text of DiCrescenzo’s review:


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