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Barking Spiders

Ponc3y music critics

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Back in the day of the inkies like NME I used to read the music reviews as there was no better way of finding out about new stuff, other than listening to John Peel, Robbie Vincent and other night time presenters . Problem was getting past the generally pretentious bollix that passed for  reviews and trying to work out what they were on about. I've just come across a website for Robert Christgau, supposedly some big shot music journo in the 70s-80s. This site contains loads of his reviews so I randomly entered band names from all genres only to find that unless it's fairly amateurish Americana he writes off pretty much all prog, metal, electronica.... That's not so much the issue than his arcane, indecipherable  way of writing which leaves you scratching your head wondering 'wtf was that about?' Anyone else heard of him or fancy a rant about other music hacks. As they say, 'those who can, do, those who can't, teach and those who can't teach write about music'.

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Music critics are for the most part, a bunch of narcissistic pond life, with over inflated egos and sense of self importance. The key word in the job title is the word critic.

The best music judge is your own ears. If I'd listened to music critics before buying a record I'd never have heard and fallen in love with half the music I have.

You only have to look at the scathing reviews of so many records that went on to become all time classics to realise they have no clue what they're on about.

Edited by Bassybert
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Music critic. Someone who's failed at being a journalist and a musician, then settled on combining the two for a lifetime of resentment. 

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This reads like it came right out of my own mind, only I had the unfortunate experience of discovering Robert Christgau quite a few years ago. And indeed, he was a big shot. I believe he, along with a few other select individuals, is to blame for the sorry state of popular music criticism today. The whole idea of pop criticism was fairly new back when he got his break, so there is no denying he helped shape the entire genre. Any critic attacking your favourite bands is bound to be annoying, but Christgau's positive reviews are as horrid as his negative ones. They just don't mean anything. It's just not parsable text. 

I will say, as musically ignorant and fashion-oriented as pop and rock criticism still is today, it was far worse in the 70's. Interviews as well as reviews were openly antagonistic and so harsh on their subjects you'd think they were writing not about musicians, but about corrupt politicians, or pet stranglers, or worse. Obviously, actual musical knowledge was never considered a requirement for writing about music. 

I'm an avid reader of Sight & Sound, and sometimes I think of just how different things would be if music journos were expected to be half as knowledgeable and passionate about their chosen subject as your typical film critic is about cinema. Of course there are exceptions, but the standard is ludicrously low. And a large part of the reason for that being the case is because the people who read Christgau, Lester Bangs, Julie Burchill etc. kept that dreadful tradition alive in their own writing. 

Edited by ZilchWoolham
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I have also noticed that critics that are so eager to pull bands down can be found to have bigged the same ones up when in  (the bands) fledgling careers. So what's that all about??? They don't even realise that they are contradicting themselves.

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8 hours ago, Barking Spiders said:

 Problem was getting past the generally pretentious bollix that passed for  reviews and trying to work out what they were on about. I've just come across a website for Robert Christgau, supposedly some big shot music journo in the 70s-80s. ...

That's not so much the issue than his arcane, indecipherable  way of writing which leaves you scratching your head wondering 'wtf was that about?' Anyone else heard of him or fancy a rant about other music hacks. As they say, 'those who can, do, those who can't, teach and those who can't teach write about music'.

I agree entirely. Do you remember the free newspaper that used to be available in music shops back in the 80s? It was called Making Music.
My favourite section of the paper was called the Jay Arthur column (I presume that was rhyming slang coming from J Arthur Rank) it contained any current gems of such overly self-indulgent language in reviews.

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You know you're a bad journo when even the model railway magazines don't want you, so you get your pretentious bollards published in a music rag instead.

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Well, all these years later you're talking about him so maybe that's what he wanted, a way of creating any kind of infamy. He could be president of the US soon... I think it's like restaurant critics who have never been Chefs and they're telling you that some French sounding thing you've never heard of, can't afford and will never taste, is not cooked right, but does their description mean anything to you? How do they even know its wrong? Why should I care?! 

I like it when you get interviews with musicians who praise other musicians' work. I heard Joe Elliot interviewed with Nikki Sixx and he was praising the Motley Crue album recorded with John Corabi on vocals, saying its some of their best song writing but gets overlooked because of the drama about Vince Neal. Thats an endorsement you wouldn't get from a critic, and makes me think the album may be worth a listen, rather than allowing it to just be written off as a "bad period" as it so often is. 

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I used to devour (not literally, obvs) Sounds, then Melody Maker and NME from the age of about 14... I discovered all sorts of bands I'd never get the chance of seeing (being in Chester) so I wrote them all over my school bag instead.

So I was very happy indeed when we got some reviews - none of them bad, unfortunately... Here's one from 1991, it's not even flowery in its prose!

http://www.pushstuff.co.uk/mmlives/barfroco110591.html

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Great Stephen Fry quote on Critics

“Picture this scene. A critic arrives at the gates of heaven. 'And what did you do?' asks Saint Peter. 'Well', says the dead soul. 'I criticised things'. 'I beg your pardon?' 'You know, other people wrote things, performed things, painted things and I said stuff like, "thin and unconvincing", "turgid and uninspired", "competent and serviceable,"...you know'.”

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There is a special place in hell reserved for NME journalists. It’s in the section labelled “pretentious and irrelevant bollocks”.

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54 minutes ago, Leonard Smalls said:

I used to devour (not literally, obvs) Sounds, then Melody Maker and NME from the age of about 14... I discovered all sorts of bands I'd never get the chance of seeing (being in Chester) so I wrote them all over my school bag instead.

So I was very happy indeed when we got some reviews - none of them bad, unfortunately... Here's one from 1991, it's not even flowery in its prose!

http://www.pushstuff.co.uk/mmlives/barfroco110591.html

You are in exalted company, he trashed Faith No More as well.  Absolute verbal diarrhea.

http://www.pushstuff.co.uk/mmlives/faithnomore040688.html

 

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As Gene Simmons always says..... "the critics who had it in for us in the beginning are now asking 'Would you like fries with that?' "

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13 minutes ago, No. 8 Wire said:

You are in exalted company, he trashed Faith No More as well.  Absolute verbal diarrhea.

http://www.pushstuff.co.uk/mmlives/faithnomore040688.html

 

"The bass booms, dropping like a paving slab from the top of a tower block, shattering, spreading the circumfluent surges of the guitar and keyboards to areas of half-baked excitement."

Foooook sake.

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I remember years ago mags like kerrang and metal hammer, if a reviewer hated a band it didn't matter how good an album was they got slated and hardly anything was said about the contents of an album

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Caitlin Moran wrote a very entertaining book (Damn, is that me being a critic?) about music journalism. How to Build a Girl. A good pi*s take on the subject.

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8 minutes ago, mikel said:

Caitlin Moran wrote a very entertaining book (Damn, is that me being a critic?) about music journalism. How to Build a Girl. A good pi*s take on the subject.

I've slept in Caitlin's bed, but she wasn't in it, lol.

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2 hours ago, No. 8 Wire said:

he trashed Faith No More as well

Funnily enough, he liked us! Him and Ngaire reviewed us a number of times, all (broadly) favourable. That's probably why we never Made It Big!

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I remember when NME gave the Stone Roses debut, widely regarded as one of the all time great Indie albums a grudging 7 out of 10.

To this day I'm certain it had more to do with the fact the Stone Roses were no longer the 'underground' heroes of a year before and had started attracting serious mainstream attention than any actual fault the reviewer could find with the album.

The NME of the late 1980s and early 90s absolutely hated it when any band they'd previously championed actually acheived any kind of mainstream success.

Edited by Cato

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2 hours ago, christhammer666 said:

I remember years ago mags like kerrang and metal hammer, if a reviewer hated a band it didn't matter how good an album was they got slated and hardly anything was said about the contents of an album

Oh yes, I remember that sort of thing. I recall seeing a 'review' of It Bites' magnificent Once Around The World album in one of those poxy rags; they hated the band and all it stood for, that much was obvious, and one of the very few things they actually said about the actual music on the actual album they were supposedly writing about was to say that the title track had a reasonable trumpet solo on it. 45 seconds out of a brilliant hour of music and they couldn't even be arrsed to listen closely enough to realise that it was a synth patch rather than a trumpet. 

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Sounds like a lot of unmet expectations to me. What do you want from a critic? Do you want them to agree with you or to disagree? I think people forget how subjective music is and how, frankly, pointless it is to write about it. I recall a clip from Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams talks about reading 1000 books on flowers but never actually smelling one. 

Critics can be useful. If you learn to recognise which critics like what you like, then you can follow their recommendations. I have loved records critics hate and have hated records that critics love. Its not their fault. In truth, it is all about selling magazines not music. Like musicians, there are great critics and there are poor ones. It's not important. 

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