June 17, 2008 by A.C. Rhodes
of music writers are most troublesome where it effects their writing, in your opinion?
Category: Question of the Week
Imitating Lester Bangs. It doesn’t work, folks.
Hmm, I find it hard to generalize about this. What might seem an annoying personality trait in one writer (extreme arrogance, say) might work really well for another writer; I’d have to point to specific people and talk about specific traits in their own writing. As an ambassador of goodwill (Canadian, don’t cha’ know?), and a chickenshit to boot, I naturally refuse to go there.
“Careerism” is an interesting choice, Ted — I’d consider prefacing it with the word “naked” or blatant” — but I’m not sure exactly how it comes through in a person’s writing. Perhaps you are referring to the kind of writer who is always-in-the-right-place-at-just-the-right-time, the sort who’ll never not have some keen insight into whatever everyone else is talking about not yesterday but tomorrow?
That impressed me, too. In fact I was just wondering the other day who the Michael Cain of rock journalism might be.
Critics who dismiss entire genres outright.
That’s definitely one way it shows itself Scott. I’m also talking about those critics who will shill for whatever will advance their career, be it because endorsing Album A will enhance their hipster cred or because endorsing Album B will make their advertisers and editors happy,… people who are critics first and foremost because they view it as their profession as opposed to their passion, whores who will scramble to grab a gig doing blurbs for a mass entertainment magazine, daily newspaper hacks who will bend without restraint when their editor cuts their recommendation of a Simply Saucer show in favor of a few hundred words on the Crosby, Stills and Nash ampitheater concert instead.
Now, I’ve got nothing against good critics doing what they need to do to make a living, within reason. But there’s a line that is crossed when they’re making their decision based on what’s best for their career over what’s inspiring them, when they homogenize their opinions and style to the point of being interchangable with the next journalism school grad off the assembly line.
ego, by way of injecting themselves into their writing too often and before anyone else knows who they are or gives two shits….fricke, marcus, loder, scheffield; they can all do it. few others can without looking like self-important boobs.
Projecting a sense of entitlement.
It takes two forms, each as annoying (and distressing, because when it is demonstrated overtly the general populace presumes that ALL critics are like this) as the other, one of the forms being kind of proactive and the other reactive, for lack of a better description:
1) That aura of elitist aloofness in the presence of music industry people and, certainly, other critics — I call this the “kiss my ring finger” syndrome, typical of a lot of older critics who’ve published tons of books, are always the ones the mainstream media calls up when they need a quick quote whore, etc. Didn’t Carly Simon write a song about these folks?
2) The “those bastards didn’t automatically send me the record/put me on the guest list” syndrome in which this or that critic, typically a midlevel one (e.g., neither a young gun nor an old icon) who seems unaware of the fact that there are more and more critics out there and as a result more and more demands for servicing but seems to carry a big chip on his/her shoulder because he/she isn’t always the first person to get the CD in the mail or at the top of the guest list. (I’ve had a couple of writers whose excuse to me for not turning a review was that “they didn’t send the CD to me.” When I asked, “Did you request it?” the reply was, “no, but they should know I would want to get it….”.
The phrase “yo’ shit stinks just like mine does” seems pertinent here…
Taking themselves and their opinion really serious — usually at the cost of insight or craft. If you’re really serious about what you’re doing (and thinking), i.e. about your writing, then IMHO you should do it with some deprecating humour. Otherwise go and do PR or write for some Arms Journal or whatever.
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