From the Archives: Five Rock Critic Clichés That Most Make Your Skin Crawl

01:  Diva!
02:  Emo
03:  Stonesy
04:  Reviews that don’t review the record, or even worse when they only give good reviews.
05:  Any reference to MTV’s self penned version of music history.

1. Stop it!!! 2. I hate that guy. 3. Yeah, but not in a good way. 4. I don’t need to hear about you trip to the store to buy the record. Zine’s that give everything in their favored genre a good review. 5. If I have to hear how important the Aerosmith/Run DMC union or Madonna writhing around on the stage at the MTV music awards were, i’m gonna scream. Loder!
HANDLE:  TClapJimmy
CITY:  Rochester, NY
Friday, August 08, 2003 at 13:17:54 (PDT)

01:  Ethereal Vocals
02:  This band combines the [blank] of the Beatles with the [blank] of the Byrds
03:  The best New York Band since VU/New York Dolls/Television/Blondie
04:  comparing any singer with pop sensibilities to Brian Wilson
05:  saying a band creates soundscapes, what the hell are those?

critics need to stop comparing new bands to the greats of the sixties and early seventies, it makes rock n’ roll a depressing rehash of historical trends. Look ahead!
HANDLE:  jigglesworth
CITY:  Alexandria
Tuesday, June 10, 2003 at 12:56:44 (PDT)

01:  … in a blender
02:  arguably
03:  sell out
04:  Pet Sounds
05:  seminal

1) and variations like “lovechild of” or “cross between.” 2) as in “arguably” the best album ever made. Well, duh, anything is arguable. Ask an attorney. 3) Stodgy because it rules out artistic growth. Naive because who in their right mind would pass up an opportunity to make millions? 4) Can we find another album to compare stuff to? 5) It just sounds gross.
HANDLE:  Milo Ippolito
CITY:  Atlanta
Tuesday, April 01, 2003 at 08:21:25 (PST)

01:  Pandering to the eclectic
02:  “mind-fuck”
03:  trying to synthesize an artist by combining better known artists
04:  so is it good or does it suck?
05:  unquestioned fawning over anything Scandinavian

“A cosmic mind-fuck, with lyrics that read like like a Robertson Davies novel with a Saki-esque twist. The music is reminiscent of Alice Cooper’s Levity Ball, and the vocals recall R. Stevie if he sounded more like Charles Aznavour. Rivals anything else coming from their native southern Norwegian coast.”
HANDLE:  Bill Smith
CITY:  Chicago
Friday, March 14, 2003 at 12:06:13 (PST)

01:  Attacked his guitar (bass, drums, the mic) like a [fill in the blank with aggressive phrase]
02:  Axe-grinding, axe-man, hewed the audience with his axe
03:  Post-punk, post-rock, post-grunge; in fact, post-anything
04:  Lists
05:  And we mustn’t forget what is probably the worst of all cliches: They’re the next big thing!

1. Enough already! There is a word in the English language that sufficiently describes what a musician does with his guitar: “Play.” It works. Use it. 2. Are we talking about lumberjacks or guitarists? Reading the term “axe” as a substitute for “guitar” for the 20th time in a day makes me want to cleave my head open with an axe. Or is it a guitar? 3. I have no idea what the fuck any of these terms mean, and when they are appropriately defined, I can guarantee they will not be used correctly, so I implore all writers to stop using them. NOW. 4. The hobgoblin of little minds. And SPIN Magazine. All right, a guilty pleasure; but trite, nonetheless. 5. OH SHUT UP!
HANDLE:  FallingDog
CITY:  City by the Lake
Thursday, March 06, 2003 at 18:57:53 (PST)

01:  gumbo
02:  predictable desert-island-discs album lists
03:  can’t think
04:  of
05:  any more!

3,4,& 5: I really can’t think of any more, you guys have covered the waterfront on this one! I too am tired of those goofy similes (“this sounds like Millie Jackson wearing Joan Osborne’s tank top while dreaming of Earl Scruggs playing an old Rick Astley song at the Brooklyn Fox”). 1: the term “gumbo” HAS to be retired – it usually implies the artist is either eclectic (NRBQ, Sleepy LaBeef) or from New Orleans. 2: In the mid-eighties, Creem asked a bunch of rock critics and musicians their Top 10 albums. The musicians’ lists were more fun to look at, since they seemed to pull any old shit out of a hat. The critics, however, kept repeating the same old stuff: BLONDE ON BLONDE, NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, WHAT’S GOING ON?, the typical party-line things you always see on “desert island disc” list. It’s like they didn’t want to admit that KUNG FU FIGHTING AND OTHER LOVE SONGS (by Carl Douglas) was a valid artistic statement.(grin)
Friday, February 07, 2003 at 21:12:52 (PST)

01:  use of words which the complete Oxford English Dictionary has probably not yet catalogued
02:  really good review…. but only three stars
03:  treating Pet Sounds like it’s the work of God
04:  praising Eminem – don’t get me *bleep*ing started!
05:  Er… that’s all I can think of….

1. “this rumstandential record is a flambunchinous scramonage of laspacious namaration which granfladulates with clobristication” and you’re like “whaaaaat?!” – i made all those words up, but you get the idea, rock critics using words you’ve never heard of in your life, and you feel really dumb cos you’ve no idea what they mean 2. what’s with “wow this album is brilliant we love it oh yeah it rocks” and then three stars…. i thought three stars just meant it’s pretty good, if you thought it was great why not four or even five stars? 3. I like the Beach Boys but puh-lease….. what is it with people being so in awe of Pet Sounds? I’m sorry, I’ve tried and tried to dig Pet Sounds but it just does nothing for me 4. as i’ve said don’t get me started…. i hate him i hate him i hate him i…. er, yeah, where was I? 5. so i’m off now…. seeya!
Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 04:40:29 (PST)

01:  Not since the Beatles!
02:  Referring to Michael Jackson as Rock Music?
03:  Any new music described as “Ground breaking”
04:  All this bullshit about “Diva’s”, 1 song= diva?????????????????
05:  Referring to boy/girl bands as musicians????????????????????

Calling these new bands “punk”, when they are way more “garage”, no insult to garage music, it is some of the best, most original shit ever laid down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
HANDLE:  Phil Bongiorno
CITY:  san jose
Sunday, December 15, 2002 at 13:55:26 (PST)

01:  “changing the face of (insert area here) rock”
02:  every woman who sings is “a siren/diva/angelic vocals”
03:  “intricate/diverse instrumentation”
04:  calling a metal band “melodic”
05:  reviews on cover bands

First of all i must say – TS Eliot’s work was over-rated. he was a sad old man who was hung up on his age, death and sleeping with women who could be his granddaughters. 1 – i have read this in our regions (corporately owned) local street press. like fuck. they say it about every new rock group that forms – most of them have no effect on the “face” of our music scene. 2 – get real. the particular artist i noticed that written about cant dictate words, therefore making it a waste of time – whats the point of singing (and she aint all that special) and not being able to understand the words then calling the woman a DIVA !!!!! insulting. you get my drift. 3 – how diverse can you get with 3/4 instruments ??? this is rock by the way….not ska or funk then it would be different. 4 – distortion aint melodic baby 5 – enough said
CITY:  Cairns
Monday, October 28, 2002 at 22:28:25 (PST)

01:  Any description of anyone in music as a “genius”
02:  Same
03:  Same
04:  Same
05:  Same

Really, really, galds me raw…Einstein, Salk, Edison – They were GENIUSES…truly revolutionaries as well…changed the way we live and will live
HANDLE:  Joe Quimby
Friday, October 11, 2002 at 11:43:54 (PDT)

01:  Bob Dylan or, worse, Jim Morrison, was a Brilliant Poet
02:  “elliptical,” “fragmented”
03:  “It may not be ______ but if you’re looking for _____…” or other variants.
04:  This band is the next Nirvana…or the next anyone else.
05:  Referring to musicians as “artists”…even though I do it too.

1. C’mon. Yeats was a Brilliant Poet. Morrison was just some strung out silly mystic and Bob Dylan was just a loud hippie. By way of comparison. 2. UGH. 3. Huh? Why you gonna talk about what an album or song or group isn’t? I know, I know, readers have expectations, hype exists to be counteracted, but if you just lay down what’s there, it becomes a matter of deductive logic as to what it isn’t… 4. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want another Nirvana. 5. In my mind, this comes to the term “Recording Artist”, which may be something very artistic, but it’s not really a musician. And, yes, Music is an art, but we don’t go around calling actors artists as routine, do we?
HANDLE:  kid charlemagne
Sunday, October 06, 2002 at 09:26:28 (PDT)

01:  The way NO ROCK CRITIC will say something really critical/harsh/real about someone they’ve just interviewed. If you give a critic an interview, you’re destined for a fawning review!
02:  Putting any artist on a pedestal high up into the heavens
03:  Rock critics that refuse to use the word “I” in a story or review, etc. Well, who the fuck wrote it anyway, the magazine?
04:  Being afraid to admit to the dorky or sellout artists you secretly love, like Britney Spears
05:  Any repression of thought, honesty, emotion in a story; if the singer is fucking fat as hell and makes their guitar look like a kazoo, why not fucking say it? Everyone is thinking it already.

see up
HANDLE:  Alien Rock!
Sunday, September 29, 2002 at 11:13:23 (PDT)

01:  overuse of the x-meets-y device to describe the hybridity of the music at hand
02:  ‘angular’
03:  tendency to run with the pack
04:  excessive quoting of relatively banal lyrics
05:  critics who refer to themselves as “this writer” and lazy editors who let it slide

1. give it a rest folks! think you’re telling us anything new by highlighting that a band has more than one artist in their record collections? 2. ok, i’m not robinson crusoe here – this thread is littered with eloquent, well-argued gripes about the same bugbear – but fuck i hate that word! just say ‘not that poppy’ or something less pretentious. 3. where’s the dissent in music criticism? why do most ‘best of’ lists read as if compiled by the same person? surely music can’t genuinely engender such unanimity and consensus. because that’s what makes music so good in the first place, isn’t it? 4. i see this so much, particularly in so many british music publications. misguidedly encourages readers to read more ‘meaning’ into music than was either intended by the artist or is indeed warranted. 5. come on, folks – ernest hemingway was a writer.
HANDLE:  strav
CITY:  sydney
Friday, September 27, 2002 at 18:00:39 (PDT)

01:  “The next Velvet Underground”
02:  Essentially nonexistent genres cooked up to string a few vaguely related bands together (“Y’allternative”, “Alternative Country”)
03:  Making puns out of song/album titles (e.g. “‘Blow Up’ made me want to blow up my Television records!”)
04:  The idea of the musician as a poet
05:  “_____esque”

There you have it.
HANDLE:  Raymond
Wednesday, August 14, 2002 at 17:28:31 (PDT)

01:  Blah Blah O Brother Where Art Thou blah blah rebirth of bluegrass blah blah
02:  “… is a tour de force…”
03:  record reviews with “didn’t grab me at first, but upon subsequent listens it…”
04:  (C)Rap Metal sucks man, nu metal sucks man…
05:  Anything that’s discussed as being “so bad its good”

oh man i could go on for days. “Pushing the Envelope” is a major cliche that gets used again and again. I also love the kitchen sink thing: “Sounds like Morrissey driving in an El Camino with Beck on the way to get their hair done by Otis Redding.”
HANDLE:  Katy St. Clair
CITY:  Berkeley
Monday, August 12, 2002 at 18:56:03 (PDT)

01:  “ironic”
02:  “swan song”
03:  “Dylanesque”/”Springsteenian”
04:  “________ explosion”
05:  First name references

01. Sometimes there isn’t more below the surface. Sometimes the music just sucks. 02. I liked how RS referred to Sonic Youth’s last three albums as the swan song. 03. Can’t a singer/songwriter catch a break? 04. Fill in the blank with latin, teen, electronic, etc. 05. Tori, Trent, Kurt, Britney, etc. You don’t know them. Quit acting like you do.
HANDLE:  Max Katz
CITY:  Riverhead, NY
Thursday, August 01, 2002 at 20:54:47 (PDT)

01:  The assumption that anything punk-influenced is by definition unpretentious
02:  Describing an artist’s clothing as if it is a window into his/her soul
03:  The phrase “in an era when…”
04:  “Best…” lists contrived to be provocative
05:  Every single sentence uttered by “critics” on VH1’s “Greatest TV Moments” shows

1) I’m certain that the most pompous, fey and shallow people of all time were punks living in New York and London in the middle/late 70s 2) “When Paul McCartney slammed the hotel room door in my face, I couldn’t help but notice the way his bath robe clung to him like the legacy of Beatlemania.” 3) The start of way too many RS reviews 4) “Oh my God! The Ramones’ first album number one?! Why, I’m shocked out of my complacency!” 5) The most dung-colored noses in entertainment history sniffing the winds of social change as seen through pop music. Oh, thank you.
HANDLE:  Jason Moss
CITY:  Eugene, OR
Friday, July 12, 2002 at 10:56:37 (PDT)

01:  “all mainstream music is garbage and/or sellout”
02:  “back in the 60´s and 70´s there was only good music, now is all music junk”
03:  “all music made in the 60´s or the 70´s is rubbish”
04:  “Metallica sold out”
05:  “Korn sold out”

1) it´s so not fucking true, I just wanna smash something to pieces when I hear something like this, sure there are some teenybopping assholes like Nsync or Bitchney Spears that dominate the charts, but just because Radiohead, Korn or Metallica get there, it doesn´t mean they are junk like Bitchney or Mariah Carey (geeez, she is pathetic, almost as pathetic as Bitchney)
2) that´s a very annoying and narrow minded attitude, look at musicians from the 90´s (Korn, NIN, Radiohead, SOAD, Incubus, Weezer, more)
3) so is this one, just not true (Led Zep, Sabbath, AC/DC)
4) That’s bullshit, they just changed their style, Load and Reload are of course not as good as Ride or Master but Garage Inc. was pretty good.
5) Ok this is more of an fan opinion, but not mine. Follow The Leader was a great record, some say they went to rap/metal but what those idiots who claim so seem to miss is that both the first Korn and Life were als rap/hihop influenced, more subtle though. Their hiphop influencer were there right from their beginning in 1992. Although, they have completely ditched the hiphop influences on Issues and Untouchables.
HANDLE:  Magnus
CITY:  Reykjavik
Tuesday, June 25, 2002 at 10:56:42 (PDT)

01:  “-esque”
02:  Songs about drugs=Good
03:  “quintessential”
04:  Hated band’s last three albums, therefore rest of band’s work must suck
05:  Metal 1969-2002: Only lovable for camp value, not because you actually LISTEN to it.

1. Particualrly odious: “Dylanesque”
2. I know how well drug and alcohol abuse worked out for JimiJaniceKurtDarbySidBonElvis, etc.
3. For reasons which should be self-evident. How glorious is the title “Quintessential Elton John Album”?
4. Conversely, “loved band’s first three albums, therefore all band’s work nominated for canonization in perpetuity.”
5. I will admit it; I am genuinely stirred by various metal bands from AC/DC to Slipknot. Am I off Spin’s editorial staff now?
CITY:  Westport
Monday, June 03, 2002 at 12:14:00 (PDT)

01:  “Self-indulgent”
02:  “the scene”
03:  “fresh-faced, effervescent…”
04:  “Nirvana kicked off the alt-rock revolution”
05:  “emo”

1) This is supposed to be a put down, but come on, ANYONE who performs or makes records is “self-indulgent”…they want be seen and heard. If musicians weren’t “self-indulgent”, you’d never hear or see them. See also: “sell-out”.
2) I suppose talking about “the scene” might mean something if you’re in your late teens or early 20s, were a high school geek, and are just acquiring your social skills, because that’s all a “scene” is-the social aspect of music and art. But once you’re 25 or so, you either need to evolve beyond “the scene” and become something distinctly YOU, or you need to do what I did and just shut up and go to work for the man.
3) Don’t see this one so much anymore, but back in the 80’s, every guitar-pop band got described this way.
4) Nirvana represented the end, not the beginning, of “post-punk” or “alt-rock”, whatever you want to call this. Critics know this full well, but they assume you don’t.
5) Like “grunge”, this essentially means nothing. Drop it.
Wednesday, May 29, 2002 at 14:39:46 (PDT)

01:  “The next Bob Dylan”
02:  Sgt. Pepper/side 2 of Abbey Road are The Beatles’ best.
03:  No, Revolver and The White Album were better
04:  Lou Reed, the godfather of punk/ Velvet Underground the first punk band.
05:  The release of Nevermind marked the beginning of the alt. rock movement

1) Forty years later it is safe to say there will never be another Bob Dylan.
2) and 3) A good case can be made for Help! and Rubber Soul. A Hard Day’s Night and Beatles For Sale can also get you through the night.
4) What about Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard? Or Elvis Presley? Or Link Wray?
5) You can make a case that it began with Jane’s Addictions first album or when REM left IRS.
HANDLE:  Rev Matt

01:  “all mainstream music sucks/bands on major labels are sellouts”
02:  –
03:  –
04:  –
05:  –

i can name a thousand awesome bands that are or have been on the top 40, or at least top 100, and they were good. just because they’re making money doesn’t make them sellouts. Hear that, punk elitist dissers of Green Day from when they signed to a major and released Dookie?
HANDLE:  Ryan Smith

01:  Dylan: the “Greatest Poet of the Twentieth Century”
02:  “The Beatles were the most talented, most influential, most loved, most creative, most photographed, most wanted, most…”
03:  Elvis: “the King of Rock and Roll”
04:  “most innovative, most influential, greatest….”
05:  “the 60s will never be best”

1) I don’t agree with this. TS Eliot was the greatest poet of the twentieth century, and when I find a set of Dylan lyrics that can touch “the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, I will delete my claim. Til then…I will refuse to believe this screeching, annoying, I-think-I’m-better-than-everyone man is even on the same page as Mother Goose. Besides, I prefer Paul Simon’s lyrics.
2) Fuck the Beatles! I mean, they were cool, they wore those cute little suits and had nice voices, but they are too over-rated. The best Beatles songs are the ones no one plays on the radio: Strawberry Fields, I am the Walrus, Rain, Tomorrow Never Knows, She Said She Said, Taxman, Within You Without You…instead you get the Yesterday-Hey jude-Let It Be-Long and Winding Road-Get Back shit that is OVERPLAYED and not a testiment to all the praise these over-obsessed baby-boomersgive them.
3) Elvis was cool for a few years- ripping off of black artists and taking the credit that should have went to Chuck Berry. I find him over-sensationalized and rather disgusting. I feel sorry for those people who really believe he was “the King.” I’ll take Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and BY ALL MEANS (the real King, honestly) Berry over him any day.
4) annoying. This is in WHOSE opinion exactly…I hate these little titles. I read on a message board where Paul McCartney (sorry…SIR Paul) was named the “greatest composer of the 20th Century.” Huh? Look, I like “Elenor Rigby” but come on! What song-aside from “Maybe I’m Amazed”- has he done solo that is really that good? I can’t name any. Fucking idiot who make these little polls. What about Shastokovitch? Stravinsky? Ralph Vaughn Williams? GEORGE GERSHWIN???!!??You know, people who were actually REAL composers and maintained their greatness for a long, extensive period of time. Nope. There goes the Beatles obsessees again…
5) seems to be a theme. I know the 90s basically sucked with all those lame boybands and Titney Rears girls, and the 80s bred the New Kinds on the Block, but its time to move on and accept that there has been some AWESOME music which has surpassed a lot of what the 60s brought…and getting stoned a lot isn’t the end-all be-all.
CITY:  Akron

01:  “The best Bob Dylan [or whoever] song that Dylan [or whoever] never wrote.”
02:  “anthemic”
03:  the words “flow” and “phat” (used in hip-hop reviews)
04:  saying “sophomore release” instead of “second album”
05:  “post-Hootie”

HANDLE:  Tim Powis
CITY:  Toronto

01:  The Beatles are untouchable because droves of gullible people still buy their records
02:  Lester Bangs was full of s* because he didn’t praise John Lennon’s solo work
03:  Anything with 5 secs. or more of feedback = ‘noise’ = crap
04:  Anything with [see previous] = noise = a masterpiece
05:  Artist X is ‘trying really hard to be Artist Y’

Not all of these are as common as the others, but you’re likely to see at least one instance of each.
HANDLE:  D. Ruth

01:  Comparing every living that has ever seen a guitar, and been slightly avent-garde to the Beatles
02:  they’re the new (enter name of inventive band from before 1976)
03:  “Emo-core”
04:  Pointing out that Nine Inch Nails didn’t invent Industrial
05:  the word “Incendiary” or whatever

1. Ugg, so stupid. 2. Radiohead isn’t the new Pink Floyd, they’re Radiohead, The Strokes are the new Velvets, they are the fucking strokes. 3. It’s just emo, drop the core, asses. 4. Did he ever say he did? No, but critics feel the need to point this out quite frequently. 5. Almost Famous hit it right on the head.
HANDLE:  mootdak

01:  “Call it (insert inane made-up genre/portmanteau here)”
02:  (blank)-hop
03:  (blank)tronica
04:  Long albums=bad
05:  Strokes/VU analogies

Because one top five is never enough for me to go over my least favorite writing devices.
1) I love how they always phrase it like it’s supposed to be some big eureka. “This band forges new boundaries in beat-boxing while wacked-out on NyQuil. Call it ‘blarg-hop’, and blah blah etcetera.” Which brings us to
2) – yeah, get rid of the “hip” and replace it with “trip” or “glitch” or something like that because, you know, Massive Attack or Prefuse 73 aren’t REALLY hip-hop, no. Forge new levels in genre ghettoization!
3) Latest variation: idyllitronica (sp?). I don’t care if he’s possibly the only writer besides me to still enjoy the Chemical Brothers, Simon Reynolds is mostly responsible for the whole ‘(blank)tronica’ trend and is therefore on my Liste Du Merde.
4) Strange, when an album’s good, I’m pissed that it’s too short. If “London Calling” included a third LP with all the singles and “Black Market Clash” material, would that somehow make it worse? “Bloated”, even? Eesh.
5) They sound kinda like two or three tracks from ‘Loaded’. I can name a handful of bands the Strokes sound more more like- The Jam, the Cars, Radio Birdman, a Buzzcocks 45 on 33 1/3… I mean, damn, Is This It is so NOT “Venus in Furs” or “Waiting For the Man” or “Heroin” or “Sister Ray” or “The Gift” or “New Age”- oh, wait, I see, they’re from NEW YORK. I guess the analogy HAS to be inevitable (and plastic, and exploding).
HANDLE:  Nate Patrin
CITY:  St. Paul, MN

01:  the Jim Morrison comparison
02:  The idea that popular music is akin to molecular science
03:  Anyone called a genius without a hint of irony
04:  Unabashed love of anything local
05:  Disturbing comparisons to the beatles

it speaks for it self
HANDLE:  clhanluke
CITY:  Toledo

01:  seminal
02:  “rose from the ashes” i.e., luna rose from the ashes of galaxie 500
03:  anne powers
04:  that farley guy from time
05:  alan light

i love these critics who are trotted out on VH1 to offer pithy statements such as “what the beatles were able to do was create music that a lot of people could enjoy.” (this is only an approximation.) god bless genuine folks like ira robbins, jim derogatis, and richie unterberger, who are less concerned with cultivating a persona (marcus, christgau, meltzer, etc.) or getting their face on tv (see above list) to drool meaningless aphorisms…and more concerned with sharing their love of music (with some damn fine prose).
HANDLE:  erik hage

01:  “Beatlesque”
02:  “eponymous”
03:  “derivative”
04:  “pop sensibility”
05:  “quintessential”

to mention a few.
HANDLE:  Ramondarun

01:  Led Zeppelin was way overrated
02:  Johnny Rotten not only defined a generation, but was the true king of rock and roll who saved us from a life of dullness
03:  David Bowie ” phrase of praise or hatred goes here, added with a cute story of his personality”
04:  Brittney Spears is one hot number and I worship her
05:  The best song ever has to be “Satisfaction”

Just so I don’t piss anyone off who still takes what the media gives them and loves it!!! I like David Bowie and Johnny Lydon is rather scary in a fake approachable way, also The Stones are almost as good as Zeppelin, but as for Brittney your gonna have to set my toung on fire before I ever have one nice thing to say about that little Bitch!!!!
HANDLE:  Heather
CITY:  Lancaster

01:  “angular” guitar
02:  “whimsical”
03:  “warm” in re: to IDM
04:  “hook(y)” — admit it. no one knows what this is. or at least agrees upon it.
05:  ending review with title of album. makes it read like a Steven Seagal movie title.

no comments really, except that I’ve been guilty of 3/5 above (but only once apiece).
HANDLE:  John Dark

01:  RCs are all failed musicians.
02:  RCs are predisposed toward liking their favorite bands, regardless of quality.
03:  RCs are fat, greasy virgins in their late 30s.
04:  RCs are “music snobs” (my fave)
05:  RCs should not do anything apart from report what the disc sounds like.

I have two lists. This is my list of cliches ABOUT Rock critics. The second will be what you all did — worst cliches (I mean phrases, not gimmicks) used by critics.
HANDLE:  John Dark

01:  Dropped
02:  Dropped
03:  Dropped
04:  Dropped
05:  Dropped

What the fuck is that? I can’t stand it when critics talk about a band “dropping” their last album whenever. The word is RELEASED. “The CD was RELEASED last year.” What the fuck is “dropped?” Is the writer trying to sound like some kind of DJ or something? STOP IT!
HANDLE:  Steven Ward
CITY:  Gonzales, La

01:  “seminal”
02:  rock was invented by — and then “stolen” from — the blacks
03:  the beatles as the greatest band of all time
04:  richard meltzer
05:  sarcastic, wry, sardonic self-awareness*

*this is the one that really rips my ass. this “voice” is usually deployed to make short work of pop music, and or to tackle genres the scribe is unfamiliar with outside of the big names and accepted cliches this also falls into the “it’s hip to be square” bullshit of praising anyone from Fleetwood Mac, to N*Sync, and really meaning it!. it’s enough to make you wanna march right over to their nice little post college i’m on my own apartments and pull their tongues right out of their cheeks.
HANDLE:  justin jasper
CITY:  los angeles

01:  “Tour du Force”
02:  “Fin de Siecle”
03:  “Extravaganza”
04:  “It’s the next [name of an obvious ‘Top 100 Album of All Time’]”
05:  calling Rock “Rawk”

There are more, but these are the one that jump out at me right now
HANDLE:  Lord Custos
CITY:  Levittown

01:  bay area bangers/thrashers
02:  mainlining on…
03:  Undie/Thug, Gangsta, Playa, Mainstream; cleavages in rap&hiphop
04:  …worth admission price alone
05:  “three chord yobbery”

1. a perennial fave with british metal mag kerrang! legitimate about 93 yrs. ago when first used to describe robb flynn’s Vio Lence. now beginning to gall
2. many descriptions of punkers nowadays; apparently, they have to be wizzing to create anything near as good as radio birdman/x/the slits/FUCKING television, came up with all those years ago
3. you either like one or the other. some writers seem to like to believe this narrative. if you listen to jay-z or E’d up Missy, you must have *no* time for mike ladd or the good life collective; vice-versa. props to simon reynolds for not following this. often goes hand in hand with people ridiculing backpacker fans. why? leave them alone
4. some good, good person has already mentioned this, but i wanted to second. nonononono. lovely back in the 70s, when – probably – charles shaar murray used this to describe the ‘land’ arc of Horses; after all, the rest of it’s a crock of something or other. imo. he did use the word “dank” back in the nme then, as well, which had been embargoes under rationing since WWII.
5. really, to a certain extent, see (2). once applied to someone or other supporting green day with particular offensiveness. but really, i ask you… …all imo.
HANDLE:  scott n.
CITY:  manchester, uk

01:  Rock and roll (or pop music in general) died between 1959 (Buddy Holly’s plane goes down) and 1964 (Beatles arrive in America)
02:  Elvis threw his talent away when a) he started making movie soundtracks or b) he returned from the Army
03:  Musician/band (blank) cannot play his/her/their instrument(s)
04:  Pretentious rock music is bad
05:  Someone (a fan/fellow critic/musician) is wrong for liking something

1) Yeah? How do you explain Sam Cooke, Dion and the Belmonts, the Drifters, Brill Building pop, Northwest garage, James Brown, the Shirelles, the Fleetwoods, etc.etc.etc. I don’t usually agree with Joe Carducci, but I think he may have been on to something when he blamed Beatles/folk-loving college-grad critics for this one.
2) Yeah, Elvis made many bad movies, with equally hideous music, so there’s some truth to this one. But the first few film records are great (-King Creole-, -Viva Las Vegas-, “Jailhouse Rock,” etc.), and every now and then the King could deliver the goods when he gave a crap (“Kissing Cousins,” “Tomorrow is a Long Time” from -Spinout-, “Clean Up Your Own Backyard” from -The Trouble with Girls-). Secondly, right after Elvis was discharged he came up with some great pop singles courtesy of Doc Pomus and Mort Shulman (“Little Sister,” “Marie’s the Name,” etc.)
3) You see said musician on stage holding their instrument, moving or striking it in a manner that causes it to make noise or sound? That’s called “playing.”
4) Yeah, pretense lead rock and roll down the path to horrific crap like concept albums (honorable exception, -Zen Arcade-), prog rock, bad “literary” songwriting, and, worst of all, Frank Zappa’s entire career. But the influx of academic/non-pop thought into rock also lead to the Velvet Underground, No Wave, free noise, Can, Sonic Youth, early Rough Trade bands, and lots of other good stuff.
5) NO ONE is ever wrong for liking something. This is listening to music for enjoyment, not a quiz show. Suggesting that someone is being “brainwashed” or similar nonsense for liking something is even more shallow (it’s elitism of the worst kind, since you’re not seeing the other person as a human being). People like different types of music for different reasons stemming from their social background, personal experiences, and all sorts of other reasons which might be inexplicable to someone else. Listening to music is one of the great pleasures in life: live and let live. (I wish the critics at the Village Voice would remember this more often).
HANDLE:  James

01:  legendary
02:  tight
03:  post-
04:  neo-
05:  kick ass

Maybe all adjectives should be banned from rock writing
HANDLE:  Handel
CITY:  nyc

01:  The Metaphysics of Rock Criticism.
02:  The “ephemerality” of popular music.
03:  Lyrics as the primary vehicle for all rock meaning.
04:  No-one will remember them X year(s) from now.
05:  Reviews where the critic praises an artifact for what it isn’t, not for what it is.

1. Actually a worldview that produces many rock cliches — not a cliche itself. Obsessively circumscribing the rock from the not-rock, the real from the fake, the good from the bad, every trad rock critic is a fucking neo-Platonist at heart, even when they think they’re being Nieztcheans.
2. If pop music (and pop culture in general) is so goddamned ephemeral, why is it still here? And why do we seem to increasingly incapable of forgetting even the tiniest pop culture crumbs?
3. Perhaps we just don’t have a half-decent rockcrit framework which can explain how sonics mean
4. None of these predictions are EVER right. But even if they occasionally were, since when do the denizens of the future have a stranglehold on the “correct” notions of quality? And if they did, what difference does that make to me and my pleasures, now? The rock fans of the future are the biggest taste bullies of them all.
5. You know, “I love music from the fifties because it’s never self-pitying like whine metal and or pandering like the Backstreet Boys or mindless like techno and…” Well, you say you like it, but obviously you like whining about all that half-relevant shit that’s been oppressing you lately even better.
HANDLE:  Michael Daddino
CITY:  Bay Shore, New York, USA

01:  “‘[random song title]’ alone makes this LP/CD worth the price of admission…”
02:  “[Here we have a] kinder, gentler, Metallica/REM/Nine Inch Nails/Eminem/Etcetera
03:  “After their multiplatinum debut, So-and-so hope to avoid the sophomore jinx…”
04:  “Rock-solid drumming…”
05:  “Rock-solid bass playing…”

1. Great, where can I buy a ticket? 2. Who would’ve expected George Bush to be more plagiarized by rockcrits than Lester Bangs & Greil Marcus combined? 3-5. Self-explanatory. Rock Critic Cliche #6: The Top 5 List!
HANDLE:  vonbontee
CITY:  Mississauga

01:  muscular
02:  angular
03:  off-kilter
04:  kick-ass
05:  we

I do, however, want to say something on behalf of the “sounds like [performer name] on [name of drug],” which I think has value: e.g., “sounds like Morphine on Heroin,” “sounds like Brian Setzer on Alka Seltzer,” “sounds like Vitamin C on Vitamin E.” There surely are bands out there just waiting for one of these descriptions.
HANDLE:  Frank Kogan
CITY:  Denver

01:  ironic
02:  deconstruct
03:  postmodern
04:  subjective-objective
05:  comprise

“Subjective” and “objective” = lazy, evil, stupid, destructive words; never did anybody any good. “Deconstruct” and “postmodern” = a few intelligent people once tried to say intelligent things with these two words, but the time has passed. “Comprise” = has two completely opposite meanings; you have to guess from context. “Ironic” = Help! Don’t use this word. You don’t know what it means. At this point *I* don’t know what it means. Everyone is just flailing.
HANDLE:  Frank Kogan
CITY:  Denver

01:  The lemming-like nature of most reviews. Why is there such a homogenous critical consensus every year? Where’s the dissension?
02:  Referring to “Amnesiac” as “Kid B,” especially with an air of smug cleverness that fails to mask the previous 380 reviews guilty of the same phrase
03:  Many critics still insisting that techno will be the “next big thing”
04:  Use of “e.g.”
05:  Breaking everything down into the tiniest sub-sub-sub genres, e.g. “post-jazz ham-and-eggs breakbeat tech-metal”

An honorable mention goes to a woman reviewing the Rolling Stones’ “Bridges to Babylon” who claimed she was introduced to the Stones through Pussy Galore’s “Exile On Main Street.” Yeah, and I never heard of the Beatles until Laibach’s “Let it Be.”
HANDLE:  Captain Doctor

01:  hyperhyphenation
02:  the ever-contrary position contrarian person
03:  the weepy sentimentalist
04:  PR puff pieces
05:  You and me, ha ha!

1) It’s just a why-would-anyone-ever-even-think-that-a-chain-of-words-would-be-attractive? kind of thing. 2) Does he/she have any idea what the thoughts are in his/her head? 3) Yeah, Springsteen blows me down too. Yeah, yeah. Pearl Jam. Oh boo hoo hooooo yeah. 4) Isn’t that honestly what professional rock critics spend 80% of their time writing? 5) Come on, admit it.
HANDLE:  Jeff Pike
CITY:  Seattle

01:  “zeitgeist”
02:  hamfisted racial/sociological interpretations
03:  “post-”
04:  Dance music=drugs
05:  That darned Eminem

1) Seriously, does anyone besides critics use this word? And what’s wrong with the terms “here and now” or “currently popular”? Your B.A. is NOT a cum rag.
2) To quote cohort in demo-reviewing and Dead Kennedy fandom the Godfather, on Beck’s music: “OH NO! HE USED A BEAT!” Can we promise to shut the fuck up about “evil white man stealin’ black people music” as soon as Pat Boone drops dead, please? (After all, Beck’s got more soul than Lenny Kravitz. Deal.)
3) “Post-rock”? What the hell does that mean? You mean like “postwar”, signifying that rock is something that happened before but is no longer happening? If something still exists (and rock does, trust me- just ask the fine folks at Estrus Records), there can’t be a post-something.
4) The only stimulant I take is this brown fizzy stuff that comes in a little bottle with a red label and white cursive lettering on it (or some other beverage- often a Pepsi-Coke soda fountain mix. BEVERAGE MISCEGINATION ROCKS). I guess I’m not equipped to PROPERLY appreciate Orbital now, am I?
5) Two years famous and everything that’s been said about him has been said. Sad, really. Yeah, yeah, misogyny homophobia violence moral decay etcetera. Wake me when he’s gone Buddhist and released “Ill Communication: Detroit Edition”.
HANDLE:  Nate Patrin
CITY:  St. Paul, MN

01:  “sounds like (another band) on acid (or ecstacy, speed, crack…name your drug)”
02:  “pop sensibilities”
03:  “vinyl offering”
04:  putting down a band on the basis of their fans at a show you saw
05:  pointless cynicism

#1 galls me more than anything else. It’s a lazy substitute for actually describing the music in question . Plus, what if you’ve never tried the substance that to which the critic refers? I have no idea what anything sounds on acid, because I haven’t ever taken it.
HANDLE:  Mike Appelstein
CITY:  Seattle

01:  “sounds like on acid ”
02:  “pop sensibilities”
03:  “vinyl offering”
04:  putting down a band on the basis of their fans at a show you saw
05:  pointless cynicism

#1 galls me more than anything else. It’s a lazy substitute for actually describing the music in question . Plus, what if you’ve never tried the substance that to which the critic refers? I have no idea what anything sounds on acid, because I haven’t ever taken it.
HANDLE:  Mike Appelstein
CITY:  Seattle

01:  (Insert artist here)’s best work since (album) – with every new release.
02:  A return to their rockin’ roots!
03:  British rock critic- “This is the album of the century” Six months later- “They suck!”
04:  Rolling Stone- 3.5 Stars..hedging ye olde bets!
05:  Q- 4 stars for everything including the Shaun Ryder solo poetry reading boxset

1) This is a great madlib game. The cliche is really “this old bastard is back and ready to rock!” Let’s use David Bowie. “‘Earthling’ is David Bowie’s best album since ‘Scary Monsters.'” And repeat.
2) A derivitive of the first. The rocking return album is ipso facto good. Don’t do anything different, you fools!
3) Let’s call this the Suede syndrome. Brett Anderson is a fucking genius in 1993. By the time Blur’s “Parklife” is released in 1994 he has a miserable has-been. This is good for championing a band’s return, of course. Remember when Menswe@r were hyped up? Wow.
4) Rolling Stone is a magazine of whores who’s idea of cutting edge is calling the bassist of Blink-182 for a quote about the anniversary of Roy Orbison’s death.
5) Q is actually a pretty good Dad Rock mag (i.e. toliet reading of the first..and second..order), but I could put on a cd of me whistling the national anthems of third world countries and it would get the inevitable 4 star rating. “And the award for strained metaphors goes to…”
HANDLE:  Brent, the Impaler
CITY:  Freudian, TX

01:  Disco still sucks
02:  Transcends the genre
03:  This song is really about sex/drugs/masturbation/living in a repressive society, etc.
04:  This year’s Elvis/Aretha/Beatles, etc.
05:  “Rock” (as opposed to “rock ‘n’ roll”)

I like to read critics who do their homework and who actually know something about the music’s history (i.e., all the way back to the ’50s, and even the roots of that stuff). If you can’t relate to anything that came before the Sex Pistols, then you’ve no business being a rock critic, dammit!
HANDLE:  Dean F.
CITY:  Hartford, Connecticut

01:  Sprawling double album
02:  Meisterwerk
03:  Zeitgeist
04:  Street (level,credibility or culture)
05:  Britpop

no thanks to all of these
HANDLE:  droogie

01:  “Rawk” instead of “rock”
02:  re: any dance genres or artists: “taking it to the next level”
03:  She/he/they “mean(s) it, maan”
04:  so-called pop “fluff” = “inferior”
05:  Eclectic necessarily means good


1) Just looks ugly, and unlike other (often) annoying short-forms or g-droppings, serves absolutely no purpose. (Proud to say I’ve never used this.)
2) I was shocked when a writer in URB magazine — which normally pushes such nonsense — made fun of this one a year or so ago. I’m not convinced there IS a next level. (Especially proud to say I’ve never used this.)
3) Rotten wasted so much time berating McLaren for unpaid royalties and such, when really he should’ve gone after rock critics — he could’ve made himself a killing, for sure. Again, completely useless, says nothing. (I’m almost certain I’ve used this in the past, probably when writing for the college paper years ago. Thus, semi-guilty.)
4) Just dumb, and more annoying than all the others combined (because it always seems to have so much currency). (Happy to say I never believed this, either… well, for as long as I’ve been writing anyway. I was mortified several years ago to discover an old copy of a *Creem* readers poll in which I voted for ABBA and the Bee Gees as “Worst Group”! Which is strange, ’cause I honestly don’t remember giving them much of a thought at all in ’78, ’79.)
5) Totally guilty as charged, and have a hard time shaking it still. So, chop off my head and watch it roll into the basket.
HANDLE:  scott woods
CITY:  toronto

01:  The only way dance post-house music works is in clubs and/or on drugs
02:  Reviews need little bold-faced one-line prefaces because readers are too stupid to bother trying to understand what’s being written
03:  If I’ve never heard of a genre, the other writers writing about it must have just made it up–no one involved in the actual making of the music could possibly think the description fits
04:  Tasteful = good, a.k.a. the Peter Gabriel/Seal/MJ Cole rule
05:  The ’60s were the greatest despite the fact that shockingly few of the era’s vaunted masterworks outside of obvious big names really hold up that well

In no particular order
HANDLE:  Michaelangelo Matos
CITY:  Manhattan

01:  I-reference-profligately,-therefore-you-can-just-hear-it-now
02:  Aww-dacious-little-me
03:  I-read-Lester-once-&-now-I-am-him
04:  Everything-Is-Superlative-Forever
05:  Once-smarmily-hyphenated,-anything-looks-like-a-cohesive-yet-pitiably-clichéd-id

1. e.g. “This track sounds like Blowfly channeling the Shaggs while Magma chants Epic Soundtracks choruses into his ear through a tube composed of Sparks lyrics printed on Beck’s flayed skin.” Really? Thanks, that saved me having to download it.
2. e.g. “This is the crappest album since [cite herd’s consensual sacred-pseudo-virgin du jour, e.g. Pet Sounds].” Oh my nerves, somebody stop that dangerous man at the keyboard.
3. aka Ain’t I Wild? aka Drugs Entered My Skull, Rendering Thoughts Obsolescent. [Too atrociously dull to exemplify.]
4. e.g. “The Ska-pwith Camels lay down a rude beat so exuberant you’ll have to get your porkpie hat hot-riveted to your forehead to keep it on” … even though they manifestly sound like every single other ska band ever.
5. e.g. entries 1-4 above.
CITY:  Red Hook, NY


2 thoughts on “From the Archives: Five Rock Critic Clichés That Most Make Your Skin Crawl

  1. 1. This totally rocks! (And another cliche for the list.) 2. In the early post-punk ’80s everything was “quirky.” 3. Lots of funny stuff in this thread. Particularly striking, cumulatively, the sheer number of obvious rock critic cliches. Or how many I am as guilty of using as anyone. This or that -esque, etc . 4. Lots of puritanical attitudes ab pretensions and keeping it real. I think the poptimists and rockists should try to get along better. 5.Rock critics and nerdy music people need each other but put them in a room and in minutes they’re insulting each other’s sacred cows and brooding ab ways to get revenge against their tormentors; synths pseuds, 78s fetishists, etc.

  2. Hey Jack, nice to hear from you.
    Reading through these, I’m sometimes not sure what is a cliché vs. what is a pretentious or disagreeable (or stupid) idea. Interesting also how once-useful descriptions quickly become cliches when lazily applied. For me, “angular” is not an entirely useless phrase (though through thoughtless repetition — as a blanket descriptor of post-punk-like guitars — it soon enough sounded awful). But at root, the (physical) suggestion of someone playing an instrument from an odd angle — pianist Thelonious Monk or Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill — does not seem inapt. Would anyone in the art world blanch at someone describing Jackson Pollock’s work as “angular”?

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