In truth, by criticising pop music NME are merely biting the hand that feeds them. Pop music as every person who’s gone from clutching a copy of Madonna’s Immaculate Collection to owning Sonic Youth’s Dirty can attest, is a gateway drug. Once you’re hooked by that excitement, that buzz and that joy of being fan you can go either way: maybe you’ll experiment, check out … Continue reading Buzz and Joy under the influence of
In the early 1970s certain journalists described James Brown’s music as boring. The reason they did so was because they were white and couldn’t see beyond their own stunted notions of what constitutes skill, intelligence, radicalism or social effect. They really believed that playing a 9th chord for 10 minutes was less intelligent than playing in odd time signatures for 40 minutes. The problem was … Continue reading Stunted notions
A by no means comprehensive or conclusive survey of a Canadian power trio who once upon a time (much less so now) got under the skins of more rock critics than any other rock or pop artist going.
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“For the record, those three are drummer Neil Peart, who writes all the band’s lyrics and takes fewer solos than might be expected; guitarist Alex Lifeson, whose mile-a-minute buzzing is more numbing than exciting; and bassist, keyboardist and singer Geddy Lee, whose amazingly high-pitched wailing often sounds like Mr. Bill singing heavy metal. If only Mr. Sluggo had been on hand to give these guys a couple good whacks…”
– Steve Pond, review of Rush live in Los Angeles, Rolling Stone, 1980
Geddy Lee’s high-register vocal style has always been a signature of the band – and sometimes a focal point for criticism, especially during the early years of Rush’s career when Lee’s vocals were high-pitched, with a strong likeness to other singers like Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. A review in the New York Times opined that Lee’s voice ‘suggests a munchkin giving a sermon.’ Although his voice has softened over the years, it is often described as a ‘wail.’ His instrumental abilities, on the other hand, are rarely criticized.
– Wikipedia entry on Rush
I have been a professional rock critic, more or less, for 15 years, and as such my friends and family naturally assumed I would be “music-training” my son from birth, regaling him with Sonic Youth and Sun Ra and Ghostface Killah from an early age so as to make him The Coolest Baby on the Planet. Not for him, the scourge of Raffi. But I … Continue reading Kid Rock
But I hedged my bet right from the beginning too, and kept my day job at the welfare department all the way through, as I was a family man and it provided regular income and medical coverage, etc. That job also gave me another kind of coverage, as a rock critic, as since my writing didn’t furnish my primary income, I could be very choosy … Continue reading Nina Hagen vs. Journey
But sometimes you get the real thing, as with James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Like Chinese Democracy and Vineland, Finnegans Wake took 17 years, as everybody wondered how Joyce could follow a masterpiece like Ulysses. The Wake inspired a book of critical essays before it even came out, based on the “Work in Progress” fragments he published in lit mags. But when the Wake arrived, the … Continue reading James Joyce’s Bloomin’ Valentine
The important thing about Musician magazine is that it is named Musician magazine. It is not named Music magazine. It is not named Sociology magazine. It is not named Popular Culture, Politics and Anything Else the Editor Likes magazine. And it is certainly not named Critical Theory magazine. Why? Because musicians are interesting and everything else is boring. Well, okay. Music is intensely interesting when … Continue reading The Name Game
Well, I don’t listen to [gangsta rap] a lot, because my car speakers aren’t big enough, but I do listen to it, because I love it when people redeem the vernacular. I love the prosody — those physical, classical cadences. Jesus, I heard something the other day and the weighted syllables just marched along. They were positively Virgilian—like Latin hexameters, you know. Bang! Bang! Bang! … Continue reading The Heartbreak of Crazy Hormones
There’s no one to tell the adults in the language of the adults what’s happening. The only writer who comes close is Ralph Gleason in the San Francisco Chronicle. He’s been in the territory long enough so that he never says ‘pop culture.’ You won’t find any maps to that land in The New York Review of Books or Kenyon Review or Partisan Review. (Well, … Continue reading Outside Looking In
Many thanks for Ralph Gleason’s review of Albert Goldman’s Ladies and Gentlemen, Lenny Bruce… I didn’t know Lenny Bruce… but I am acquainted with Albert Goldman and his ambition to stake out a monopoly position for himself in a culture of which he is no more a part than I am; and I have been hoping that someone with a true grasp of the reality … Continue reading Someone With a True Grasp of the Reality