“what even is a review?”

A formidable question, posed by Mark Sinker at Freaky Trigger, and a fetching/daunting examination of its many contours and contradictions. The surgery begins with a complaint (from a friend of Mark’s) about Nick Tosches’ review of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid in Rolling Stone, I think because Tosches seems to not address the record itself. Which leads to a trail of thought that includes Flaubert, the Grotesque … Continue reading “what even is a review?”

Just Another Moody Monday, continued

Okay, so I figure this won’t be the venue for soliciting reactions (I have no strong reaction myself, frankly, beyond mouthing what a few others have already said), but here’s a bit of what’s out there: Maura Johnston: But this is all part of a nastier trend in writing about music, one that resembles a dying yawp of a certain type of white dude who … Continue reading Just Another Moody Monday, continued

From the Archives: Richard Meltzer (2000)

My August 2000 chat with Richard Meltzer. I don’t think I got much out of Meltzer here that he hadn’t already written about or conveyed to other interviewers, but I’m glad I gave it a shot anyway. I mean, truthfully, if I’d accomplished nothing else with rockcritics.com other than the chance to talk to the author of The Aesthetics of Rock for a couple hours, I’d have been okay with that. Whether that tells you more about the scale of my ambitions here or the size and scope of Meltzer’s influence — I’ll leave that for you to figure out.

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Kicks just keep getting harder to find: Interview with Richard Meltzer 

By Scott Woods (2000)

Technically, Richard Meltzer may not have invented rock criticism–he wasn’t necessarily “there first”–but with The Aesthetics of Rock (published in ’70, written a few years before that), he took music writing on a wild philosophical goose chase (“Vast generalizations, lots of empirical meat”) that 30 years later no one’s really caught up to (or fully understood–least of all myself). The four consecutive pages (199 to 202) Meltzer devotes to Herman’s Hermits alone (a probe into the “contextually evil” “I’m Into Something Good”; citing “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” as “an analogue to Oedipus”; etc.) constitute the sort of thought processes that any curious and critical mind would be thrilled to stumble upon, and probably a little scared if they did so. I’m pretty sure I’d rather be stranded on a desert island with The Aesthetics of Rock than just about any piece of music I can think of; I know for sure I’d never get to the bottom of it regardless.

Meltzer’s new book, A Whore Just Like the Rest, is a superb, 600-page anthology of his music writing, from an early, wigged-out piece on Jimi Hendrix in 1967, to 1998’s monumental-in-every-way “Vinyl Reckoning,” a huge up-yours to some former colleagues, and a passionate where-the-hell-am-I personal statement: “A tougher question than Am I a rockwriter? Was I ever a rockwriter? (Do I even really qualify?) (Am I ‘overqualified’?).” Um, probably?

Wednesday, July 12, two thousand zero-zero, I talked to Richard Meltzer on the phone, he in Portland, me in Toronto, 11:30 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. (Aside from the cheaper Bell charge after 11:00, it only seemed right to talk to Meltzer at night.) My prepared questions weren’t that interesting, but he was gracious and kind (dare I say, surprisingly so?) and put up with me anyway.

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Scott:   I wanted to start by asking you what you were like in high school?
Richard:    What I was like in high school? Uh, I was a four-eyed shorty with a flat-top…

Scott:   Talk about it in terms of social groups –did you fit in? Did you have many friends?
Richard:    Uh, I didn’t fit in, but I wouldn’t say that anybody — uh, there was probably a small elite that had what you would call a successful social life, but they were clearly a minority. I mean, I would say that most people I knew were thoroughly miserable. But there was no bonding in that — everybody was sort of un-AFFILIATEDLY miserable.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Richard Meltzer (2000)”

Juan Rodriguez’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Life

I can’t say I’m familiar with the writing of Montreal Gazette rock critic, Juan Rodriguez, but the paper is currently giving him more-than-ample space to reflect on his life as a rock writer, for which, in the shrinking-word-count world in which we live in, they should certainly be commended. Juan Rodriguez’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Life is a seven-part series running in the Gazette between now … Continue reading Juan Rodriguez’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Life


You may have heard that Richard Meltzer has a new album out, a collaboration with Mike Watt and Japanese avant-pop ensemble Cornelius, called Spielgusher. A few items of note here: – a cool podcast interview with Meltzer at IconFetch.com (about Spielgusher, but also about Richard Meltzer and rock criticism generally). – Mike Watt on his own site has posted “meltzer lyrics for planned minutemen collaboration” … Continue reading Spielgusher

Meltzer’s Night at the Opera

In this brief review of the Ellen Willis anthology, Brian Joseph Davis writes: “When Richard Meltzer, a one-time student of Allan Krapow, invented rock criticism as an art prank — applying the jargon of aesthetics usually reserved for the Met Opera to a review of The White Album –— he was only half joking. The serious part of his game, that pop music was a … Continue reading Meltzer’s Night at the Opera

More Books About Buildings

Woah, did a little more scouring around after my last comments-reply (here), and found this: Reading L.A.: Richard Meltzer tracks down the ugly (Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times) Sample: “There’s a seen-it-all informality to the writing, and an impatient, galloping pace — Meltzer’s gift for inventing new contractions is impressive — but his task here is, well, nothing short of monumental: To take on the … Continue reading More Books About Buildings

How Do You Talk About Music, Anyway?

“The whole analysis-of-music bit sort of calls for the use of a pack of words to tack onto a pack of sounds juxtaposed with another pack of words. Every creep who has ever bothered with that has to groove on how silly, in the good sense, the whole operation has to be. How do you talk about music, anyway, particularly when…” – Richard Meltzer, The … Continue reading How Do You Talk About Music, Anyway?