Critical Collage: Rush vs. the Critics

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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Creem, June 1981

“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

Mark Coleman and Ernesto Lechner, The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, 2004

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Return of the ‘R’

In 1981 Soho Weekly News columnist Kaplan covered the London debut of Hoboken’s jumpy, innocuous Bongos, who were slammed in NME, he reported, for calling themselves ‘rock ‘n’ roll’: ‘The term is currently out of vogue in English new wave circles because it conjures up overbearing macho attitudes.’ This was the first wave of the U.K.’s ridiculous anti-‘rockism’ campaign… – Robert Christgau, “They Don’t Want … Continue reading Return of the ‘R’

Favourite Music Reads of the ’00s: #17 (Anti-youknowwhatists)

“My problem [with the word ‘rockism’] is more personal: I can’t tell if I’m a rockist or not, or whether a lot of other rock critics are rockists or not (Dave Marsh, Greil Marcus, Richard Meltzer, Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, Chuck Eddy), and I think the confusion is in the concept, not in me. My problem with the antirockists was their tendency to externalize ‘rockism’ … Continue reading Favourite Music Reads of the ’00s: #17 (Anti-youknowwhatists)

Favourite Music Reads of the ’00s: #16 (The ‘R’ Word)

“Rockism isn’t unrelated to older, more familiar prejudices – that’s part of why it’s so powerful, and so worth arguing about. The pop star, the disco diva, the lip-syncher, the ‘awesomely bad’ hit maker: could it really be a coincidence that rockist complaints often pit straight white men against the rest of the world? Like the anti-disco backlash of 25 years ago, the current rockist … Continue reading Favourite Music Reads of the ’00s: #16 (The ‘R’ Word)

Bookshelf #14


Hmm, where were we again?

98. Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll (Bob Shannon and John Javna) – More or less as advertised. Back stories on some 200 or so chart songs, divided into such topics as “Accidental Hits,” “Real People” (i.e., “Layla,” Hey Jude,” et al.), “Weird Inspirations,” “Translated Hits” (i.e.,”The Lion Sleeps Tonight”), etc. etc. Well thought out and the songs are diverse and smartly chosen, from “Johnny B. Goode” to “Dead Skunk” to “Like a Virgin.” Purchased for $4, don’t recall when or where, and no, I haven’t read it from start to finish and probably won’t. But I’m glad it’s here.

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Weekend links roundup

Robert Christgau slums it blogs and throws in his three cents about Pazz & Jop vs. Idolator: “I really don’t have a horse in this race. I like Idolator and have no love for the guys who fired me, and of course there would be a certain schadenfreude in seeing PJ fail without me–I resist it, but it’s there.” Marshall McLuhan blasts the Ford-Carter debate: … Continue reading Weekend links roundup

Rockcritics Music Blogger Symposium

Blabbin’ the Night Away: The Music Blogger Symposium

By Scott Woods

The idea to bring a few music critics together–virtually speaking, that is–to answer some questions about blogging was borne less out of unbridled enthusiasm for the medium than it was out of a mild but growing disenchantment. If it seems a bit premature to declare music blogs dead-in-the-water, it has nonetheless felt in the last couple years like the initial flurry of excitement across the you-know-what-o-sphere has diminished somewhat. Not to suggest that interesting arguments and lively discussions don’t still erupt every now and again. Or that the obsessive-esoteric pursuits of certain bloggers aren’t sometimes fascinating in and of themselves. Or that there is a single newsstand music ‘zine today even half as engaging as the most inane online chatter. But something, and I don’t know what exactly, has shifted on the ground–and not, in my opinion, in the best possible direction. Hence this symposium.

Perhaps it was inevitable that music blogs, after the initial buzz and howl phase (look ma, no word count!) would settle into a deeper, less noisy groove, but too often the settling in has felt like a retreat into the corner. (From a guy who’s abandoned more blogs than he has fingers, trust me, this is not an admonishment so much as a lament.) Like I said, good, interesting things still happen in those corners, even if it does kinda resemble a high school dance, with participants in the various corners of the room doing little more than nodding at (if not altogether avoiding) one another. Or as David Moore from Cure for Bedbugs puts it, “For some reason a kind of individualist mindset has really taken hold in music blogs, like we’re just here to watch the madmen and women raving from a polite distance.”

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