“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?”

“Wenners and Losers”

Jessica Hopper reviews Joe Hagan’s Jann Wenner bio in Bookforum: “Sticky Fingers opens with the sort of scene that becomes its defining feature: Jann Wenner sells someone out, transacting on a relationship for whatever gain could be exacted. We meet Wenner as he is poisoning his friendship with no less than John Lennon, betraying Lennon’s trust for a $40,000 book advance. This is grimglorious rock … Continue reading “Wenners and Losers”

Just Another Rolling Stone Top 500 List?

Well, sort of. Rolling Stone’s 500 Worst Reviews of All Time, a “work in progress” by someone named “schmidtt,” showed up recently on my Facebook feed, and though I instantly assumed it was something I wanted nothing to do with — and it is still something I will not likely ever find time to read in its entirety — it’s not an entirely unenjoyable ride. … Continue reading Just Another Rolling Stone Top 500 List?

From the Archives: Steven Rosen (2003)

Steven Rosen gets his byline on By Steven Ward (September 2003) Veteran rock writer Steven Rosen has been traveling with musicians and profiling them–mostly guitarists–since the early ’70s. He has written for just about every rock publication under the sun. Here, Rosen reflects on five magazines that stand out to him. Rolling Stone Maybe the crowning jewel in my literary kingdom. I pitched them a story on Bad … Continue reading From the Archives: Steven Rosen (2003)

Flipping Channels with Bob

“One of the best music videos of 2013 belongs to a 48-year-old song. The interactive video for Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ released yesterday, is a tour de force: as the music plays, you can flip between sixteen channels of simulated TV programming. But whether you’re watching a financial news update, a romantic comedy, or a tennis tournament, it looks authentic except that everyone … Continue reading Flipping Channels with Bob

There is little

Critical language has for the most part been borrowed from other fields — few writers have been able to shake their liberal arts educations. The few new terms (tight, together, heavy) are vague and undiscriminating. A rock erudition has been established, and writers talk casually of ‘influences’ and ‘development,’ but it is all very distant. There are more reviewers, whose main function is commercial, than … Continue reading There is little

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

rush-rs-guide
Mark Coleman and Ernesto Lechner, The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, 2004

Continue reading “Critical Collage: Rush vs. the Critics”

Someone With a True Grasp of the Reality

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