Sunday, July 26, 2009

Random stuff ...

As anyone who regularly reads this site would know, I'm not the sort of person who callously nitpicks reviews and reviewers, but:

1. Full disclosure: I haven't heard the new Fiery Furnaces album, and I don't consider myself a fan of the band.

2. It's fairly well known that the reviewer is a huge mark for Fiery Furnaces

3. Knowing #2, this website gave the reviewer a platform for fawning over one of his favourite bands. Now hang on a minute, I'm certainly not saying that critics shouldn't be assigned reviews by bands they like. Naturally, you'd expect that a band's fans would excel at describing what makes that band's music so great, and you'd also expect that a critic (who also happens to be a big fan) would excel at communicating this in a balanced and sober way without having the review come off as a piece of fan fiction. There are a million good reviews of this sort, for example, check out this review of Depeche Mode's most recent album. But there's nothing ressembling actual criticism in this FF piece, it's all "nakedly emotional" this and "brilliantly crafted" that, the boring old knee-jerk "this album doesn't sound like the band's past work ... it's because they made a progression" intro meme (Band Makes Progression From Their Last Album -- Film at 11 ... such hard-hitting, insightful music criticism), one OTT compliment after another, strained attempts to canonize the band's work through desparate comparisons to the best work of Bob Dylan and Elton John, and downright batshit claims such as "Eleanor's vocal cadences are as distinct and unmistakable as anyone in contemporary pop this side of Snoop Dogg and Lil' Wayne" (shielding the band's uber-indie scenester rep behind sacred contemporary chart icons -- "look you guys, don't hate on this album, I like rap music too!").

4. In light of #3, the album earns 7.8/10. People (rightfully) complain about readers paying too much attention to number/letter/star grades in music reviews, at the the expense of reading what the critic actually had to say about the album. Here, we have the reviewer going out of his way to say great things about the album, only to have a completely unremarkable 7.8 attached to it, which just reeks of the editorial stench of "some people might ridicule us if we give yet another good grade to yet another album of college kid indie wankery, especially considering to whom we assigned this review, and besides, we only bust out the 9.4's for up-and-coming bands because we might want to take credit for breaking those bands six months after the fact. Except that we certainly don't want people to think that we're hating on FF because that sort of band is our bread and butter, so let's compromise -- 7.8/10."

The story behind the "true" inventor of the iPod has been getting some play (hat tip to RA), and it's worth a read as long as you ignore certain gaps in the logic (e.g. Apple shielded themselves from a patent infringement suit by "admitting" that a third party (NOT Apple themselves) invented the iPod ... huh?) but you hardly expect the tabloid-y Daily Mail to legally and factually precise in a story such as this. Especially when the story claims that Kramer is one step away from the poor house but still makes a point of shilling his latest super-duper-gonna-change-the-fabric-of-the-universe invention. But hey, that 30-year old drawing (if real and not some sort of garbage-y fake) does look a heck of a lot like a real iPod ...

Read this interview with DJ Poontz, you'll thank me later. You might dismiss this as high school toilet humour that completely fails in its supposed purpose (i.e. to make you want to hear his music), and I wouldn't argue too strenuously against that viewpoint. But I'd rather read more interviews like these than any more theoretical eyesores like the lauded Kode 9 interview from the Wire, whose micro-detailed, analytical trip through the tiniest minutiae seems to just suck all the fun out of music making and music listening. (I have never understood the appeal of this sort of theoretical treatment, or why genres like dubstep and grime are magnets for that sort of thinking and writing).

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