Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Applied Music Criticism

It seems a day doesn’t go by without seeing the crying need for some real music criticism. In the Globe and Mail, for example, there was an article  by their supposed music critic Robert Everett-Green (who used to write about classical music primarily) citing “five new songs worth a listen”. Ok, let’s give them a listen.

  1. The first one sounds like the Chipmunks accompanying someone singing clumsily in English who doesn’t actually speak English. (Our luv ist all arund uz!) It’s a joke, right? Yes, I know it’s Björk, but I just call it as I hear it.
  2.  Everett-Green calls this enormous and shaggy and that it is. But he seems to think that’s a compliment. A fairly dull rock song interrupted after two minutes by swirling pointlessness à la Pink Floyd, circa 1969. Then after a couple more minutes, we have a new song. Interrupted by pointless rumblings in the piano. At the 7 ½ minute mark we have another section this one with thrashy guitar and cookie monster vocals: it’s Metallica! These folks have a serious identity problem. And they have no idea how to structure a song. Next!
  3. This one is not nearly as annoying as the first two! True, while they seem to mean well, actually creating a melody seems beyond them as is being able to come up with a coherent chord progression—the harmonies seem always to be on the verge of a cliché, without ever quite managing it. Think of them as Radiohead, diluted.
  4. Ladytron. I think Everett-Green mistook a ‘trailer’, i.e. an ad for an upcoming album, for an actual song. Be that as it may, this sounds like the Eurhythmics minus Annie Lennox, or any good musical ideas. But let’s give the group the benefit of the doubt and just say it’s not meant to be an actual, y’know, song.
  5. This sounds almost interesting—it is certainly tighter and more consistent writing. I wonder if the animation isn’t more interesting than the song, though? Finally one worth a listen!

See, here’s the problem with talk about music in the mass media. There is never any criticism, it’s all, gee, listen to this. A much more useful exercise than this one would be “Five Amazingly Bad Songs and Here’s Why”. But I have to say that Everett-Green’s comments are quite entertaining: “freaky and cuddly”, “unremittingly oblique lyrics”, “enormous and shaggy” –you just don’t get quality observations like that in most music writing.

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