How NOT to write about music – 33. Muse


God, I hate Muse.

Everything flash, shallow and opportune about music, overwrought and over-burdened with portentousness, rock music for boys who are no longer young but refuse to accept the fact performed by boys who are no longer young but still refuse to accept the fact and paraded as some form of “look how serious and earnest we are about music” when in reality Muse are flimsier, more crass and meaningless than an amalgam of shit identikit 2018 pop featuring Chainsmokers and Clean Bandit and that dick Calvin Harris. Schoolyard symbolism that wasn’t even big or clever when it was in the schoolyard. There’s no value, no frenzy, no meaning. Mock-anger paraded on the biggest stages of the land, like Green Day given a hefty dosage of prog theatrics and pop-up posturing, shit shit shit. God, I hate Muse. All the dullest bits of all the dullest parts of histrionic rock vocalising, coupled with all the dullest bits of prog and glam and cheeseboard guitar – and man there have been plenty – coupled with all the yawning chasms of imagination Pink Floyd have traded in ever since they dropped ‘songs’ from their repertoire, coupled with all the very dullest parts of retro 1980s electronica and retro 1980s rock posturing – and man there have been plenty – coupled with all the dullest parts of life. WHY IS IT THAT ALL THESE CUNTS INSIST ON SOUNDING EXACTLY LIKE EACH OTHER? The animals looked from pig to man, from man to pig, from Thom Yorke to Chris Martin to Matt Bellamy, and there is no way of telling them apart. God, I hate Muse. Where are you from ? Waitrose. Singing in a strained falsetto does not make you special or soulful it just means you sing in strained falsetto. The term space rock does not actually apply to their music: there is none of the mind-altering imaginings of Sun Ra or Alice Coltrane (who surely own the term), but a very earthbound reliance on tried tropes and even more tired production values. The Jonas Brothers of the rock world, Emerson Lake and Palmer without the musical flamboyance (and they didn’t even have any of that), an entire phalanx of shit for a generation bamboozled into thinking histrionic and flatulent means searching and imaginative instead of constipated and shit. God, I hate Muse. Dull as the bands that they so blatantly rip-off; in another age they’d have been called the Teignmouth Radiohead and reduced to a living eked out playing beered-up pubs full of lairy lads shouting “play fucking ‘Creep’ you wankers, not the pretentious shit”, indie buskers who unaccountably made it big. Musical theatre for people who have no idea how thrilling musical theatre can be. As people they seem remarkably inoffensive and well-meaning but that makes me hate them even more. As someone rightly once put it, “A band who if they weren’t famous would be assistant managers at branches of Subway in Rotherham, Wrexham and Dudley respectively”. Seven-minute guitar solos are not big. They’re not clever. They are seven-minute guitar solos. Like Dobby if he was given a rock band to play with. Bombastic, whiny, gross. God, I hate Muse. They were (sort of) OK when they were 16 because at least it was explainable then. They are not 16 now, not vaguely. They’re not Queen either. They’re not shit in the Smashing Pumpkins sense of the word but they sure as fuck ain’t Ariana. I feel so unclean.

Fun though – right? No.

This description is brilliant:

“Muse are for people whose political beliefs were formed by Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’. They’re for people who cite vaping as a sport. They’re for people who still fall out with their friends for not including them in their MySpace Top 8. They have ‘jet fuel can’t melt steel beams’ tattooed down their forearm. They wear black vests with tribal designs on them. If you were to ask Matt Bellamy who he hated most in this world it would either be George W. Bush or his Mum for grounding him after she caught him kissing a poster of Robocop.”

How NOT to write about music – 32. Big Joanie


I am not on one side or another here.

I hear something, I like it, I want to share it and, if I can help promote it and perhaps validate it along the way (not that these ladies need my validation, for sure) then that is a looked-for bonus. Incurious, I flick through Facebook and note that a couple of friends (ones whose taste I rate) are thinking of checking out London feminist punk band Big Joanie when they play at The Albert in Brighton in a couple of weeks time. Nice, nice, nice. Been meaning to listen to the ladies again for a while now, so I listen…

Nice nice nice.

Note, while I’m reading up on stuff, that the ladies have an album out The Quietus likes (something about reclamation of space and silence, a cursory comparison to The Breeders, stripped-back sound and a variety of apposite socio-political references). Note that, as ever, The Quietus reviewer is determined to go on for at least 300 words too long but the review does make me decide to listen to Big Joanie’s new songs.

Nice nice nice, but decide I fractionally prefer the production on the old songs more. Prefer them (a little) more when the guitar sound reminds me of The Petticoats. I do like the way the YouTube algorithms take me immediately on to Hole (first time), Solange (second time), Beyoncé (third time) and Skinny Girl Diet (fourth time) following this song.

Nice, nice nice. Resolve to go out to the Brighton show especially as they have a very interesting support act – and then note the day of the Brighton show. Monday. Damn it. The one evening I cannot make. Damn. Resolve instead that I should mention this show and this band on this blog and then wonder if I’ve done enough.

Well, have I?

10 Most Read Entries on How NOT To Write About Music

Wolf Alice 1

1. How NOT to write about music – 27. Television Personalities
I have been aware for as long as I can recall that music has provided me with a sense of belonging, a sense of community and sharing, give and take. And if that no longer exists then surely that is my fault and no more and no less than I deserve. Music scorns me like a former lover. Back when I knew Alan McGee and Dan Treacy in the early 1980s the music provided a palpable sense of belonging, clubs like (Alan’s) Living Room at the Adams Arms and (Dan and Emily’s) Room At The Top (Chalk Farm Enterprise) providing a living community of outsiders, bloaters, the braggarts and the bullies, the shy and the emotional, the Sixties obsessed guitar freaks and the psychedelic losers. Alan gave me Dan, Dan gave me Marine Girls and so much inspiration in his own personal, heart-torn songs – no separation between performance and performer, much as Dan attempted to insert some. Amazing fucking pop songs.

2. How NOT to write about music – 26. Kristin Hersh
I want to write about Kristin’s new album but the music keeps intruding, in a way music rarely – if ever – does when I am attempting to write about it. Full immersion. The way the music and guitar lollops and loops and curves, and throws off sunshine and charm (NB: stolen from press release), the way her voice sounds wise beyond understanding, the way a pink birthing ball is resting over there by the torn-out fireplace, the shallowness of my breathing, the tears splattered across my car’s windscreen… I find myself unequal to the task. She’s not.

3. WORLD EXCLUSIVE! Live review of ‘fake’ metal band THREATIN at Camden Underworld
Surely, this is of interest? We were there. “Three people show up and one of them’s a music journalist! Jammy bastard! What are the chances of that?” Quite high, actually. It’s what we do. As keen metal fans here at How NOT To Write About Music, we posted this report a couple of days ago – but no one paid attention. So here it is again: whether the band is ‘real’ or not is not of importance to us here at How NOT To Write About Music. To us, they were real when they played. What is far more important is the question: does the band rock? And trust us, like you’ve never trusted a music critic before: this band… well, read for yourselves.

4. How NOT to write about music – 25. Salad
Where are we now? This is silly-good catchy. This is Elastica good. Also, it reminds me of my long-term Worthing sweethearts La Mômo… and that makes me happy. Don’t know why the following is only a short preview, but why the fuck not. First new stuff since 1997 apparently, but … uh … not that I’d know it. So catchy I wanna go back and listen to the old shit, see if I did miss something first time round.

5. Everett True’s 10 favourite albums of all time* … and one that changed his life
This is reprinted from my Brisbane website Collapse Board, originally written for an Australian publication that never ran with the article. My original intro pretty much covers it – to this list of omissions I would now add most obviously Beyoncé (Lemonade, duh), but also St Vincent, some gospel (this, for instance), Blind Blake, Metal Box (PiL), more ska and bluebeat for sure, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and dub reggae circa late 1970s, Talking Heads, Undertones, Tunabunny, Little Mix, some female grime (this, for instance – or this), my own stuff, Miley Cyrus (seriously), The Cramps, The Saints, The Go-Betweens (but also this!), The Roches’ first two, Daniel Johnston and so forth.

6. How NOT to write about music – 6. Wolf Alice
Wolf Alice remind me of two favourites from the early 2000s – Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia and Life Without Buildings. With some Northern Gothic leanings and bog-standard indie guitars thrown in, obv.

7. How NOT to write about music – 31. Mumford & Sons
Mumford & Sons is shit, Cath Kitson folk shit, Occado Levellers shit. Shout it from the tops of night buses and at office parties. Waistcoat-bothering, fake folk dinner party shit. Slumming shit. Tweed clad, Morris-dancing jizz wizard shit. Tripe shit that needs to be sellotaped to a Frisbee and thrown into a fire shit. Mumford & Sons is shit. They make Bono sound restrained. They make Billy Corgan shine with integrity, Ed Sheeran shine with an inner fire, Trump dance the media with rascal grace. They put the grey into perspective.

8. How NOT to write about music – 11. Tracyanne & Danny
The Tracyanne & Danny album is one of my most played this year and it has soundtracked many a solitary train journey and rushed car ride, many an empty afternoon spent wasting away in the depths of loneliness in Haywards Heath, the overwhelming emotion being one of shock. Not awe. Just shock, delayed reaction. Other people have their Ed Sheerans and Red House Painters and that is fine. Bless them. This is not what I look for in music, not when I seek solace and reassurance and some form of comfort. I am looking for voices that can transport me out of this mess, this delayed shock – pure and open and laden with understanding. Voices that understand the secret history of The Pastels. I am looking for Tracyanne & Danny. Both singers, all their songs.

9. How NOT to write about music – 9. Amyl and the Sniffers
Watching Amyl and the Sniffers at The Windmill in Brixton yesterday evening is what I imagine it must have been like going to CBGBs in ’75. Not that there’s anything four decades old about Amyl and the Sniffers. Not even vaguely.

10. How NOT to write about music – 8. The Breeders
Hunched over in my tiny own personal space on the 7.47 to Clapham Junction, eyes closed, trying to ignore the brutish commuters walking in desperate search of a seat banging into my tucked-in elbows and nearly upsetting my flask of homemade coffee, headphones wrapped tight round my head, hunched in more, trying make myself so small as to be invisible, retreating further and further inside, so wanting to create a tiny inviolate bubble, I make the decision to play the last Breeders album on my crappy iPhone (battery lasts 30 minutes max). This is a big moment for me. Back in April, a day before my birthday, I wrote a blog entry for The Friendly Critic that I later turned into a song and performed several times on stage, about how I found myself unable to listen to the new Breeders album, how listening to the new Breeders album upset me, how the very idea of being upset by listening to a Breeders album upset me, and how…

How NOT to write about music – 31. Mumford & Sons


“Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” (George Orwell, Animal Farm)

You may interpret the above quote as a commentary on the corrupting influence of power upon those who seek to exert it, but I have always viewed it as a metaphor for conformity, for the unchanging status quo, for the way that the more (music and) society changes the more (music and) society stays the same (with a hefty boot of extra nastiness thrown in for good measure). My favourite part of the quote is the three words at the start of the closing sentence (“The creatures outside…”).

I have heard songs by U2, Mumford & Sons, Kings Of Leon and Coldplay in recent days on Radio One and found myself unable to distinguish between them.*

Doubtless, if I decided to suspend my critical aesthetic for a moment and could view myself as a fan of any of these bands, then I would be able to pick up on the minutiae and tiny changes in guitar and vocal sound that separates one from another.

Not being a fan, I find myself unable to.

Doubtless, the pigs and men seated around the table quaffing and having it large on the back of the animals’ labour view themselves as individual entities, each with their own distinct idioms and quirks. Their self-illusion is irrelevant to both me and the animals however, faces pressed up close against the glass, vision clouded by smoky condensation. The four bands are impossible to tell apart – not just because of the production, music and overwrought vocals – but also due to their bombastic, narcissistic, flatulent, diarrheic sweep of emotion, their astonishing lack of empathy. Pigs and men braying together.


Mumford & Sons is shit.

Do not believe the hype. Do never believe the hype. My life over the last decade has been swamped with people spouting crap like “I don’t want to say Mumford & Sons is shit because it ain’t up to me to tell others how to live their lives”. No. I lie. Mumford & Sons are like the folk-rock equivalent of Nickelback: NOT ONE PERSON WILL STAND UP TO DEFEND THEM. Damn straight. Some shit is so shit, pallid, fake (spiffing, waddling, arrogant, talentless, entitled, cancerous) that not even the most benighted benevolent generous hapless hipster can be seen to be leaping to the rich fucktards’ defence. It’d be like speaking up for Jacob Rees-Mogg at a convention of actual people, defending fracking. Say it loud, say it clear, scream yourself hoarse so even the fuckwads controlling this nation’s media cannot misconstrue it: MUMOFRD & SSONS IS HSHIT

I can’t even fucmking type straight thery’re so fuckghubngh sghit.

They’re a beardy bland comfort zone for people with no meaning in their lives, and no expectations beyond the promise of a new M&S advert come Christmas time, a predigested retro sweep of mawkish sentimentality and cultural appropriation emotion whose primary concern is not HOPE but… nothing. Less than nothing. Shit. Less than nothing. Shit. Mumford & Sons is shit. You don’t need to be a Harvard Scholar in semantics and political rhetoric to theorise this, you do not need to be a marketed-to sheep stuck inside with your collection of Netflix downloads and Instagram selfies to say this. You don’t need to be a crow, you don’t need to be powerless. Mumford & Sons is shit. You do not need to listen to their music – in fact, DO NOT listen to their fucking music – to say this, or listen to stadium after stadium of their increasingly pitiful fans, just read the apoplectic commentary from those who think they’re Making A Statement by coming out against them, the yawning insipid praise from those whose idea of a varied and worldly musical taste means including a Bumford & Cunts song on their playlist of Coldplay, U2, Kings Of Leon and all the other pig-shit bombastic music.

Look at the way they look. Not so much rock stars as an exercise in self-containment (how many times can you look at a picture of those smug Tory cunts, before you go punch a wall?). Mumford & Sons is shit. How many times do I need to say this before you start listening? Hey, why not start listening? Just cos you’ve only heard a handful of songs in your life does not mean that no alternatives exist. Mumford & Sons is shit. Do not be scared of the crowd. The crowd is wrong, often. Mumford & Sons is shit. The idea of listening to their music drives me to extremes of… jesus. Whatever. Mumford & Sons is shit, Cath Kitson folk shit, Occado Levellers shit. Shout it from the tops of night buses and at office parties. Waistcoat-bothering, fake folk dinner party shit. Slumming shit. Tweed clad, Morris-dancing jizz wizard shit. Tripe shit that needs to be sellotaped to a Frisbee and thrown into a fire shit. Mumford & Sons is shit. They make Bono sound restrained. They make Billy Corgan shine with integrity, Ed Sheeran shine with an inner fire, Trump dance the media with rascal grace. They put the grey into perspective.

Mumford & Sons is shit. Bullshit. They are the shit in the middle of the bullshit. Their emotion is not theirs. It’s empty, big washes of guitar-driven bombastic shit. Mumford & Sons is shit. The smuggest toddlers in a romper room crammed full of vacuous Tory bastards and the entitled rich. Useless shit that pervades the world with the smell of uncritical acceptance. Smiley shit. Bouncy shit. Bearded shit. Mumford & Sons is shit. They are one more commodity, just one more commodity. Shit. Less than nothing. Shit. Lifestyle choice for the folk who think life has no need of choice. Shit. An approximation of music that does not bother to capture the spark that makes music so magical, so special. An approximation of an approximation. The boys from the rich town up on the hill three counties over with a bottomless trust fund and an entire trailer van full of mummy’s silver spoons.

… of an approximation.

I eat at home. My nights are filled with anger and (occasionally) children. Mumford & Sons is shit. And that shit is everywhere.


Don’t click on the video. You will not like it. It will not enhance your life. The song is a meaningless mishmash of flimflam and mawkish emotion, with all the obvious dynamics in all the obvious places. Click on the link beneath the video instead.

LINK: Neil Kulkarni on Mumford & Sons

*Entirely true.

How NOT to write about music – 30. Harry Styles

Harry Styles

The way I discover music has changed, radically.

This in turn reflects upon the music I choose to listen to. My children insist on listening to Radio One on the way to and from Brighton, and in between school runs, and I in turn enjoy listening with my children as they interact occasionally with the DJs (Greg James and Nick Grimshaw, for the most part – I still have no idea what either looks like) and sometimes pass judgment on the tunes. In this context, when a song stands out – Nadia Rose, Jorja Smith, The 1975, Isaac Gracie, George Ezra, Ariana Grande, Eminem – it feels amplified, like it’s cutting through a great swathe of wheat and flimflam. Likewise, teaching students: I prefer (for many reasons) to discover their tastes in class (rather than rely on mine as many teachers do) and – universally, it seems – their tastes are both more mainstream and ‘heritage’ (retro) than mine most commonly have been. I say “than mine”, but the process of enjoying and appreciating music is indelibly linked with social and cultural circumstance – and so, my musical listening habits have changed. As to my ‘taste’, well…

I had a 20-minute conversation with one of my co-workers yesterday about my passion for Ariana Grande, followed by a day of discovery (particularly enjoying her take on Christina on this). Ariana is wonderful, and I suspect that whatever my current social circumstance I would have come around to her – if only for her reactions on a performance like this – her beguiling mix of fragility, sexuality and expression. My point is this: by favouring pop music I am not attempting to reclaim a youth I never experienced or to be a stereotypical heteronormative middle-aged man lusting after the forbidden. My taste reflects my surroundings.

Hence, exhibit A today – Harry Styles. I was way unimpressed when some of my Solent students tried to convince me of his value as a solo performer following the break-up of One Direction: Coldplay has never struck me as a band worth emulating and that big ‘serious’ song of his was yet another obvious rip of The Hollies or Korgis or whatever the fuck it was. I can’t be bothered to go back and look. (It was the latter.)

The below attempt to ingratiate himself in with the rock fraternity and ‘serious’ popular music commentators (fuck them) mostly works however, despite being too reverential. (In other words: I LIKE IT!) The reason it works though is interesting. Nothing to do with Styles (or very little). Everything to do with the vocal and instrumental contributions of his keyboard-player Clare Ushima, and in particular drummer Sarah Jones.

Check Sarah Jones out. Why does it not surprise me that she has her own way cool musical projects?


How NOT to write about music – 29. Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande

You’re not going to like me liking this.

You’re not going to like me liking this, seriously liking this like I think it’s one of my favourite two or three songs of 2018 easy, its grace and pace and sense of occasion, its yonic-centric video and smoothly provocative (yet not so) imagery, the way it seizes the moment – this moment – so beautifully, Ariana’s voice & its trills & tricks & joy of expression pushing at boundaries, her glam boots, the heteronormative yet oddly transgressive representation contained within her lyricism and visual imagery, the sweet R&B looping & stops & starts, the whoa-whoa-ah, the use of dynamics, her public image, her private image, the way she has toppled her fellow pop icons so gracefully yet so completely since the horror of the Manchester attack and the coming together of #onelove, the whoa-who-ah, the fact I can believe in her as a celebrity/religious figure because she is so believable and seemingly harmless (heteronormative, remember?) but simultaneously not so, the way she speaks up for female solidarity, the actual title of this song & its laughter at stereotypical patriarchy & yet it’s only a fucking pop song (right?), the whoa-whoa-ah, the pacing, her vulnerability, the way she plays to her fragility and turns it into a strength, her strength, the slow build, the carnal rampant sexuality, her boots, the way she is defining an entire generation, I have no idea whether for good or not, the way she laughs in the middle of this, my song of 2017 (that alone makes this performance special, near-transcendent), the way she stumbles and laughs at herself in the middle of this (that alone makes this performance special, near-transcendent), the whoa-whoa-ah, the way she’s so operating at the top of her game right now (as evidenced by her two recent singles), so in control and radiant.

I come at pop not from a teenage girl perspective (that would be absurd) or even a middle-aged white dude perspective (although undeniably this must influence me). In 2018, Ariana is first and foremost a diva, and one that has been greatly affected by tragedy and heartache. (Think Judy Garland, for the archetype.) I come at her music from a gay perspective.  I wrote an article for The Stranger about this once – I can’t find the original, but I reference it here.

I told you. You’re not going to like me, liking this.

But I believe in her.

Everett True’s Top 10 songs of 2018*


Here is the trick. Lose your preconceptions.

Not so easy. All I ask for is for you to listen to this, past its pasty production and state-of-the-art beats and mirror-shaking chorus. Appreciate its obviousness and lack of clarity. The performance, the keenness and fake carnality of performance, the fact it aspires to be something greater than the sum of its parts, the fact it attempts to put across a message that isn’t the usual aspiration of Keeping Up With The… or cool millennial (actually, this is very cool millennial) or happy bouncy or bleak unremitting, but attempts to tackle the contradiction at the heart of so many lives (not just teenagers, although especially teenagers, I guess, not that I’ve asked).

Polite (despite the language) but not complicit. Refuses to be rolled over. Stands up. Gets counted. Speaks out. Inspires. In this, ‘We Are Fucked’ by Noah Cyrus and MØ is as punk as they come. I already wrote about this.

I teach music journalism, currently – I emphasise the importance of not padding out commentary and including words that add nothing to the dialogue, the layers of understanding and discovery.

See what I did there? Sometimes, bulk is what is required: it makes your reader feel like more has been achieved through their minimal engagement with your craft. (Rule number whatever: NEVER slag off your audience and mean it, just ask Lily Allen.)

‘We Are Fucked’ pauses when it should, it hesitates, becomes fiery and a little preachy. The more I listen to it the more I realise it ain’t all that… at least it shouldn’t be, but within the context of the anodyne and Brexit, of Trump and the treatment of child refugees, of endless streams of tanned celebs promising us the lie (truth) that controlled hedonism will make our lives, if not better, then bearable, it is. It is all that. It has a dig at Starbucks. It points the finger at its own audience but then at the last second relents and gives its audience a way out, a way to feel better about their own dismal lack of motivation.

“We’ve got hearts in the right places … Maybe it’s ‘cause we are young.”

Yeah, right. Hearts in the right places. Yeah, right.

Note for aspiring cultural complacency critics: this is not my top 10 songs of 2018 obviously.

For one, creating this blog post is by way of proving a point, and an obvious one at that. Your web traffic is dependent upon your signposting and ability to gently troll your potential reader. It is not possible for your potential reader to lose their preconceptions through a single line so you need to choose your words with care and softly lead them on. Ultimately, what are you looking to accomplish when you write about music? Me, I just want more people to dance down the front of shows. If something rocks, it rocks, and it feels like a shame to let tribal instinct, cynicism, natural distrust to get in the way of lovin’ the rock. Of course, it is also fun to let the above get in the way. I am still trying to figure out a way to write about two of my other favourite songs of the year – this one here, and that one there – that more than a few dozen people will read. No, not write about. Link to.

For two, 2018 isn’t over yet.

For three, it’s not my favourite song of 2018.

For four, music is not a competition. Of course it is. Of course it fucking is!

Everett True’s 10 favourite albums of all time* … and one that changed his life


This is reprinted from my Brisbane website Collapse Board, originally written for an Australian publication that never ran with the article. My original intro pretty much covers it – to this list of omissions I would now add most obviously Beyoncé (Lemonade, duh), but also St Vincent, some gospel (this, for instance), Blind Blake, Metal Box (PiL), more ska and bluebeat for sure, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and dub reggae circa late 1970s, Talking Heads, Undertones, Tunabunny, Little Mix, some female grime (this, for instance – or this), my own stuff, Miley Cyrus (seriously), The Cramps, The Saints, The Go-Betweens (but also this!), The Roches’ first two, Daniel Johnston and so forth.

Here’s a list of some records that have influenced me. For the sake of simplicity and driving a handful of Arcade Fire fans towards some decent music, I’ve called them my “10 favourite albums of all time”.

Also, as I cannot get my head around the concept of narrowing down my life to a list of 10 records, I’ve kept the parameters narrow: what I’d term “Rough Trade circa 1979” music, the sort of stuff Simon Reynolds covers in his book Rip It Up. Even so, it’s absurd The Specials aren’t in there – or This Heat. Or Elvis Costello. Nina Simone. Irma Thomas. The Shangri-La’s. Throbbing Gristle. The Residents. Saturday Night Fever. There’s not even any Buzzcocks, for Bangs’ sake! (Slaps head.) Plus around about 10,000 others.

For reference, I sometimes listen to Sixties bluebeat when I’m at home; and Christmas songs.

The Fall
Live At The Witch Trials (1979)

I never joined The Fall.

I’ve never wanted to join The Fall. Mark E Smith’s reputation as a cantankerous, belligerent ringmaster precedes him – thoroughly entertaining and a scoundrel, yes, but far too demanding, way above and beyond the call of duty. I’m a Fall fan, not an obsessive – I fall into the right categories: male, white, over 40. (Critics, in particular, love this band: there’s so much they can pick apart.) I felt The Fall peaked round about 1983 (coincidentally, when manager Kay Carroll ran out on them) – same as David Bowie believes – but there again, acknowledge a couple of storming returns to form at the start of the Nineties (see 1992’s scathing Code: Selfish), and also in 2005 with Fall Heads Roll. I’m not particularly familiar with band-members – um, off the top of my head, Scanlon, Karl Burns, Riley, Blue Orchids founder Martin Bramah of course, Una Baines, alt fashion icon Brix Smith of course, Hanley, Yvonne Pawlett, Julia Nagle perhaps…certainly not all the 44-plus ‘musicians’ that have served time with The Fall during their 30-year history.

For, as Mark E Smith once put it, “If it’s me and yer granny on bongos, it’s The Fall” – and who cares who’s creating the music, long as it’s there? I mean, really.

The Fall are a band I return to time and time again (a cursory glance at my iTunes reveals 554 songs – and that’s not including the vinyl), but not very often in female company. Females, curiously, don’t usually seem to appreciate the entire Making Top 10 Lists/Football Fan/Pitchfork reader side of being a Fall fan. Yet I’ve never wanted to discover more about the personalities behind the sound, not even the vocalist’s. My curiosity is sated by the music – the music alone, brilliantly spasmodic and grating and anti-melodic and sometimes outright pop. I hardly ever listen to lyrics, even when they created by the most lyrical of iconoclasts. I hook on to the odd line, like I do with Ramones and The Shangri-La’s and The Spice Girls. I appreciate the timbre and rhythm of Mark E’s voice.

“What is intelligence?” Who cares?

I met Mark E Smith once – he turned up uninvited at a Melody Maker debate with Peter Hook, and there’s a great photo somewhere of the two Mancunian heavyweights, each resting a hand on my shoulder. Never wanted to know him: never wanted to be so obvious: don’t his fans take heed the warning of the lyrics and musical adventurism and want to move on soon as they can? Stasis is death, and while 1979’s Live At The Witch Trials may well be the first album I purchased (I was so naïve I believed it must have taken years to achieve such a fluid, rich sound), why would I want to shake the hand of the man that can bite me? (I still reckon Witch Trials to be of my favourite three albums … um, when I want to grade music like a Pitchfork nerd, which is rare.)

Never wanted to see The Fall play live too much – saw them a handful of times, start of the Eighties, but only because mighty American female trio UT played support – scared they could only disappoint, same way I can’t watch penalty shootouts even when I don’t care for the teams (which is always). Heard Mark E Smith likes a drink. Heard he likes a fight. Heard he likes to unsettle. All of these are mighty great things to like, of course, but why the need to live vicariously? I have my own secret identity.
(The Guardian)

Dexys Midnight Runners
Searching For The Young Soul Rebels (1980)

I once punched a fellow music critic for telling me how much he liked Dexys.

I’m not proud of myself. It was due more to drink than passion. It was at one of those interminable mid-Nineties ‘grunge’ Reading Festivals, late at night, in a hotel bar. We’d both been raving about Dexys’ first album, 1980’s life-changing Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, how it spoke to us – naive, impassioned youngsters fruitlessly trying to make sense of the adult world – with a clarity and confidence we’d never experienced before (or since). How it was our first introduction to Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, The Foundations – all those ancient soul men. How it was the first time we’d come close to understanding the night time delights and romance of Dexys’ Irish precursor Van Morrison. How it was an album to die for.

We loved its crystal-bright horn sound, the way it spoke directly to us with words that left no room for doubters with songs like ‘There, There, My Dear’ (a letter to wannabe hipsters set to music), ‘Keep It’, and triumphant ‘Dance Stance’. “I’ve been searching for the young soul rebels,” frontman Kevin Rowland spoke over mellow brass during the middle-section to ‘There, There, My Dear’: “I’ve been searching for them everywhere. I can’t find them anywhere! Where have you hidden them?” We’re here, Kevin! We’re here. The album’s Number One single, ‘Geno’ – a shout-out to the UK Sixties journeyman soul man Geno Washington – was pure inspiration. When Dexys appeared on Top Of The Pops to celebrate its ascent, they were all Mod sharpness and mirror-bright brass.

It was like being born again.

But I digress. Myself and my fellow critic were locked in bitter combat, calling on Dexys’ lines and songs to prove our devotion. I’d quote a line from Searching‘s rampant hate song ‘Tell Me When My Light Turns Green’ – “Seen quite a bit in my 23 years/I’ve been manic depressive and I’ve shed a few tears” – and he’d throw back something from the torched, doomed paean ‘Old’, or inspirational ‘Plan B’. (Both the latter songs came from Dexys’ second album, the violin-led Too Rye Aye, the record which spawned the monster novelty hit ‘Come On Eileen’ – one of the weaker songs Dexys recorded.) At every turn, he would match me – line for line, love for love, passion for passion. So I punched him. It was the only recourse left to me to prove my devotion.

“Don’t tell me how much you love Dexys Midnight Runners,” I screamed at him, as our Editor hurried over to separate us, “You have no right! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT!”
(Domino Records website)

The Slits
Cut (1979)

I moved to London because of The Slits.

More specifically, I moved to London because of a song on The Slits’ debut album Cut called ‘Shoplifting’. It sounded as though the four girl musicians were having such a great, great time – all the squeals and giggles of glee as they ran shrieking away from the besieged store. The bass looped, pounded, and panted in sympathy behind them, the guitar played all shrill discord and exclamation marks. The vocals were… dirty. “Ten quid for the lot/We paid FUCK-ALL,” they boasted, out of breath. Never had I heard girls sound so natural and unafraid and mischievous, so comfortable with their own naughtiness. (Years later, the same qualities attracted me to Olympia’s contradictory Bikini Kill and London’s turbulent Huggy Bear.) Never had I heard anyone – male or female – sound so free, so in love with the limitless possibilities of life.

Sure, I used to steal from shops – but to me, it was more of a necessity. (I could never afford the vinyl I craved.) The risk usually outweighed the thrill and adrenaline rush. I was – to put it frankly – a wuss. The Slits sounded like anything but, as they moved unchecked through their West London streets. “Is this what the big city is like?” I wondered. “A place where girls like The Slits run rampant on the underground and down dark alleyways, a place where punk gigs happen in dark, dub-heavy Ladbroke Grove clubs – playing music like that created by Cut producer Dennis Bovell – not in a fucking Chelmsford community centre?” Listening to ‘Shoplifting’ made me want in, so bad.

Cut yielded one astonishing single, ‘Typical Girls’. Its subject matter was, of course, about anything but. Typical girls wore white stilettos and short skirts with no stockings in the height of winter, and drank Babycham in cheesy disco clubs in Romford called the Pink Flamingo, hanging on the arms of only the most obnoxious brutes. Typical girls populated Sham 69 songs, or played the part of the brassy, bossy blonde in Seventies English sitcoms – they weren’t sassy and fun and boasting about leaving ‘smells’ the way The Slits wanted – but perhaps they were. I had no way of judging. And I loved The Slits for making me realise that there was more to girls than the patronising English Public School archetype.

The Slits introduced me to the ‘female gang’, a concept hitherto confined to Russ Meyer tittie-fests and cheap Fifties sexploitation flicks. The Slits introduced me to the concept of ‘sex’ with all its attendant glorious smells and tumbles and squeals of jealousy and open-air liaisons. The Slits taught me the concept of freedom, showed me that life didn’t begin and end with the cradle-to-grave route of school-university-office-job-marriage-retirement, that there were illicit pleasures to be gained and wrongful pacts to be made, that life wasn’t as serious as I had imagined.

I never shoplifted when I moved up to London, though. I was too scared.
(Collapse Board)

Young Marble Giants
Colossal Youth (1980)

The sleeve to Colossal Youth – Young Marble Giants first and only album – shows three faces, shadowed against the light, faces seemingly hewn out of granite. Two angular boys flank an equally mysterious girl. It’s a black and grey, almost brutal, minimal picture that gives no sense of the beauty hidden inside the cover.

I was 19 when I first heard Colossal Youth in 1980. To say it tore my world apart is an understatement. Never before had I heard such unsettling, eerie, wonderful music. (And rarely have I since.) The trio’s formula was outrageously simple. Over drum machine tapes, the odd throb of bass and occasional keyboard, Alison Statton would sing in a curiously disconnected, melodic style. The bare bones of music, fleshed out by brothers Stuart and Philip Moxham’s considered, mannered arrangements. The beat never sounded out heavier than a faint click, guitars were kept to an absolute minimum. You could draw parallels between Young Marble Giants’ hurt alienation and the spooked, dark sound of Joy Division, but I never did. The latter were clearly almost crazed. The former were endearing precisely because they were so ordinary. Lyrics spoke directly of disaffection and despair: the mundane made extraordinary by the focus applied. “It’s nice to hear you’re having a good time,” sang Alison, almost supernaturally dispassionate, on ‘N.I.T.A’, “But it still hurts ‘cos you used to be mine.”

Who couldn’t relate to a stiff upper lyric like that?

There was an all-consuming darkness surrounding Young Marble Giants – not just on the album sleeve, but in the music itself. Strange how something so frail, so fragile and solemn, so commonplace can give off such an aura of bleakness. You could almost hear the emptying pits of Wales’ mining villages as Alison sang about a girl painting her nails on the chilling ‘Eating Noddemix’, as Alison denied all charges of being neurotic on ‘Music For Evenings’. It’s not a claustrophobic darkness like Joy Division and all the bands that followed (right down to Marilyn Manson) engendered, however. There’s too much beauty shining through – like a lighthouse beam in a storm, Alison’s voice was always there to guide us home. And when it wasn’t (as on the instrumental ‘The Taxi’) there was an upbeat, Casio keyboard sound, a burst of static radio.
(Plan B Magazine)

Live Through This (1994)
Courtney never thanked me on the sleeve to Live Through This.

She was upset because I’d told her what I thought of the album after it was recorded in September 1993. She’d asked me my opinion, and so I told her the truth. I thought she was asking me as a friend. This was crucial. I’m a critic. I usually pass when asked for my opinion because it hurts. I thought the production sucked. The songs were too refined, and you couldn’t hear enough of Eric’s guitars. I felt the structures were dull, traditional – a far cry from the passion of the debut album. The tracks I liked more were the minimal ones: the wicked and hilarious putdown of the Riot Grrrls from Kurt’s former hometown, ‘Olympia’; also ‘Doll Parts’, retained in a similar form to when Courtney played it to me acoustic down the phone, ‘Jennifer’s Body’, too, has an evil resonance that reaches to me down through the years,especially when Courtney screams the lines, “I’m your brother, I’m your friend/I’m purity, hit me again/With a bullet, number one/Kill the family, save the son”.

Sure, I liked the lyrics. But I also thought the single ‘Miss World’ (the first moment where I realised the extent of Courtney’s vanity) was weak, thin.

I’ve never liked rock bands that don’t rock.

Courtney didn’t appreciate my candour. We rowed, not for the first time. Eric tentatively backed me up – he appreciated the comments about the guitars – but Courtney had become convinced the only way forward for her was to create an all-female rock band that came from the underground and sold as many records as her husband’s. I disagreed violently. Friends sometimes ask me what I think of the rumours that Kurt co-wrote some of the songs on Live Through This. If he did, he did a bloody awful job.

Maybe I was disappointed that Hole had stopped being Babes In Toyland.

Maybe I didn’t like all the references to myself on songs such as ‘Asking For It’. That seems unlikely, though. I’m as vain as the next critic, as narcissistic as the next person that leaps up on stage.

Maybe I was being too harsh, expected too much.

Hole were an incredible live band, fronted by a singer whose only equals in onstage charisma and passion were Calvin Johnson and Birthday Party-era Nick Cave. (I rated Courtney above Kurt as a front person initially.) I’d been disappointed by Birthday Party and bloody Nirvana albums too. Perhaps it was only compared to their live performances that Live Through This was a disappointment.
(taken from Live Through This: American Rock Music In The Nineties)

Beat Happening
Beat Happening (1985)

It was Heather’s voice on ‘Foggy Eyes’ that originally drew me to Beat Happening. I’ve always preferred female singers. That, and the graphics – that cat on the spaceship! But also, I responded to the minimal backing. I’ve always hated extraneous noise, especially unnecessary drumming. I was a very big fan of the first Marine Girls album, too – something ‘Foggy Eyes’ reminded me of. I used to sing on stage either a cappella or with the most minimal of backings myself and was made to feel somewhat of a freak by doing so. It was nice to hear this deep-throated boy doing the same in some city I’d never heard of before. Calvin’s singing and the production on the album reminded me a little of early Cramps (stripped back to the bone). I loved the directness of it, the sense of fun, the fact that with a few sparse notes and carefully chosen words, this trio had managed to create a whole aura and mystique about themselves.

So I wrote about them in my fanzine. Pages. What else could I do? All I ever wanted to communicate by writing about music was the love I felt for certain records.

I’m not sure what I thought of Beat Happening in the context of the then-English music scene. It sounded refreshing, exciting to me – anything I love on first hearing always sounds refreshing to me. It made me feel less alone, made me feel that perhaps there were other people who had the same core values as me. I’m not sure if I heard it the same time as I heard Talulah Gosh (a band I loved) but if I did, I wouldn’t have connected the two bands together. They seemed on opposite sides of the world. Perhaps, though, a certain naivety and joy for music for its own sake, connected the two bands – them, and The Wedding Present, Razorcuts, Wolfhounds, (very early) Soup Dragons, Shop Assistants, Pastels, Shrubs, Bogshed, Membranes et al. Yeah, naivety is the word I’d choose. Innocence – without any of the pejoratives usually associated with the description. I’ve always wanted music that reflects the humanity of the people who make it (not in a boring way).

I saw Beat Happening live on a number of occasions. I felt – and still feel – that Calvin Johnson is one of the most powerful performers I’ve had the privilege to see. On his first visit to London (where he was staying on my floor: I met him with my then-girlfriend after work, playing with a yoyo) he reminded me of Johnny Rotten. Definitely. He had the same manic, intense stare in his eyes. The same way of intimidating an audience, the way he’d go up so close to them. I loved Beat Happening so badly when they played in England. It would make me so mad they weren’t the most massive band in the world, they were so incredible, how couldn’t they be? My favourite show was when I supported them and the McTells in a tiny village hall in Hertfordshire. I felt that life doesn’t get any better than to see three such intelligent, passionate, witty and soulful people on stage.

I still kinda preferred Heather’s vocals, though.

Beat Happening didn’t influence enough bands. That is so sadly clear, it hurts.

The Jam
The Jam
Setting Sons (1979)

Trios are perfect. Live, and on record. There’s no refuting the fact. When they get the balance right, there’s no stopping them. Think of The Jam, Young Marble Giants, Dinosaur Jr, Hüsker Dü, Cream, The Slits … Nirvana. Trios strip music down to its basics and then, having worked out what it is that makes it work, build it up again with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of effect. Four’s unnecessary. Five is unwieldy. Three is just about perfection.
(opening paragraph from my review of Nevermind, Melody Maker 1991)

The Raincoats
Odyshape (1981)

Listen to the drums. ‘Odyshape’. They’re febrile, smart, stuttering, a living beast, not there to fill the silence or the spaces for breathing, but alert and fluent to the music and story unfolding around them. A tumble on the floor toms. A hissing fit on the cymbals. A race around the snare.

How different, how oppositional to the dull thud thud thud of their competent male peers. Most drumming, you can predict it from beginning to end. Not on Odyshape, and rarely anywhere within the initial brace of Raincoats albums. No one will ever be able to convince me that Phil Collins is a good drummer , the way he sucks the life out of the instruments around him with his barrage of fills and cross-handed technique.

Bad drumming is the reason I’m unable to listen to most rock bands, more so then even the singing. I say ‘bad’, but clearly that’s a core subjective judgment. Yet who is anyone to tell me to think different? Listen to the drums on ‘Odyshape’ and tell me I’m wrong to feel this way…

And then listen to the downright wrong bass runs on ‘The Body’ (from The Raincoats’ 1983 album The Kitchen Tapes) and tell me that I was wrong to hate this band – for the way they betrayed me, the way they betrayed their own music – before they first split up, round about 1984. What’s this cod-funk got to do with intimacy? They knew it themselves, too. Take a listen too ‘Don’t Be Mean’, that incredible damaged-spiteful song of Gina’s released in 1996, a delayed reaction to a certain acquaintance’s interest in their music. It could be from a missing period between the first and second albums, such is the paranoia in the voice and violin.

Whatever. There’s often a reason bands split in the first place, y’know. What is far rarer is that they reform, and are still as vital. The Raincoats briefly proved to be the exception. Except that I saw them at the Concorde in Brighton in 1996 and they were horrible. I walked out. I can’t deny, however, that I might have been suffering from very mixed emotions that may well have prejudiced me that evening.
(Music That I Like blog)

It’s Alive! (1979)

Willesden 1984. I saved up for weeks to buy Too Tough To Die on import, and was so excited when I took it back home. The first time I took it out of its sleeve to play on my Dansette mono record player, my tiny white kitten – who was also excited – jumped up onto the vinyl as it spun round on the turntable. The cat and I then embarked on an exciting game of hide and seek round the house while Joey’s voice sounded out, poignant and raw and scratched.

That same year, I formed a New Wave a cappella group, The Legend! And His Swinging Soul Sisters, with my brother and Dave Smith from work, for the sole purpose of singing Ramones and Sixties soul covers in front of a live audience. We’d learnt the first rule of punk: that it didn’t matter how proficient you were at playing guitar – indeed, we’d taken the ‘less is more’ maxim of the Ramones to its logical conclusion. We’d dispensed with instruments altogether.
(introduction to Hey Ho Let’s Go: The Story Of The Ramones)

Orange Juice
You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever (1982)

This is where it starts: fumbled glances in doorways, fringes worn proudly like Roger McGuinn, guitars a rush of blood through the heart and out onto the streets, mistakes and laughter mixed in with crush-worthy melodies and the undeniable rush of falling in love for the 113th time. Orange Juice were Glasgow boys manly enough to admit their feminine side was at least twice as enticing as their male. Before Stephen Pastel and Morrissey and all the lesser lights that followed (them), there was Edwyn Collins. Cavalier, gay (in the old-fashioned sense), flashing a coy smile while simultaneously flicking his fringe back and falling over drunk: championing a proletarian pop music that took punk’s first and most important lesson to heart – do it yourself, the others are probably boring old farts anyway – and applied it to the music of Motown, Stax, disco, Buzzcocks, Subway Sect, life itself.

The first Orange Juice singles are peerless – 1980’s debut ‘Falling And Laughing’ with its riotous instrumental B-side, ‘Simple Thrilled Honey’ (oh MY GOD!) with its infectious stuttered denouement of peer pressure, the tinny, delirious ‘Blue Boy’, the unstoppable ‘Poor Old Soul’…These were the rampant, barely formulated, refrains that launched a thousand independent bands (most of whom promptly missed the point of what they were aping) and helped define one of the Greatest Indie Labels of our time – Postcard Records (Orange Juice, Josef K, The Go-Betweens, early Aztec Camera), the Sound Of Young Scotland indeed. And then the band (Edwyn, much overlooked songwriting partner James Kirk, Steven Daly, David McClymont) got even better…
(Plan B Magazine)

And The One That Changed My Life…

Nevermind (1991)

This record changed my life, literally. For nearly three years, people wanted to know me.

Meme: Mike Turner

How NOT to write about music – 28. Noah Cyrus, MØ

Noah Cyrus

An anthem for our times. Thank you to Ringo for sharing.

I posted:

So, to summarise:

Brexit is fucked.
The government’s fucked.
We’re all fucked.

And he posted:

Damn straight.

That’s it. Show over. Nothing else to see here. Yes, she’s Miley’s sister. Yes, she is in the English version of one of the coolest kids’ movies of the last 10 years (Ponyo). Get over it. Just listen to the damn music.

As she told the NME:

Was there a particular event, or moment in your life, that triggered you to write this song?

I’ve experienced cyberbullying my entire life, due to just having a last name that people knew. I think it had to do with me mainly. I would have been 12 when I started on Instagram, and then people were just so terrible and there was just so much cyberbullying going on. The words that they thought were OK to say to a twelve-year-old girl made me think ‘OK, this is alarming’.

At the time, I thought that all my validation comes from social media. As a twelve-year-old girl, I thought that I was only pretty if the people on social media told me that I was pretty – and they weren’t telling me I was pretty. So I didn’t think I was pretty and I was really down on myself and I really was sad with myself. But social media doesn’t give you validation or make you pretty. You make you pretty. You can look like you and be pretty and you can dress like you and be pretty. If you have the same style as the girls on Instagram, cool! But as long as you know in your heart that you are you and that you don’t have to look like anybody else.


ADDENDA: Not sure why, but it reminds me of this:

Everett True’s advice for aspiring music critics (late 2018 version)

Everett True, Courtney Love

(See photograph above – interesting that a website I have never visited should attempt to claim ownership for a photograph that they have nothing to do with.)

1. Do not ever attempt to apologise for holding an opinion.

This is a fundamental. The clue is in your job title. You are a music critic. So criticise. People will disagree with you. That is their prerogative. They are also wrong. Others will be able to out-argue you, out-describe you, be more eloquent and informed and passionate in any way you can name. It does not matter. What matters is this: your opinion. The writing follows.

1a. There is no such thing as good and bad music, only good and bad listeners.

Ask yourself: why would other people want to read my words? Do you add another layer of understanding SLASH enjoyment SLASH interpretation SLASH context to the music? There is an assumption of authority through the act of writing music criticism that you should neither ignore nor be cowed by.

2. 400 words good. 800 words horrible.

Self-explanatory really. The extra 400 words will be flimflam discussing how you showed up to the concert late because the police pulled over the car in front of yours, or lengthy excerpts from the press release, or re-writings of the Pitchfork review. (You want to really push the boat out? Steal from a second source as well.) Don’t take it to Twitter lengths, though. Do not think that just because you can understand what the hell you are going on about in 280 characters, and you get all your references and context and shorthand and such, anyone else will. Music criticism should not be crossword compiling.

3. Most musicians are dicks. (Most people are dicks.)

So you should not feel sorry for having a go at them, if required. Occasionally, I am asked to lecture media students about music criticism. I used to tell them that what I do is a craft, an art, and a thousand times more creative than the music I write about. It must be, because I make that dullest of breeds – the musician – sound interesting. Now I just tell them to get out there and do the damn thing.

3a. Do not abbreviate.

Just one of those short cuts you need to be aware of. Do so, if you are good at it. If you have problems with apostrophes however, why not avoid them altogether?

4. The music industry is not your friend. Unless you choose to make it so.

Do not be fooled into thinking that just because folk are nice to you when you are starting off, and flood your mailbox with free CDs and offers of free concert-tickets, they are your friends. They are not. They are simply trying to figure out how much of a soft touch you are. Of course, this can cut both ways.

4a. Play to your strengths, not those of other people.

Make them a feature. Enjoy swearing? Then swear.

5. Do not forget to place value upon what you do. If you fail to do this, why should anyone else?

This is important. You cannot become a critic without establishing authority or determining identity. If you do not give a crap about what you are writing, find it boring – rest assured, your readers will also.  Music criticism is a monstrous game of bluff, all smoke and mirrors, but do not feel downhearted about that. So is music.

6. Having the ability to turn an amp up really loud does not make you an interesting person.

It is incredible the number of people who believe otherwise.

7. The Rolling Stones ruined music for every generation. Discuss.

This is not a criticism levelled at The Rolling Stone per se – more at the canon of rock music that has developed because The Rolling Stones existed, and took drugs, and had beautiful girlfriends, and liked to piss against garage walls. Classic rock. Ugh. The same charge could be levelled – less accurately – at The Beatles. Less accurately, because at least The Beatles had some decent songs. That were their own. In other word (and fundamentally), question everything. 

7a. How to Build an Argument, Part 1.

Start with a contentious statement which you then need to justify through use of point and counterpoint. Bring in previous research (articles, music, sound clips). Bring in some prior knowledge, often obtained through immersion in music culture. Look to outside context (social, political, cultural). Look to genre. Look to examples that you value. And so forth.

7b. Music criticism, not rock criticism. (Unless that is what you do.)

Words are your weapons and your lovers. Please treat them with appropriate care.

8. Do not overuse adjectives. One is usually more than enough.

This rule particularly applies in the days of Search Engine Optimisation. It used to be the place of music critics to describe the music they were talking about; part of the service, alongside giving your windows a once-over with a dirty rag and cleaning the spit off your loafers. No longer. We are in the days of the Internet, folk. Your readers are perfectly able to search out and hear the music for themselves: all they are mostly seeking from you is validation and, of course, a little direction. Fact: sales of thesauruses have dropped 1,200 per cent among music critics in the past five years.

9. Do not confuse research with the ability to parrot press releases from memory.

Not when there is the Facebook page and Wikipedia waiting to be pillaged.

10. No one gives a fuck what you think. Get over it.

This is true. This is not true. It is one of those central… damn, what is that word… crucial to the craft of the critic. I mean, it is obviously true and it is equally as obviously not true. (Why would they be reading you if it is not true? Why would they be reading for you if it was not for the music you are discussing?) Depending on which grimy rung of which grimy ladder you are currently grimly holding onto.

11. Your principles mean shit if you did not have any to start with.

Ask Bono.

12. 10 words good. 50 words pointless.

The single most important lesson I had in English at school was on the art of the précis. Those extra 40 words are only going to be filled with useless stuff like the full name of each band-member, reasons why you showed up to the concert 30 minutes after the main band started, adjectives, and shit you nicked off the Facebook page.

We all do it. Do not be ashamed.

12a. How to Build an Argument, Part 2.

Introduction (most commonly a hook that lures your potential readers into reading on). A paragraph or two follows the introduction, justifying it and fleshing it out and making it…ahem…readable. Only then do you start to provide the background context, the information, the detail. The trick with building an argument is to make it feel like you are not building an argument. Unless that is your intention. Synthesise all those way-important details. Pay attention to the details. This is what separates you from the herd, helps confer authority.

13. Do not ever try to describe the music.

See above. Unnecessary. Impossible, mostly. What you should be attempting to do is trying to describe how the music makes you feel. The way musicians look and act is usually way more interesting than the music. The way audiences behave and feel is usually way more interesting than the music.

13a. Of course you have to try and describe the music.

You dolt.

14. if you have to resort to lists to make your point, you probably should not be writing.

This blog entry is not a review. Or an interview. It is a list. Do not confuse the three. It does not stop it being any the less disheartening to realise that, 99 times out a hundred, the idiots who click on stuff to read on the Internet (or watch on television, etc) will favour a list over a non-list.

14a. Pay great attention to your headings. 

This is all most people will see of your words. FACT! Eighty per cent of people who share links on Facebook do not read the articles attached first before sharing. FACT! Just writing the word FACT! before a sentence does not mean the sentence is true.

15. You should not care. Not in public, anyway.

If you show that you care you open yourself up to attack from all those master-trolls like Toby Young and Donald Trump and Katie RefuseToTypeHerName. Do not open yourself up to attack. You are a God. You only have power if people believe in you.

15a. How to Build an Argument, Part 3.

Hook. Introduction. Context. Background. Information. Point. Counterpoint. Description. More description. Analysis. Comparison. And so forth.

Order as you will.

16. Record companies and press agents do not always tell the truth.

Surprising how few writers realise this. Next week’s shocker: newspapers and TV channels are not always honest.

17. Do not write for magazines/websites you do not read.

Everyone does. Even me. Especially me. Fucking hacks. Do not worry about it. It is the editors who suffer.

18. Write because you have to, not because of your career plan.

Do not ask if you can submit. Write. Permission is not necessary.

19. If you do not have a clue why you are doing it, do not do it.

Have a clue before you sit down to write an article or a review: have a clue before you spend 10 minutes on the phone with the former drummer of Oasis: have a clue before you start accessing Pitchfork and NME looking for other reviews to rip off. Trust me. It will make your life way easier. And if you do not have a clue? Get lost. Trust me, it will make life of everyone else way easier.

20. It is not sexy. It is not glamorous. And it certainly will not get you laid.

I was once featured in three different items in Spin Magazine’s cover story, the Top 100 Rock And Roll Roll Moments Of All Time – twice as the main focus of the story. Each one centred around some alleged moment of debauchery: mostly sexual. My favourite was the one at Number 89 which stated that, in return for writing the story that broke grunge to the world, Sub Pop Records supplied me with a variety of press agents who orally pleasured me on flights to and from Seattle. I think I was also involved in a threesome with Evan Dando and Courtney Love. (That one made the Top 10.) What matters here is not the truth. What matters is what has been written.

21. It is not over. It is never over.

There is a rumour going round town that Pitchfork had a clause inserted into their writers’ contracts a couple of years ago stating that under no circumstances should a review be more interesting than the music it is discussing. Which, given the quality of most of the music Pitchfork likes to promote, is quite some task.

22. Fuck hyphens.

And fuck apostrophes too, while we are here. Keep it direct, entertaining, informative.

23. Think a band sounds like another band? You are probably right but so what?

See also the point about not making lists. Just because you can do it, it does not mean you should. This is a lesson you wish you could teach a six-year-old.

23a. The platform is way more important than the critic.

Obviously. (Unless it is not.)

24. Never trust a writer without an agenda.

A writer without an agenda is like Tom without Jerry, Donald Trump without any Russian friends and kinky sex life, an umbrella without rain. They can exist but you ask yourself: why?

25. Your editor will always value your ability to time-keep way over your ability to wield flowery prose.

This was the single most re-Tweeted line when I originally posted this series up on Twitter.

26. It is nice that folk want to send you free stuff. Get over it RIGHT NOW.

See also #4 above. Has it ever occurred to you that the free stuff might not be the most interesting?

27. A 10-minute rehash of the press release on the telephone does not constitute an interview.

Above all else: preparation. Research. Background knowledge. Or… failing all that, get trashed on your mum’s secret Jagermeister stash and spend the 10 minutes insulting the musician in question. And then make the whole thing up anyway. Seriously, who is going to care?

28. No one gives a fuck you once made out to an Ed Sheeran B-side.

Not unless it is for embarrassment value. What were you doing listening to Ed Sheeran past the age of eight anyway?

29. Having the ability to use a keyboard does not automatically make you a writer. See also #6.

Ah, for fuck’s sake. How many times do I have to say this? Everyone is NOT a critic – unless you are also of the opinion that if you have ever bashed a table-top a few times, sung along to Katy Perry in the shower or blown down one of those cute little nose-tickler things that come in Christmas stockings, you are a musician; if you have ever drawn a line across a piece of paper, you are an artist; or if you have ever taken a drunken snap of your mates covered in vomit, you are a photographer. It is true, technically. True, but a pointless and useless way to define the words in any sort of social or cultural or professional context.

30. Be candid. Be yourself. Be aware. Be yourself. Be entertaining. Be yourself.

Where is the clause in your contract that states all music criticism has to be dull?

30a. It’s not a career choice. Trust me.

Heard about the music critic who lived happily ever after? Me neither.

Buy the book, Ed Sheeran is Shit and other Major Musical Malfunctions. Buy two books at once for a £5 discount