10 Least Read Entries on How NOT To Write About Music (April 2019)

Noname

1 (-) How NOT to write about music – 47. Anna St. Louis
So. Anna St. Louis. I like this song. I like this performance. I do not know if she is one of my people but these days such a description is so limiting I do not worry about it. She has been compared to Kevin Morby, who sounds like a dreary Leonard Cohen to me. Anna St. Louis does not sound dreary to me.

2 (-) How NOT to write about music – 61. Peaness
Cherry-sweet, razor-sharp melodies. Nothing complicated, nothing fancy just cherry-sweet, razor-sharp melodies. A lineage that certainly takes in Buzzcocks, Pastels, all those wonderful female Seattle groups turn of the new millennia and wonderful female Continental groups some time in the late 1970s, occasionally showing off their chops when the melodies surge but never showy, just cherry-sweet, razor-sharp melodies.

3 (-) How NOT to write about music – 64. Mary Poppins Returns
I saw Mary Poppins Returns on Sunday 16th December, 10am for 11am, with my three children at a premiere in Leicester Square. I am able to look that date up. It was the morning after my mother died, and I didn’t tell the children till afterwards when we were just about to enter The Mall right by the ICA. It seems an odd place to tell them, but then what is a good place to tell someone? Isaac had been explaining (rightly) how mawkish he found one scene where the children explain loss to their dad, and I needed to tell him then. Mary Poppins Returns is not the best film to see when you’ve recently suffered a loss. A theme of bereavement and departure runs right through it.

4 (-) How NOT to write about music – 52. Dori Freeman
Here. Have some sweet melancholy to tide you over. Beautiful voice, beautiful arrangements. There is something a touch of Elvis Costello’s (slightly misguided) country album Almost Blue about this, but we do not hold this against Ms Freeman. Indeed we appreciate Ms Freeman all the more for it. Nostalgia, tinted with regret, tinted with warm melancholy, tinted with an appreciation for a job well done. Not too shabby. Slightly nasal. In a good way. She feels like she’d be someone it would be nice to share a few minutes with, have a few laughs with, move on after and catch a train back to Nowhere. The void. When the song finishes, there is a palpable feeling of loss.

5 (-) How NOT to write about music – 45. Noname
This makes me feel special, like Mr Rogers.

This makes me overcome my retrophobia for a few sweet minutes and makes me think that perhaps growing up wasn’t so bad, even with all the bullies and bigots crowding in.

This makes me think that perhaps I have always undervalued both jazz and funk exponents and that really there is nothing wrong with intricately layered sweetness.

6 (2) How NOT to write about music – 22. (reprinted from 2015)
I wanted to give something back. So I started writing about music, trying to convert everyone to my cause. Even early on – especially early on – I knew that was a futile quest, but that made it all the more fun. If I didn’t think I could change the world through my writing I wouldn’t be doing it, even now. Especially now. I want to communicate the emotion, the rampant emotions that lead me to dance. I want to make everyone else dance. I barely go out to concerts these days – perhaps one every couple of months – but that’s still the case. I still want to make everyone dance. I still want to change the world. These years, I’m whistling in a wind tunnel, pissing in the billowing ocean.

7 (1) How NOT to write about music – 2. Mango
By any interpretation you choose to take, Mango rock. It ain’t the kind of rock I sometimes throw your way, no denying – no heavy kick-ass metallic chundering guitars or chundering kick-ass heavy drums or that shit: but the words are enunciated and stretched out at volume with a velocity and fierceness that offsets the jazz-tinged funk with a pleasing counter. (See the way there I smartly separated the two genres?) I don’t really understand the quiet bits but I never really understand the quiet bits, although I do like the way they sound tentative, nervous, concerned they may be out of order.

8 (3) How NOT to write about music – 21: Robyn
Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn.

9 (-) How NOT to write about music – 41. The B-52s
This is so what I want to hear now. Music that bounces and prances. Music that struts and sidesteps and makes weird bird noises every few seconds. Music that’s funky and music that’s chunky. Music that does not make you feel like a flunky. You can taste the sweat, feel the pressure on your feet. You move cos you got to move. Ecstatically, clumsily, wonderfully alert and on edge. Nerves jangling, but at ease. Music that yowls, prowls and sideways scowls. Music with brass, music with class, music that knocks you straight on your ass. Infectious beats, strange rhythmical haircuts.

10 (-) How NOT to write about music – 50. Marshmello ft. Bastille
Then there is this. I don’t understand. I really don’t. How is this, on any level, good? Six million views, 360K likes.

10 Least Read Entries on How NOT To Write About Music

Robyn

1. How NOT to write about music – 2. Mango
By any interpretation you choose to take, Mango rock. It ain’t the kind of rock I sometimes throw your way, no denying – no heavy kick-ass metallic chundering guitars or chundering kick-ass heavy drums or that shit: but the words are enunciated and stretched out at volume with a velocity and fierceness that offsets the jazz-tinged funk with a pleasing counter. (See the way there I smartly separated the two genres?) I don’t really understand the quiet bits but I never really understand the quiet bits, although I do like the way they sound tentative, nervous, concerned they may be out of order.

2. How NOT to write about music – 22. (reprinted from 2015)
I wanted to give something back. So I started writing about music, trying to convert everyone to my cause. Even early on – especially early on – I knew that was a futile quest, but that made it all the more fun. If I didn’t think I could change the world through my writing I wouldn’t be doing it, even now. Especially now. I want to communicate the emotion, the rampant emotions that lead me to dance. I want to make everyone else dance. I barely go out to concerts these days – perhaps one every couple of months – but that’s still the case. I still want to make everyone dance. I still want to change the world. These years, I’m whistling in a wind tunnel, pissing in the billowing ocean.

3. How NOT to write about music – 21: Robyn
Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn.

4. How NOT to write about music – 20. Snail Mail
I got banned from the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle after a Hatfield gig. A few years earlier, I engaged in a Manhattan street spat with Matador Records founder Gerard Cosloy (who know who was chasing who?). Handbags at dawn. Matador, being the home of Snail Mail. Bittersweet with the emphasis on… nah. Let’s not go down that path. Everything is perfect in our imperfect world. Heaven, heaven is a place where nothing ever happens. Something to do with a distrust of the outside world. This music resonates the way this music has always resonated in my world. Makes me think of late night/early morning Sydney taverns.

5. How NOT to write about music – 5. Eminem
Shortly as I was coming up the final approach to Haywards Heath, a new track started up. Didn’t pay too much attention, then I started getting into the nasty-ass lyrics and obstructionist worldview, the steady flow of invective, the aggressive double-speed rap and… damn, I was just loving the flow. I sat there in the car outside my house, engine running, lights on, neighbours beginning to peer out their windows, while the track built inexorably to its cussed climax. I wanted to know who it was (although it was clearly Eminem). I wanted to know what it was. The volume kept building. The invective kept flowing. Damn, it shook my late Thursday evening up.

6. How NOT to write about music – 13. Kate Nash (part two)
If  I was to write a review of the 2018 Kate Nash album Yesterday Was Forever – and it seems unlikely at this stage, I mean why would I? – this is what I would do. Brainstorm, take notes. Collect my scattered impressions of the music and its surrounding context into some form of list which I would then check off as I start to write the piece. Usually I do not even do this as the list forms and takes shape as I am writing… but I am trying to document the process here.

7. How NOT to write about music – 23: Johnny Cash
This Johnny Cash song… oh fuck. This Johnny Cash song I heard a few nights back when I was watching the tail-end of an OK if somewhat overdone (in terms of violence and its own self-importance) movie about a tired mutant nearing the end of his life. I do not know which inspired genius decided to place it right there, at the film’s end: it did not complement the film content – instead it threw the entire movie into stark relief, showed it up for what it was, storytelling that resonates for only as long as the flickering images are there in front of your eyes (like life itself, I guess). You think generations of male filmmakers and storytellers, from Tarantino and Eastwood onward, through Peaky Blinders and the rest of the Game Of Thrones shebang, have not been trying (and failing) to duplicate what Johnny Cash does with such ease here, over the course of a few sparse lines and inflections…

8. How NOT to write about music – 16: Porridge Radio
Three exhibits today. Three examples of an old man railing at clouds. Three shows of weakness, of the reason why music criticism can be such a futile occupation sometimes. (Are Porridge Radio Adele? Are Porridge Radio Sam Smith? Are Porridge Radio Jess Glynne? Am I Piers Morgan?) This is self-evident, except the final exhibit got repeated at several different points in time (named “the greatest band in the world” by Everett True on the strength of half a song) in Brighton and London and Amsterdam to help keep a few bedraggled punters away doubtless.

9. How NOT to write about music – 15: Ed Sheeran
It isn’t so much that Ed Sheeran is shit, when it comes down to it – but the culture that enables him, and through constant use of repetition and reinforcement encourages the general population to believe that his music has some worth or value… You can still buy the book if you want. I have plenty of copies left. Paypal £13 (UK)/£16 (EU)/£20 (rotw) to ramonesfan79@yahoo.co.uk

10. How NOT to write about music – 3. Marianne Faithfull
OK. Here’s a fast pop quiz for anyone interested. Keep a track of the news stories and first reviews running around ‘The Gypsy Faerie Queen’ and Negative Capability – see how many quote word-for-word from the press release in the paragraph above. That is not music criticism or evaluation. That is simple laziness, plagiarism. Yet this is what gets called music criticism the world over.

How NOT to write about music – 2. Mango

Mango

I have never hidden the fact I do not bother to listen to music that hasn’t been personally recommended to me. (No unsolicited demos.) In my time I have been a high visibility music critic, with any number of friends and contacts and enemies familiar with the sort of music I like and the sort of music I might like. Simultaneous with this, I have at regular intervals received over 100 new albums and tracks and singles a day.

I can not afford to waste time on shit that hasn’t been filtered already.

Afford is not the right word. It is too time-consuming to do otherwise.

If I ever do find myself listening to not-recommended music I am able to tell within the opening 10 seconds whether I will like the song or not. Nothing to do with packaging. Three seconds, not 10.

I have a kick-ass reputation for championing new music precisely because I behave this way.

If Gerard Cosloy (Matador) reckons I might want to interview Pavement before I’ve even heard Pavement, if Gold Mountain Management’s John Silva knows that I dislike Pearl Jam before I’ve even reported back to anyone about Pearl Jam, if Mac from Superchunk talks me into buying 75 US independent singles from one San Francisco record store in one go then… well, fuck. I am going to take notice of them. This does not mean they dictated my taste or my taste is anything other than my own. Just that I pay attention to the emphasis.

Also, it is never one individual recommending me music, but an accumulation of voices.

It works both ways. The number of bands who got A&R interest, who signed record deals, who entered bidding wars because Everett True and a handful of other individuals reckoned there must be something to them… well, it has to number in the single digits, at least. I suspect this was happening even when I was living in Brisbane in the mid 10s, writing for Collapse Board and latterly The Guardian. Not sure it still happens, though. Music criticism needs a certain amount of consistency and frequency to gain traction.

So. 2018. I find myself at a slight impasses. You cannot fake enthusiasm. Neither it is a good idea to…. Wait.

Yes, of course you can fake enthusiasm. I prefer not to, however.

By any interpretation you choose to take, Mango rock. It ain’t the kind of rock I sometimes throw your way, no denying – no heavy kick-ass metallic chundering guitars or chundering kick-ass heavy drums or that shit: but the words are enunciated and stretched out at volume with a velocity and fierceness that offsets the jazz-tinged funk with a pleasing counter. (See the way there I smartly separated the two genres?) I don’t really understand the quiet bits but I never really understand the quiet bits, although I do like the way they sound tentative, nervous, concerned they may be out of order. It’s very muso and trained but fuck it. It’s taken me over 40 years to admit this ain’t necessarily a bad thing.

The voice is The Voice and that is enough

So, wait. You may be wondering what the connection is. Straightforward enough. I mentioned on Facebook the other week that shortly I was to start a new job at BIMM London and – bam! Someone recommends Mango from BIMM London.

That’s it. Recommend away.