How NOT to write about music – 119. Chromatics

Chromatics

The song stands out. The band don’t even bother to mask it. The insistent, lovingly-caressed, two-note guitar, all warm fuzz and intonation; the insistent, one-dimensional drum beat reduced to an Atari-era beep; the drawn-out vocals and implied harmonies and lovingly-left silences; the overwhelming debt to The Velvet Underground but also the inspired stripping away of all that is extraneous, all that does not matter; the simple lyrics; the occasional refrain or chorus if you feel like calling it that; the sly dig reference to all of rock’s archaic forms and origins; the unconscious reiteration of themes already well worn by the time the second album came out; the spaces, the silences, the warm buzz and purr of the fuzz pedal; the knowledge that less is more, that simple cuts through, that loss is more poignant than gain…

There is a new Chromatics album out. I like it. I like it quite a lot. I like nothing on it half as much as I like their cover of this Jesus And Mary Chain song from Darklands, though. And I like nothing on Darklands half as much as I like this cover. There is nowhere to go from here, but inward. There is nowhere to go from here, but down. There is nowhere to go from here.

I did not need to check it was a cover, it is so clearly a replicant of a replicant. Ironic, really. I believe that is the word I am looking for.

Just like honey. Simply thrilled. Gorgeous. The Mary Chain always were their own worst enemy. Don’t bother going back to listen to the original. It has already been spoiled for all eternity.

The Pitchfork review gives it 7.1 and fails to mention the album’s greatest song. Sigh.

How NOT to write about music – 50. Marshmello ft. Bastille

Marshmello ft. Bastille

Last week, a bog-standard EDM DJ played a concert to an estimated audience of 10 million people, and I bet you didn’t even know…

The first ever live virtual concert inside Fortnite with millions of people in attendance; and for those watching, this was An Event to match all those Oasis Maine Road and Superbowl halftime shows and U2 stadium tours. Apparently. I don’t mean for the ‘apparently’ to sound cynical, just acknowledging my own lack of insider knowledge. Certainly my 13-year-old son (let’s call him Isaac, as that’s his name) loved it, was very excited. Yet I cannot connect to this on near any level: the music and the event feels alien to me, clinical and clumsy, disconnected and woefully amateurish, so basic. Lack of commonality.

Maybe it’s my two-dollar headphones (no bass). Maybe it’s my unfamiliarity.

The event feels strangely empty. (Ten million people? Really? “They’re all on separate servers, dad,” Isaac patiently explained.) At big shows (or after-show parties) (or weddings) I really notice if the audience is lacking or if there is not much atmosphere. (That moment the lights get turned on at 2am after a bangin’ disco to reveal the beer spills and patches of nothing and ordinary, sad would-be all-night hedonists.) This is a generational thing, right? Watching virtual reality I am very aware of the reality I exist within. The music is tinny, squeaky-clean. There is too much separation between the sounds, between the stage and the dancers, between the dancer themselves. It’s so damn empty. I do not want to comment on the music – except to note that shorn of the physicality of actual reality, the smells and off-mic sounds, the sights and breeze across my face – I find myself floundering to establish commonality (something at the heart of near all criticism, too often taken for granted).

Then there is this. I don’t understand. I really don’t. How is this, on any level, good? Six million views, 360K likes.

I am betraying my own lack of engagement, my own lack of common ground. Isaac loves this stuff; my criteria for whether something can be judged ‘good’ or ‘bad’ are outmoded and meaningless when it comes to discussions like this. Yet music criticism is not musicological analysis, it has never been even primarily concerned with  the notion of a universal good or bad, with the notes and tone and composition by themselves. So does this make Rolling Stone‘s critique of Marshmello’s 2018 album Joytime II as “monotonous… every song sounds like it has already been pre-leased for use by energy-drink companies or extreme-sports squads” valueless? Only inasmuch as music criticism has always been valueless.

Pitchfork‘s comment that “Artists trafficking in EDM have typically been averse to the album format, but Marshmello’s two Joytime releases aren’t exactly albums. Think of them more as collections of DJ tools — packages of cuts tailor-made for set-lists and remix fodder alike” feels more relevant. Doesn’t tell you anything about the music though.

Or does it?

Music criticism focuses on the audience, and on the performer. As the old line has it about John Coltrane and the Cheeky Girls – can we not all agree the merit and worth in one over the other. No, I do not believe we can. Preference is down to context and fashion, not some mythic intrinsic ‘value’.

Could I also draw your attention to this:

**LIMITED EDITION** MARSHMELLO X FORTNITE MERCH ▶ http://mellogang.com Click Here To Watch The Happier Music Video ▶ https://youtu.be/m7Bc3pLyij0 SUBSCRIBE HERE ▶ http://youtube.com/marshmellomusic?su… Thank You to Fortnite, everyone playing with the Marshmello skin in game and all of you mellogang watching at home Listen to the extended set on Apple Music ▶ https://apple.co/2WCBgAt BIBA with Pritam and Shirley Setia is out now ▶ https://youtu.be/7gfhI2FQ55s Watch Gaming with Marshmello HERE ▶ http://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLcY… Watch Cooking with Marshmello HERE ▶ http://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLcY… — MORE Marshmello Music — LISTEN to Joytime II Here ▶ http://smarturl.it/JOYTIMEII WATCH PROJECT DREAMS MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/Hn7WDtF3nKA WATCH TOGETHER MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/JePnQ1gSagc WATCH BAYEN HABEIT LYRIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/jNJCdxMf0t8 WATCH STARS MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/A57B7B6w3kw WATCH FLASHBACKS MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/Lj-_mD0w474 WATCH YOU CAN CRY MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/2SJ0hgdciNE WATCH EVERYDAY MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/bEdcJY8Emm8 WATCH FLY MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/oRArmtMA9AI WATCH FRIENDS MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/jzD_yyEcp0M WATCH SPOTLIGHT MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/7R1N-8SoqcM WATCH LOVE U MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/D-pKeb6Wf4U WATCH TAKE IT BACK MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/P9Ijqa_2eu0 WATCH SILENCE MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/Tx1sqYc3qas WATCH BLOCKS MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/5E4ZBSInqUU WATCH YOU & ME MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/fiusxyygqGk WATCH FIND ME MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/ymq1WdGUcw8 WATCH MOVING ON MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/yU0tnrEk8H4 WATCH SUMMER MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/2vMH8lITTCE WATCH ALONE MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/ALZHF5UqnU4 WATCH KEEP IT MELLO MUSIC VIDEO ▶ https://youtu.be/_J_VpmXAzqg MARSHMELLO: Merch | http://mellogang.com/ Spotify | http://spoti.fi/Marshmello Apple Music | http://apple.co/2n8Evz6 SoundCloud | http://soundcloud.com/marshmellomusic Instagram | http://instagram.com/marshmellomusic Facebook | http://facebook.com/marshmellomusic Twitter | http://twitter.com/marshmellomusic Twitch | http://twitch.tv/marshmellomusic Video Editor: Taylor Cutler #Marshmello #Fortnite #Gaming #Event marsh walk fortnite item keep it mello marshwalk

————————————————-

Damn.

That is some heavy-duty marketing, right there.

How NOT to write about music – 18. Let’s Eat Grandma

Let's Eat Grandma

The name is a punctuation joke.

Immediately I find myself drawn towards this pair of transgressive teenagers. Their name is a punctuation joke: I don’t know why, but this one simple reveal tells me more about their potential of their music than any number of flowery lines detailing how novel and stand alone their kaleidoscopic pop is. And there sure have been plenty of flowery lines detailing how novel and unique the Norwich pair’s second album is.

“[Their] bold, tender music at once captures teenage girlhood and transcends it entirely. I can’t imagine what they’ll do next.” (Pitchfork)

“Still deliciously bratty of voice, LEG writhe from pouty indignation to rapturous fantasy as they reclaim pink and power in the most visceral four minutes of pop this year.” (The Guardian)

I wonder how many of these writers are the same age as Let’s Eat Grandma? (Yes, I do believe it to be relevant.) At least many of them are the same gender.

Unique? Novel? Really?

Within seconds of listening to the luscious ‘Hot Pink’, I’m reminded of Gothic Americana popsters, the sisters CocoRosie, with a much more immersive understanding of EDM. I am not trying to pull Let’s Eat Grandma down by making this observation (also, this is superficial, based around a certain Helium trill in the intertwined voices and love for esoteric slightly jarring sound) – just pointing out the danger of calling something like “nothing else in pop right now” (thank you Pitchfork) when a statement like that is more revealing of the writer’s own lack of immersion than the music itself. Indeed, the description Pitchfork applied to Let’s Eat Grandma’s debut album could so easily be applied to Cocorosie’s early work, “If anything, I, Gemini’s everything-at-once psychedelia spoke directly to the feeling of being a young teenager—a kaleidoscope of unknowns, as terrifying as it is cool.”

That’s not to say it’s not a great line. It is. It’s a great line, especially the phrase “a kaleidoscope of unknowns”. It makes me want to listen, for sure. (And isn’t that one of the primary functions of music criticism?) Better than the NME’s “This is a thrilling, fascinating album that continually startles: it’s a bold step forward and one that feels like a glimpse into the future” – a line which frankly could have (and probably has) been written about any one of 10, 000 other albums, from Paul McCartney’s Back To The Egg to Britney Spears’ latest to the debut from Coldplay.

Also, comparisons. So the fuck what?

I will forgive The Quietus their header of “Walton and Hollingworth’s second album is a richly chaotic collection of warped weirdo pop” but only because it is a header (notoriously difficult to get right), and skip straight to the part where the writer talks about how “‘Falling Into Me’ unpicks pop’s lining perfectly, with its broken, neon disco beat racing into a savage techno high that’s pierced by a recorder.” And everywhere, every review extant, there is the obligatory description of the 11-minute long ‘Donnie Darko’ as an “epic”. What else could it be? It is 11 minutes long.

Great song, though.

The Drowned In Sound review fails (mostly) by trying too hard to be Pitchfork, and it is difficult to get past the clanger of a misjudged opening line, I’m All Ears opens with ‘Whitewater’, a thunking great ice-bucket challenge of an instrumental that answers that age-old question: ‘what if the soundtrack to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive had been written by Godspeed You! Black Emperor?'”

Yeah, right.

Stereogum go on and on so much about how the discussion around Let’s Eat Grandma was framed almost entirely around the phrase “but they’re kids!” it makes the reader wonder whether the writer is resentful that these “kids” have moved on. (Damn, do Stereogum need a decent editor.) Also, the comparison to Lorde (as another high profile former “kid”, presumably?) is surface-level to say the least.

Rolling Stone call Let’s Eat Grandma’s second album “a balancing act of modern bubblegum synth-pop with rangy indie-rock restlessness” but you would expect them to say that, wouldn’t you? Speaking of which, much of I’m All Ears (e.g. ‘I Will be Waiting’) is not any more musically adventurous than Wolf Alice (say) – not an insult per se (I really could not give a crap about perceived innovation), just an observation.

Man alive though, that closing line! “The future, after all, belongs to the young.” Oh my fucking God.

There is a Needle Drop review, but I can’t be arsed with that.

Two nights ago, Q Magazine awarded I’m All Ears the heady title of Album Of The Year, and good on them for that. So pleased to see the magazine stepping away from countless years of Paul Weller Lifetime Achievement Awards and Gallagher brothers covers.

weller

Oops.