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.



How NOT to write about music – 7. Low

Low Double Negative

OK. The title of this blog is How NOT to write about music.

So, the opening paragraph of this:

These days, there is a constant and seemingly endless supply of new music at our fingertips. If you work as music journalist, you get thousands of emails a day alerting you to impending releases or sending you dozens of albums months away from entering the world. You can never sift through it all, but you explore as much as you can, figuring out where everything fits together. There are often surprises, not just in albums dropping out of the sky but in the gratification of an artist you’ve long loved and supported coming out of left field with a stunning new sound or leveling up to the next tier of success and notoriety. There is always something to react to, and in the ever-changing music landscape of today, it often feels like our job to try and make all the scattered pieces cohere into something legible.

Some questions: how does the above add to the dialogue about music? How does it pull readers into wanting to read about the music under discussion? Is it entertaining? Informative? It reads like the author’s notes to himself, dulled and disinterested by too many nights of insomnia and days of grey. Why is it the opening paragraph? Do sub-editors exist on the Internet? If so, then why aren’t they challenging the writer? If not, then why has this blog got any traction whatsoever? Do word-counts mean for nothing these days? What about the waste of the reader’s time? Reading the above is like staring at the Piracy Warning Screen on a new DVD – are Stereogum obligated by American law to include an opening paragraph of humdrum ‘observation’ in place of insight or entertainment on every new album review, lest they rile up the reader’s blood too greatly?

More questions: Also, thousands of emails?  Ever-changing? It often feels like our job to try and… how else do you view what you do? Why has this entire paragraph not been cut?

There was a simple rule, easily applied, back when I was an editor at Melody Maker where space was at a premium and words were accordingly treasured – if you can begin an article without any loss of sense or momentum or insight or whatever by cutting the first paragraph, cut the fucking first paragraph.

Aside from the opening line, the second paragraph could easily have been cut as well.

Another rule: do not include sentences that do not entertain or add to the general dialogue around music.

INVIOLATE RULE forgotten by a generation of music critics: If you’re going to do hyperbole – and that is all this Stereogum review is, simple hyperbole – then at least be entertaining. The review is interminable. It is also counterproductive: why would you listen to music that inspires such dullard journalism?