A Reasonable Guide to Rock Critics
by George Zissimos (August 2000)
Literally tens of thousands of books have been written about social misfits. From robbers and rapists to serial killers and mass murderers, if you look hard enough, you can find more than a few books about any kind of degenerate slime. But one kind of deviant has been overlooked by criminologists and psychiatrists everywhere--the rock critic.
No one can say for sure if rock critics are made or born. What we do know is that they are a pathetic yet dangerous group of people. Known to ramble incoherently about music in a manner that could put a speed freak to sleep, rock critics have the ability to make the most exciting music seem so goddamn boring that you want to throw out your record collection and devote your life to macramé. As a result, rock critics must be identified in order to be avoided.
1.) The Historian--Tends to be middle-aged. Believes that since they grew up with rock and roll they are the ultimate authority on it. Also tends to gravitate toward left-wing politics and stupid-looking eyeglasses.
This type of critic got his start in the 1960's when, between bong hits, he had a revelation. "Rock music can change the world. If I get a job that lets me tell people what kind of music to listen to, I can recommend rock music and help change the world. Whoa!" But when rock music failed to make the world a better place, the Historian became upset and started to write pompous, long-winded monographs that argue that rock and roll isn't just music, it's class war. To the Historian, rock and roll is a struggle between the working class and the awful rich people who oppress them. Meanwhile, the Historian writes books that cost $24.95 and speaks at universities that charge 30 grand a year.
Loves: Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, the Clash, Pearl Jam, and small university presses (since they're the only ones foolish enough to publish the Historian's books).
2.)The Bogus Intellectual--Spends more time discussing French social theorists and philosophers than they do music. This would be okay if they were semiotics professors, but they're not. THEY'RE ROCK CRITICS!
Bogus intellectuals want people to think that they're much smarter than they really are. That's why they turn their attention toward "cerebral" music like post-rock and intelligent dance music. But in reality, they enjoy this stuff because it mirrors their own personalities--cold, mechanical, and boring as hell. Bogus intellectuals also worship Brian Eno. However, it isn't Eno's music that they're interested in; it's his theories. He's one of the few musicians who talk as much nonsense as they do.
Loves: Brian Eno, IDM, post-rock, and autoerotic asphyxia.
3.)The Yo Guy--Tends to review rap records. This leads them to believe that it's appropriate to litter their reviews with so much hip-hop jargon that no one knows what the hell they're talking about. Ironically enough, 99% of these critics are college-educated white kids from the suburbs.
Yo Guys are infatuated with the "old school." The trouble is, their vision of the old school is based on someone else's memories. Too young, or suburban, to experience the early days of hip-hop (NYC in the early '80s), they learned everything they know about rap music from old issues of Grand Royal and EgoTrip.
Loves: Pharoahe Monch, Jurassic 5, turntablism, and anything on Rawkus.
4.)The Loose Cannon--Believes that criticism should be like great rock and roll: passionate, spontaneous, and fun. Unfortunately, Loose Cannons wind up writing reviews that are like bad rock and roll: self-indulgent, corny, and under the influence of far too many drugs. Instead of just reviewing an artist's music, Loose Cannons spend most of their time talking about their miserable lives. When they finally run out of things to say about substance abuse, dysfunctional relationships, and restraining orders, they discuss the music that they were supposed to be talking about in the first place. By this point, the reader loses interest and begins to rub their temples in an effort to ease their migraine.
Loves: Cough syrup with codeine, malt liquor, free jazz, and garage rock.
5.)The Angry Guy--Tries to convince others that most music is crap; unless it's drenched in enough noise to make Merzbow wince. In reality, they're really big Sugar Ray fans.
Angry Guys are like those kids in high school who want people to think they're weird and dangerous. Except, instead of wearing Charles Manson T-shirts and collecting serial killer trading cards, Angry Guys write about how swell unlistenable noise artists like Masonna and Whitehouse are and how lame everyone else is. And like those kids in high school, once the Angry Guys' skin clears up and girls begin to like them, they calm down and start listening to the Squirrel Nut Zippers.
6.)The Promo Whore (a.k.a. The Fanzine Dork)--
"Do you like everything that comes out on SST?
Do you like everything that comes out on 4AD?
Do you like everything that comes out on Homestead?
I like everything that I get in the mail for free!"
--from "Letter to a Fanzine"
by Great Plains (1987)
These guys are like roaches. They've been around forever and they'll never go away. Promo Whores write reviews for one reason--to obtain free CDs. In order to do so, they suck up to record labels by only writing positive reviews about their bands. The most dishonest of all critics, the Promo Whore will, at some point, graduate to the mainstream rock press. There, they'll continue to chap their lips on the music industry's ass. Only this time, it will be to sell ad space.
Loves: Everything they get in the mail for free.
If you, or a loved one, are thinking about becoming a critic get help. There are people out there who care.
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