Excerpts From Every Piece Of Music Culture Commentary I’ve Written In A Universe Where Being A Professional Culture Writer Isn’t A Laughable Impossibility
From “Untitled Punk Rock Retrospective,” Spin Magazine, 2006
San Francisco punk icons the Dead Kennedys are known for being one of the first American punk bands to break into the UK scene, while also serving as music’s best example of the concept of Maslow’s Hammer, except in the case of Jello Biafra’s songwriting, we can edit the quote to say, “when all you have are ham-fisted references to Hitler, everything starts to look a little like fascism.”
From “Untitled Review of Richard Ayoade’s Submarine,” Chicago Reader, 2010
Most laudable is Ayoade’s decision to have Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner write the score, and he does a phenomenal job with songs like “Stuck On The Puzzle” (this reviewer’s favorite track) and “Glass In The Park,” which is great news for long-suffering Arctic Monkeys fans who were afraid that Turner would never shake the warlock’s curse that forced him to write the lyric “You took a left off Last Laugh Lane,” on 2007’s “Fluorescent Adolescent,” one of the worst lines of music written in the past ten years.
From “Untitled LCD Soundsystem Reunion Coverage,” The Awl, 2016
It’s a huge relief that James Murphy has promised not only a new LCD Soundsystem tour, but also a new LCD Soundsystem album, because there’s a lot of new territory for them to explore in the themes about what a bummer New York City can be to live in and how much fun dancing is, the subjects of every LCD Soundsystem song.
From “Untitled Chuck Klosterman-esque Hypothetical Exploration Of Whether Courtney Love Would Have Fared Better As A Musician Today Than She Did In The 1990s,” The Believer, 2015
Certainly, Love’s career has taken a lot of unpleasant turns, from the fact that she was taken in by JT LeRoy’s chicanery in the mid-aughts (and was recorded on tape snorting a line of cocaine while offering career advice to Laura Albert, architect of the LeRoy persona), but we also shouldn’t forget Princess Ai, a four volume manga comic published by Tokyopop that she co-created with a man named “DJ Milky,” which this reviewer considers to be her second worst public relations decision, ranking just behind that time she posted a photo to Facebook where she’d used MS Paint to indicate where she thought the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was.
From “Untitled, Overly Pedantic Takedown Of Music Our Dads Like,” Pitchfork, 2007
Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s greatest crime against music aside from the fact that they wrote songs solely for a certain type of 1970s geekwad who drew oiled-up barbarians and lightning bolts all over their notebooks in Literature class, is that their song “Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression Pt. 2)” begins with the line “welcome back my friends / to the show that never ends,” but that song is only like five minutes long, max.
From “Untitled Longform Feature On Arcade Fire’s 2013 Album Reflektor,” Rolling Stone, 2013
A lot of real estate in the wake of Reflektor’s release was laser focused on the topic of cultural appropriation, like whether it was appropriate for a Canadian band largely comprised of white people to basically re-imagine Black Orpheus as an indie concept album, and whether it was okay for the band (which does have a Haitian member, Régine Chassagne) to utilize veve graffiti, an important piece of Vodou culture, as a guerrilla marketing campaign for the album’s release.
Butler certainly didn’t do the record any favors by constantly making weird generalizations like insisting that Haitians had never heard the Beatles before in interviews, but all this discussion about the album’s impact and appropriation did distract from the largest issue facing Arcade Fire up to that point, which is that Win Butler looks and dresses exactly like Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg, the villain from Luc Besson’s 1997 film The Fifth Element.
From “Untitled, Unsolicited Hot Take About Why Glam Rock Sucks Ass In A Major Way,” VICE, 2011
KISS was, to put it mildly, a band who was so hyperaware about the immeasurable degree to which their fans sucked ass that the band’s only good song, “Detroit Rock City,” is just about a bunch of shithead KISS fans dying in a fiery car wreck on their way to a KISS concert and it’s not even treated like a tragedy.
From “Untitled, Snarky Personal Blog Piece About Tom Waits That Was Signal Boosted By The AV Club’s ‘Great Job, Internet!’ Feature,” AV Club, 2009
Tom Waits is and remains the only recording artist to successfully pivot away from the fallow ground of writing lounge-inspired love ballads in order to focus on what truly interested him—writing exclusively from the perspective of a syphilitic drunkard dying in the gutters of a nightmare world built entirely out of water-damaged Coney Island boardwalk wood and broken carnival pipe organs.
From “Untitled Negative Review Of Best Coast’s Second Studio Album, The Only Place, With An Obvious Axe To Grind With California Exceptionalism Culture,” Stereogum, 2012
The album’s title track starts with the line “We were born with the sun in our teeth and in our hair,” and only grows more grating and obnoxious as the song goes on, eventually coming to a head with a chorus in which frontwoman Bethany Cosentino coyly asks “why would you live anywhere else,” and croons, “We’ve got the ocean, got the babes / Got the sun, we’ve got the waves / This is the only place for me.”
Best Coast’s previous catalog leads this reviewer to believe that Cosentino was actually going to write an ironic takedown of vacuous West Coast culture, à la Ty Segall’s “California Commercial,” but just spaced because of how amazing Southern California is and forgot to put that in any of the final mix (you know how Californians are!!!).
It’s also worth noting that the album art depicts a bear hugging the state of California, which seems inappropriate given that the California grizzly bear was hunted to extinction by ranchers almost a century ago, I guess to make way for chill vibes and surfing that Californians are so fond of.
This is an album that would make even pre-mental breakdown Brian Wilson say, “hey guys, maybe you should tone down the California angle a little.”
From “Untitled DEVO Piece,” NPR Music Blog, 2010
DEVO’s album “New Traditionalists” has the band declaring “we’re through being cool,” which certainly made a lot of people (this reviewer included) ask the question, “but when did you guys start?”