>In My Hour Of Weakness: REQUEST-A-REVIEW!!

>Ladies in gentlemen, I, Sean Rose, need YOUR HELP.

Let me explain my situation. My usual review process for this blog is as thus: if there’s something I like, or something recently released that I find compelling, I will review it. That’s kind of it, I guess. As such, I feel my reviews have become a little too suck-upish and tame during the past few months, as I have mostly reviewed bands (and to a lesser extent, games and shows) that I am familiar with and genuinely like. To be honest, I am getting a little bored with this process!!

So here is what I am asking all of you. What do you want to see me review? Is there an album or song or whatever floating around out there that you just cannot WAIT to get Sean Rose’s opinion on so you can know whether you should like it or not?? Then today is your lucky day, my friends. If you have a request, feel free to leave a comment in Facebook or Blogger, I don’t care.

A few things about this exciting request service:

-I’m limiting requests to music (songs or albums, either are fine) because games and TV and film take a little too much time. Music is much easier for me to gain access to and review! And I probably know music better than anything else!! So stick to that you losers.

-I might not review everything that is requested of me, and for that I apologize. I am pretty much going to choose whatever requests interest me, and my review also really depends on whether or not I can GET the album or not.

-Expanding on the accessibility thing: unless you can send the album to me (or link me to a decent torrent), please try not to request something too obscure or hard to find/download! Because I will probably not review them!!

-I am going to be leaving campus in a couple days, and as such I will not have access to DC++’s superfast file-sharing capabilities. So it might take a while for me to review a certain album, even if I really want to review it. ‘cuz torrents can be shaky!

-Last thing I promise: if you ask me to review an album/band/song you really like, and I trash them, PLEASE try to not get too upset! You asked for my opinion after all! Nothing personal.

So umm, I guess that’s it. I am desperate, and I am calling upon my many many readers to gimme some tipzz. Comment away, and thanks again!

(P.S. if nobody comments in Facebook OR Blogger, the blog is shutting down. I give up. Sorry.)

(P.P.S. if you’re tagged on Facebook, that’s just ‘cuz I figured you read this thing. Because you have commented before. Please feel free to ignore this post if you are offended by my tagging.)

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>Music Critic Profile: Robert Christgau

>Remember that scene in This Is Spinal Tap where Marty DeBergi is reading off all of the terrible reviews Spinal Tap have accumulated over the years? And he reads off the review of their album Shark Sandwich – “This one’s a two-word review: ‘Shit sandwich'”? And the band gets all upset and says “Is that real? You can’t print that!” If I didn’t know any better I would say that was a little dig at Robert Christgau, so-called “Dean of Rock Critics.”

Now, I’ve been a little hesitant to profile Mr. Christgau, and there’s a simple reason for it: I don’t like the guy very much. He’s kind of a prick. You know the aforementioned “Dean of Rock Critics” bullshit title? Yeah, I’m pretty sure he came up with that himself (I mean, jeez, not even Michael Jackson had the gumption to call himself the “King of Pop” – Liz Taylor did that for him). His short, stylized “capsule reviews” are loaded with abstract verse and often impenetrable language, giving the guy an unflappable air of pretension. I’m not sure who chooses what artist he reviews – it’s either the magazine he writes for or himself, and I’m guessing the latter – but reading his reviews I always get the impression that he is impossibly above the subject he is reviewing, a lousy trait for any good critic. It gets the the point where he will review certain artists he doesn’t like in a wholly dismissive manner, giving them a “shit sandwich” kind of review or simply labeling them as a “dud” and moving on with his life, as if said artist isn’t worth his valuable time. Maybe he’s earned it – considering that he was part of the first wave of rock critics back in the 60s, and he’s still reviewing albums constantly, I guess he deserves to be finicky about what music he writes about. But the fact that the guy is a veteran rock critic doesn’t wash the taste of asshole out of my mouth.

So why profile him? Well, ‘cuz I read Christgau’s stuff all the time. Head on over to RobertChristgau.com and you’ll find tons of his reviews from Rolling Stone, the Village Voice, Blender, and many other sources, not to mention his Consumer Guide capsule reviews that are his trademark. I’m not sure why, but I get a real kick out of reading Christgau’s reviews when I’m bored. It’s like a game for me – I’ll think of any given band and wonder, “Hey, I wonder what Christgau thinks of the Arcade Fire?” I type “Arcade Fire” into the Consumer Guide search, and voila, there’s the review! (Note: He likes the Arcade Fire.) Man, that’s something I need – a quick hit of terse, over-worded cynicism to get my brain boiling. I hate to use the cliche Forrest Gump analogy, but with Christgau, you never know what he’s going to think about a band, and for whatever reason I’m always curious to know.

Now, what I have found out in the year-and-a-half or so of reading Mr. Christgau’s reviews is that I tend to not agree with him most of the time. In fact, he tends to be completely flippant about bands I really like, not to mention somewhat douchey about albums I really really like. That alone isn’t enough to really bother me – everyboy’s entitled to their opinion – but it’s just the way he does it that gets me. Maybe it’s related to his “grading” system – rather than a five-star or out-of-ten gauge that most reviewers use, he uses an A plus-to-E minus system that just makes his personality all the more insufferable. Maybe that’s his schtick or something; he’s the “Dean” of rock critics so he has to grade artists academically, like a schoolmarm. Whatever his intentions, the whole grading business makes it seem like Christgau views pop albums like term papers in Chemistry class, which doesn’t help his “douche” image. You know, I would wager that Robert Christgau is the definitive archetype of the Hated Rock Critic that so many people have decried over the years – condescending, hyper-literate, and often disrespectful, he might be the sole reason that most rock bands (and worse, rock fans) hate rock critics. So in a way he’s ruining it for the rest of us who, you know, would prefer not to be treated like pompous douches.

OK, maybe I’m trailing off into a tangent of hate here. As I said, I read Christgau a lot, and to be honest I do not think he is a bad writer, not by a long shot. He’s obviously a very smart human being. It would also be pretty hypocritical of me to get angry at him over dismissing bands he doesn’t care about – I do it all the time. And once in a while I will find a review page on his site that I very much enjoy. Admittedly, they tend to be ones I agree with: I love his pages on Pavement and the Ramones, and I will give credit to Christgau for writing what I consider to be the best review of Sgt. Pepper’s I’ve ever read. He also does, at times, turn me on to unusual albums I’d never considered hearing, like the Beach Boys’ Wild Honey or the Talking Heads’ Little Creatures. He also has a decent knack for championing great artists before anyone else does, like Prince or the Replacements. There are also some hilarious reviews here that only further Christgau’s classic asshole image, most notably on his Sonic Youth page in which he gives a bad review to “Kill Yr. Idols,” a song that openly called out Christgau by name. (Yes, Robert Christgau is so douchey that Sonic Youth wrote a song about it. Need I say any more?)

Now, something Mr. Christgau can totally 100% be proud of is the annual Village Voice Pazz & Jop Critics Poll, a poll he organized and ran for a solid three decades until he was dismissed from the magazine a couple years back. Over the years, prominent music critics have submitted their choices for the best albums / singles of the year, going as far back as 1971. Looking through these polls, it’s honestly a treasure trove – there are so many interesting choices and obscure favorites buried in these lists, it’s like manna from heaven for any obsessive popular music historian. There’s also tons of weird, unexpected winners here that are so trivial and wonderful I can’t resist looking for more. Guess who won Best Album of 1992? Nope, not Pavement – Arrested Development! Best Album of 1994? Nope, not Pavement – Hole! Guess who won in ’99? PAVEMENT! (Okay, no, it was Moby. My bad. But seriously, Moby??) And hey, how ’bout the whacked-out year that Bob Dylan won Best Album and Hanson won Best Single? Or the even more whacked-out year that Bob Dylan won Best Album and Missy Elliot won Best Single?. Man, I love this stuff! Even if you don’t like Christgau all that much, you should probably check out this list. It’s a hoot!

When I think about it, maybe it’s silly for me to get pissed at Christgau. The guy’s in his 60’s now, and his relevance is dwindling by the year – not only does he not run Pazz & Jop anymore after his aforementioned dismissal from the Village Voice, but he’s working for Blender now. Bleh. But nevertheless, his website is an essential archive for any rock fan, and he’ll always be a definitive figure in rock music journalism, for better or for worse. He’ll never be any Lester Bangs, even if he wants to be, but he is an influential force. After four decades of writing, I guess that’s worth something.

>Music Critic Profile: Mark Prindle

>I read a lot of music criticism. Too much, probably; after reading review after review of a particular album my opinion of it might actually start to cater to what everybody else thinks of it. And as someone who would LIKE to have their own, original opinions on their favorite music, this is kind of a tough thing to admit.

But I can’t help it – I am obsessed with music criticism. Some of it I love, some of it I hate. But I can’t stop reading it. There are a lot of people who will tell you that artistic criticism – in any respect, be it film or video games or whatever – is written by a bunch of snobbish fussbudgets who can’t relate to the real world and are just out to put everything down. While this can sometimes be the case, it’s mostly untrue (Rolling Stone gave 4 stars to Linkin Park’s newest album, didn’t you hear?) and the people who say that kind of thing probably listen to… oh, I don’t know, Staind or something. In my view, music criticism is written more out of a love of music than anything else, and can offer up a wealth of fascinating writing if you know who to read. So I’d like to offer some brief profiles of some of my personal favorite record reviewers.

I’ll start with probably my favorite online music critic, Mark Prindle. Prindle has been maintaining Mark Prindle’s Record Reviews for well over a decade now (his first reviews were posted back in 1996), and as far as I can tell, he’s been working pretty diligently in that time – in fact, there are so many artist pages and interviews on his site, getting to the heart of his writing can be a daunting task. This isn’t helped by Prindle’s exhaustive artist reviews – when he profiles an artist, he will review not a meager selection of notable albums, but every single album in that artist’s discography. And that’s not just studio albums – that’s live albums, compilations, bootlegs, and whatever else Prindle happens to own. Now, a common response to this could be “Oh, well, he must really love the bands he reviews if he’s willing to review EVERYTHING they’ve EVER recorded! That’s dedication!” Well, yeah. But the funny thing is, many a time, Prindle will not review a band/artist he actually likes – as such, he will review every album ever recorded for a band he hates. This leads to some fascinating review pages in which he tries to find the good in bands he doesn’t care for (Linkin Park, The Jam, whoever) and it offers up some bizarre – but fascinating – results.

There’s also his style of writing. I don’t quite know how to describe it. The proper adjective here would be “mercurial,” but a few other words come to mind: “loopy”, “rough”, “tangential”, “unnecessarily angry”, and (in some cases) “completely batshit insane.” Unlike many other music critics out there, the reviews on Prindle’s site are (for the most part) not printed in any sort of magazine or fanzine or whathaveyou; the website is there for him and him only. As such, Prindle takes full advantage of the space he has. While most of his reviews are pretty brief (he is reviewing every album in the artist’s catalouge, after all), many will devolve into long, very personal tangents, in which Prindle tells a story, rattles off a series of silly, awful jokes, rants about someone or something, or turns to silly little gimmicks (like running his review of the Jam’s “All Mod Cons” through Babelfish, rendering the review incomprehensible). All in all it makes for a one-of-the-kind reading experience, if you can manage to actually understand what he’s trying to get across without being repulsed or annoyed by his off-the-cuff (and often somewhat juvenile) style.

Oh, did I also mention that Prindle is so dedicated to his readers that he will post every single e-mail response to his reviews below every single review, no matter how negative or fucked-up they might be? Yeah. That just makes things even more unusual.

So while Prindle’s page is a very, very messy-looking affair, his writing shines through; like the great Lester Bangs before him (who Prindle has been compared to more than once), the quality of Prindle’s writing comes from his unfaltering honesty and his genuine love of (most of the) music he’s reviewing. Unlike many reviewers, he is unashamed of mentioning his favorite bands whenever he gets the chance, often name-dropping them in completely unrelated reviews (most notably The Ramones, The Fall, The Byrds, and – most notoriously – the obscure noise-punk band the Cows). He also has a severe vendetta against the alt-rock and electronica trends of the 90’s (having started the site in 1996, he was neck-deep in it), a subject that he will rant about in somewhat unexpected places.

Prindle also has what could be called an obsession with trying to remove any and all influence from other music reviewers, most notably from the Allmusic.com guide, which he has lambasted on more than one occasion. He has no qualms about going back to read over his old reviews and change them if he feels he wasn’t being honest or had cow-towed to universal critical opinion (such as his loving reviews of the critically lambasted late-80’s Ramones, or the 10/10 he gave to the later-era Bowie album “Hours”, the only perfect score he gave Bowie). While it makes for something of a haphazard experience at first, it makes for very entertaining reading, since it is very hard to anticipate how he will feel about almost any given album, popular or obscure. Prindle is very deft at making his reviews funny, entertaining, and – more often than not – surprisingly poignant.

I could keep describing Prindle, but I feel like I’d just be repeating myself; instead, I’ll give a list of some notable Mark Prindle reviews, ranging from the genuine to the bizarre:

– Prindle’s Miles Davis page, which begins with the tagline “I don’t understand jazz really at all,” is a perfect example of Prindle’s tendency to exhaustively review an artist who he doesn’t like – or, in this case, a genre he doesn’t like. Almost every review consists of him reiterating about how he doesn’t “get” jazz, and by the second review – just the SECOND – he goes so far as to say “Everybody who likes jazz is stupid.” Needless to say, he received many negative responses.

– His Linkin Park review page claims that “the backing music is light and tinkly enough to sound EXACTLY like a Backstreet Boys ballad until the loud guitars come in during the chorus. It’s so clearly fucking boy-band music!” This also happens to be one of the longest review pages on Prindle’s site – not due to Prindle’s reviews, but due to the hundreds upon hundreds of responses he received from… well, many angry fans.

– His Emerson Lake and Palmer page is probably one of the most entertaining pages he’s done. Same goes for his Beach Boys page.

– His review of The Beatles’ The Complete Rooftop Concert bootleg, in which he claims that “Although not a very listenable bootleg, The Complete Rooftop Sessions is an important one. It captures the very brief period of time during which The Beatles were a completely inadequate, dysfunctional piece of shit. If you’re ever dissatisfied with the state of YOUR band, give this garbage a listen and you might just see things in a whole new light.” It should be noted that the Beatles are one of his favorite bands.

– His Velvet Underground review page. Mark Prindle hates the Velvet Underground, but unusually enough, loves Lou Reed. He also loves Simon and Garfunkel but hates Paul Simon. Hmm.

– His Bee Gees page, which is totally guest-written by rock critic Gregg Turkington. In case you were wondering, Gregg Turkington also happens to be the legendary Neil Hamburger, the most wonderful terrible comedian ever (who Prindle has not only reviewed, but interviewed.)

– His constant lambasting of Dean of Rock Critics Robert Christgau, including his announcement that Christgau is “…a fuck. A worthless fuck… he’s a fool. A pathetic old man. Ignore every word he says.” This is in the middle of some Pere Ubu review.

– I’ll end with maybe my favorite Prindle reviews, and probably some of the most genuine on the site: his scathing indictment of Madonna’s American Life, the ONLY album on his site to receive a 0/10. Then there’s his unabashedly glowing review of John Mellencamp’s “Scarecrow”: “I’ve been enjoying this album for 15 years. Even during my hardcore punker years when I made fun of the Coug for being such a mainstream dork rocker, I secretly sang all these tunes to myself on a regular basis. Yes, even when I had long hair with the sides of my head shaved like that guy in Faith No More!” And then there’s his review of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising”, detailing his experiences during 9/11. It may be the most openly heartfelt review he has ever done, and of course, it ends with him mentioning Bruce Springsteen’s ass.

The truth is, though, that these little excerpts are really only scratching the surface of what Prindle’s site has to offer. Not only are there hundreds of artist review pages on his site, but a wonderful cache of of Prindle’s interviews of key rock figures such as Pavement, Richard Hell, Tommy Ramone, Steve Albini, and many many others. If you have any passing interest in rock music and great writing simultaneously, dig into Mark Prindle’s treasure trove of fractured rock ‘n roll ramblings and never look back.