Critiquing the rock critics: rock cliches

24 02 2013

Before I blast away, I’ll concede a few things.  First, there are only so many adjectives that the average writer and reader know and understand.  There are only so many words for good and bad.  I struggle with finding new ways to express similar ideas repeatedly.  Second, if you write a lot, it’s easy to fall into a style.  Words and phrases that work are tempting to repeat.  So, cliches are hard to avoid.

Understanding that, I still find it tiresome reading the same little cliches and catch phrases in the music and entertainment press, especially in concert and album reviews.  Here are some of the most over-used words and turns of phrase and what they really mean:

  • “Masterpiece” – In my oh-so-humble opinion, this word should reserved for the best of the best of the best.  I won’t say “cream of the crop” because that’s another awful cliche.
  • “_____ is even better than ______” – Where this type of comparison really gets me is when the comparison is a particularly weak one.  I just read a review of The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street is “even better than the White Album.” Um, no it’s not.  That’s somewhat beside the point.  Why the this-is-better-than-that statement in album reviews is cliche, besides its frequency of use, is that it’s a cop out.  If you don’t know what to say, just say that it’s better than something really good.
  • “Genius” – I’m guilty of this.  It’s incredibly tempting to call a talented musician, singer or songwriter a “genius.”  It’s hard to find ways to express something that seems great to one’s ears.  But not everybody that puts together a great album or two can really be called a “genius.”  There has to be another way of describing apparent greatness than to elevate its creator to the top of the human heap.  The problem: having too many geniuses zaps the word of its punch.
  • “Toe tapper” – It works but it’s just too cute to use all the time.
  • “Mesmerizing” – Like “genius,” very little output is so good as to deserve this descriptor.  How many songs or albums can there really be that take the listener out of him or herself?  Oh, the best music does that, but only the “cream of the crop.”
  • “An instant classic” – This is an oxymoron.  No, “it doesn’t have to be old to be a classic,” but any fair sense of the word “classic” suggests staying power.  How many mega-hits sound almost silly 10 years past their peak?  (Conversely, there is all kinds of material that, like some wines and cheeses, gets better with age.  Some albums sound better after they’ve had time to marinate and work their way through the culture.)  How about just telling us the song or album is a must-listen — and why it is so –and leave it to time to tell is whether it’s a “classic.”
  • “______ is channeling _______.”  – At worst, an artist “channeling” another is simply plagiarizing.  At best, that artist is “pseudo_______” or “______-esque”. . . to the critics ears.  This can be the critic’s crutch for saying something is familiar in the sound.  The problem: the critic doesn’t have to think about what is unique in the music when what is familiar, usually the most obvious thing to the average listener, need not be described.  You already know the familiar.
  • “The next Beatles” – There will never be another Beatles.  A few bands over the years have made a lot of noise, but Beatlemania and the combination of depth, quality and quantity of great pop music simply can’t be reproduced or matched, let alone topped.

SOtP’s top 100 albums

17 02 2013

What follows is a list of the best pop and rock (in some cases hard rock, heavy metal, or R&B) albums ever made.  Of course, it’s purely subjective and is limited by what I’ve heard.  I obviously would have less credibility than the little I have now if I threw albums on this list I had never heard on reputation alone.  I don’t pretend to be Rolling Stone magazine, all-knowing, the final say in the US regarding rock music *rolls eyes in sarcasm*. I also make no pretense at ordering these from greatest of the great to least of the great — best to worst if you will. It’s impossible, I’d argue, to distinguish between favorite album nos. 21 and 23 or 74 and 98.  So, I have not numbered them.

  • Revolver – The Beatles
  • Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys
  • Rubber Soul – The Beatles
  • What’s Going On? – Marvin Gaye
  • All Things Must Pass – George Harrison
  • Ram – Paul & Linda McCartney
  • Regatta De Blanc – The Police
  • Check Your Head – Beastie Boys
  • SMiLE – The Beach Boys (I’m really talking about The SMiLE Sessions as SMiLE was never unleashed on the world in original form.)
  • Southern Harmony and the Musical Companion – The Black Crowes
  • If I Should Fall From Grace With God – The Pogues
  • The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
  • The Beatles aka The White Album – The Beatles
  • Abbey Road – The Beatles
  • Definitely Maybe – Oasis
  • Sticky Fingers – The Rolling Stones
  • Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
  • Are You Experienced? – Jimi Hendrix
  • Amorica – The Black Crowes
  • The Unforgettable Fire – U2
  • Flood – They Might Be Giants
  • Nevermind – Nirvana
  • Never Mind the Bollocks – The Sex Pistols
  • Fair Warning – Van Halen
  • What’s The Story (Morning Glory)? – Oasis
  • Band on the Run – Wings
  • Paul’s Boutique – Beastie Boys
  • Dig Out Your Soul – Oasis
  • Help! – The Beatles
  • Who’s Next — The Who
  • Outlandos D’Amour – The Police
  • Synchronicity – The Police
  • Electric – The Cult
  • A Nod is as Good as a Wink… – Faces
  • The Who by Numbers – The Who
  • Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles
  • Empty Glass – Pete Townshend
  • Parklife – Blur
  • Rant N’ Rave with the Stray Cats – Stray Cats
  • The Stooges – Raw Power (I’m sorry, but I refuse to call the band Iggy and the Stooges)
  • London Calling – The Clash
  • Let it Bleed – The Rolling Stones
  • Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley
  • Shake Your Money Maker – The Black Crowes
  • Electric Ladyland – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • Urban Hymns – The Verve
  • Live from Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash
  • Going to A Go-Go – The Miracles
  • Quadrophenia – The Who
  • Live From Folsom Prison – Johnn
  • Van Halen – Van Halen
  • Full Moon Fever – Tom Petty
  • Where Did Our Love Go – The Supremes
  • Imagine – John Lennon
  • Marvin Pentz Gaye or MGP – Marvin Gaye
  • SmileySmile – The Beach Boys
  • With the Beatles – The Beatles
  • Kink Kontroversy – The Kinks
  • Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake – Small Faces
  • The Joshua Tree – U2
  • Volume 1 – The Traveling Wilburys
  • Psychadelic Shack – The Temptations
  • Let It Be…Naked – The Beatles (a vast improvement over the original)
  • Mighty Like the Rose – Elvis Costello
  • McCartney – Paul McCartney
  • Tommy – The Who
  • Live At Leeds – The Who
  • Live Bullet – Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
  • 1984 – Van Halen
  • Achtung Baby – U2
  • The Wall – Pink Floyd
  • Axis: Bold as Love – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • A Hard Days Night – The Beatles
  • Some Girls – The Rolling Stones
  • Steel and Glass – John Lennon
  • Double Fantasy Stripped – John Lennon & Yoko Ono
  • Beck-Ola – Jeff Beck
  • Ramones – Ramones
  • Leave Home – Ramones
  • Rocket to Russia – Ramones
  • Road to Ruin – Ramones
  • Appetite for Destruction – Guns N’ Roses
  • Eat ‘Em and Smile – David Lee Roth
  • Get Happy – Elvis Costello & the Attractions
  • Thriller – Michael Jackson
  • Cosmos Factory – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Tattoo You – The Rolling Stones
  • Master of Puppets – Metallica
  • …And Justice For All – Metallica
  • The Plastic Ono Band – (John Lennon) The Plastic Ono Band
  • Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps – Gene Vincent
  • Green River – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Rebel Yell – Billy Idol
  • My Aim is True – Elvis Costello
  • Stone Roses – Stone Roses
  • Built for Speed – Stray Cats
  • Apollo 18 – They Might Be Giants
  • Rio – Duran Duran
  • Be Here Now – Oasis

The Hazelbakers

4 02 2013

This a brilliant album cover in a kitschy way. Along with the original picture is an altered photo.