OH YOU CRITIC
Reading Lester Bangs does not make you Lester Bangs. Hell, it doesn’t even make you Greil Marcus. But yet, you’re important aren’t you?
You’ve honed your aesthetic through years of reading Spin and RollingStone (it’s okay, I won’t tell anyone your dirty secret), you’ve experimented with Krautrock, Shoe-Gazing, you had your Emo phase, you’ve done the neo-pysch-folk-hippie-body-odor scene, you’ve extolled the virtues of death metal on several occasions (usually over shots of Jager), and this all adds up to you being a rock critic.
So now’s the time for you to save the world by forcing your poorly-constructed sentences coupled with your vicious embitterment at not actually having any musical or creative talent on a public much in need of your perceptive and informed guidance.
If you write about music for your local alt-weekly, the chances are good you’ve never even read Bangs or Marcus, but you do have a copy of a Tupac bio next to your bed, so that somehow evens it out. Your ignorance of your own craft doesn’t bother you, there’s no way you could be vapid. You are guest-listed for any show you ever want to see, and you get those addictive stares over the long necks of a Yuenglings that say, “is that our local alt-weekly rock critic celebrity? Here? At this show? This show must be the shit!”
Enjoy it. That right there is your fame in its entirety. Memorize it. You are the high school quarterback at the homecoming game that throws the winning touchdown and ends up with a job in the used car dealership and never goes to college. These are the moments you will relive in your head 15 years from now when you have a house in the burbs, a spouse that loathes you and 2 kids that see you for what you truly are – full of shit and irrelevant.
Maybe you’re not an alt-weekly critic, but you have a blog, and you like to post mp3s of mediocre indie rock bands that are buddies of yours. You write a paragraph about how a song reminds you of sunshine. Or a rainy day. Sunshine or a rainy day, whichever. Your post is nice, and sadly it’s more interesting than the music you’re linking to, but the band whose music you're promoting may leave a comment on your post. And if they ever manage to get their shit together enough to come out with a CD, you stand a 23% chance of being thanked on the liner notes – something you’ve always dreamed of.
Or maybe you have your own photocopied zine where you’re hyping some shit as the best rap album of the decade in one paragraph, and then complaining about the quality of the Target store in your town in the next. You can be critical of the corporate chain store because you’re not on their comp list. But so what if you’re over-hyping the rap CD, your 4 friends who read your zine will understand, after all you got the record for free and burned them all copies.
What's your point, critic? To turn people on to good music? You don't like good music. In fact you fear it.
If you hear a new record and suspect that it might be good, you immediately look for what other people say about it. If you see the hype, you look for ways to hate the good music, because you hate the hype as much as you hate music. Your theory is, “shit, if other critics like it, it must be ear snot. Fuck it.” Plus, scathing reviews are fun and easier to write, aren’t they? You can easily convince yourself that a mediocre album is horrible or that a good album is bad and everyone else got it wrong because that’s where your muse lives. The vitriolic prose that flows from your keyboard feels so good, doesn’t it critic?
But what are you really doing? You're gonna make the world a better place because you're the first to draw parallels between that dull Factory Records "sound" and that new band in the ill-fitting clothes out of Williamsburg looking to cash in on a minor fad? Because you saved some 17 year old the 45 seconds it would have taken him to Kazaa that last White Stripes album?
You're good at name checking and lousy at writing in complete sentences which reveals your own inadequacies. You're either too stupid to convey your thoughts, or, more likely, you don't have any thoughts to convey, so you make up for it by name-dropping a laundry-list of has-beens, almost-beens and wannabes.
What do you contribute that doesn't feed off others? Nothing. If there was no music, what would you be doing? Eventually you’ll realize no one really likes you, but that’s okay because deep down inside, you don’t really like yourself.
Cheer up, you’re not the bottom of the barrel. There’s at least one thing more masturbatory and unnecessary than rock critics: Critics of rock critics.
Next week: We discuss the creature that calls itself a "Film Critic."