Tokyo Damage Report

Millions of Dead Critics

I’m going to pick on rock critics.

This might seem like flogging a dead horse : I mean, who LIKES them? 

But this rant isn’t art; it’s politics.


In art you try to say something original. In politics, however, you keep hitting your point until a plurality of voters agree with you and pass a law against the other guy. In this case, dudes who think having an opinion about music makes them somehow special or entitled to free merch  and a shiny new nickel.

 Anyway: here’s something you probably know about critics: They fall into two camps: they either imitate the amusing but incoherent drug humor of Richard Merltzesrz or Lester Bangs, or they imitate the snobby twittery of  Geril Marcus or whatshisname, Robert Crustmybutt (sp?).

It’s bad enough that rock critics are totally ripping-off people, but then they try to bag on bands for doing the same thing?  That amuses me!

But that’s not even the main funny thing. Here is the main funny thing : Both of these sets of twins (Mertzerg/Bangs and Marcus/Crustmybleau)  are from the ‘70s.


Imagine that print was radio, and rock critics were bands.

If that were the case, the only music you could hear in 2010 would be two ‘70s bands.  Like, you could turn  your radio dial all the way from the top to the bottom, and  half  the songs would be Wings and the other half would be the Knack. That’s it: wings, wings, knack, wings, knack, knack, knack, wings, knack, wings, wings, wings, knack, static. 

 This would be a living hell for everyone, rock critics included. And yet. . .! That’s exactly what rock critics are doing with words.  That’s how fucking conservative  these mothers are.


And yet these are the people who we’re supposed to turn to to pick the new, hip, edgy bands of tomorrow.

Pigeon Media

 I never even heard of these clowns until 2009.

 I can easily believe 10 million people buy Justin Bieber or Hanson records, or that 30 million people would buy Soulja Boy Tell ‘em records.   But I can not believe anyone seriously reads Pigeon Media and goes out and buys a record based on it. I don’t know one person that has done this.

Of course the language used in the reviews is silly. And of course it's a big part of the insular  self-referentiality that plagues  DIY music today.

But that's not my beef.

My beef isn't even that it's bad rock crit. My problem is, it’s not rock crit at all.

Check it: Even  those annoying ‘70s critics had to at some point be like “this is good” or “I like/hate this.”  These Pigeon guys don't even seem to be care.

Let me explain:

Regular folks – and I am nothing if not a normal, regular guy- listen to music based on “Does this make me sweat and play air guitar and shake my ass?” “Do I leave the concert ready to smash a cop car and set fire to an Old Navy franchise?” . But instead of these common-sense criteria, pigeon media people  are instead concerned with discovering bands that haven’t blown up yet, frantically racing to put their stamp on whatever little flavor-of-the-month sub-sub-sub genre is happening.  It seems like most of the point of being a music fan (to Pigeon writers and readers)  is just keeping up with the new trends, rather than “Is this actually any good?”  . . .

In other words, Basically it is more like the fashion industry than the rock industry.

“Everybody who bought red clothes because we said to, you’re stupid and ugly! That was fall! This is winter, stupids! Only fatties and weirdos wear red in winter. You’re wrong for listening to us! Anyway listen up because the new things for winter are Aztec prayer beads and  Russian fur sweatbands . . . with a twist! Did we mention that Russian fur sweatbands are layered with Japanese acrylics from bathing ape? You didn’t see that coming, did you? How creative! How avant-garde! Anyway just do what we say and you’ll definitely be ahead of the pack.”

Terrible. Pigeon could save a lot of time and effort, not to mention bandwidth, if they just fired everybody and hired a 14-year-old to post “first! Wo0t” next to the albums.

 OK, but what about the many punkers still doing zines and record reviews?  They are sticking it to the Man, are they not?

Punker critics are something even sadder than critics: QUALITY CONTROL INSPECTORS THAT DON’T GET PAID.

You heard me.

All these “keep it real” zines that are in the MRR tradition. To them, any band that is copying a good band while adding nothing new gets a pass, in the name of “Well, we’re encouraging them to keep the revolution alive.”

But dude –  you are not making a revolution, you are basically doing the job of a Chinese sweatshop-worker in a factory in Dongguan, looking at the Barbie dolls coming down the conveyor belt, all like “Uh-oh, this one doesn’t have a head, take that out, Uh-oh, that one has the legs where the arms should be, take that one out, too.”

 “It has distortion and riffs like Anti-Cimex, so I’ll let it roll down the assembly line.”

It’s not revolutionary, it’s not even music criticism. It’s quality control, and that’s an astonishingly un-ambitious thing for a free man in the USA to do for a hobby.

Not “Did this record change my life?” but “Does this record qualify to be in this genre?”

Not “This band is just a copy of a better band I already own, so who has the time for this?!?” but “Is this record just barely barely good enough that I recognize the influences of good bands? Then we must include it.”

  “The Barbie has the right number of arms and legs, and the head is facing forward. OK my job is done here.”

 That’s not only discouraging bands from doing creative new things, it also means the people doing the magazine are fundamentally sad. Chinese people do that FOR MONEY. You are doing that as a hobby. Chinese people do that BECAUSE THEY CAN’T GET ANY OTHER JOB, they’re being exploited. You and your friends do that because why? You get a little kick out of being a gate-keeper? You think your 1-by-1/2 inch review in 8 point type will help bands sell 100 records? What?

Coming up next: A whole post about the worst critic ever. The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jacques.  What a  tool.


4 comments Tags: ,

4 Comments so far

  1. szaszha September 17th, 2010 11:35 pm

    i've never heard of any of these guys! however i like the fact that you are shitting all over them like pigeons on a lenin statue! fuck the industry elite and their sad clones in the indie scene!
    btw: first! lol rotflmao!!!111! lawl

  2. Steve September 18th, 2010 8:31 am

    Ruh-roh, Sasha is quivering in his boots! Make sure to mention about how he wrote a loving review of MF Doom's album with Madlib, and then a few months later the New Yorker ran an article where a dude chronicles MF Doom's career from average rapper to white hipster candy.

  3. admin September 18th, 2010 7:38 pm

    @steve: yeah that seems to be a thing with both frere-jaques and pigeon: with white bands, the more obscure the better, but for rappers, you have to sell big before they notice you. for the record I can’t stand MF doom – nothing personal, i just can’t stand back-packers in general. that whole idea of “If you didn’t understand what i just said, that means it was really profound and deep.” no clothes, motherfucker, no clothes at all. When someone like kool g rap or tung twista or even eminem for that matter says some really fast complicated rhymes i am perfectly capable of comprehending it BECAUSE THOSE GUYS KNOW HOW TO RHYME.

  4. Tony September 20th, 2010 6:50 am

    I do a HC zine with lots of shitty record reviews. Either I spazz out and say a record is great because "I drank beer listening to it until I feel asleep and woke up covered in piss. Trust me, this record is great" blah blah. Or else I go nerdy and start writing some confusing mess trying to compare the record with some older bands. "The latest CDR from [Japanese noisecore sideproject with members from…] replicates perfectly the sound of UBR's little known demo tape from 1983 but guitar sound is closer to the little known Discharge live bootleg from Paris 1981, but the singer sounds like a mosquito on LSD" etc etc etc. Reviews suck, but a world without reviews sucks even more because then it's like the records don't exist…in a way…or that our opinions of records don't matter…or something…
    Personally I find it very hard to reconcile the following A) praising a DIY hardcorepunk  band for making music that makes me wanna dance, while B) admitting that at the same time, yes, this band has simply ripped off a DIY hardcore band from 1982.
    Because A) it doesn 't feel right to write off some band as copycats, because what is originality afterall if you're playing hardcore in the year 2010? Someone suggested that it's getting close to impossible to play hardcore that is forward-looking and innovative without going beyond what people consider hardcore to be. And B) why diss a band you like? Is it not better to support the damn band, afterall you're into them right? There's only 30 people in the world interested in buying their shitty noisecore crust hardcore CDR so why even think of some sort of deep shit existential metaphysical shit? It's only a review in a hardcore zine that at best 15 people will read…
    But apart from that ego shit, what I wanted to say was: Hey! Interesting that stuff that's currently (meaning, precisely this week) being debated over emails and over here on the other side of the world gets blogged over your way at the same time. And this at least the third time this has happened in the last year -last time was with the whole 'D-Clone is about Discharge' writeup. Awesome!

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