Tokyo Damage Report

worst critic ever: the New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jaques

Remember that old Bill Hicks routine about how he can't NOT watch "cops" because it's so painful?

Recently that's how I feel about the New Yorker Magazine's resident reviewer of popular music, Sasha Frere Jaques.

I don't read him to find out what is good or bad (neither do his fans, I expect). I read it like you'd watch cops:  with a morbid  curiosity and a sense of, "How is he going to top himself this time? How much lower can he go?"

It’s doubly weird because dude is obviously smart : unlike the fake Bangses and fake Marcuses, he can articulate a complex thought very clearly. But the stuff he looks at is so fucking besides the point – For example, a review of some clown called Vernon:

“As pretty as Vernon’s musical tendencies may be, the line pulling “For Emma” along is not light and could not have been easily found. “

Huh? Or how about this sentence:

“Vernon concentrates on the human voice, and usually provides just enough information to guide that voice. But Vernon’s additions onstage- a glowing and receding guitar line, a brief, thunderous unison of tomtom drums- anchor and frame the songs.” 

Huh? What? Hey Einstein – here is what people want to know: Does he rock or not? Do you like it or not? Did you dance?  Take a stand. Grow some stones, buddy! You a grown-ass man.  

Here's a review of some kitty-litter spokeswoman called Cat Powder:

Something, probably cigarettes, had rubbed some texture into her voice, and she had learned how to manipulate her breathy middle range. She had found the place, between an incantation and a whisper, where her voice wanted to settle, and revealed herself to be a conjurer, like Nina Simone and Patti Smith: someone who could bring a song home, not through force but by teasing and delaying words, and by resisting standard line readings.

WTF, Sasha Frere Jaques!  "resisting standard line readings?" read my nikes, motherfucker! Do you understand the point of a live event? The point of music is to get the crowd moving! Sweating! To make a sense of community for a short period of time. My point is NOT that Sasha FrereJaques disses bands I like or praises bands I hate – the point is that he is alive. He continues to breathe the air and continues to write reviews that focus entirely on the most cerebral, non-rocking, irrelevant aspects of music, and encourages others to do likewise. Dude is the most off-topic motherfucker on the planet. You could stomp on his head and he’d write 300 words about sneakers. Post-historical footwear. A normal person would be like “OW NOT MY HEAD AGAIN.” 

What is sad is that ravers – the scum of the earth – even fuckin’ ravers get it more than either indie-rock people or doctrinaire, ‘extreme music’ people (who are more like “OK the band followed all the rules, they were “true”, so it must be good – never mind if people flipped out or I had fun). If a rave DJ doesn’t make people dance, he loses his job. It’s an embarrassing time we live in when ravers are not the absolute bottom of the musical barrel.
On the other had, ain’t nobody ever heard any Sasha Fere Jones band and went out and graffittied that shit!

Here’s some more classic Sasha:

Punky and uncouth as Pink likes to present herself, she is most comfortable with music that has a light bounce to it and room for jubilation. Though she often feels compelled to share her pain, it’s something that she can’t pull off without a beat to push against.

Word? Is that your way of saying that a pop song needs drums? Is that the kind of  razor-sharp incisiveness  that gets you a gig at the New Yorker these days?

But Jaques isn't just the world's smartest man, he is also super duper funny:
If Pink has managed to maintain a career in pop by distancing herself from pop’s larger trends and by not becoming self-destructive, that distance depended on there being a certain joy in her work?the feeling not that she was better than her peers but that she had simply started her own, better party somewhere. The album’s best moment is “Please Don’t Leave Me.” The chorus is mostly just the title, with Pink hurting out loud?how quickly the party ends?and keeping the beat going. “How did I become so obnoxious?” she sings, apparently sifting through the dynamic of a failed marriage. It reads equally well as a message to her public.

Oh snapppppp!! OH NO YOU DI’INT SASHA FRERE JAQUES!!   Dude hella snapped on Pink. Feel the burning shame of a sasha frere jaques snap.

Here’s a bit of a review of some clowns called Massive Attack. I have never heard this band, I don’t care one way or the other. But this review is probably one of my favorite sasha frere jaques things. Try to figure out for one second what he is talking about:

The engineering became more exacting as the songs became vaguer and the voices less sanguine. The machines took center stage. When Del Naja rapped, his voice was a whisper planted low in the mix, beneath the burble. Massive Attack was restraining its beats more than ever, courting a full stop. The idea appeared even in the titles: “Inertia Creeps” is the paradox at the center of Massive Attack’s sound. How does music this stationary still cohere? “Mezzanine” was distant from Massive Attack’s hip-hop roots?so distant that Vowles left the band.

The group has never produced many verse-chorus-verse songs, and there are dangers in that approach. Even a mediocre rendition of “Visions of Johanna” on an off night at a Dylan concert can make a case for the artist, but Massive Attack is doing something else. At a show in New York several years ago, the intricate scrollwork of “Mezzanine” got lost in a fug of undifferentiated guitar noise played by people I couldn’t see who were standing in front of vertical banks of L.E.D. lights that distracted me from the music. Detail can be a fragile strength.

OOHH BURRNN!! Detail can be a fragile strength. Take that Massive Buttcrack, with your less sanguine voices and things.

OK, so you kids at home- let me ask you this:  even if you got your dictionary out and tried to diagram out all of sasha frere jaques’ sentences.  . . .Even if you went to all that trouble, what did you learn? That the new album by Massive Affleck  was good? Or it was bad? Or you should go see their “intricate scrollwork”? The LED lights are more interesting than rock critics? Or what? 


Next: sasha frere jaques does his most devastating burn on Usher. You should stop reading now if you are allergic to semi-illegal seizure-inducing laughter because this burn is so toxic and so ruthless that you might detatch a retina from laughing ? or maybe your whole esophagus might come up out your mouth like Alien from crying so hard if you like Usher. But either way look out because this is the most withering, carpet-bomb snap action ever unleashed by Jaques:

Confessions Part II,” also a No. 1 single, was another instance of Usher’s knack for taking potentially convulsive themes-sex, infidelity, guilt, telephone calls-and reducing them to titillation. It was Usher in his quieter mode, though the song’s beat is like the spare thump of “Yeah!” slowed down and reduced in size, wisely suspended between the dance floor and the couch. Usher narrated the act of confessing, singing about “racing” to tell his girlfriend that not only did he cheat on her (that was Part I) but he fathered a child with the “chick on the side.” Lightness is Usher’s main, and perhaps only, gift. “Confessions Part II” was “One Life to Live,” not “Scenes from a Marriage,” and that may explain those nine and a half million records.

If Usher is considered part of soul and R. & B., he is a quiet revolutionary, stripping out the pain audible in the work of so many great male soul singers: Otis Redding, Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, R. Kelly. Catharsis has no place in Usher’s work, no matter the topic. The blood is all offstage, and Usher plays our Greek chorus, moralizing and reporting. It’s an easier gig than having to do the wet work.

oohhh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittttttttttt.

But for all time, sheer pretentious asshole-dom, the clear hands-down winner, has to be this review of some dirt-cluster called Of Montreal.

On “Hissing Fauna,” he recounts bonding with a girl over Georges Bataille’s “Story of the Eye.” (There is a generation of eighties semiotics students who wish that Barnes had been around twenty years earlier, to make critical theory a little easier to use on dates. But then we had Green Gartside, of Scritti Politti?another writer Barnes has an affinity with, as far as androgyny, literature, and affection for disco are concerned.) After asking his object to be his “pleasure puss” and comparing two sets of hands to “four excited spiders,” Barnes skips from lighter disco to a slightly heavier groove. (These sections are striated into subdivisions.) In one rhapsodic sub-bridge, which sounds a little like a languid Pink Floyd track, Barnes assures his lover that “you and I are friends, not some polemic to be puzzled over.” On “Hissing Fauna,” he made the connection to David Bowie’s work almost explicit, by developing an alter ego named Georgie Fruit. Live shows began to feature more and more costumes and nudity, sometimes involving Barnes dropping trou entirely. Of Montreal became a roving sideshow in face paint, glitter, and ruffles?anything to upend what Barnes would likely call “normative.

Christ, what an asshole!


8 Comments so far

  1. François September 26th, 2010 6:56 pm

    Damn, this guy sounds like an asshole. Shit is unreadable.

    To be fair to Massive Attack, they are considered a precursor in Trip-Hop music. I never liked their music much, though. Bet you wouldn't either.
    Pink and Usher, I know. But I wish I didn't. Aimless use of brain space.

  2. sephim September 27th, 2010 3:06 am

    You can imagine that somebody will one day compile the man's reviews styled like a poetry compendium and arts types will swallow that shit up without understanding any of it. Like everything else they read.

  3. Steve September 27th, 2010 4:50 pm

    I guess the New Yorker's unique brand of pretension (which is usually interesting and fun to read) doesn't translate over into music reviews very well. I'm pretty sure they have a quota of thinly-veiled disses they need to reach for every "The Critics" section of the magazine.
    My favorite Sasha moment is when he simultaneously applauded Lil Wayne and declared hip hop dead:
    "Wayne’s 2008 release, “Tha Carter III,” which included “A Milli,” a thick, psychedelic ramble tied to a thin, metronomic canter, was the year’s biggest-selling album—and probably the last moment when hip-hop was both popular and improbably weird."

  4. z.v. wheels September 27th, 2010 6:17 pm

    long live Lester Bangs, and god bless Nick Kent.

  5. szaszha September 28th, 2010 9:37 pm

    if you've ever seen an episode of "house", that show with the asshole doctor and his team of masochistic sycophants, you've heard massive attack. they do the beginning and ending theme. i think they do a lot of tv and movie themes actually. however, this does not make them a good band.
    what i really dont understand is why anyone would bother to review throwaway pop music like usher and pink. it just solidifies my conviction that all magazines are filled with text spewed from machines in preconstructed context with variables switched in and out in order to fill space between advertisements, which are the real purpose of magazines. this stalin fryer johnson guy is probably not even real, just a variant of some algorithm written by a chuckling magazine article programmer.
    also, do ravers even exist anymore? i dont think they even sell those pants nowadays and raves have pretty much been stamped out, at least in the US.

  6. szaszha September 28th, 2010 9:45 pm

    also, maybe you could host your mp3s on or something? mediafire is a bitch when it comes to pop under ads that suddenly blare real estate slogans at me. box is better! mediafire is so like, 2002 or so. otherwise, thanks for the free tunes! (^_^)/

  7. hiro September 29th, 2010 3:14 am


  8. hiro September 29th, 2010 3:15 am


Leave a reply