Artist: Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
Album: Summer of Fear
Critic: Amy Granzin
Publication: Pitchfork, 2009
Writing Disorders: Purple Hemorrhage, Jargon Palsy
Longest Sentence: 80 words
Most Emo Phrase: “emotionally fraught preoccupations with addiction, homelessness, and other dead-end, drain-circling scenarios”
Amy, you have the distinct honor of being one of two women to receive the RipFork treatment so far. To the dudes out there, I mean no offense. Most of the reviews I feature on this site are written by the males of the species because that’s just how it works out in the end. Most crappy music writing is written by men. I’m sure it has something to do with psychology.
Anyway, let’s begin with your opening sentence:
“If I’m being generous, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson’s second LP is a purple-prosed, passionate, and yet self-aware love letter to the musician’s formative influences.”
Amy, do you have any idea what purple prose is? Let me give you a few examples, and maybe you can connect the dots:
“riff-rafting, piano-slamming, sax-soloing ephiphanies”
“overseasoned arrangements boiled to a gray mush”
“a brick wall of sneering synths”
“a pumping organ line with all the verve of a carnival carousel’s”
“a modest Americana ramble segues into a noisy art-guitar solo”
“teeth-clenched, tears-streaming, utterly unearned ending”
“baroque and myopic fan-boy impulses”
I think a healthy margin of people would agree that any of that stuffy crud qualifies as purple prose. Or academic jargon. Take your pick.
Indeed, I would have rejoiced at how succinct your review is by Pitchfork standards if it wasn’t for your manic use of unnecessary modifiers. Clocking in at a mere 500 words, it’s still crammed full of flowery adverbectives. “Formative influences?” What influence is not formative? That’s what an influence does. It influences you.
Other bits read like notes on a CSS presentation:
“Then again, you don’t know how unfocused this record is until you study “Death by Dust”‘s template”
First a technical note, Amy. A simple way to make an article more readable is to avoid the dreaded apostrophe/end-quote combination. You could have just written “until you study Death by Dust.”
Second, who the hell “studies” a song’s “template”? If that isn’t the most sterile, inhuman approach to music, then I’m not sure what is. But whatever — you’re the expert. I imagine you have to be in order to gauge the worth of an album to within a tenth of a point. I mean, yeesh, if you’d tipped over into 5.1 territory, someone might have piddled his pants in shock.
Amy, like most other reviewers I’ve read, you don’t make it abundantly clear what you want music to sound like or why you feel the music of some artists is better than others. With Pitchfork writers, I usually refer to a Venn diagram of Radiohead, Pavement, and Arcade Fire as a general reference guide. But I can’t be entirely sure, especially not when you write stuff like this:
“starting spare and promising with a tight-snapping beat and pulsing guitar, only to slam into a brick wall of sneering synths”
Why are tight beats and pulsing guitar more promising than sneering synths? Did sneering synth drink too much during his senior year to get into the college where tight beats got accepted? And let’s cut the crap, Amy. If you have the same dim view of MGMT’s tight beats, pulsing guitars, and sneering synths, then I’ll run through D.C. naked.
But nothing got me worked up quite like this line:
“I’m trying to cut Robinson a break because I liked his 2008 self-titled debut.”
Jesus, when is this “I tried to like you” BS going to end? Take responsibility for your writing. If you’re going to be harsh, then be harsh. Don’t pussy-foot around it by saying you tried to like your broccoli before you threw it up on your plate. Just be content with the fact that your review could make or break a burgeoning artist because the website you write for is somehow regarded as the authority in independent music. And there’s a good chance that in a game of one-on-one with you versus the music, your purple prose might just come out on top. Good for you.