Critic: Nate Patrin
Publication: Pitchfork, 2009
Writing Disorders: Jargon Palsy, Detachment Syndrome, Purple Hemorrhage
Real Word? “nerviest”
Nate, your writing is so horribly postmodern that it makes music sound as sterile as a NASA clean room. Yes, music, that most basic form of human expression that has vibrantly defined human culture for millennia — you manage to write about it like you’re filling in taxonomy labels on an old encyclopedia diagram. Here are a few examples:
“scene-hopping rhythmic polyglot”
“the centrality of anonymity to dubstep has been a bit overstated”
“it was an aesthetic he was able to draw some intriguing cross-pollinations from”
That just doesn’t sound like something a music lover would write. Do you know what it reminds me of instead? It reminds me of sour people who reduce love down to its chemical components because they reject that it’s anything but strictly biological. Your writing style makes music seem like nothing more than a bunch of people hammering on keys and plucking strings at regular intervals.
Actually, I thought it was interesting that you had the gall to mention my very same observation…about the album you’re reviewing:
“2562’s latest is missing a bit in the area of soulfulness, or much of a human touch at all”
While I personally think your style of criticism is a plague on the art world, I’m sure you and many other music critics believe what you’re writing is a form of art itself. Otherwise you wouldn’t write this kind of stuff with such flourish:
“keyboards hacked up into skipping-CD stutters”
Look, Nate, I’m not bashing your knowledge about music. You seem to know a lot of intricate details about artists and styles. I say “seem” because I don’t have the time to cross-reference every little claim you make (and you make a lot of them). Hell, for all I know, 2562 may owe nothing to Orbital and may actually be a statement against the latest sounds out of South London. But since knowing the truth wouldn’t make or break the actual listening experience, I’m not too concerned.
You seem to know what you’re talking about, but that doesn’t excuse your egregious writing. How much would it kill you to write “I liked this track?” Or how about “I thought this track sounded like such and such?” You’ve taken editorial detachment to such an extreme point of being so coldly neutral that it makes me wonder how you care enough about music in the first place to write such longwinded pieces.
At the same time, detachment is at odds with your jargon-packed style of writing. Instead of being a musical coroner who cuts to the chase in the fewest words possible, you cram your review full of complex metaphors so cumbersome that they end up needing their own explanations. Here are a few examples:
“jump-cut vibes and mosquito Moogs”
“floating dead-satellite gristle to densely stammering percussion”
“a frenetic trap/kick/clap Benihana act”
Nate, that stuff is HARD TO READ. But that’s not the worst of it. It’s not as if all this challenging, ultra-technical veneer reveals something worthwhile underneath. It’s a REVIEW OF SOMEONE ELSE’S WORK. The ultimate goal of that dubious exercise is to tell us whether or not it would be worth our time to listen to that artist’s work.
And that’s really what annoys me to no end. If you’re not writing a review to clearly persuade or dissuade a reader from an artist or album, then why are you writing it? Why do you write such jargon? What drives you, Nate Patrin?