Album: Journal of Ardency
Reviewer: Conrad Amenta
Writing Disorders: Scorn Disease
Longest Sentence: 61 words
Most Emo Phrase: “It’s just nothing to get excited about.”
Most Sterile Phrase: “a chug that builds clumsily and is appended mechanically to an otherwise important contribution to the EP’s consistency”
I was apprehensive writing about anything produced for Cokemachineglow. I’m still half expecting Conrad to email me and reveal that the site is the musical equivalent of the Onion and that I’m a moron for actually taking it seriously. The writing on the site is such a caricature of bad music writing that the people who churn it out either have no self awareness or are great liars. Either way, I’ll take a stab at it.
Conrad, you start your review with a series of fat phrases fenced in by commas and semicolons. I’m still fighting to understand what points you were trying to make under your leaden language, but I could at least detect the scorn you harbor for this band and others. After a string of grouchiness and a botany metaphor to cap off your barely comprehensible opening, you write this.
“None of this is entirely fair”
So the only reason you wrote that hideous opening paragraph was to kick a band (and 3 others) in the left ball as a way of demonstrating your benevolence by sparing the right one? If your review does anything besides typify Sarah Palin’s elitist liberal America, it demonstrates the fungus at the heart of music writing: ass-covering. You fling insults at this band and its music and on the other side of the period, pad it with praise. I don’t have enough primary source evidence to back this up, but I’m still going to say that you do it as an insurance policy. Just in case someone takes issue with your opinions for some other reason than making fun of your writing, you can quickly retort with evidence that you supported the contrary view. Let me fling a few examples your way:
“derivative of those bands who themselves derive from New Order, Class Actress, and other bands of their (admittedly stylish, achingly cool) ilk”
“the band’s hoary predictability, its cliché key tones—which, oversaturated in the mix, getting their retro all over the damn place, could have been the band’s defining feature—are suitably offset by Harper’s undeniable presence”
“simple emulation, no matter how comprehensive, is not abhorrent. It’s just nothing to get excited about.”
So, on the off chance somebody takes issue with you calling the band’s tones cliché, you can always fire back that they’re suitably offset by Harper’s undeniable presence. Score one for you. Or maybe my theory is complete bunk and you’re just a dick. Maybe both?
In the end, the only reason for your endless bitching seems to be that this band and others sound like New Order:
“Or the song snippet “Let Me Take You Out,” which, in addition to being the band’s one attempt at a traditional band setup (i.e. bass, guitar), is so plagiaristic of New Order as to be immediately disposable”
“Less wholly derivative of New Order than derivative of those bands who themselves derive from New Order”
“one catches oneself wondering, out of all of the bands doing this, if there’s an effort underway to capture what essential and contextual adventurism made New Order so enduring”
Maybe Class Actress has never listened to New Order. Maybe music has reached a point where bands play music that SOUNDS like other bands’ without even intending it. A fair amount of time has elapsed since a guitar was first plugged into a socket, Conrad. And if your grounds for ragging on a band is that they sound like another that first popped up 30 years ago, then you’re a bloody idiot. It’s hard to be a pioneer when 99% of the world has a name on it, which is why it’s pretty stupid to judge bands by 1980 standards in the first place.
I’ll end on a rare bit of nonsense that doesn’t mention Joy Division 2.0:
“If Class Actress’ full length maintains a similar ratio of hits to misses, they’ll have little to worry about”
Especially since the misses were classified by a dude who wrote the phrase “aesthetic echolalia.” Keep writing, Conrad, even if you mean it as a joke. I’ll still get something out of it.