Artist: Freedy Johnston
Album: Rain on the City
Critic: Joshua Klein
Publication: Pitchfork, 2010
Writing Disorders: Jargon Palsy, Idea Fever
Stuffiest Phrase: “an instantly unfashionable anachronism”
I get the feeling your heart wasn’t in this review, Josh. It’s over 500 words long, but there’s so much stuffy filler that whatever points you make about the album get lost in the shuffle. It reminds me of a chocolate Easter bunny – a lot of dead air underneath some last-resort chocolate. Take your opening paragraph, for instance:
“Breakthrough and backlash: with some exceptions, the former eventually begets the latter, no matter how wrongly deserved. The transition is part of the natural balance of things, and many artists unable to circumvent and survive the inevitable have been left behind, wondering what went wrong.”
Josh, that is one of the stinkiest globs of BS I’ve come across in the new decade. What I think you’re getting at is this:
“There’s often backlash following breakthroughs, and many bands are unable to survive it.”
Introducing new low-fat BS! You get the same lightweight flavor, with 70% less empty verbiage! Come on, Josh. If you’re going to write hollow thoughts, at least be quick about it. But brevity isn’t in your marrow, is it?
“There are glimmers of jangly power-pop in songs such as “The Other Side of Love”, country in “Livin’ Too Close to the Rio Grande” and “It’s Gonna Come Back to You”, and soulful 70s AM rock in “The Devil Raises His Own”, but none of those are really what this record is, either. Or rather, they are, but the disc is deeper than its default templates.”
That sentence wasted almost as much space as your bloated opening. Once again, allow me to offer a humble rewrite:
“There’s jangly power-pop, country, and soulful ‘70s AM rock, but the disc runs deeper.”
You don’t need to pair an example with every genre you named, especially when those examples are all songs with long-ass titles. We’ll trust that there’s country music somewhere on the album. And what the hell was that schizoid bit about what the album is and what it isn’t? Make a decision and live with it. We don’t need your thought process mapped out in full schematic. And Jesus man, do you realize how neutered you make music sound when you write stuff like “default templates?” You’re writing about art, not WordPress features.
But when you’re not puffing up sentences to burn space, you’re building them on weird foundations:
“That much anyone aware of Johnston’s past highpoints probably could have predicted.”
Josh, when you have a clear path to walk from point A to point B, why do you insist on tunneling underground with a spoon? That sentence reads like you translated it from Latin without rearranging words for the switch to English. When Microsoft Word underlines a phrase in green with “fragment (consider revising),” it’s a good indication that you’re not making a point as clearly as you could be.
Most of your review just made me roll my eyes, but there were other parts that just baffled the hell out of me:
“His take on bossa nova, for example, “The Kind of Love We’re In”, impressively skirts light rock kitsch, and the song is better minus the knowing wink that lesser writers might have leaned on for support.”
Wow, so many questions spring to mind. How does someone impressively skirt light rock kitsch? How does someone just BARELY skirt light rock kitsch? How do writers lean on winks? What the hell are you talking about?
As if this airheaded review wasn’t lazy enough already, you tacked on the laziest rating possible: the ever-popular 6.7. Well, maybe if you shave 100 words off your next pile of self-gratification, you can be mediocre too. I’m pulling for you.