Artist: Strong Arm Steady
Album: In Search of Stoney Jackson
Critic: Craig Clark
Publication: Drowned in Sound, 2010
Writing Disorders: Scorn Disease
Mega Complaint: “the raps are not so much punchy as a punch in the face”
Craig, it usually takes me a few paragraphs to know which review I’m going to nitpick on a given day, but after reading your first sentence, I was sold.
“This record might as well be called Why Hip Hop Sucks in 2010.”
Waiting just 34 days for a year-end screed seems like jumping the gun to me, but you’re the expert. Tell you what; we’ll go one for one. Your review might as well be called “Why Music Writing Sucks in 2010.”
Not that I’m any authority on hip-hop, but somehow I don’t think a dude named Craig Clark who writes the phrase “boxed ears bleeding whilst you wince” ranks much higher. Yet you wrote this steaming pile of purple prose like you’re God’s gift to understanding the negro’s rhyme. Your review has it all: unbounded negativity on folk who rap instead of type, really long sentences short on substance, and a chain of metaphors that need a mug of tea to digest.
All that makes for a meaty fudge dragon, but underneath all the wordy bluster is weak argument. Take this, for example:
“There’s actually a track on this record called ‘Cheeba Cheeba’. Are you kidding me? Hey guys, Harold and Kumar called and they want their stereotypes back.”
What stereotypes are those? Neurotic office-dwelling Asians and pre-med Indians enjoying weed? But really, what the hell are you talking about? Racial stereotypes? It’s not like Don Imus named the track. If black musicians who smoke herb want to name a song to reflect its content, why is that so bad? Do you have a seizure if a Kenyan decides to run a marathon or a Pakistani manages a 711? How about if a 27-year-old dude writes music criticism?
More 90-pound arguments follow:
“Here’s the problem: if hip hop isn’t clever it runs a very real danger of getting all caught up in cliché.”
Craig, I don’t think hip-hop’s failure to generate enough gimmicks to satisfy men who probably can’t dance qualifies as a very real danger. Folks still seem to like grinding to the stuff, even if it doesn’t sample MGMT or feature bassoon melodies. This slight rewrite might have been closer to the mark:
“Here’s the problem: if hip hop isn’t clever, it runs the risk of provoking an obscure British music writer into slinging really long metaphors about dogs, school reports, and pissing against walls.”
Speaking of that last one…
“In the end, perhaps In Search… is just so inbred it’s capable of little more than frenzied tail wagging on a podium – its maniac tongue lolling – all eager and expectant that someone will pin a rosette to it just for having a nice shiny coat.”
Frenzied tail wagging on a podium, huh? Not to flaunt the obvious here, but I don’t think writing an extended canine metaphor to describe your distaste for an album screams modesty.
On a closing note, Craig, I think your writing speaks for itself.
“But it’s not only the content: the delivery sucks too.”
Time for me to go enjoy a stereotype. Later, Craig.