Critic: Stuart Berman
Publication: Pitchfork, 2010
Writing Disorders: Jargon Palsy, Idea Fever, Toxic Tedium
Longest Sentence: 64 words
Stuffiest Phrase: “beyond this incongruity, there are redundancies”
Stuart, your awful writing might have slipped past my nets today if it weren’t for certain events in the NBA. When it became clear that the Nuggets weren’t going to recover, I figured I’d see what kind of dreadful slush made the front page of Pitchfork and if any of it was worth ridiculing. Sure enough, there was plenty to dull the senses and strip music of all of its lure and beauty.
Honestly, do you ever feel ashamed of making music sound like a trip to the dentist? Any album unlucky enough to feel the touch of your sterile hand ends up sounding like a cataclysm of boredom, regardless of how you “felt” about it. To all the bands out there that Stuart Berman has written interminable tracts of fluff about: You have my sympathies.
Do you have ANY regard for audience, or do you just treat music writing as power training for your jargon muscles? It was hard to narrow down your babble into choice examples, but take these two for reference:
“Maintenant feels more an extension of a certain Vancouver-bred pop classicism– one that dates back to Carl Newman’s pre-New Pornographers outfit Zumpano”
“it serves to contemporize an album that both deliberately evokes– both in sound and collaborative process– early-60s Brill Building pop-song production”
Both, both, huh? I’ll live with just rolling my eyes that stuff, but I do have a major bone to pick with your second paragraph, Stu. In the span of that ONE paragraph clocking in at less than 150 words, you mentioned 21 artists and bands. Twenty-one:
Gigi, Nick Krgovich, No Kids, Colin Stewart, Black Mountain, the Pipettes, Lucky Soul, Camera Obscura, Carl Newman, New Pornographers, Zumpano, Young and Sexy, Duffy Driediger, Ladyhawk, Veda Hille, Rose Melberg, Tiger Trap, The Softies, Karl Blau, Mirah, Owen Pallet
That’s a lot to keep tabs on in such a tight space. Look, I’m sure you’re just beaming with pride after deciphering the connection between “soft-pop peers” of “Vancouver-scene mainstays,” but what you wrote looks like alphabet soup on a screen. If a small share of potential listeners are so interested that they crave the complicated history of each band member and session contributor, couldn’t they maybe satisfy that urge with the liner notes and Google? I have a feeling the rest just want to know how you felt about the album you’re reviewing, myself included.
When that opinion finally comes, it’s in the usual castrated form of the third person making textbook observations:
“Driediger proves himself a surprisingly gentle crooner on the charming boys-do-cry serenade “The Hundredth Time”
“I’m Not Coming Out Tonight” channels its post-breakup desperation into a heavenly orchestral ascension”
How delightful! Sure makes me want to listen after I wake up out of this text-induced stupor. Stuart, I think your main problem is that you write about music like it’s a social movement that took place in the 19th century. Reading through your jargon, I wouldn’t even know that you LISTENED to the music you’re describing. It could just as easily have been stitched together from a hundred sentence fragments you culled from search queries.
The Heat/Magic game just started, so I’m tight on time. Let’s just skip to the conclusion and call it a night, capisce? I think you could use the time to thaw out your balls anyway:
“Still, as a paean to the past, Maintenant sounds right in the here and now– because for all their vintage dressing, Gigi are ultimately most interested in the bad romance that makes our present so tense.”
You know, Stuart, I call music critics “music lice” for several reasons, but few are more compelling than the closing sentences. I think it’s a slap in a band’s face when the writer can’t even use the word “I” when cranking out that kind of self-absorption. It’s hard to read that closer after your mountain of academic slime and come to any other conclusion than thinking that the only reason you’re writing about bands is to promote your name.
Well, let’s do just that. Let’s make it about you, Stu. Before you go, I’ve got one last request. A couple of people have objected to me doing this, but I really couldn’t resist. You might consider posting a picture of yourself where your eyes aren’t shifted to the 2:00 position over clenched lips. It looks creepy all lined up on Google. I fear for my liver.