Paul Clarke’s review of “Let This be the Last Night We Care” by Alcoholic Faith Mission

Alcoholic Faith Mission

Band: Alcoholic Faith Mission

Album: Let this be the Last Night We Care

Critic: Paul Clarke

Publication: Drowned in Sound, 2010

Writing Disorders: Idea Fever, Jargon Palsy

Longest Sentence: 82 words



Paul, you might consider moving to 12th-century Iceland to become a chronicler, because I don’t think your compulsion to write brain-breaking sentences is well suited for the digital world. Let’s look at your opening sentence:


“Some records have a sense that the immediate physical surroundings in which they were recorded have shaped the sound itself; that the ramshackle hut to which Bon Iver retreated for For Emma, Forever Ago was almost as responsible for that album’s air of rustic fragility as Justin Vernon’s confessional lyrics say, or that the hushed atmosphere of Cowboy Junkies’ The Trinity Session wouldn’t have felt quite so devotional if it hadn’t been recorded in The Church Of The Holy Trinity in Toronto.”


Paul, imagine for a minute that you’re someone who reads for fun, not to compete against Finland for the gold. I want you to look at that quoted bit above and answer the following question: Does that look like a sentence or a paragraph? Draping window dressing on writing is all well and good, Paul, but you can’t see much if the window’s so covered in words that barely any thought gets through. Believe it or not, your criminally tedious opening sentence wasn’t even the wartiest section of your intro. Read what comes next:


“This was literally true in the case of Alcoholic Faith Mission’s last album”


WHAT was literally true, Paul? The Bon Iver bit about the cabin, the stuff about the Toronto church, or the central idea I forgot because it’s 60 words back up the path in that huge sentence? I can’t imagine how anyone besides me would have made it much further, but you certainly don’t make things any easier down the road:


“And in some senses, the tiny bedroom in Copenhagen where they made 2006’s debut Misery Loves Company also left an indelible mark; if only because the fact Jensen and Solund recorded it entirely by candlelight seemed reflected in a sound which felt like squinting through the gloom at the shadows of other bands such as Smog, Tunng and Iron and Wine.”


First things first. “In some senses?” I can’t say that I’ve ever come across that construction, Paul, because if you use the plural of “sense” it sounds like you’re referring to smell, taste, touch –- that kind of stuff. So instead of hearing “in many respects” in my brain, I’m hearing you say this band made an indelible mark on someone’s tongue or nose by recording in candlelight. Second off, could you MAYBE have condensed “the fact Jensen and Solund recorded it entirely by candlelight” into a smaller noun? The poor verb “seemed” is tugging a fat load there, Paul. He’s sturdy, but he ain’t no workhorse.


I’m already tired of quoting entire sentences because it’s eating my word count like Reese’s Pieces, so let’s just throw a jargon party instead. I’ll put up a list of the stuffiest, silliest bits I could find in your glacial review, and then maybe you can explain why you can’t write about music like someone who enjoys it in the least:


“many of the Bukowskiesque themes”

“a copy of Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible rather than a neon crucifix”

“fuzz-frazzled guitars and buoyant whoops”

“lyrics remain resolutely grounded in the everyday”

“ongoing predilection for the odd tipple”

“expansion in personnel has been matched by an encompassing expansion in scope”


That last one’s my favorite, Paul. If you’ve never tried explaining PowerPoints in front of a bored workforce, you might consider it. The world always needs more cold descriptions of core competencies. Cheers, Paul.

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