Band: Minus the Bear
Critic: Ian Cohen
Publication: Pitchfork, 2010
Writing Disorders: Jargon Palsy, Ambiguity Sickness
Most Emo Phrase: “You confront that awkwardness from the first second”
Ian, I originally planned on featuring you in a post about Pitchfork’s dugout being bereft of black folk. And yes, through the magic of Facebook and Google, I’m able to verify such things. I settled on you to make that point because whenever Pitchfork probes a record with two scowling black men on the cover, there’s a good chance your name’s in the byline. But in the end I figured it wasn’t worth inciting hysteria by suggesting that it’s dumb to reserve beats and rhymes for a white guy who writes about hip-hop like Victorian cabinetry. I fully support people’s God-given right to type pretentious jargon about any genre of music regardless of color or race. The more the merrier for me. But I still find it queer that most music jargon is typed by hands lighter than “camel” in the human paint swatch catalog.
Anyway, I decided not to blow up the racial powder keg and just focus on your review of a band that would get red at the beach. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty to joke about. Let’s start with your opening:
“Indie rock has often had an uneasy relationship with sex. While some bands in that realm are capable of carnality and seduction, many would rather let the sonics do the work, and lyrically, it can be tough to reconcile base sensations with music that prides itself on its intelligence.”
Um…judging from that, I’d say your unease is squirmier than any band’s. “It can be tough to reconcile the base sensations?” Wow. Do you make partners flash zoning permits before entering your bed, or are you still only in the municipal planning phase? If you can’t knock a band’s bedroom jazz without making it sound that sterile, maybe you should ease off the barb gun. After all, half of your review was devoted to niggling the singer’s idea of sex:
“adding a creepy dimension to the keg-hovering come-ons”
“You don’t need to be a soul-papa belter in order to talk about the passion”
“lyrics about the pleasures of the flesh that would be sketchy enough”
Hey, at least the guy has the sack to sing about what’s coming out of his pleasure center. Want to print some of your own sexual poetry for comparison, Ian? I’d certainly get a kick out of it. But moving on…
There’s heaps of junk here I could rattle on about for days, but alas I’m bound by the holy dictates of editing. Here’s a good example of the opposite of that:
“for a veteran band like Minus the Bear, newly signed to Dangerbird Records and known in the past for knotted, prog-spiked populist indie, it’s a move of baffling awkwardness.”
Female: Whatcha listening to?
Male: Minus the Bear.
Female: OH, I’ve heard about them! Aren’t they known for knotted, prog-spiked populist indie?
Male: [coldly]…Not anymore.
Jesus H. Christ, how about just writing, “It’s an awkward move,” like applying three levels of made-up taxonomy to a band is AN AWKWARD MOVE. Baffling awkwardness…yeesh. I ’m going to drop another editing fail of yours, Ian, because you really could use the help admitting you have a problem:
“And yet, in a weird way Omni is actually kind of admirable.”
I had a high school English teacher who used to embarrass students by saying “kind of” like Yogi Bear every time they dropped word junk like that in discussions. If only you were so lucky. You already wrote “in a weird way.” You don’t need to follow it with “kind of.” And if you think you do, then maybe you should just spend the time looking for a better word. Contrary to conventional wisdom in your field, there are lots of words out there.
I was wondering how you burned so many words on an album you detested before I realized how you fluffed things up with critical catchphrases. Here’s a few in case you can’t pick them out on your own:
“it also boasts an immediacy and pop smarts”
“the issue lies in the incongruity of the delivery”
“pop and sheen that would make the most anonymous of 1980s corporate rockers proud”
Ian, if you click on “Read a Random Rip” in the RipFork sidebar, I guarantee you’ll come across those featherweights in other crappy reviews because for some bizarre reason they’re a common affliction in your occupation.
I’m sure you need to study up on the latest pseudo-underground hum-thump populist-hop, so I’m going to cap this off with your one piece of faint praise for the band:
“And credit Minus the Bear for aiming to be something than just another competent indie band.”
If only they weren’t so clueless about what Ian Cohen likes.