Ian Cohen’s review of “Omni” by Minus the Bear

Minus the Bear

Band: Minus the Bear

Album: Omni

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.

41 thoughts on “Ian Cohen’s review of “Omni” by Minus the Bear

  1. A few quick questions, Matt:

    1) Isn’t your opening paragraph basically, “I’m not going to talk about the fact that Ian Cohen, a white guy, writes black music, but first I’m going to talk about the fact that Ian Cohen, a white guy, writes about black music”?

    2) Did your high school teacher say “kind of” while doing a Yogi Bear impression, or was he saying “kind of” because Yogi Bear said “kind of” a lot? This is unclear.

    3) “it also boasts an immediacy and pop smarts” — don’t you think, in the context of the review that Ian Cohen wrote, this is a compliment and not a “featherweight gripe”?

    4) If a reviewer used the phrase “featherweight gripe”, would you give him a hard time for it?

    Not Being a Jerk Anymore, Just Trying To Have Honest Dialogue,
    This Guy

  2. Hey Matt,

    Just checking in to see if you could elaborate on question #2– not really a “yes” or “no” question. Otherwise, it’s great to see we agree on the other three questions!

    Your Friend,

  3. Nothing guilty white liberals like better than spreadin’ the guilt around. Have your race card and eat it too!

  4. I think it’s telling how most snarky anti-criticism is pounded out by hands paler than a puff pastry.


    Nothin’ a hipster hates more than a hipster.

  5. Talking of blowing racial powder kegs, when are you going to start listing the “whitest words” used in reviews again, like you did on the regular a while back? It taught me how to use language in a way befitting my ethnicity.

  6. Wait, you’re saying that white people can’t write about hip-hop? that seems a little odd. This is coming from the guy you told couldn’t have any authority on Monica, too.

  7. Wendus, doesn’t your own innate (white) lack of authority on the subject disqualify you from ripping a review of an artist on the “negro music scene”? I mean, how could you even fathom what the reviewer was talking about? What with your whiteness and all.

  8. WillBright – have you ever listened to Minus the Bear? now im not sure what the “negros” are listening to these days, but I’m pretty sure it ain’t Minus the Bear..

  9. YES!! I’ve been searching for confirmation that other people think Cohen is a fucking jackass dickweed, with the worst music reviews I’ve ever read.

  10. Ian cohen thinks patrick wolf would benefit without an internet connection. Its because he blogs, writes reviews and relies on an internet publication for a voice right? oh wait…

  11. I don’t think it’s about black or white but about a lack of depth by this reviewer. He has a talent with words but he seems abusive to the people he writes about and lacks a respect for anything out of his narrow realm. Maybe he should write a novel or blog on news events but please,please,please keep this guy away from music until he develops a soul. We have enough shallow blowhards as is.

  12. Totally on board with Ben e. Frank. People who can’t accept music for what it is should best not be talking and influencing others about it. If i listened to people like him i would probably have quit exploring music a long time ago.

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  14. ha, just discovered that pitchfork doesn’t allow comments, because i wanted to say a word about our friend here’s review of m. lanegan band’s ‘blues funeral’

    lanegan’s shit is stuff i get into to increasing degrees over time, and it’s a great pleasure of a process. on the fifth or so listen of the record and find i want to hear all of the tracks. but i sympathize with the kid having to write a review, he comes off as very clever.

  15. I was trying to grab an embed for an annuals song off of their new ep sweet sister for my blog post, so I accidentally found Ian’s review. view it here. http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/14004-sweet-sister-ep/ I’m not trying to argue that I have a completely non-biased view, or that he wasn’t fair. I just think his review was in every way douchey. And I’m aware that “douchey” isn’t a word. Annuals has a sound I haven’t heard before, especially more recently mixing the folk/country with the type of production they are doing themselves mind you. I know adam works 2 jobs and is producing their new record now and see them live often and he has not let go of the belting heard in the album be he me at all. I just wonder what the fuck Ian listens to? Probably solely Radiohead. And if he does, I wonder what he thinks about king of limbs?

  16. I like that someone is taking Ian Cohen to task. I just reviewed a bunch of his reviews. He makes a lot of assumptions about the musical intent of artists. Funny thing, he seems easily entranced by women’s voices (School of Seven Bells and Arcade Fire reviews) but put off, intimidated, reactionary and judgmental with music made by men who don’t sync up with his opinions. His sterile review of Childish Gambino shows he’s no hip hop head. He makes no mention of CG delivering a line racially tinged misogynistic line about white girls performing fellatio in him, yet just a few days ago accused Deer Tick and, by proxy, John McCauley of abusing women. I found your article while picking apart his writing and realizing most of it is “preposterously self-obsessed, but not the least bit self-aware.” Those are Ian’s words not mine.

    p.s. I’m part black, part white and couldn’t make it through more than half of any songs on Minus The Bear’s “Omni”

  17. ian cohen needs to get fucked in the shit.

    yeah, let’s dog on david longstreth (really?!) and athens, ga (come the fuck on) while making fun of young athenian baby-bands (they’re like 22, man) as if he knows these kids (see http://www.pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/16760-reptar-body-faucet/) and trivializing what animal collective does as if to say it’s only good because they did it first. say whatever you want about the quality of the music, but that review is stupidly assuming as shit.

    p.s. hey ian, who the FUCK hangs out at nowhere bar?

  18. Some notes on Ian Cohen’s “amateur hour” review on Athens & Reptar:

    Cohen HATED on Athens, GA as if he’s been here recently & is on the buzz.
    I’ve lived in Athens for a little over a year now and the town’s culture has dramatically changed since – some for the best & some for the worst.

    Some notes:

    Ian, no one goes to Caledonia Lounge to get “liquored up.” If you think that then maybe you got too liquored up in Athens, but then again, this is Athens.

    Ian, no one who “hangs” at the 40 Watt actually enjoys hanging at Nowhere Bar to just hang. I don’t know why you’re an avid money spender at both. However, I will say that the Nowhere Bar crowd doesn’t mind the watt.

    Ian, School Kids Records is closed. This perhaps proves that you haven’t been here in a year – maybe more.

    Why the fuck are you talking about Athens and its history in a review for Reptar’s debut LP? What does that have to do with them? Half the band lives in Atlanta and they all grew up there. Additionally, you associated the word frat with their music, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? One of the more anti-frat bands I think I know from Athens FYI.

    I do believe that the album doesn’t capture their live show’s energy, but it”s disappointing and unbelievable that you’d spend even 15% of this article discussing the bad taste in your mouth for a town that you’re blaming college kids with twitter on. Yes, Widespread Panic is the biggest band to come out of this town and yep, they drew 100,000 people for a free CD release show in 1998 in the streets – probably the largest release show ever. That’s called impressive, Ian. The words remarkable, incredible, and holy shit that’s fucking ridiculous also describe Panic pulling that off. FYI I’m not a fan of panic at all.

    Check out this bad ass photo of Panic’s crowd:


    You also didn’t care to mentioned all of these great acts that are part of our history: The Glands, Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power, Futurebirds, DeafdConfederate, Twin Tigers, Dangermouse, Andy Lemaster, holy crap this list can go on forever and I’m on my phone. . .

    This review just sounds like you got your heart broke by some girl here (the chances are high – summer dresses are pretty spot on here). Shit, maybe one of the dudes in Reotar hooked up with your girl.

    Oh and you compared Vampire Weekend to Reptar, you idiot. . .


  19. I just want to keep the flames going on this thread.

    Ian Cohen is so offensive to artist. He is constantly talking about “motivation” and “inspiration” of bands. He *regularly* accuses band of not trying or not being ambitious. Ambitious to what? HIS concept of what music should be (which he never clearly describes).

    From his red night review:

    “You’re left wondering if Hundred in the Hands are even excited about Red Night. We always like to think of art as being a result of epiphany, of brainstorm, of divine inspiration, but listening to Red Night, I just can’t envision bolts of inspiration captured on cocktail napkins, late nights in the studio sculpting that perfect chorus melody”


    What does this unsupported vision have to do with the music?

    Besides his unfair, irrelevant criticism, he is a bad writer. There are frequent grammatical errors throughout his reviews (dangling modifiers, unclear pronouns, subject-noun agreement, awkward phrases, redundancy, incorrect punctuation usage etc.)

    He needs to be taken down about 1,000 pegs. I can’t even decide where to start.

  20. I haven’t read too many of this guy’s reviews. In fact I rarely read Pitchfork reviews, and when I do I hardly ever look at/into the reviewer. But I recently read his review of P.O.S.’ album “We Don’t Even Live Here” and he definitely is not understanding what the album is about. Maybe If he would watch/read one or two interviews with the rapper himself, he would get it.


  21. Ian Cohen review on the new Beach Fossils record was shit. the album was really good, but really i think this guy is just a piece of shit new york hipster. Im about to blast this album on my record player to piss of my neighbors that live below me. God, man i can hear your shitty acoustic guitar and smell your weed, and i can also picture me fucking the shit out of your girlfriend with the lazy eye. bitch you look like thom yorke poked your eye and then it bled.

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