Artist: Black Francis
Critic: John Calvert
Publication: The Quietus, 2010
Writing Disorders: Jargon Palsy, Idea Fever
Stuffiest Phrase: “bears little of the abstract parenthesis and structural inventiveness exhumed”
WTF: “curiouser and curiouser until the Vagina Dentata”
Before I get to John Calvert’s review, let’s start with a selection from the comment board underneath it. It’s a John Doran featurette — three…maybe four…back-to-back…John Doran comments:
I’ve had words with the editor of The Quietus in my own day, so I’m not surprised to see him go apeshit on his own ridiculous site. I got John’s saucy tongue all up in my inbox after I made fun of his Jaga Jazzist review, but apparently it takes far less to set him off on a comment board. He’s a…sensitive man.
I wouldn’t want him in charge of my zine for the mentally obese, but John did get me thinking about one thing. What in John Calvert’s review made readers write comments that in turn made John Doran react so violently?
Turns out there’s plenty of justification. It took a few rereads, but far as I can tell, the review serves two purposes. One is to complain that there’s not enough Pixies in Frank Black’s 19th solo album since leaving the band. The other is to give John Calvert a playoff berth in Metaphor/Simile Fest 2010.
“It’s like scratching with the fingers of an amputated limb”
“the cleft-lipped Svn Fingers was hacked up like a toxic fur-ball”
“the songs are pretty girls with bad breath”
Honestly, John, did you have this mountain of self-gratification mapped out before you even heard the album? Call me crazy, but I think an article built on clever abstractions of sounds is more “vaguely insipid” than the actual sounds. One reason I’m trying to suffocate your style of chunky brown writing with RipFork is that it’s by far the worst way to explain a musical release. At least you can rest assured that most of the Quietus is just as bad. I only found your turd through a tip. Thanks, Chloe.
Oh, then there’s the Pixies nostalgia. There’s plenty of that too:
“This melodiously bullet-proof songcraft plain begs to be disfigured into inverted forms, Pixies-style.”
“They’re so missed as animators to Franks’ songs”
“It could be described as Pixies without the punk – sorry, Frank, but it’d be remiss not to compare and contrast”
So listen to a goddamn Pixies album, dude. You have five you can choose from, but before you go thumbing the LPs, lend me an ear for a teachable moment. To me it’s a limp gripe to hound a musician for not re-recording stuff his band made famous 20 years ago. Since half a trillion bands have woven Pixies into their DNA, maybe the lead singer wants to make something different. If he didn’t yelp enough over a plunking bass line for your taste, I think it says more about you than it does about him, and half this review was a transcript of you moaning about your obvious nostalgia. When you finally stop for breath, you drop a quick complaint or two about Black not being punk enough:
“without a manifesto of punk-experimental malintent in hand, is nothing short of a torturous tease.”
John, the man’s 45 years old. I’m not nearly that old yet, but I can’t say I’d be clamoring to swing my gut around like 1989 if I was. As Mr. Strummer once said, “you grow up and you calm down.” If the guy wants to play country rock, that’s his business. It’s probably better for his LDL count anyway.
John (and John), you might consider rereading the comments under this review. The day a music zine can’t take criticism is a day that’s good for me, not you. Keep it in mind.