Album: j US t
Critic: Austin Price
Publication: PopMatters, 2014
Writing Disorders: Jargon Palsy, Toxic Tedium
This review reminds me of the classic gag where a character’s long, excited speech gets translated into something comically short like “She’s hot” or “WOW, that’s spicy.” In this case, a 1,200-word dissertation on an album boils down to: “I didn’t like it, so they’re frauds.”
Austin, I’m curious. Do you want people to read the stuff under your byline? Ever? Do you want an audience, fans, interested parties? If you do, then you might want to move away from baking confusion into a dry, thick word loaf.
Who’s to blame for that loaf? There’s you of course, since you wrote it, but I’m assuming you’re still at that age when a man thinks writing like a BSOD is a one-way ticket to armchairs, fine scotch and admiration. You’ll grow out of it. Or you won’t, and I’ll be making fun of you when you’re 30 and I’m on Centrum Silver.
Then there’s the editors at PopMatters, who let this crammed toilet pass inspection apparently untouched. If PopMatters had editors — real editors, not unpaid writers who stayed on seven years for the title — then this huge tract of land might have been condensed to about 80 words. But I guess nowadays telling a writer that his unrestrained word heap doesn’t fit the website’s standard of “intelligent, entertaining cultural criticism” is far worse than letting it slide unchanged. Tolerance!
Well, let’s get down to it. Fire up your iScribble or whatever kids take notes on these days. Granted I think your whole premise is bogus that a band’s stated intentions weren’t genuine simply because you disliked their album, but I’m going to lend a hand nonetheless. Here are three ways you could have trimmed some blubber off this pout of yours.
Step one: Following up a confusing, two-paragraph introduction with the phrase “This isn’t immediately obvious” should be a red flag to go back and make it immediately obvious, ie. Edit.
Step two: Stick with strong arguments.
“a slight struggle”
“nothing necessarily commanding”
Anyone who reads RipFork knows I loathe certain modifiers, and I do for good reason. What you wrote there stinks like weak sauce. If you don’t feel comfortable saying something is commanding, someone was slighted, or there was a struggle without qualifying it with some pussyfooting adverb, then either A), use a thesaurus; or B), cut those parts out of the final product. If you don’t, you’re only making readers sift through more words for a dithering payoff.
Step three: If you’re going to talk smack about someone’s work, reread to make sure you’re not a clueless pot calling the kettle black. A few examples of many:
“…isn’t an honest artistic mode but the product of contempt and sloth”
“Again, it’s as if a desperate student took the task of evoking a dark, dangerous cathedral too literally”
“including an element in your work that foresees the listener nodding off and is intended to prevent exactly that should signal that there’s something wrong with the composition, not with the audience”
If only you’d done the same, Austin. In case you don’t already know, there are things you can do to break up stringy, lifeless essays in the Internet age:
Hyperlinks: You had none.
Images: You had none.
Video: You had one, after your last sentence.
And if your “editors” at PopMatters won’t allow that stuff, then it means you should WRITE SHORTER REVIEWS. If anyone besides me actually made it to the word “including” (number 986), I’d be surprised if they weren’t also wishing for an element to prevent them nodding off.
Austin, a common excuse I hear from aggrieved critics is that they only do what they do because they “love music.” But what happens when they DON’T love the music? What I’m struggling to understand is why a hot, steamy, passionate music lover would devote so much space to despoiling an album he disliked from a band that doesn’t even have a Twitter presence. Did you write it to defend the honor of worthier bands you think will be passed over and sullied by ignorant folks drooling on this Faust album instead? Well, that’s a confusing alarm bell.
I think a simpler explanation is that you just don’t know any better because no one’s ever told you that your writing is anything but sublime. And if you take just one thing away from this sour man’s critique, let it be this. At least save the acres of dumpster prose for things you enjoy. After all, what kind of a man rubs his pencil down to the nub over something he’d rather not revisit?