Artist: Belle and Sebastian
Album: Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
Critic: Ed Comentale
Publication: Tiny Mix Tapes, 2015
Writing Disorders: Idea Fever, Toxic Tedium
OMFG: “But you should stick around to the end”
Ed, your review is by far the longest I’ve ever featured, 2,400 words. Just for perspective, that’s 20 minutes of a White House press briefing transcribed. It’s seven full pages of double-spaced text, eight if you’d been merciful with paragraph breaks. It’s 1.8 times longer than the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
It’s so long that finishing it actually HURT. I had to stop and look at a spot across the room for the recommended 20 seconds before you even mentioned the album you’re reviewing. I started seeing phantom text against the white space, and I was only a quarter of the way through.
And you know what else is ridiculous? It’s published under a banner that says “Highlights” — HIGHLIGHTS. That’s like planting a sign that says “Just a Little Turd” on a truckload of manure. And for anyone curious, that “Highlights” banner lets you escape Ed’s review and navigate to one that won’t give you snow blindness.
All this was extra disappointing because your review actually reeled me in, and I’m being honest about that. It’s not often I see the first person used anywhere in a music review, let alone the first word. You gave a nice intro to the band, fondly recalling a show of theirs. Sweet, now for that album.
Oh — wait — nope, there’s another concert anecdote here, twice as long, with a lot of abstract stuff woven in. Eh. Fine. I’ll read it. So the lead singer danced on stage…and that means something, though I’m not entirely sure what because you dragged the explanation out like someone might dribble a pee to break a toilet-time record. Dum-de-dum-de-dum…
Okay…third paragraph…really would rather be eating a sandwich now, but…OH DAMN — the album name! Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. NOW we’re cooking with gas! What’s it sound like?
“The disco sound that frames the album represents a kind of lost public ideal…”
Ugh. That kind of review.
Ed, when you write something this boring and long about other people with barely any quotes from those people…WTF is the point? If this is a feature on the band and not just an album review, then you need to include stuff like that. Otherwise it just reads like a terrorist manifesto about a popular Scottish musical group.
And think of the venue you chose: a website with no page elements past the 11th line of body text. That means for nearly the entire length of the review there’s nothing but your 12-point Arial text, white space, and two band videos. Maybe it would have been less painful and tedious if it appeared in a magazine with pages and images and ads and other bells and whistles.
…or maybe not, since it’s really just you yammering VERY intently about what each and every facet of each and every song means to the band, to their history, to their work, to their medical conditions, to their — Jesus man, should we LISTEN to this thing? Is this an album just for the myalgic encephalomyelitis community, or can someone with a hangover still find some meaning in it?
I should probably start quoting some of your stuff to illustrate why it’s not just criminally long but also insufferably snobby, so let’s start with a trend I’ve discovered with really long music reviews. There’s a good chance the author niggles the band for being guilty of stuff like this:
“a dull, processed feel; the various parts of the mix lie flatly next to each other, and everything thickens, indistinctively, in the middle range”
“…demand to be endured rather than enjoyed”
Hmmm…does any of that seem familiar? Well, it should because YOU’RE guilty of it. I’d say that’s a pretty good description of your own work, and I know because I climbed Poop Mountain to the peak.
Then there’s the stuff critics dream up to describe albums they’ve had for maybe two weeks, baffling stuff like this:
“No doubt, by testing their traditional sound in the direction of politics — i.e., in asking whether the “politics of style” can address something like “real politics” — the band is taking a big risk.”
A big risk of WHAT? Making you write an even longer review? Holy Christ, thank god they did whatever you’re talking about correctly. Thank you, Belle and Sebastian — thank you! Please tell your peers to give this man whatever he wants and give it quick before he writes again.
And then at last we come to the thickest, creamiest fat on the ham bone:
“Meredith Graves of Perfect Pussy observed that…”
“The late German media theorist Vilém Flusser defined gesture as…”
“Flusser believed, even the most insignificant gestures…”
DUDE, it’s an ALBUM. Yes, whatever deep concepts you’re dragging us through on a choke collar might be valid. But I could write a 2,400-word product description of Puffs Plus Lotion and probably connect it to something Hegel wrote or Tacitus chronicled. And then Procter & Gamble would laugh at me and go with other guy’s succinct copy so that interested parties would know they’re good for blowing your nose.
But what’s in an audience, right? What this review says to me is: yes, THEY wrote and recorded it, but I’M the one making sense of it all, so laud me for my efforts. No. No, Ed, I’m not going to laud you.
But I am going to give you a bit of advice. Length lets you hit all the angles, but stabbing the cervix won’t get you many second dates. Ciao.