Critic: Gabriel Samach
Publication: Tiny Mix Tapes, 2015
Writing Disorders: Ambiguity Sickness, Purple Hemorrhage
Most Emo Phrase: “But if you still believe — as I desperately try to believe”
Irony: “It is not some sterile academic exercise”
Gabe, I’m going to call you “Gabe,” because “Gabriel” makes me feel like I’m praying or scolding a toddler. GABRIEL! We do NOT put bananas in the DOG.
I wasn’t aware of the custom, but apparently whenever Björk releases an album, music critics all over the world fight for the honor of “Most Detestable Prose,” and Vulnicura whipped up some fierce competition. I could have picked any one of a dozen reviews to win RipFork’s brown ribbon, but yours edged out the others and exemplifies Tiny Mix Tapes’ proud tradition of making Pitchfork read like Dr. Seuss.
Gabe, on the long list of reasons why I loathe bad music writing, a critic’s narcissism is near the top. And what you wrote here is what I’d call, quote:
“a childish exercise in self-indulgence”
In other words, an artist spends months writing, recording and performing something for the world to hear, and what do you do? You “explain” it.
And how you explained it is important, because your review reminds me of a really bad SEO article on LiveStrong. You know, like “The modern juice cleanse has its roots in early juice cleanse movements of the 1970s, but the modern juice cleanse carries the risk of juice cleanse diarrhea.” Your review of Vulnicura has that same clunky repetition, but not with phrases that Googlebot would index. So if you’re not trying to get more reads, why are you writing like a Latvian spammer?
Well, I think it’s narcissism.
Let’s take a look at your intro, or as I like to call it, “Tortured Like.” Here’s the first sentence:
“Vulnicura is a deeply tortured album.”
Okay, cool. Tortured how? In the way she sings, what she sings about, the way the music is arranged, song length, tempo?
“Tortured like the endless second guesses. Tortured like the motivational untruths you tell yourself before bed. Tortured like the nightmares that come anyway. Tortured like waking up in a cold sweat, tangled in the sheets of an empty bed. Tortured like realizing you weren’t dreaming.”
…Tortured like, tortured like, tortured like, tortured like, tortured like…Wow, did anything NOT make the cut? “Tortured like the eyelash you can’t smear from the lid…tortured like the squirrel hanging by his scrotum from the branch that just won’t break…” We GET IT. Now this is just me, but if I’m writing about an album ***THAT*** powerful, I’m sure as hell not going to try to one-up the musician with flowery effusion. But that’s not you. Oh-ho, no, that’s not you.
After “tortured like” comes “is not,” which you used nine times to make absolutely sure that readers understand everything Vulnicura isn’t instead of just writing a succinct review of what it is. That means one-eighth of your sentences exist to tell us what doesn’t exist.
Here’s a chain of those “is not” statements strung together:
“is not that album — is not that album — is not some sterile academic exercise — is not some pristine thought experiment — is not a fashion object, a wall ornament — is not even an Arca album — is not to say that Arca had no role to play — is not so much a leash to restrain him — is not a fun listen”
Is Vulnicura also not a puppy, the Great Rift Valley, or a W-2 form? I need to know. I can’t listen to something unless I’m certain it’s not related to taxes. I NEED TO KNOW, GABE. TELL ME. TELL ME, GOD DAMN YOU!!!!
I’m not even going to burn space on your syrupy repetition of “the voices” because my tummy’s out of barf, so I’ll just cut to the chase. When I read all that needless, nauseating repetition, I don’t see someone writing about an album they heard. I see a guy flailing around shouting: Look at what an amazing writer I am! Bask in the radiance of my brilliant, soulful insight!
And if anyone’s not already sold on that accusation, take a gander at the truly profound stuff…the SCIENCE:
“the body as the malleable and sensual interface between our interior and exterior experience”
“away from the individual as an isolated and solipsistic atom and out toward the molecules and families we unite to form with one another”
Ugh. I really don’t understand why someone would publish that outside of an acid journal, so maybe you can help me out. Will your groundbreaking musical particle theory form the foundation for future research into Björk’s 21st-century catalog? Or were you just talking out of your bum to burn space instead of writing anything remotely tangible? Ahem…
“if there’s a pair of minotaurs waiting at the end of this labyrinth, Björk knows better than anyone that she is one of them.”
Gabe, another reason I’m calling BS on your goofy vivisection is that it’s written about an album released two months ahead of its original drop date because of an Internet leak. So I’m guessing whatever advanced copy you got wasn’t all that advanced. I could understand someone writing this wet word orgy about an album they’ve known and cherished for years, something that’s helped define their lives and cut through hard times. But you had this for, what…a few days?
Smells like orc mischief to me.