Artist: Twin Peaks
Venue: 100 Club, London
Critic: Neil Dowden
Publication: MusicOMH, 2015
Writing Disorders: Toxic Tedium
Neil, this is the most antiseptic live review I’ve ever read. I don’t know if it’s just how older British men write about music or if your comatose colleagues put you up to it, but you really need to loosen up. If your biggest takeaway from an “upbeat performance” is that it was — AT TIMES — “engagingly shambolic,” I think you’re in the wrong field.
Maybe I’m in the minority, but when I read a concert write-up, I want to feel like I’m there. That usually means interesting descriptions of sights, smells, SOUNDS, and the feelings they evoke. Did the singer tell a funny joke? Did the drummer break a stick? Did the bassist toss a pick down a girl’s shirt? Did the amps blow out your hearing? Was the floor sticky? What was it sticky with? Did that sticky floor bring back fond memories of Gloucestershire? Sticky Vicky?
Reading your review I didn’t get the impression you were even in a real room with real sounds coming out of real instruments because you wrote it like someone might take notes on fungal growth:
“the guys seem to be having as much fun as the crowd-surfing fans”
“the band resonate a slightly spaced out, irrepressibly feel-good vibe”
“They also seem quite cool about sharing the stage with various members of the enthusiastic young audience”
I never thought I’d have to explain this, but writing about a live show lets you focus on all the exciting, TANGIBLE things absent from an album. This means you don’t have to fumble for the dopey metaphors and clunky prose of the modern music critic struggling to describe what’s coming out of his headphones. You can dictate your own experience in plain English. That’s a position of strength right there.
But whatever energy inhabited that room didn’t make it into your review, Neil. At least it was short, something I rarely encounter in the field, but since half your content was basically band background, I’ve got to ask: Why did you even write this? Was it to tell us that the band scheduled to play that evening actually played at the appointed time and place? WOW. Thank you. Thanks for that.
All bad things have to start somewhere, so let’s take a look at your opening.
“Named after a TV series that finished before they were born, Twin Peaks are no small-town gothic horror show but a four-piece indie band from Chicago buzzing with the normal testosterone levels for that age.”
Neil, a couple gripes. First, do you really need to tell us that the band you saw perform is not a ’90s TV show but actually…a band? Unless MusicOMH’s target readers are tube worms, I think you can probably get away with a stronger opening for tool-using eukaryotes.
Then there’s that bit about the testosterone. I get that there’s a sizeable gulf in age between you and the musicians, but you really made a point of letting us know just how RIPE these boys are:
“normal testosterone levels for that age”
“evidently still get teenage kicks out of performing live”
“a carefree youthful exuberance.”
…weird. Anyway, on to the next confusing bit:
“Not to mention receiving the focused attention of a pack of photographers covering this NME Awards Show.”
Neil, apart from “not to mention” starting the sentence, something else up there confused the hell out of me. Now I’m sure folks on your side of the pond will laugh and call me a “tosser” for not knowing common knowledge, but it took me 10 minutes of research to figure out what was going on with that line you wrote. So apparently this Twin Peaks show was part of a tour under the umbrella of the “NME Awards.” But writing “NME Awards Show” made it seem like you were watching something like the Grammys…in a “sweaty basement” where only one band performed. Might have been better off lowercasing that “show” since it was just a show, not the show.
Speaking of confusing, it’s bad enough that you only devoted one paragraph to the band’s set list, but you didn’t even use quotes or italics, so all the hyphenated junk and song names gelled together into word soup. About the only thing that leapt out of the review was another band’s name, which you put in boldface for some reason.
Neil, I’ve come to expect this kind of porridge from men barely out of university, but you’ve got strong life experience under your belt. That’s a good thing. But if the sum of years has only made you the dullest concert correspondent on earth, I think you could do with an intervention.
I do have hope for you. By your own admission in your bio, you don’t believe you’ve reached your peak. Would you describe the view from the mountaintop as “seemingly inspiring as only high elevation might render”? I sincerely hope not. Loosen up, Neil.