Critic: Tom Fenwick
Publication: Drowned in Sound, 2015
Writing Disorders: Detachment Syndrome, Ambiguity Sickness
Tom, thanks for writing such a lazy review. I’m tight on time this week, so it’s nice having the option to shoot a fat carp in a barrel.
I’ll get to your weak thesis, but I want to start with the sloppy writing. Do you want to know the cure for sloppy writing? It’s called “rereading.” It’s quick, it’s easy, and the benefits are undeniable: You get to look back on your insight AND avoid publishing stuff like this:
“seems to encapsulates”
“one of modern pops most enduring styles”
“plays particularly out well”
On top of that, you also managed to fudge commas and quotes in a review less than 500 words long. So in the future if you’re going to critique someone else’s work, you might want to check for skid marks in your undies. Otherwise it’s just a crappy reflection on you and whoever’s in charge of posting reviews on Drowned in Sound, who clearly doesn’t proofread either. And let’s be honest here. It’s not like you’re writing and recording an album. You’re typing. Get yourself together.
Tom, being pressed for time is a poor excuse for those results when it means musicians have to just hope that they don’t get niggled by a procrastinator. What a reward for hard work.
Your intro took up half your review, which is usually a good indication of anemic content in the body and conclusion. You really could have reduced that bloated front end down to a sentence to two without losing substance actually relevant to the album you reviewed. But I guess old-fashioned concepts like “relevance,” “flow,” and “understanding” take a backseat these days to flashier doodads like clever descriptive triplets:
“soundtrack for student barbecues, Habitat adverts and thirty-something dinner parties.”
“beard-oiling, fixie-riding and other hipsterish insta-fads”
I don’t understand why music critics always feel the need to insulate their reviews with threesomes like that. Why not one obtuse example? Why not two? Can’t cleverness go to the egghead ball without an escort locked on each arm? Let her grow up, Tom. She’s ready.
But padding a review does help to obscure a weak argument even if it’s rife with typos. What’s your argument? From what I gathered you didn’t like the way the guy mixed vocals on this album compared to his debut. That’s about it. Of course you didn’t write it that way:
“…robs the listener of emotional nuance and understatement”
Ah, “the listener,” the perfect way to avoid writing an opinion…as an opinion. That might look something like this:
“…robs me of emotional nuance and understatement”
Well, that sounds petty, now doesn’t it?
Tom, it annoys the crap out of my colon when music reviews are written so impersonally. Why? It makes the nitpicking not about a critic’s taste but about the choices of the artist. It makes it seem like there’s a round peg next to a round hole and the musician tried to cram a triangle in there. It’s always his or her fault even if — God forbid — they didn’t know that some random guy prefers “absorbing ambiance and sensuous heartache” over “telegraphed despair” when listening to someone else’s grief.
Why shouldn’t he do things differently this time around? By your own description it’s a “deeply melancholic record” about the “stages of grief in a dying relationship.” Speaking as a living human, I can’t say that I blame someone for foregoing “understatement” when translating blunt emotional trauma.
But what do I know? I’m just an “I.” The listener is king even if he doesn’t reread. But I do hope one does from now on.