Artist: East India Youth
Album: Culture of Volume
Critic: Josh Hall
Publication: FACT, 2015
Writing Disorders: Scorn Disease, Jargon Palsy
Josh, some people say that my tone is haughty, arrogant, or nasty. Even if they concede some truth to my points, they’re quick to stress that I’ve succumbed to the very things I’m admonishing, that I’m being hypocritical.
Well, let me assure those concerned parties that I won’t be nearly as haughty, arrogant, or nasty as you.
Josh, I don’t respect your style of hectoring, spiteful criticism. I think it’s bad for music, bad for music writing, and bad for the public’s perception of thin young men. I don’t respect it, but I do understand it. When I was your age, I wanted clear distinction in a field with a low bar for entry, just like you. And you’ve demonstrated that priggish lecturing is still alive and well as a perceived shortcut up the ladder.
But it wasn’t even your scorn that struck me as the most pathetic trait of this review, rather that you wrote it like a lazy-Mexican stereotype of pompous music writing. You glued two adverbs to the same word more than once. You wrote “faux” AND “esque.” You used “almost” and “perhaps” to modify words like “sociopathically” and “worst.” You fattened up the obvious into “completely needless” and “utterly meaningless.” You accused someone of aping Radiohead AND New Order but falling short. You spat on a musician for nebulous embodiments of white, middle-class suburban culture when — well, we’ll get to that in a bit.
All that other stuff suffices to tell me something about your writing. It’s a caricature of angry poops on music, and I’ve examined my fair share under the microscope. Normally I could just write it off as the product of an emotional man’s morning mood, but a couple of things stood out that I want to cover. Let’s take your first sentence and another similar bit down the line:
“Musical theatre is the only art form in which there is absolutely no discernible value”
“there is nothing real here”
Josh, I don’t like absolutes. I also don’t like it when absolutes like “absolutely no” and “there is nothing” occupy the same space as dithering crap like this:
“perhaps the record’s worst moments”
“perhaps the most irritating element”
“It’s probably quite apt”
Explain something to me, Josh. How is it that you’re confident enough to call an entire genre worthless, but so unsure about something you heard repeatedly that you can’t decide what you thought was worst, most irritating, or quite apt about it?
While you’re thinking that over, let’s move on. I’m sure this next tirade got more than a few eyes rolling:
“There is something uniquely offensive about a white middle-class man naming his act after a brutal and corrupt organization that ruled India with 350,000 soldiers overseen by an elite British civil service contingent tasked with a programme of modernisation and ‘civilisation.’”
“There are some very serious questions to be asked of a man who cannot understand that it might not be appropriate to share a name with one of the great emblems of colonialism.”
“Doyle looking wistfully off camera, his burgundy tie adorned with a pin, the outfit almost as unbearably Caucasian as the vocal delivery.”
Josh, do you want a medal or something? Do you want people to hoist you up and sing praises of your fearless crusade against this man’s choice of stage name? Or did you just want to lecture us with insinuations about another man’s intent?
I’m not so sure, because when I look at your LinkedIn picture, I see a Caucasian man smiling out from under a mop of curls, face festooned in thick glasses, bundled in a long scarf over a crisp woolen coat. If you’re going to police outfits as “unbearably Caucasian,” I think some would argue that your winter attire also warrants that distinction.
But I don’t entertain ideas as fundamentally stupid as “unbearably Caucasian” any more than I do ideas like “uncomfortably black” or “insufferably Latino.” If crossing that doltish line qualifies as being “socially conscious” these days, I want no part in the stepping. It’s a cheap, clownish way to conduct an argument. Plus it sounds really dumb coming from Snow White, and also because you wrote this:
“Doyle’s bio reassures us that he is named after the part of East London in which he used to live.”
Okay…so why not just BELIEVE him and stick to the music instead of burning space bashing him for alleged crimes of poor taste according to your own prejudice? You say there are serious questions to be asked, but you don’t ASK them. You’re accusing someone of wrongdoing but outsourcing the investigation.
And if you’re going to dump on someone’s work, it seems a right course of decency to at least give him the benefit of the doubt on matters of perceived social insensitivity. For instance, I could be a dick and say you’re being heteronormative by suggesting that an art form so visibly and emotionally embraced by thousands of gay men (musical theater) has “absolutely no discernible value.” Anyone can be bullied like that, Josh.
But what I find the crummiest is that even after all that shaming, after your long lecture about how this guy isn’t worth the sandy gum in your boot tread, you write this:
“There are some things that Culture of Volume does well.”
Wow, I’m sure this Doyle fellow is just falling over himself in gratitude after you pissed in his face and then tossed him a penny. You know, Josh, not that I expect him to do it, but I’m always struck when artists actually lash out at critics for the beatings they endure. People seem shocked when heaven forbid a musician suggests on Twitter that a critic or publication go bugger themselves, like it’s an affront to a necessary workforce that sneers for a living.
Well, to anyone who thinks I’m Josh’s hypocritical twin, at least I don’t get paid for it. It’s all just boundless charity from my own sour heart.