Wednesday, April 19, 2006

If a Press Release Told You to Jump Off a Bridge: Built to Spill and other fallacies

It’s amazing how shit takes on a life of its own. And I do mean shit.

Music critics are some of the biggest jackoffs in the history of the printed word. They’ll believe anything and write it down too. Most won’t take the time to actually listen to the music, but read a press release, get a feeling of how everyone else thinks, and then squat over a piece of paper and let it fly.

But you may be saying to yourself: “John, shining light in a dark, dark world, you too have reviewed many albums. Aren’t you a music critic as well enlightened one?”

Thanks for the kind words, but no. It is true that I have reviewed records. But I am not a “critic.” I am “critical” and that’s a big difference. To be considered a music critic you have to be paid to review music, and I’m looking at my wallet and it’s looking like usual: empty as a theater showing Phat Girlz.

So with that said, music critics suck cock. Except for the incredible Jason Heller who hates/loves more music than I ever will. He knows what he’s talking about. The rest can go fuck themselves because their ineptitude has finally been exposed.

I am a big Built To Spill fan so naturally I was excited that a new album was coming out. As the reviews started coming in, I noticed something very alarming that solidified my belief that 90% of these music nazi dorks are so completely clueless that Paris Hilton seems thoughtful and articulate in comparison.

All of the reviews started out like this, “Built To Spill is back with their first album in five years since the disappointing Ancient Melodies of the Future.”

Right there, a red flag popped out of Katie Couric’s ass to let me know that something was wrong. Ancient Melodies of the Future is not a bad album. It’s actually pretty good, but it came along after a long string of records and I think BTS’s singer Doug Martsch was a little burned out. It’s not radically different from the one before it, but like I said, it’s a great album. I’m listening to it now as I type this, and I stand by that claim.

The problem comes in because Martsch himself has gone on record to say that he didn’t like the album. Fair enough, but this is what the media dicks have seized upon. Once one person wrote that it was a disappointment (based on what the songwriter said) then everybody proclaimed it a disappointment. No research required.

If we discounted every album, movie or any creative endeavor that the artist later claimed to not like, our top 20 lists would look more like a top 7 list. I can remember Dave Chappelle has said he thinks his film Half Baked is bad and he wasn’t happy with it. Well, that’s good for him, but Half Baked is a modern comedy classic with or without Chapelle’s blessing. If you were involved with Half Baked and didn’t want to be associated with a goofy pot movie, you’d say the same thing. It still doesn’t take away from the fact that Half Baked is one of the funniest movies to come out in 15 years.

When the artist backtracks on one of his or her creations, it’s a slap in the face to the people who bought into it. I can’t stand when people say things like “what was I thinking?” or “sorry about that” in relation to something you went out and spent $15 bucks on. It cheapens what it means to the fan and unless it is a universally excepted misfire (like that last Strokes album…oh my god it sucked), I feel these musicians, directors, actors need to stand by their product.

So Doug Martsch didn’t like Ancient Melodies huh? Well tough shit. I did, and even after he stated that, it didn’t change my mind. But he influenced a lot of people with that statement who made it seem like BTS shit out a flop of enormous magnitude that just couldn’t compete with the band’s already incredible catalog. It happens.

Regardless, everyone wrote that in their review, making it seem like they were amateurs who dropped the ball only to get back in everyone’s good graces with this new album. Which brings me to my next point.

All the reviews of Built To Spill’s new album, You In Reverse, have been overwhelmingly positive. How can this be? Can this record really be that good? Well, this is where we have a problem.

You In Reverse is ok. I know, I know, it’s incredibly hard to write that line. I have been a serious diehard fan of this band for a long time. I’ve seen them probably five or six times and I was at the show where they recorded some of the LIVE album. Yeah, you were probably too, but I had to state my cred for the sake of the story.

To be fair, I’ve listened to You In Reverse twice through, going on a third. Some albums take a little longer to grow on me, but I’ve never had to listen to a BTS album more than this for its qualities to affect me. Two times through and I have to say I am completely and totally under whelmed.

The songs are definitely different sounding but kind of boring. The guitar playing is a tad cliché and the production sucks. Martsch’s trademark voice is completely washed out of the mix and the only thing that sounds different is the bass is turned up. I found myself drifting away will listening to it and not because it was magical, but because it was boring me silly. Long time producer Phil Ek was not involved this time and the band produced it themselves….typically not a good idea.

I will listen to it more because I do believe I will find some redeeming qualities in it. But the point of this post is to point out the absurdity of the “critics” who have fallen all over themselves to get on the bandwagon when the wheels came off a while ago. This album is no worse and definitely no better than Ancient Melodies of the Future.

I don’t know if it’s a form of mass hysteria, but I believe the critics all get the same press release and I’m sure it stated something similar to what they puked up in their reviews. Hey, if Martsch wanted people to believe that crap, he did a good job, but he seriously sold himself and his band short.

Just like that Sleater Kinney album that came out awhile back, the hype has not matched up to the product and it basically comes down to an insult to the band: they are being praised for their worst work because they’re like the office worker who’s been there for 40 years and never got employee of the month.

Well, here’s your reward, a great review from a bunch of jerks for a mediocre record; it’s the indie rock equivalent to the Lifetime Achievement Award and it’s written on toilet paper.



hubs said...

I have a link to the torrent of BTS live at the Fox Theatre this monday on my site. Just thought you might be interested.

J Reidy said...

sure, i'd love to hear it.

if you want you can send me the link to