Pitchfork Media’s Review of “Shine On” and “Get Born” by Jet

My review of “Step One” by Steps. Wow, that was easy. I didn’t even have to sit through the CD!

When you read a review, you expect certain things. You want to hear some insightful positives and negatives regarding the thing being reviewed. You don’t want to be talked down to. You hope to have an overall idea of whether said object is worth seeing/listening to/buying/reading/visiting/eating/doing/throwing things at. And after you’ve done any of those things, you want to come back and read that review again to determine whether you agree or think the reviewer is out of his mind. Basically, you expect reviews like this and this. Then you go to a website whose supposed specialty is reviews, and you see something like this. This “review” only manages to fit one of those criteria, that being the last one” that this reviewer is totally out of his mind.

A long time ago, when the second Franklin movie was being planned, our discussion took a long detour, with us arguing over the definition of the phrase “cop out”. There were numerous e-mails sent back and forth trying to determine if an idea that I came up with was something that constituted this. You can read highlights here. This argument was never really solved, but I stand here today telling you once and for all, that this “review” is the definition of “cop out”.

I can gather by the video clip shown here that the “reviewer” doesn’t like Shine On, but I was interested in hearing some actual insight into what makes it good or bad. Granted, the CD wasn’t that great (there were three songs on it that I thought were really good, but the rest was kinda mediocre), but it doesn’t deserve to have its review have nothing interesting or meaningful to say at all. I don’t know how a high-fallutin’ website like pitchforkmedia decided that that was representative of their organization, but recently, they even put up a similar video, claiming it was a JET music video. Obviously, the pretentious music-lovers have a thing against the Aussies rockers, but I really can’t figure out what it is.

The review of their first album, Get Born, gives us a little more understanding, but I use the word “little” literally. It’s presented in the form of a discussion between the band and the owner of a venue where they’re supposed to be putting on a concert. Things go wrong at the concert and the fans turn on the band. Sure there are opinions presented about the band, but I’m sure they’re all completely over-the-top exaggerations from someone who’s never seen them live or met them. I can’t imagine a band (aside from the Flaming Lips or Ozzy Osbourne) actually demanding [thirty f%$&in’ angry alligators with top hats on, Iggy Pop shooting out of that cannon, and midway through sending in the kid from the iPod commercial.] It may work as a review of the band, but as a review of the album it fails miserably.

It only mentions three songs from the CD (very briefly) and it only has two points that I gleaned from the whole thing. The first is that all their songs sound like other bands (citing AC/DC, Iggy Pop, Wallflowers, Oasis, Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones). The second is that they have “insipid love songs that sound like wedding band covers” and “insipid lyrics, we say ‘Come On!’ and ‘Oh Yeah!’ every five seconds”. So basically the guy only knows one insulting adjective. You know, there’s a thesaurus feature in MS word, and I’d assume there’s also one on the trendy Mac you also probably use. Insipid: dull, bland, wishy-washy, characterless, colorless, trite, tame, unexciting, uninteresting, boring. Maybe none of those words sounded smart/insulting to readers enough, though I’m partial to the word “trite

Here’s the thing that the review is missing. The music is fun. It’s not meant to be high art. It’s not meant to be genre-pushing. It’s meant to be music with easy-to-learn lyrics and melodies that you can put in your car CD player, turn the volume way up on, roll down your windows and shout at the top of your lungs and have a good time. And it completely succeeds at that, something that this reviewer was competent enough to pick up on. There’s a good mix of fast and slow songs (so the whole CD doesn’t sound the same, a huge pet peeve of mine), and I like most of the slower songs. I understand that a lot of the faster songs sound similar, but they’re catchy enough that it doesn’t bother me (a problem that the second CD had), much like with critically lauded Franz Ferdinand. As far as the words go, I’m not expecting poetic lyrics, so why should I complain that they’re not there? Did people who went to see Pirates of the Caribbean complain that there wasn’t a deeper meaning in the dialogue, or that it wasn’t a British period piece about some queen from the 17th century? I would hope not. They should be expecting to have fun. That’s all I expect out of it. That’s not to say that I shouldn’t hold the band accountable for bad music, I just don’t think that criticizing lyrics for this kind of music is really the way to go. Do critics complain about the lyrics to “SHOUT” or “MONY MONY”? Some of the songs on that Fountains of Wayne CD, Welcome Interstate Managers had TERRIBLE lyrics, but critics dismissed them because of how fun the melodies were.

Now some of you who are familiar with Aaron Copland’s book, “What to Listen for in Music“, would say that I’m only listening to this album on a “sensuous”, or maybe an “expressive” level, and that to fully understand why music is good or bad, I have to be listening to it on a “sheerly musical” level as well, combining the three. Well, in response to that I would claim that there isn’t too much to it on a musical level, but my musical knowledge is limited. I’m learning to increase what I hear when I listen, but I want to understand what makes this a musically good or bad album. That’s why I went to a site where I knew I would find a harsh but intelligent criticism of the CD. But there was none of that there. Instead, all I got was a poorly-written, profanity-laced diatribe against the band for mimicking other bands. Personally, since there really isn’t any truly popular band playing right now that sounds like them, I don’t have too much of a problem with it, but I’m reviewing the review, and not the band or CD, so that doesn’t really matter.


Zero stars for the cop-out Shine On so-called review.

½
½ star for the creativity to write a review for Get Born as a dialogue. Minus four and a half for not having any substance to it at all, not talking about the songs, and basically complaining because Jet has songs that sound like bands that lots of people like.

Pirates Magazine Premier Issue – The Cover

The first in what might be a series of reviews.

I was at the bookstore the other day, more-or-less stocking up for what ended up being a fictional trip to China, and after picking out a selection of books, I wandered over to the magazine section of Borders. The goal of magazines at a newstand-type setting is to catch customers’ eyes, so they completely overspend and make an impulse purchase instead of saving oodles of money with a subscription. My eyes wandered across the fast cars, the cleavage, and the heroic-looking sports poses, and I stumbled across the word “Pirates” in a large, offensive typeface. Next to it, in smaller type, “Magazine.” YES! Whether it was a magazine for pirates or pirate enthusiasts, I plopped down my $7.95 (minus 2 stars right there), and put on my ridiculin’ hat.

Some communities should just stay on the internet. I’ve never been a fan of people taking things I don’t care about too seriously. I could make some sort of list here of examples, but at the end of the day, let’s just admit that the list would contain pretty much anything you could think of, and the real challenge would be in the taxonomy of it all (grouping Hershey’s Chocolate Enthusiasts with people who love Mike and Ike because of the whole candy thing). In the “hobbies I don’t respect” category, we’d find the Renaissance Fair fans, people that dress like comic book characters, movie characters, Star Wars characters, and so on. Though these people bother me in concept, for the most part, they’re off in their own corner of the internet, arguing about whether Qui-Gon Jinn could beat Saruman, then dressing up and living out the fight and getting out of breath, so hey to each his (or, rarely in this case, her) own. So, when “they” crossed over from internet phenomenon into a group seemingly legitimate interests, I did not like it one bit.

pirates1

Obviously this magazine was created to capitalize on summer 2006’s second biggest movie, X3.

So, what exactly does one put in a what will (in theory) end up being a quarterly magazine? Well, judging by the cover alone, not buxom wenches, some pirate history (Blackbeard & the Queen Anne’s Revenge), pirates in pop culture (Pirates of the Caribbean), profiles of people bringing “pirate” back (Pat Croce), the details of the construction of the ill-advised Christmas gifts that people’s grandmother’s buy on QVC (The Artistry of Baltimore Knife & Sword), as well as treasure hunting (Jean-Michel Cousteau), and other piratey sounding things (Jamaica Rose, whatever that is). All-in-all a good mix for the overly enthusiastic, but at a rather full 88 pages, they’re going to struggling for content after, I don’t know, issue #1. The Bookshelf’s experience with the printed word proved two things 1) we can do anything we set our mind to do, and more seriously 2) one issue is easy – two, not so much.

In all honesty, people that collect such things probably love to know the detailed process that goes into making collectable swords and knives, and again, there are probably people out there interested in doing something as close-to-pirate-like-as-possible such as a real-life treasure hunt, but really, you’d think that advertisers would realize that addressing the potential customer with “You be wantin’ to be a pirate?” or things like that might get old after, I don’t know, five pages.

**

Pirates Magazine Premier Issue – The Cover receives two stars due to the fact that even though I have no respect for their hobby, it seems to address things that I’d be interested in if I were a pirate enthuasiast. The title isn’t so hot, though it doesn’t lead the customer guessing the contents of what he has in his hand. I’ve yet to really delve into the magazine, but so far, in terms of its art design, it’s somewhere between “professional” and “Look at all these buttons in InDesign!” There’s enough Times New Roman to kill a, um, giant sea-faring enemy of a pirate and some of the ads look like something from my high school year book, but there is something to be said about what might be called its “rustic” charm, and the authors do a reasonably good job avoiding easy pirate jokes. But, paging through, I can’t help but notice items in the magazine geared towards “re-enactors.” That’s really the bottom of the barrel in terms of “geekdom” — see the left side of this chart. A special note about this chart: It was made by that Lore guy who beat us to the whole “reviewing anything” schtick, and we’re still bitter about it, especially considering the quality and accuracy of the chart.
Anyway, judging the the magazine by its cover alone, it gets those two stars (two stars off for the only-for-enthusiasts pricing and one star for the whole ‘promoting things that really shouldn’t be promoted’ thing). It really reminds me of “Chew” magazine from Calvin & Hobbes, with Calvin enthusiastically reading the whole issue very seriously while Hobbes just didn’t get it. (Bill Watterson probably meant it as some not-too-subtle jab at crass consumerism, and that was even before the internet catered to even “nicher” interests).

I’ll leave with this: I’m not particularly interested in anything, and I’d never pay $8 or even $10 for an imported British car magazine. Twice. I also live in a glass house.