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Aphorisms Found in an Aging Pop Critic’s Notebook

23 November 2009 One Million Watts 8,217 views 2 CommentsPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

EDITOR’S NOTE: These aphorisms were discovered in a notebook that was interred with a mummified rock critic found in a teahouse on the West Side of Manhattan, not far from the former location of Tower Records. When excavation crews removed the notebook from the mummy’s grip, it exhaled a cloud of graveyard dust that made a sound remarkably similar to “Worst … tomb … rifling … ever.”

Brian Wilson might be highly overrated, but “Pet Sounds” is exactly as brilliant as it seems.

Between “Rubber Soul” and “Sgt. Pepper,” one should reach for their “Revolver.”

If punk was the last gasp of rock & roll as Something That Mattered, then Kurt Cobain was the death rattle.

ELO’s “Telephone Line” is perhaps the greatest pop embodiment of the longing that only technology can create, descending directly from Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee”; one can only wonder what generations of sexters will make of the songs’ pleas to the mysterious “operator.”

Tony Bennett calls Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy” a “perfect record” — and who, really, are you to argue with Tony Bennett?

The Great American Songbook is about romance; rock & roll is about sex; hip-hop appears to be about porn.

One does not hate country music — one hates Nashville.

There simply must have been a qualitative difference between Lou Reed-heroin and James Taylor-heroin.

Such an amorphous and vague term as “emo” isn’t very descriptive (isn’t half of all pop whiny, self-pitying and neurotic?), but since the phrase doesn’t attach itself to any bands that one likes, one feels safe in ignoring it. “Chamber Pop,” however, sums up Tindersticks perfectly.

Much like the films of Wes Anderson, one enjoys the Decemberists while simultaneously understanding exactly why others hate them.

Neko Case is worth a whole room full of Emmylou Harrises — that’s just how it is sometimes (but it might take a roomful of Nekos to equal one Gillian Welch).

One wonders if trip-hop still exists, because one rather liked Tricky and Morcheeba and Portishead.

Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” is one of the rare cases where earnestness doesn’t sink a work of pop.

Example of the importance of not being earnest: Andy Partridge, circa 1989. (“Here Comes President Kill Again,” anyone? No? One thought not.)

It’s hard to make the case for Wilco’s brilliance without Jay Bennett. Number of masterpieces with Bennett: 2. Number without: 0.

One is always mildly ashamed to step up to the counter at the Indie record shop with a copy of, say, Sonic Youth’s “Daydream Nation” (or insert your own title here); one always makes a loud comment to the effect that this is a replacement copy.

One quite liked both sides of the Clash’s “Combat Rock” when it came out, and still cannot get through “Sandinista.”

The way Dire Straits quotes Richard Roger’s “Carousel Waltz” in the intro to “Tunnel of Love” always sweeps one away.

Blur is to the Beatles as Oasis is to the Stones–which means everyone will have to put up with the insufferable Gallagher brothers in their sixties.

Tom Waits is the greatest shaggy dog story ever told.

Beulah’s “The Coast is Never Clear” is a near-perfect pop album that hardly anyone will hear or remember as the years roll on.

One doesn’t know “goth” from an empty grave in the ground, but one does know Gothic. It’s called Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Saddest Song Ever: Morphine, “Gone For Good.”

R.E.M. really, really should have called it a day after their accidental masterpiece, “New Adventures in Hi-Fi.”

The sad truth is that one will never, ever be as punk as the Ramones.

No matter how many snide and archaic remarks about “yuppies” are attached to Steely Dan, they are still the apotheosis of the 1970s, its glittering evil genius.

Greatest Rock Song About Class: X, “The Have Nots.”

One never reflects upon the end of Communism in Eastern Europe and the complete marginalization of traditional socialist/leftist politics without thinking: Poor Billy Bragg (whose album “Talking with the Taxman About Poetry” nonetheless holds up nicely).

Bands That Forever Left One Scratching One’s Head as to What All the Fuss was About: Pavement, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails.

One hated, loathed, despised the Beastie Boys then; one hates them today; one shall hate them tomorrow.

The music of the Talking Heads, particularly “Fear of Music,” somehow says “New York” better than any explicit New York song, with the exception of Frank Sinatra singing “Autumn in New York” on “Come Fly With Me” (Capitol, 1957).

No one will better Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw the Light”; it is, as Tony Bennett would say, a perfect record.

One will never top Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” but a single note from Louis Armstrong’s trumpet comes awfully close.

One liked the Pixies back in the day, but one was never crazy about them. The Breeders “Last Splash,” however, could play on a continuous loop without wearing thin.

Highlights in Mix Tape History: Pavarotti’s “Nessun Dorma” followed by Tom Waits’ “Johnsburg, Illinois”; The Smashing Pumpkins “Tonight, Tonight” followed by David Bowie’s “Heroes.”

Never trust a woman who doesn’t melt at the sound of Leonard Cohen’s voice. Never trust a woman who claims to dislike Bob Dylan because “he can’t sing.”

Never describe anything as a guilty pleasure–to do so only proclaims the insecurity of your taste. That said, one can’t quite confess to liking ***********.

Speaking of guilt, if one is of a certain age, you’re allowed to have a fond memory of one of those ubiquitous Hall & Oates songs. “Say It Isn’t So” fits that bill.

Bands One is Not Allowed to Have Fond Memories Of: Journey, Night Ranger, Journey. Though the finale of “The Sopranos” may put that prejudice to bed at last.

With all due respect to Limp Bizkit, Puddles of Mudd and Creed, Styx remains the Worst Band Ever.

The tragedy of Michael Jackson is that he never started with the man in the mirror.

No one is badder than old King Kong; no one is meaner than a junkyard dog.

Ahhhhh… Bach. Ahhhh… Beck.

Gregory Crosby

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  1. Disagreed with most of the oldy moldy critic’s quips (who doesn’t, except for other critics?), but agreed with a few, notably about Beethoven’s 9th (Ode to Joy)/Louis Armstrong and Michael Jackson. :-/


  2. I would say I only agree with 1/4th of the comments. And while I will forever argue everyone has a right to their opinion…

    To say Styx is the worst band ever, when Nickelback exists, is downright musically ignorant

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