Wednesday, September 11, 2013

OPINION: Music Critic: Jayson Greene- Sure You Are Entitled to Your Opinion But Why Be Such A Dick About It?

Not since Nick Hornby's scathing review of Kid A published on October 30, 2000 in The New Yorker has a review grated on me so much as has the review of the recent Pixies release EP 1 by Jayson Greene for Pitchfork. The fact that Greene assigns a 1 score to the 4 song EP (while surprising) is not what get's my hackles up it is his scorched earth style of reviewing. From the onset he is in attack mode and gets pretty nasty. I understand fully that he does not like the EP but why be such a dick about it??

The answer might lie in the arrogant edge that is present in some music critics or critics of every art form. Some critics actually do believe that they have such rarefied taste that eveyone should agree with them. There is also a sense of ownership that some critics have, that artists are only there to please them. About EP 1 Greene states:

"Nothing in these four faceless, fatuous alt-rock songs distinguishes them as the music of the Pixies."

This is where Greene feels he can dictate or define how the Pixies should sound when in truth if the EP was in the style of German Polka music it would still sound like the Pixies, (doing German Polka music). The Pixies luckily get to decide what they sound like. In this way, Greene reminds me of Hornby who scolded Radiohead like they were little kids mocking their decision to do more experimental music, to change. It also brings to mind the classic story of Geffen Records attempting to sue the pants off of Neil Young for creating an album that didn't sound (to the record label) like a Neil Young album. Yes, the mind spins at the nonsensical brains of Record Labels and some music critics. Greene also doesn't mind getting personal. He goes on:

"Nothing, in fact, distinguishes them at all. Kim Deal is absent, having left the band, but no one else-- not Santiago or Lovering or even Frank Black-- seem to have shown up either."

Again, Greene is entitled to his opinion but again why be such a dick about it? It takes a lot of hutzpah to insinuate that artists as talented and influential as Charles Thompson (Frank Black), Joey Santiago and David Lovering are not trying to do anything but perform well on this record. Greene is like a football coach who thinks his players are not giving it their all. He states:

"There is no Pixies in this Pixies. No tension between preschool giddiness and grad-school school sophistication, between finger painting pop and Buneuel-quoting lyrics; no seesaw between playfulness and menace; no intimations of terror. There is no alien shimmer to the guitars or vocal melodies."

Greene has set the definition and is now disappointed that his beloved Pixies don't match up. And while I disagree whole heatedly (EP-1 has many hall marks of a classic Pixies record)- the point is that in the same way that Nick Hornby vehemently objected to his beloved Radiohead of The Bends and Computer OK shifting styles to create Kid A, Greene cannot seem to accept anything but his version of the Pixies. Hornby was convinced that Kid A did NOT sound like Radiohead (or more acurately his idea of what Radiohead should sound like) when in fact Kid A sounds exactly like Radiohead. EP 1 too sounds just like the Pixies. Maybe Greene simply cannot stand the fact that Kim Deal left or that Frank Black has matured, maybe even mellowed. Maybe Greene feels wounded in some way.

As Greene winds down his critique full of barbs he actually writes:

"Very soon, no one will remember much about this EP, or that it even exists. Bit it's a minor tragedy that it was released, and it's almost enought to make me wish the reunion (2004) and even that magical show I saw never happened."

Now these last lines actually floored me. How can one be so utterly mean and dismissive to a band that has influenced the likes of Bowie, PJ Harvey, Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and Kurt Cobain to name a few, and literally changed the course of music as we know it today? Show some respect man. Greene seems to wish this EP 1 was never released. Hornby implied as much when writing about Kid A. Time has proven Hornby incredibly wrong and clearly millions of Pixies fans will enjoy EP-1 for years to come. It is also laughable that Greene has such venom for the songs on EP 1 that he "almost" wishes he never saw the reunion show back in 2004. So apparently, he is content for an iconic band to only play past songs.

I can't help but think that Jayson Greene looks at bands like trained monkeys to do his bidding, to make him happy and if they do not do so they get a thrashing. Now let me be clear, Greene is a fantastic writer. Much better than I. He knows how to turn a phrase as they say. He is at once concise but also dresses his words with just the right amount of poetic license but his knee jerk delivery is devoid of compassion. He comes off sounding like a lot of music critics of his ilk. Like wannabe musicians and artists who know little about the creative process but take pleasure in judging it.

In closing, Jayson Greene seems to imply that EP 1 has tarnished the astonishing musical legacy that the Pixies have left all of us. While this is utterly ridiculous it must be noted to Greene how wonderful it must be to have a legacy to tarnish. In stark contrast, part of Greene's legacy includes tarnishing others. From interviews I have read it seems that Frank Black like Thom Yorke has found a way to not let critics get to him, to get inside his head. He is content to avoid the haters and to put his music out there not to be judged bu rather to be enjoyed by all who love it.

Robb Donker

Pitchfork EP 1 Review

Nick Hornby Review of Kid A- The New Yorker

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