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Showing posts from September, 2009

So You Wanna Be a Rock 'N Roll Critic: Lesson 6

Welcome to So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n Roll Critic, a ten-part instructional feature that will provide you with all the tips and tricks you need to become a real life music reviewer. As a matter of process, I've taken these lessons from exhaustive research into printed music reviews in Entertainment Weekly, Q, The New Yorker, Musician, Rolling Stone, and Spin. Additionally, I've looked into the uberhip perspective of Pitchfork.com. I also read many pieces by the godfather of music reviewing, Lester Bangs. And finally, I have not shied away from an examination of my own work here on 3 Minutes, 49 Seconds.

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Lesson 6: History Never Repeats

If this were a how-to manual for musicians instead of music critics, this lesson would be about quitting when you're ahead. I would tell you that the minute you create an album that is simultaneously loved by critics and purchased by millions of people you should retire. If that happens to be your first album, even better. I don't c…

Rock Bottom: U2

The one constant in every established artist's oeuvre is the bad album, the one that's reviled by both fans and critics. Those unlovable albums are the ones this feature, Rock Bottom, is concerned with.

Here's how it works: I've consulted two main sources, the AllMusic Guide (for the critical point-of-view) and Amazon.com (for the fan perspective*). The album with the lowest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the worst. I may not alwaysagree with the choice, and my reviews will reflect that. I'll also offer a considered alternative.Finally, there are some limits. The following types of albums don't count: 1) b-sides or remix compilations, 2) live albums, 3) albums recorded when the band was missing a vital member, and 4) forays into a different genres (i.e. classical).

*A note about Amazon.com. I consider this the fan perspective, because most people who choose to review albums on this site are adoring fans of the artist in question.

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So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n Roll Critic: Midterm

Welcome to So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n Roll Critic, a ten-part instructional feature that will provide you with all the tips and tricks you need to become a real life music reviewer. As a matter of process, I've taken these lessons from exhaustive research into printed music reviews in Entertainment Weekly, Q, The New Yorker, Musician, Rolling Stone, and Spin. Additionally, I've looked into the uberhip perspective of Pitchfork.com. I also read many pieces by the godfather of music reviewing, Lester Bangs. And finally, I have not shied away from an examination of my own work here on 3 Minutes, 49 Seconds.

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We're now slightly beyond the halfway point of this educational journey, so I figured it might be worthwhile to see how a real rock critic puts the lessons to use and gets PAID for it! Below, you'll find a full annotated version of David Fricke's 1989 review of Tin Machine's first album. Before we get into it, let's have a quick review of what we know…

So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n Roll Critic: Lesson 5

Welcome to So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n Roll Critic, a ten-part instructional feature that will provide you with all the tips and tricks you need to become a real life music reviewer. As a matter of process, I've taken these lessons from exhaustive research into printed music reviews in Entertainment Weekly, Q, The New Yorker, Musician, Rolling Stone, and Spin. Additionally, I've looked into the uberhip perspective of Pitchfork.com. I also read many pieces by the godfather of music reviewing, Lester Bangs. And finally, I have not shied away from an examination of my own work here on 3 Minutes, 49 Seconds.

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Lesson 5: I'm Looking Through You

Once you become a real life music critic, you may find that a certain segment of the population doesn't afford you the respect and admiration you deserve. You may feel the need to justify spending your career devoted to something that, for most people, is little more than a pleasant diversion.

That means it's up to you to show …

Chuck Klosterman: Idea Stealer

In the newest Onion AV Club (dated September 8, 2009), pop culture essayist Chuck Klosterman celebrates the release of remastered Beatles albums on CD by reviewing the band's entire oeuvre. He operates under the premise that they were a commercially-unsuccessful, barely-known band.

Sound familiar? If you've been reading 3 Minutes, 49 Seconds for awhile, it should. Last year, I reviewed every single Beatles album, pretending as though they were an obscure, unpopular band I'd recently unearthed. Here are some links:

Please Please Me (1963), With The Beatles (1963), A Hard Day's Night (1964), Beatles For Sale (1964), Help! (1965), Past Masters 1 (1990), Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966), Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), Magical Mystery Tour (1967), The Beatles (1968), Yellow Submarine (1969), Abbey Road (1969), Let It Be (1970),
Past Masters 2 (1990)

I don't claim to be as funny as Klosterman, and I love his bit about the Rolling Stones, but I DID h…

Back to School Special

The summer of 2009 is not one I'll remember as being especially fruitful for new music. Even so, here are brief reviews of the three albums that got the most spins from June to August.

234. Rhett Miller: Rhett Miller

Miller's third solo effort is all about the dark side of romance, and works best when Miller matches his downer lyrics with exuberant pop melodies. This happens a lot in the album's first half, with Nobody Says I Love You ("celebrate love when it's over, celebrate love when it's gone"), Like Love ("she wanted things that I couldn't afford, like love"), and I Need To Know Where I Stand ("you tell me that you love me, but you won't even hug me") leading the way. Additionally, Caroline, If It's Not Love, and Resisting Temptation hit most of the right notes.

A couple of songs find Miller branching out lyrically, with mixed results. Happy Birthday Don't Die is a futuristic garage band rave-up with shades of Dylan&#…

So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n Roll Critic: Lesson 4

Welcome to So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n Roll Critic, a ten-part instructional feature that will provide you with all the tips and tricks you need to become a real life music reviewer. As a matter of process, I've taken these lessons from exhaustive research into printed music reviews in Entertainment Weekly, Q, The New Yorker, Musician, Rolling Stone, and Spin. Additionally, I've looked into the uberhip perspective of Pitchfork.com and read several pieces by the godfather of music reviewing, Lester Bangs. And finally, I have not shied away from an examination of my own work here on 3 Minutes, 49 Seconds.

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Lesson 4: Viva Hate

Let's think about the word "criticism" for a moment. By definition it's simply another word for "evaluation" or "analysis", which could have a negative or positive connotation. But in common usage, it's usually considered to be something bad, a pointing out of flaws. You must keep this latter definition in mind …