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Seminal expulsion.

July 2, 2010 \pm\31 2:07 pm

Sad news in the world of rock criticism: The Dean, Mr. Robert Christgau, is retiring his Consumer Guide column after more than 40 years of writing it. Christgau was an inspiration to me, and for an all-too-brief time our paths crossed at the Village Voice and he was so encouraging of me and low-key about himself you would never have guessed that he was basically one of the inventors of the form of rock criticism. (For more information on why he decided to move on from his longtime column and remembrances of its best moments, you can check out a recent interview with him–conducted by another one of my heroes, Ann Powers of the L.A. Timeshere.)

In honor of one of the last living OG critics and his unique style, I’d like to take a brief moment to call out some bad music writing jargon. If there aren’t going to be any more Consumer Guides to balance out all the terrible, hackneyed music writing that’s going on all over the place, then can we at least agree to throw out certain hacky phrases that are overused/misused constantly? (And I should say from the get-go, in the spirit of “let he without sin cast the first stone,” that I am as guilty of the following sins as anyone, .)

In the name of Christgau, I hereby sentence the following rock crit cliches to banishment:

Death to “seminal” (which always makes me think of semen, and is such a lazy way of saying, “This album/band is a big deal in the canon.”) and “plangent” (I don’t think anyone knows that this means “having an expressive, plaintive quality ” except music writers). Do away with “anthemic” (which is just shorthand for that amazing, rousing, blood-pumping feeling a song can give you, and there are WAY more interesting ways to describe that) and “axe” (I know you don’t want to say “guitar” for fifth time in one paragraph, but if you aren’t Jimmy Page you pretty much sound like an idiot using this word. Plus, it’s soooo dated; do you smoke “grass” too?). Strike “buzz” and/or “hype” from your lexicon. (Why is your article telling me that other people are writing about this band? I don’t give a shit about that; that tells me nothing about what they sound like or who they are.) Down with “edgy” (what really is anymore these days?), “freak-folk” (that is not a genre), “high-octane” (music isn’t NASCAR) and “angular” (neither is it geometry). And for the love of god, please stop calling every white dude with an acoustic guitar and a pocket full of metaphors “the Next Bob Dylan.”

I could go on and on, but then I’d be out of a day job.

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2 Comments
  1. Keith S. Wilson permalink
    July 2, 2010 \pm\31 11:42 pm 11:42 pm

    I propose that you give a new list of suitable synonyms for guitar. I don’t know that there really is one, but I sure as hell want to try, especially as unrelated to the instrument as it gets:

    boomstick
    golden triangle
    hum-bucket

  2. July 3, 2010 \pm\31 3:33 pm 3:33 pm

    Nothing witty to say. Just enjoyed this. WWAATD needs to develop their own “thumbs up”.

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