Scribblers Music Review

Ancient Sky, Mosaic (Wharf Cat Records). A luscious metal album, with admirable old-school vocal-and-riff boundaries. Evokes Blue Cheer as much as Led Zep, and sits on a modern plane alongside Brian Jonestown Massacre.Putting this on Thursday morning really increased my work tempo. It’s got yowls, whistling noises, battering drum solos, but a marvelous sense of harmony, majesty and control.

Building Up to Tear Down

I like browsing the literary magazines in the local public library but can’t subscribe to any of them, because they inevitably irritate me. Reading them in the library helps me stop myself from throwing them across the room.

The intellectualism (faux and otherwise) I can usually handle. The vanity, in small doses., Comprehensiveness and authority, I like. The upholding of books as the prime medium for in-depth debate on history and politics, charming.

What I can’t stand are the critical cliches and the familiar, abhorrent review structure. Here’s the standard model:

  • The writer of the review asserts that the subject of the book s/he’s reviewing is considered forgotten, outdated or irrelevant.
  • The writer then automatically asserts that this should not be the case.
  • The writer then synopsizes and paraphrases the book for as long as his/her editor will allow.
  • At that point, some sort of acknowledgement of the book’s author is made, usually something along the lines of “done a good job.”

What bothers me most is that first bit. I’m attracted to reviews of things I’m already interested in. I expect that many casual readers of magazines and journals are. I don’t mind having someone’s life and work highlighted, but I wish that the typical manner in which it’s done wasn’t so negative.

The gambit is transparent—enlarge the egos of both the critic and the reader by establishing that they are more conversant in the career of the historical figure (or novelist of whomever) than, gosh, most anybody else.

I find such airs of superiority ridiculous, seeing that the critic is holding a whole book (or several, as with those “Books Mentioned in This Review” essays) about the purportedly unknown or underappreciated subject.

Last month, I didn’t appreciate Eric Banks asking Book Forum “Has there ever been a figure whose name so signals in equal parts cottage industry and relative neglect, at least in the English speaking world, as Bertolt Brecht?” Neither did I like Frank Rich in the New York Review of Books saying “When Bob Hope died in 2003 at the age of 100, attention was not widely paid,” since I can remember all the special magazine editions printed in his honor, and the endless memorials and impromptu film festivals on late night TV.

Was Hope bypassed and devalued by a later, hipper generation (or three) of comics? That’s easy to argue. But still well-known and respected at the age of 100? Yes. The fact that Rich’s review (of Richard Zoglin’s Hope: Entertainer of the Century is illustrated with a 1995 Annie Liebovitz photo of Hope in his joke vault would seem proof enough that he was still of interest in his declining years, despite his physical inability to maintain his old pace of USO tours, radio shows and vaudeville.

Rock Gods #384: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

A guy got up onstage to jam with the Sunday Set at Hamilton’s. It’s an open jam, so that was fine. But then he started to tell a story about how he’d just gotten “out of the joint.” He showed his wristband to prove it. Just as we were all wondering “Why has he kept his wrisband on?” Scenesters know from wristbands, the club kind at least, and know that they may be annoying but they’re removable. The guy starts asking everyone in the room for money. Over the mic. During the jam.

Several of the musicians were visibly peeved, to say nothing of half the audience and the guys behind the bar. The situation was defused when drummer Mad Tom, the accountant, loudly picked up the beat, stared down the panhandler as best he could from a perch behind him, and shouted a few times, in rhythm, “Play first! Money later!” It worked. Turns out the guy could sing. A hat got passed. Nice jam.

Tonight: Table of Paper and Perch of Stone, the “of” bands, at The Bullfinch… Capa City and Great Gross, covers, at Hamilton’s… An Evening With Hot Dog Smile at D’Ollaire’s, with DC Half Smokes opening…

Riverdale Book Review

So there’s gonna be a new Jughead comic. Finally! It’s been three years since “Archie’s pal”’s solo book petered out in a haze of exaggerated psychodramas and flat-out fantasy stories. The new adventures will be written by Chip Zdarsky and drawn by Erica Henderson and are due in the fall.

Jughead’s a sensitive, complicated character. A loner but not so much of one that he can’t be the best friend of America’s typical teenager. An outsider who is embraced or tolerated by all the most popular kids at Riverdale High. An individualist outsider who nonetheless delights in public pranks and all-you-can-eat competitions. A girl-hater who’s had a remarkable number of young romances. A skilled yet reluctant athlete. It’s a tricky balancing act, but some skilled writer has to step up. It’s been too long without a new Jughead book.

Scribblers Music Review

Scribblers Music Review

Donald Cumming, “Working It Out.” So ‘70s! The new number from The Virgins’ frontman’s impending solo album kicks off like solo Bryan Ferry (how often do I get to write that?!), then heads into solo-Beatles territory, with a simple refrain and a long steady stream of guitar noodling. Disco beats, even. Plus there’s that whole “Workin’ it out” theme. So ‘70s!

The song debuted on the Paste site, here.


I bought one of those old stinky green finetoothed handy practical multi-use serrated never-needs sharpening seismic metric calibrated pre-packaged single-serving post-modern up-to-date middle-of-the-road special new one-of-a-kind economy size exclusive handy dandy lifetime guaranteed things.

I lost it.