Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Adding Disagreeably

Some people see something on the web that's disagreeable and pointless and ask "why?" But not this blogger. No, I see something like that and ask, "how can I make it more disagreeable and more pointless?"

Case in point: music reviews on Amazon.com in general, and unfavorable reviews of Neko Case's Middle Cyclone in particular. Maybe it's just my vanity speaking, but I honestly believe I can add to the quantity of disagreeable pointlessness displayed in these reviews by quoting them and adding my own rebuttals, rebukes, snarks, japes, grouses, and other approximations of insight. Let's find out!

I consider the four one-star reviews:

By kibblenibbler (CT) - See all my reviews
star only to help bring down the rating of this title closer to what it actually should be. the multitude of 5 star gushers here waxing rhapsodic are very, very much off the mark regarding Middle Cyclone. while it is at least a passable record, perhaps even a good one at that, it is, to be sure, hardly great, certainly not worthy of the 5 stars that should be reserved for titles of that quality and that quality alone. that said, if you want to know where I'm coming from with this, what my tastes are like, take a look at some of my other reviews/my lists/my guide...
kibblenibbler sees himself as a sort of Karmic enforcer of Amazon.com reviews, bringing its product ratings into proper balance as he understands it. We should consider the stress that surely attends this self-imposed burden before too harshly condemning his free-wheeling capitalization scheme, and then we should move on because he didn't actually get around to saying anything definite about the work under review. We should move on, but not before pausing over his invitation to read his other reviews. Does anyone feel even the slightest inclination to accept, based on this offering? Me neither.
I'm always dubious when I see a celebrity photos retouched. I feel the same way when I hear so much reverb in the production of Neko's songs. After a while all the songs sound the same: Hootin' and hollerin'. With echoes.
To his credit, Michael Rowley does at least deliver glancing blows to the work at hand, and wants the world to know: celebrity portraits that show signs of retouching are an abomination, and on an album cover, they're a star-subtracting offense. And I must admit he may be on to something: it may be that Neko Case, the actual singer-songwriter, does not, at all times of day and in all situations, look exactly as she is shown on the album cover: shoeless, bearing a sword, standing on the hood of a muscle car against a pure white background.

The reviewer's disdain for retouched portraiture is matched by a curious disdain for reverberation, a disdain he finds too obvious to explain, but one that spells doom for the last ~50 years of popular music if it extends to the electric guitar. I read him to say that reverberation indicates overproduction of the sort that some singers use to exaggerate their vocal range and power. To which I can only say that if Michael Rowley thinks Neko Case's vocal range and power is the end-product of studio legerdemain, he is either batshit-insane or the single laziest researcher in the annals of internet gabbery, given the vast quantity of live, freely available recordings of Neko Case's singing. Are all those youtube videos (just for starters) remastered, overproduced, voice-flattering fakes?

And what, pray tell, is wrong with "hootin' and hollerin'"? In any case, any proper fan of hootin' and hollerin' would laugh at the suggestion that this album is rife with it. Next!
By Sandra Morrison "smorr452" (Galveston, Texas) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
I purchased this album after reading the reviews and listening to NPR. This is the most boring, dirge-like music I have listened to in many years. The tunes are all alike, the words are without a doubt trite, cliche and uninspired. I can't believe that ANYONE would consider this to be anything but the ramblings of a pre-teen girl with hormonal problems. Now I am stuck with this [...] which will go into the CDs I will never listen to again section of my several thousand CD collection. Is there a way to give a negative amount of stars? If so, this rates a negative 850.
Sweet Karl Rove's Ghost! A negative 850! Surely this is an all-time low. There are so many questions raised by this review. In what sense are the songs all alike, and assuming they are so, in what sense is this a bad thing? I have gone to some length exploring the extent to which the album's songs are thematically unified, as I think they are, but surely the unification is not, of itself, a flaw -- or is it? Should a proper album jump willy-nilly from theme to theme? Why? Who says? Sandra Morrison, that's who! Or so I gather. I have to conclude there are a great many well-loved albums she would hate if this is her standard.

More intriguing is the claim that Middle Cyclone is cliche, which suggests there are numerous records known to Sandra Morrison that cover the same ground, lyrically and musically. Which ones? I mean, it's not as though Middle Cyclone is an absolute singularity -- it fits more or less comfortably into a musical genre (or two), into its creator's larger oevre, and into a poetic-thematic tradition, no doubt -- but if there are bunches of recordings out there of which it is merely a pale copy, I want to know which ones because I want those albums! Do tell!

Last but not least, there is the charge of "ramblings of a pre-teen girl with hormonal problems" of which I offer the following translation: that Neko Case is not dead inside, not content to sit creaking in a rocking chair to await death. I agree completely! A sense of life and passion does indeed shine through these songs. How this should take the album down to -850 stars is beyond me. Maybe the reviewer thought she was ordering something by, I don't know, a choir of pro-abstinence, asexual scolds? Big mistake, dear.
By Richard Michaud "Jeepin Life is Good!" (Hamilton, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
neko case-marais la nuit

30 plus minutes of a "4 minute loop of frogs"=the most irritating 30 minutes and waste of time in recording history. I actually listened to the CD and IMHO...it's crap and the last track is 30+ minutes of my life that I'll never be able to get back. Maybe I should tape Pumba my Pug, snoring and loop it for 70 minutes and sell it as my latest album. Good ideas.....I got a million of em!
... and I might buy that pug-themed album if the pug snoring is the last of 15 songs, where the first 14 are something else. Middle Cyclone would be an example of this approach to album-making, if the reviewer needs one. But despite his claim to have listened to the album, Richard Michaud was evidently too occupied with his jeepin' life (whatever the hell that is) and the agonies that accompany his experience of pond sounds to have noticed those first 14 songs -- or, expressed in his preferred unit of measure, those first ~42 minutes of the album. And I have to say, those first ~42 minutes are vividly distinct from marais la nuit, albeit thematically connected (to the chagrin of some, I gather).

Neat!

9 comments:

The Barefoot Bum said...

No, I see something like that and ask, "how can I make it more disagreeable and more pointless?" -

You have succeeded.

Dale said...

TBB, Oh thank you! It's so nice to get validated by a voice not inside my own head.

TheDeviantE said...

I like to think of it instead in terms of XKCD, namely http://www.xkcd.com/386/

Many a time I've spent in front of the computer crafting forceful (and nuanced) rebutals...

Dale said...

Dang, TDE, I should have added that now-classic (and rightfully so) cartoon to this post.

Then again, the same cartoon would apply to about, oh, six-sevenths of the posts my time-traveling benefactor hands to me.

TheDeviantE said...

Maybe you could put it right up at the top with the blog name ;)

(Also, the word verifications are getting downright word-like, right now mine is "meastro")

TheDeviantE said...

(ps, which I keep imagining as a bit of pepperoni directing an orchestra...)

Dale said...

Mmmmm, meastro.

To me, it sounds like some new ghastly creation of one of the big pizza chains.

"The meastro - 19lbs of meats and savory toppings piled high on a thick cheese-filled crust -- now for a limited time at [shit-hole], you can get two large meastros, three orders of bread-sticks, and a six-gallon bottle of Pepsi for $12.99!"

With this voiceover, they'd show some multi-racial models running and throwing a frisbee on a beach with a [shit-hole] pizza box sitting on a picnic table.

It writes itself.

Anonymous said...

Ah...Nicely done. I often wish that my own wittiness was such that I, too, could sucessfully go on at length regarding the fools on Aamazon...W-w-ait...I DO!!

Just not with the wonderfully piquant blend of humor, intelligence and venom you've achieved.Mucho gusto!! I salute you.

Anonymous said...

this was almost as entertaining as reading comments on YouTube.. indeed, most Amazon reviews are written by trolls and lemmings anyway... thank you for putting them in their place.