Last week, I did a mean-spirited review of a record by a band I never liked in the first place. Turns out I was listening to THE WRONG RECORD all along, and didn’t even know it until a reader pointed it out.
Lemme tell you about that.
Throwing all the music you intend to write about into a digital hopper (named iTunes in this case) can be fraught with danger if you don’t do yer research, and that’s exactly what I didn’t do. I reviewed the 1997 version of Toadies Feeler last week thinking I had the newly recorded version because I didn’t do the usual double & triple check. Why? It all starts with my own bad intent.
You may also remember what the post-Nirvana world of rock and roll was like in the early nineties: Record companies throwing pallets of cash around looking for their version of Nirvana. Toadies, to my ears, were one of those bands that picked up a major label contract and got gobs of airplay because they were mediocre enough to get on the radio and not upset people while shopping for groceries.
That’s what the newly-minted “Alternative” FM radio format was (and is to this day) all about, and it pissed myself and my biz partners off. We stupidly thought the labels and artists we were fighting for had a shot at commercial radio and at changing the culture. Haw haw.
So look, I was ready to hate Feeler TO DEATH right off the bat. And of course I heard, in the old version that I had, what I wanted to hear and ran with that. That’s my big mistake, and that’s why I deserved the karmic comeuppance. Anything done in malice probably shouldn’t be done, because it blinds a person to an extent. For example, as much as I don’t like Toadies, they lost their deal with Interscope after their one big platinum selling elpee, because the industry had moved on to finding their own versions of, I dunno, Limp Bizkit or whatever, and… that must’ve really hurt. I didn’t even consider that. Sorry, Toadies.
Doing a weekly comic strip record review is a ridiculous thing. To judge someone’s work in four panels in the imagined voices of imagined characters, well… I understand why some people get pissed off about it, and that is exactly why I am 100% required to have my shit together and bulletproof before I hit “send.” Even when the strip is bulletproof, I have anxiety about it. Does it make sense? Will anyone get it? Could it be funnier? Does it look okay? WHY AM I DOING THIS? I’m wrestling with this stuff every week, but last week, this stuff threw me over the top rope and out of the ring completely.
After a day or so of corporal mortification, I thought about Anton Ego, the cadaver-like food critic in Ratatouille.This imaginary character in his imaginary voice forever minimized my self-loathing about Stripwax and music writing when he described the most important function of any sort of criticism as “defense of the new,” like say, a rat cooking great food in the culinary capitol of the western world. It was a beautiful thing to hear, because that is exactly why I continue to listen to new music. It doesn’t happen as often as I would like, it seems to happen with less and less frequency, but someone I’ve never heard of will do something inventive and incredible, and it will be like nothing I’ve ever heard. Before I’m over that initial rush of having something entirely new to fill my ears and my life with, I’ll be sharing it with as many people who will listen. Some of them will love it too. That’s a proper motivation.
This week I like Hawk by Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, and I believe everything you need to know about it is in the text of this week’s strip.