Monday, August 11, 2008

F@%k You Critics!! or On Criticism

No matter what artistic field you're in, if you do it long enough, someone is going to criticize you for it. Maybe you'll get some "constructive criticism," the kind where the critic isn't after you, and in fact probably likes you, but wants to help you do better. Most likely though, you'll get someone telling you that your music's bad and you should feel bad. These day, playing punk rock is illegal. That is, it is uh-hip. They want everything scaled back and solid, and heaven help you if you like simple chord progressions played with power chords. So, it would be pretty idiotic to actually solicit reviews, knowing they're gonna be negative, right? Well, when you really are DIY, and the "Y" actually mean "yourself," sometimes soliciting reviews is a good way to get publicity. Advertising is expensive, and any random review we get is crucial to our highly successfull press machine, locally, nationwide, globally and into the uni- and multiverses. Back when I started in 1994, it was pretty safe to send your stuff out, Green Day was at the top of the charts and the Ramones were at their most appreciated. Maybe most importantly Tim Yohannon was still alive. I read a eulogy for him in 1998 when he died of cancer which stated, at it's most believable, that punk rock was finally dead. It compared punk rock to Latin, and Tim Yo it's last native speaker. Punk rock became scholarly, and most people couldn't keep up. What's more, many people became disillusioned, feeling punk rock ultimately didn't offer them everything they needed. They mistook specific content for general flexibility, selling the music short, underestimating it, or, in a sinister way, outgrowing it, discarding their velveteen vynil. But before that teenage America 1995 was riding that leather wave to heartbreak beach, and my first round of public criticism of my first band was pretty freakin' positive. My first real band was Ninja Attak - me, Brendan "Huffer" Huffman, and Mike Cruz. Our first seven inch record was called "My First Time" and was on Bill Kate's Trickshot Records.

Tim Yo's MRR luke-warmed us, "Ultra girl-obsessed pop-core. Ah, pop-core: a word I'll never have to use again, even though thy're competent at the pop-core genre and writing pop-core songs and all." (PC) Pretty alright, but the reviewer actually did use the word pop-core in two other reviews that month." Tim Yo personally chose the cover for the side bar too!

Larry Livermore's Punk Planet gave us two reviews! "This makes me think of the late eighties in pop-punk. Seven songs crammed on a seven inch, cheap mastering, all songs about girls. Think about Brent's TV or any other early lookout band. I really actually liked this record alot. Kind of brought me back and remembered a different time. I suspect these kids are fairly young. I hope so, they sing about girls with braces (in her mouth, not to match her boots, oi)." (EA) Yeah, see that dude got it. Very importantly, he was gonna like it no matter what, he liked punk rock. I flip to be compared to Brent's TV...

The same month, the same record could have gotten into the hands of a Neurosis or Locust fan and they would have torn us apart. You never know whose gonna be asked to write you up. In the same issue, "They sound like every other "pop-punk" band on earth, but Ninja Attak has something that sets them apart. Perhaps it is the vocals, I am not sure. But is you are into this realm of music, by George, buy this!" (MD) An excellent review! It doesn't gush and admits that it is merely a pop-punk record, but the guy reviews it as such! This kind of journalism is not really around today.

Finally, the notorious hardcore mag HeartAttak even liked us, "Seven short songs of punk and hardcore, all with that early eighties feel. A good dose of melodic punk is also thrown in there. The energy level is quite high. It just trucks through, with no let up, good record." (Thrashead) See, was that so hard? It gives you an idea of what it is, doesn't oversell, is honest, etc...

Soon Ninja Attak did a split seven inch with the Crash, and MRR had this to say, "What we have here is two very scrappy bands doing rough-around-the-edges style pop punk. Both play fast and sloppy, and sing off key more times than not, but in a way, that is their charm. The cheese factor that seems to be a pre-requisite for pop punk these days is nowhere to be found. It's simply honest, aggresive music reflecting these folks' everyday hopes, dreams, and frustrations. I'm completely taken in with this EP's charm. There are two songs from each band, the Ninja Attak side being more chaotic and snotty, the Crash side more gruff. And don't let the horrible 5th grade style cover art scare you away. This rocks." (BG) Ha! That sould never happen today! That record would be destroyed! By the way, the fifth grade art comment caused drummer/cover artist Mike Cruz to chuck the mag across Father Gilborgess' social something or other class.

Hmmm... next I was in Power of IV. We made two records, one which got released, the other of which is newly available for digital dowload at http://www.madisonundergroundpress.com/, but I guess we never sent them for review. I musta been pretty secure! Chances are that we would have been media darlings, everybody liked Power of IV. No joke, everybody.

Next came Endless Mike Jambox, so far the ultimate in mixed reviews, still recieving them about our CD, "Another Hot Freshy-Freshy" four years after it's completion. MaxRock loved it! "These Delaware folks have a cool amateur punk thing going on. This reminds me of a mix of LATTERMAN and WESTON. Another Hot Freshy-Freshy is a strong full-length that is sure to make my yearly top ten with its good variety of pop, punk, and fun indie." (P$) Sure 'nuff, we were right on the ol' top ten and getting orders as we speak.

Now, over in Razorcake, about the same record, they say, "Almost equal parts of a watered-down, slowed-down version of Lifetime and a Drive-Thru band without the turd polish. I don’t know what the band name means, but I think the album title means a steaming pile of shit." (Vincent Battilana) Ha! Nearly Spinal Tap-esque, huh? Oppinions being what they are, I can only really say that this dude, wouldn't have liked the record on any day, but atoms in the void directed it into his grubby mitts, so the review stands! Horrible work though, no effort, no style, not even funny. Probably should stick to reviewing music in his head, but he's not the worst, oh no!

Finally on the Jambox, we got a beuatiful write up from http://www.lawngnomedeathmarch.com/ that completely paints a picture. I don't agree one-hundred percent, but the positive effort is worth all the knowledge in the world.

"Do you remember that guy in high school with the tall green or blue mohawk who always wore is Docs or Cons; dirty and tight blue jeans; and always seemed to be wearing a Crass, Ramones, or Business T-shirt? Remember how he always bashed people who listened to bands like Blink 182, MxPx, or Sum 41? Remember how he was such a huge douche-bag? Well? Do you? I know I remember that guy. Well, this is the same guy who would secretly go home throw on his new Hurley shirt and Dickies shorts that mommy bought him, and skank around his room while blasting MxPx. He would then ponder life while listening to Blink 182's "Adams Song". Yep, we all knew someone like this in high school with there more punk-than-thou attitude. The reason I bring this up is due to this band, Endless Mike Jambox. If they were around while I was in high school this stupid punk fuck and I might have been able to find a happy little medium when it came to 'punk' music.In most reviews I would half-ass-ly attempt to go into a bit of detail about each song but since they had ten songs I've decided not to do so this time. What I will do is talk a bit about the band.I was immediately impressed when I went to the bands website and saw that I would be able to listen to ten of their songs. I was even more impressed when I actually listened to their music. Endless Mike Jambox flawlessly combines the ferocity of east coast hardcore, the poppy sound of So-Cal punk, and the Down and Dirty attitude of old-school punk. They then wrap it all up and top it with a shiny red bow."Tonight I'm gonna get fucked up. Tonight I'm gonna be a slut..." This is a line from their song 'The Karl Konnection' and I feel it aptly sums up what this band does for me. Endless Mike Jambox envokes long-lost memories form high school; the parties, the drinking, the shows, the hot chicks who wouldn't give me the time of day. What guy in school didn't want to get fucked up and be a slut? Really now, because you all know that you thought this. This band's music really seems to reflect the feelings of youth. Shit, I'm 24 and I still feel this band speaking to the high-schooler in me.The music is poppy but not so much where you can throw them directly into the pop-punk genre. It is just enough to allow you to sing to it. The band's music provides catchy but well-written lyrics, strong hooks, strong vocal ability, and great composition. The music is, for a lack of better words, happy sounding.Endless Mike Jambox are the band you'd want to play at your party, they're the band that you wish would get radio play, they the band you listen to while driving around with friends. Quite simply they're the band that you'd create memories with.Although, they aren't the Clash, I'll still give them 4 out of 5 stars."

So, I currently play in the Headies and Tit Patrol, both of which have CD's out, and both of which can't seem to buy a good review! Tit Patrol's "Shut Up Juice" has fared slightly better, International Punk & Hardcore (www.punk-hardcore.info) said, "American uptempo pop-punk, along the lines of THE RAMONES and THE QUEERS. They also sound a lot like many of those early LOOKOUT! records bands. The songs are short, which is cool, and overall the music’s pretty good. I just have no idea what the lyrics are about. Girls it seems?" (Y.B.)

And that numb-nuts over at Jersey Beat said, "There is little expected when opening up an album called "Shut up Juice" by a band called Tit Patrol. Of course, this only helps their cause because without any lofty expectations it can hopefully only be better than expected. Queers-like lyrics that you can actually understand (clearly with songs like "Butt Foot", "Daily Lobotomy", and "Surfin’ Suzey"), chanted choruses, and a little bit of speed. It’d be easy to discard this band as another novelty – a group of ridiculous teenagers who have nothing to offer. While it’s true that they aren’t doing anything particularly new they are doing it better than many other bands who they are emulating. "Candy Not Cops" is the sort of song that could win over any teenager with a sense of humor, and "One of my moods" shows that they can write some pretty clever lyrics with some pretty innovative songwriting too. It’s also absolutely embarrassing and adorable that they spelled ‘you’re’ and ‘rhythm’ incorrectly. It reminds me of high school and falling in love with punk rock music. Not too shabby for a band named Tit Patrol."

Alright, the new coup de gras, from Razorcake, "How can you go wrong with a name like Tit Patrol? Let me count the ways! Awful, regurgitated song themes (heroin addiction, lobotomies)? Check! Tired harmonies for backing vocals? Check again! Boring riffage? Check thrice!! Uninspired delivery? Quadruple check! The problem with fifth and sixth generation Ramones rip off bands, among which Tit Patrol can count themselves, is that they’re not ripping off the Ramones at all, but the third and fourth generation Ramones rip off bands. The formula is so diluted by the time Tit Patrol gets its hands on it that there’s no possible way anything remotely listenable can come of it. It’s all of the worst aspects of ‘90s pop punk burned onto a CD and pushed out the anus of the underground. There is some other stuff going on here, namely the use of Suicidal Tendencies and Adam Sandler for inspiration on the opening track, which, in the case of Mr. Sandler, should never, ever happen. If I want to listen to a Ramones rip off band, I’ll stick with those who do it right. Gimme the Queers! Gimme the Riverdales! Gimme Head!" (Josh Benke) Whoo! But, did you like it? Ha!

It is really easy to tell when someone is reviewing a record and when they've got a bug up their butt. The Headies and our "It's a Super-Man's World" have gotten it the worst, though International Punk & Hardcore wasn't too hard on us, "It seems MADISON UNDERGROUND is specializing in pop-punk bands, cos this is another American band that sounds like they could be on LOOKOUT, HONEST DON’S, etc. The sound quality is good, they cover THE RAMONES and ANGRY SAMOANS… but where’s the lyric sheet??" (Y.B.) Dude is French so he can't understand us, but he knows more about punk rock than someone from, oh I don't know, New Jersey?

In Jersey Beat, douchebag comments, "Straight forward rock and roll leaning towards punk rock vocally featuring Tit Patrol’s guitarist and bassist. They're trying for humor, I think, although they don't do too well on the terrifically un-funny "That’s All I Need" about smoking weed. It’s unfortunate because the music on songs like "Not a Heartbreaker No Mo" and "High on Drugs" is catchy, but the lyrics are a little too true on the latter when he says:"I’m just a loser in this big life game". Stick to Tit Patrol, fellas." (Andrew Fersch) This is a rewrite. In his first review, he lambasted us for the use of the word "fag" in the title track. That word is, OF COURSE, not there. The line is, "It's a Super-Man's world and the rest are fucking fads." I got into it with him via e-mail, telling him to call me a loser all you want (even if he's the first), but call me a homophobe and I'll drive up to Jersey and kick your fag ass. He apologized and ran that watered down version.

The Headies have reviews pending in MaxRock, Razorcake, and other places, and I don't know if I wanna even see 'em. There are just so many people out there who wanna tell you that you aren't Joey Ramone. They know less, they feel less, yet they are heard more, and centrally. No matter how much bad criticism I recieve, I know it pales in comparison to what the Ramones themselves actually had said about them, and they didn't even have the Ramones to look to for inspiratation! I'll never have as many bad things said about me as Kathy Griffin, Barack Obama, or Pat Burrell, but I feel for and with them, for you can only do two pro-active things in the face of criticism: ignore it or own it. I OWN!!

3 comments:

Brendan Charles Huffman said...

fuck the naysayers! It's awesome that you put the bad ones up on here too.

The fact that you are playing and creating is what's most important. I wish I were.

Maybe soon though, rumor is Sandro is moving a few blocks from me...

Bobby said...

Everyone gets THE HEADIES they deserve!

Here's a larger & more luscious banner image:
http://www.madisonundergroundpress.com/DANTHOLOGY.jpg

Andrew Lapham Fersch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.