Excellent

LITTLE ORPHAN ANI

TYLENOL TALENT

STUPID BLOODY STUPID!

Interview

All the News That Didn't Fit

The Olympia Connection, Or Lack Thereof

Excellent

The Numbness Is Just a Bonus

Hiphop City

WEEN ARE THE WORLD

Soul by the Pound

EXCELLENT REAL ROCK QUOTES

Incest is Best

The Rise and Fall of the N-Word

DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, Tell the Truth Anyway

You Don't Own Me

Summer Lovin'

Stagger Lee

Music to Lose Your Job By

Boy, You Sure Can Take the Fun Out of Music

CINEMATIC CLICHE

Stuart Braithwaite From Mogwai

Going to New York City?

THE CHURCH OF COLTRANE

A Whole N'other Level

Who Says Morrissey Fans Don't Get Laid?

ISSA ROCKA ROLL

Not Modest Enough

THE BUZZCOCKS

After a two-year break from full-time journalism, I recently looked over the criticism I'd written in the last six years. I did a lot of wincing. For every justice done to a good band or record, I tripped over three totally untenable and naive notions that made me wonder what the hell I could have been thinking. While it's a cushy job in most respects, writing about music for a living carries a heavy burden: Critics forsake the privilege of ignoring. That's why we see so many reiterations of the angry reviewer, railing against the general lapse. They listen to tripe you would never even dream of buying. And while you're free to dismiss it, or even not to know about it, the critic has to forge an opinion and go on the record. It's a job, and like any job, it's hard to see the edges when you're doing it.

But I think it's useful for any critic, part-time, full-time, or armchair, to consider the pervasiveness of reflexive vituperation, and to evaluate the usefulness of blithe disdain. The only pieces I actually regret having written were slams. Negative conversations are washed away by other conversations, by a walk home, by the rain. Negative reviews stick around, not on the disposable page, but in the collective memory, in the air. Though I always tried to focus on what I liked, I wrote a fair amount of venal bullshit in these pages and others. Some I meant sincerely, some was misguided humor; but a lot of it was just nasty, informed by a skepticism which had clotted and scabbed over into pompous, wrongheaded dogma. Of course, the regret comes partially from my experience of being in a band and getting some harsh reviews. But more to the point, I'm embarrassed for having let the self-appointed task of keeping up with music in print poison my perception to the extent that I felt compelled, by capricious attitudes I can't even remember now, to publicly piss on people's art--simply because, when pressed, I thought it wasn't good.

The job is not to judge. The job is to think harder. Most critics say their responsibility is to their readers; some believe it's to themselves and their almighty ideas. But the fact is that if you have the temerity to shout your argument out to the wide readership (apologies to David Berman), your responsibility is to the music you're writing about, and to all music. It's possible to get so wrapped up in good versus bad, that you miss all the brilliant, blurry distinctions between the two. In the gray areas we find new ways of perceiving the familiar, new contexts in which to challenge our assumptions. In a climate where standards are quick to become stricture, it's not only healthy to challenge those assumptions, it's irresponsible not to.