Knifed & Spooned

Knifed & Spooned is a publication dedicated to the review of record reviews published on Pitchfork. Pitchfork reviews are each disseminated before being assigned a numerical value on an arbitrary scale, which we prefer not to divulge. Contributions are made by journalists, editors, established artists and readers like you. This site does not review records and should be viewed only as meta-commentary on a singular phenomenon of popular culture.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Review of Joe Tangari’s review of Paul Schneider’s Forever Debts 9.0

Joe Tangari’s review of Paul Schneider’s Forever Debts doesn’t read as though it's particular to an agenda or smug slant as we frequently encounter. It’s always refreshing to know that one can draw something from a review other than a shortlist of similar sounding artists and a few new words that can be used to compare an album to excrement. That being said, Tangari is one of the best reviewers at Pitchfork.

Aside from avoiding crossword fodder, Tangari engages his readers, articulating the merits of Forever Debts covering all of the bases, from tone of Schneider’s voice (“very nasal, comes right from the top of the throat, and has just a little bit of grit”) to the structure, dynamics and transitions inherent in his songwriting.

While some readers prefer cheap digs or insights into the imagined political statements hidden in records, I think most artists would prefer an honest and more straightforward evaluation of their work. I'm sure Paul Schneider appreciates it. If only every songwriter were so lucky.

- Dan

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Review of Mark Pytlik’s Review of the Scissor Sisters’ Ta-Dah! 7.9

Aside from his Bjork biography, Wow and Flutter, I’m not really familiar with Mark Pytlik’s writing. One reviewer of Pytlik’s book claimed that the Bjork bio lacked a prevailing theme connecting the events transpiring in the book and accused Pytlik of “overwriting”. That reviewer kinda sounded like an out of touch a-hole. I trust dear reader that you’re capable of detecting the overwritten in Pitchfork reviews, and Pytlik’s aren’t among them.

Now, I’ll be honest. I don’t listen to the Scissor Sisters. My love for music begins and ends with Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required. Pytlik doesn’t sell me on the Scissor Sisters’ “triple-layer cake of showmanship, falsettos, and 1970s AORisms”. I need triple-layer cake like a fat 12-year old with diabetes.

Despite my diet, Pytlik’s point isn’t lost on me. Excess is a virtue of performance, just as restraint is often a virtue in the studio. Pytlik’s love of the Scissor Sisters’ grandiose singles doesn’t find itself at odds with why it might lend itself to an exhausting record. Thankfully, the review rests on the divisive nature of the production and tongue-in-cheek songwriting rather than arguing over sincerity.

I come away from the review knowing what Pytlik thinks of it, whether or not it appeals to me, and a vague sense of its sound. Personally, I’ll probably hit repeat on this frick’n Phil Collins cd before ever checking out this Scissor Sisters album… that is if the six minutes of useless chorus at the end of “Take Me Home” ever ends.

- Adam Wosniak

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Review of Mark Richardson’s Review of Jane’s Addiction’s Up From the Catacombs: The Best of Jane’s Addiction 3.7

As music journalism veers from print to the web, I wonder what record there will be in 2022 of what albums grab all of the good press now. I can’t imagine someone treasuring archived Pitchfork review files like I hang on to old Wire, Punk Planet, or Hit It or Quit It issues. No one is going to take notice of all of the records that get reviewed with an 8.4 and then are reissued and reviewed again as 10.0 records.

Mark Richardson gets assigned a greatest hits record, this time for a band with a discography I can fit in my coat pocket. He knows this compilation is pointless. We get the prerequisite fluff piece that could very well have been sitting mostly written in some drawer or dusty MS Word document for a number of years. So what more is their to do for a defunct band than talk about their legacy as it relates to the release of another unnecessary greatest hits CD.

Of course, the review reaches a little far for validation, confusing the impact of Jane’s Addiction with Lollapalooza on the ensuing band-signing frenzy (but that can be argued both ways) that shaped 90’s alternative. Richardson gives us an irrelevant 200 words or less bio of Perry Farrell followed by three sentences highlighting the contributions of his bandmates. He then wraps up with finally getting around to reviewing the arbitrary record and calling it such in so many words. At the very least, Richardson might be able to spare someone the misfortune of buying an inadequate and unnecessary record. Near as I can tell, Richardson gives the record a terrible review and instead assigns the legacy of Jane’s Addiction a numerical value (8.5). That’s useful.

-Dan

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Review of Matthew Murphy’s Review of Acid Mother Temple’s Have You Ever Seen the Other Side of the Sky Benji says it’s alright

Man, Acid Mothers Temple is messed up. Matt Murphy likes them. I like them too. I wish I knew some real people that liked them. That would be so awesome. Unfortunately only critics and people who want to be critics give a stinky crouch about them. That totally sucks.

Japanese names are cool. If I’m ever in Japan, I know how to say “hello” and for everything else, I’d probably just scream “Kawabata” or “Bio-Zombie”. Anime sucks though, because their big eyes give me the creeps, and I don’t get why they’re all so white. Japanese horror movies are kinda popular now, but they’re usually boring. Mostly it’s just talking-talking-talking-creepy kid-talking-creepy kid-the end. Acid Mothers Temple could make a hella cool score for one though. It could be called Kill the Space Kids in English. In Japanese they could call it “Kawabata” or just draw those little pictures of the name.

-Benji

A Review of Marc Masters’ Review of Wolf Eyes’ Human Animal 6.0

When I was in first grade, students in reading class were broken into three groups and asked to come up with their own name. There were the rockets (the advanced group), the ghosts (the intermediate group), and the snakes (the slow kids). Every once in awhile, I’ll read something that reminds me that I used to be snake. I needed to read several parts of Masters’ review to make sense of it.

Masters’ review hinges on his opening statement: “The cycle of tension and release is a well-worn musical ploy, but Michigan's Wolf Eyes have somehow managed to find new ideas in that technique's cracked façade.” Huh? I wouldn’t call dynamics a “worn musical ploy” anymore than I’d brand conflict a gimmick in a narrative. Rest easy, dear reader. Wolf Eye’s have found new ideas in the cracked façade of compositional dynamics.

I’d prefer less focus on the audience experience of hearing the Wolf Eyes record and more characterizing Human Animal’s sound. Masters does keep with the build and release motif, and it never feels as awkward as his ball-cupping first sentence, but it does overshadow insight in to what the record sounds like. “Snake-charming saxes” pique my interest more than “inscrutable cacophonies of noise”, but that’s just a matter of taste.

The review would be better served with more illustrations of how the actual sounds lend themselves to building and discharging tension. Masters seems to wait until late in his review to tie the two together. Still, as a former snake, I’m left wondering how in the black and white of tension and catharsis, how does one get a “dripping swirl of different shades of gray”?

-The Remedial Reader

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Review of Jess Harvell’s Review of Missy Elliot’s Respect M.E. 0.0

Greatest hits records are basically a third nipple in the era of downloadable music. Reviewing a greatest hits record is nothing but an opportunity to kiss the ass of a celebrated artist. Subjectivity is no longer tethered by the desire to be taken seriously. Overstatement abounds. Why the hell not? Most who read the greatest hits reviews are already fans of the artist in question and (more importantly) own the records where the selections for such compilations are taken.

So basically, I’m reviewing a useless review for a pretty useless record that wasn’t even released in the US because it was probably so useless. So actually, I’m just reviewing how much Jess Harvell likes Missy Elliot.

Well, Jess Harvell likes Missy Elliot a lot. Sometimes Harvell fasts for days at a time for Missy. Sometimes Harvell kneels in her direction for hours of meditation. Sometimes Harvell writes gushing verbage of Missy’s greatness- understandably. Most people must not know of her work. Is she a pretty marginal figure in mainstream hip-hop? Yes, I am being sarcastic.

Put simply: Missy’s too alive to be eulogized. Life is too short to review a greatest hits record.

- E. L. Eauface

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Review of Ryan Dombal’s (AC:3, HP:15, Thac0: 19) Review of Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton Knives Don’t Have Your Back 2d4

If your favorite record shop affixed a sticker to a cd stating: “RECOMMENDED IF YOU LIKE SWEATY FUCKING”, would that be more alluring than the album of a sad-bastard singer/songwriter moping over piano and conventional instrumentation?

Dombal answers “No”.

This is where many will no longer have interest in his review. Those people may turn to page 55 and look for records that sound more like sweaty fucking.

For those who are still interested in Haines’s Knives Don’t Have Your Back, you may continue.

Dombal guides us through some of Haines’ banal lyrics (“it won’t be enough to be rich” and “our hell is a good life”). This after he cites the following quote from Haines Under the Radar interview. "I really don't relate to the female singer-songwriter. You're all precious and everyone has to hush while you go over the shadows of your emotions. I've always hated that.”

If these lyrical passages have caused an eye-opening epiphany, please turn to page 71.
If these lyrical passages have caused you to lose all hope in the work of singer/songwriters everywhere, please take your own life.
If neither is the case, please continue.

Ha!

You should have turned back when you had the chance, friend. Unfortunately, you have been ambushed by six kobolds. You beg for mercy, but they don’t understand your common speak… or they do and just ignore you. It’s hard to tell as they beat you savagely with sticks.

- the Dungeon Master

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Review of Stuart Berman’s Review of Scanners’ Violence Is Golden 4.7

The following 12 are name-checked in Stuart Berman’s review;

Elastica, Garbage, Blur, New Order, Republika (Good God!), Sleeper, Cobrasnake, Duke Spirit,
The Kills, Evanescence (less shocking after mentioning Republika), PJ Harvey, the Sounds, the Cardigans

Granted, I know who they are, because most were mainstream poo and I am old and farty. I can’t give a concrete numerical limit for how many namedrops are too many, but this feels excessive. Maybe it speaks more to Scanner’s scattershot record, epitomized best with: “one band’s inspired eclecticism is another’s existential crisis”. I don’t know. I haven’t heard the goddamned record.

Luckily I don’t ever have to, because I review record reviews instead of records. Besides, I feel like an expert after reading Berman’s review. I may not have heard Violence Is Golden but I’ve heard 10/12 artists mentioned in the review. That reminds me- this one time in high school, my grandmother got me a Republika cd for x-mas (what atheists call Christmas/or a celebration of the X-men’s birth), because I “like cd’s”. Oh, grandma…

Berman’s opening analogy states theTrainspotting soundtrack was to Britpop what Saturday Night Fever was to disco. Both emerged at the decline of their respective movements. Scanners’ Violence Is Golden appears ten years after the decline of Britpop. Rather than describe what characterizes Britpop and why Violence Is Golden is a Britpop anachronism. Instead, Berman’s thesis rests on his frequent comparisons to bands of the era (and a few outside of it).

- Dan

A Review of Matt LeMay’s Review of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s The Letting Go 8.8

I frequently have those moments in checkout lines where I spot a toddler with a middle-aged face. I could recoil in horror… I do recoil in horror (I’m not talking about progeria, just babies that look too much like Kelsey Grammar), but until reading Matt LeMay’s review of The Letting Go, I never drew a connection between the freakishly old babies and Will Oldham.

Okay, that isn’t entirely true.

LeMay’s plainspoken review of Oldham’s new record is breath of fresh air when compared to the verbose insecurity of many of his colleagues. Considering the late autumn stroll through the wood metaphor, and quotes like “organic and cozy” or “fond familiarity” might make the favorable review slightly baffling to some. My immediate expectation would be James Taylor on lithium, or just another pleasant but dull record.

Of course, I would never be able to draw the conclusion that this record is probably quite boring without LeMay’s earnest attempt to aptly describe the sound and atmosphere of The Letting Go while keeping his review safe from idol worship or hyperbole.

- Dan

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Review of Marc Hogan’s Review of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s 5:55 5.5

Editor’s note: The following review was submitted in atrocious French, so we at Knifed & Spooned felt it prudent to use a free online translator to transcribe it into similarly atrocious English. Both have been included here for your satisfaction.

L'ouverture avec une discographie peut être l'équivalent de « Salut, je suis Troy McClure. Vous pourriez me rappeler des films tels que… » mais il a toujours ses usages. Sans mettre le rapport dans le contexte d'un album par la fille de Gainsbourg de Serge, Hogan dit a très petit dire du rapport.

Hogan remarque “Les mensonges d'appel de l'album centraux dans Gainsbourg whispery, Londres-Accentué vocal.” Ceci est clairement un de côté. Hogan fait l'éclaircit tout à fait que l'appel singulier de ce rapport est que de paternité écrasante n'importe quel intérêt pour l'artiste (ou les contributions de célébrités).

Cette revue se sent comme un effort décevant d'un critique déçu. Cela étant dit, ceux-là sont les rapports l'un probable a le plus de raison pour éviter.

*****************************

The opening with a discography can be the equivalent one of "good day, I am Troy McClure. You could remind of me the films such as…" but it always has its usages. Without putting the report in the context of an album by the girl of Gainsbourg of Serge, Hogan says has very small to say report.

Hogan notices "The call lies of the central albums in Gainsbourg whispery, Stressed vocal London." This is clearly an aside. Hogan does clarify it completely that the unique call of this report is that of any crushing paternity interest for the artist (or the contributions of fame).

This magazine feels as a disappointing effort of a disappointed critic. That being said, those are the reports the one probable has the more of reason to avoid.

- Robin Graves

A Review of Stephen M. Deusner’s Review of R.E.M.’s And I Feel Fine 7.8

Who on earth is this R.E.M? Someone told me they’re just a rip-off of Frente. Whatev! All that matters is that Stephen Deusner seems a little obsessed with them (the R. E. M. band, not Frente), and obsession is the prerequisite when reviewing a compilation of a band’s demos, early work or live material, that only piques the interest of diehard fans.

If you’ve never heard of this band, there is a lot you will learn.

1) R.E.M. was a once on an independent record label making good music, but then they went to a major label and started making bad music. This dynamic is unheard of today.
2) There is an Athens in Greece AND in Georgia. If more bands came from Athens, GA, then I’d probably have heard of it before.
3) The band had an “expansive vocabulary—encompassing power pop, folk, soul, classic rock, and even punk- [that] proved surprisingly malleable over time”.

Deusner’s enthusiasm for the material here is really infectious and does a lot to draw his readers in, but it also assumes we share the same base of knowledge regarding this virtually unheard of band (he never explains what R.E.M. stand for). Nonetheless, it’s hard to come away from this review without feeling disappointed that this band never became massive.

- E. L. Eauface

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Review of Zach Condon’s Review of Daughters Hell Songs ¾

“Bands like the Locust or Discordance Axis made a mid-1890’s routine of throwing dozens of different riffs into one-minute or less songs”

Dude, I know it was a typo, but how bitchin’ would a wax cylinder of mid 1890’s style riffs packed into one minute tracks sound. I would punch my mother in the throat to hear that. I wonder what kind of instruments were big shit in the 1890’s. I bet in the 1890’s they just beat their horses, children and wives and sang Sacred Harp tunes over them. I know that I was alive in the 1990’s and musicians usually just beat on the same dead horses and covered an occasional Sacred Harp tune when they were too lazy to write another cut for the record, but still didn’t want to pay for a cover.

I don’t know what art-rock and post-punk mean these days and most metal feels robotic, because robots are made of metal (except cyborgs which have living tissue and robot metal underneath). That aside, I don’t know if I’d like this record, but a song called “Boner X-Ray” sounds tight and I like the part where Zach describes the dudes voice as sounding like talking while throwing up. I tried that once, but it just made me throw up more.

Usually, I don’t listen to bands called “_____ Girls” or “_____ Sisters” or “Daughters of _____” because those bands usually have zero chicks and 3 or 4 twentysomething beard-faces making music that some record store dickweed is into. And what is up with hell now. Hell is alright, but it’s way more badass to be from Michigan. People are always like, “dude, yr from Michigan? How are you still alive?”

- Benji

A review of Brian Howe’s review of Richard Buckner’s Meadow, 8.0

Brian Howe knows how to toe around the lazy trappings of name-dropping other acts in lieu of offering evocative language to give readers some insight into the actual sound of a record. The bevy of adjectives approach doesn’t appeal to everyone, but by articulating what he appreciates most in Meadow, a door is left open that many more reviews make a conscious effort to keep closed.

Howe’s thesis is that Meadow is a reflection of Buckner’s pursuit of a refined sound over immediacy. Howe serves his thesis well by guiding readers through the polished touches and refinements throughout Meadows with lines like:

“The songs are melodically portentous (whipped into fine froths by GBV alums Doug Gillard and Kevin March); sung in a gruff yet honeyed voice so enveloping that it feels more like a place you go than a sound you hear.”


Howe’s lyrical dissection does not permeate the layers of abstraction Buckner cocoons around himself, but his review touches on precisely what makes Meadow so lyrically confounding. “The lyrics are dense with subjectivity, attaching one hallucinatory image to another by obscure but inflexible dream logic”. This returns to the notion that Buckner is creating a sonic place. Howe suggests he’s conjuring an atmosphere of images larger than he’s capable of forcing into a coherent narrative.

The strength of Howe’s review rests in the success with which he connects his appreciation of the record with the elements of Meadow that are likely to be the most divisive. The only contradiction in the review to Howe’s poise over immediacy angle is that the arrangements seem to favor one while lyrically, Buckner seems to favor the other.

- Dan

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Review of Brandon Stosuy’s review of the Mars Volta’s Amputechture, 7.4

“The Mars Volta’s piss-soaked indulgence often pushes critics to similarly bombastic, mouth-foaming performances” writes Brandon Stosuy before launching into his own 700 word self-indulgent “performance”.

Reviewing a great record can be fun.
Reviewing a truly awful record is always more fun.

It gives colleagues like Mr. Stosuy a chance to indulge in the part of reviewers psyche that appeals to scatological imagery in an attempt at universality. Sure, when I was five or six, I used to chase after my friends with a handful of dried green goose turds. Over twenty years later, here comes Mr. Stosuy ambling in my direction with a handful of so many green turds.

“It’s not like that,” Brandon might say. “Mars Volta came after me with it first”.

That’s why I’m here Brandon. Who watches the watchmen? Who judges the judges? That’s right, Brandon, we do.

In the body of Stosuy’s review, synths lap, strings weep soppingly, and time signatures flash (?). Occasional jabs at prog (which I hate), Total Guitar subscribers, and his continued pokes at the “bong-toting college boys” that he thinks are the intended audience make me smile. A good dose of humor is the best review for a record that goes over as well as a tampon fashioned from a dead hamster.

Omit any qualifying statements like: “Now, I dig indulgence when it’s done well” and the use of yawn-inducing crit-speak like “buzzsaw guitars”, “guitar wank(ery)”, “ham-fisted”, etc and you have a pretty entertaining review that uses a self-indulgent scatological pan (bedpan?) of a self-indulgent record.

- Robin Graves

Review of David Raposa’s review of Peeping Tom’s cleverly titled Peeping Tom, 3.7

A basic outline for David Raposa’s review would probably look something like this:

Fluffy introduction with the thesis statement: “Peeping Tom doesn’t deliver.

Then:

1 "Five Seconds" (Featuring Odd Nosdam) - 4:20
2 "Mojo" (Featuring Rahzel and Dan The Automator) - 3:40
3 "Don't Even Trip" (Featuring Amon Tobin) - 5:46
4 "Getaway" (Featuring Kool Keith) - 3:22
5 "Your Neighborhood Spaceman" (Featuring Jel and Odd Nosdam) - 5:45
6 "Kill The DJ" (Featuring Massive Attack) - 4:09
7 "Caipirinha" (Featuring Bebel Gilberto) - 2:46
8 "Celebrity Death Match" (Featuring Kid Koala) - 3:42
9 "How U Feelin?" (Featuring Doseone) - 2:44
10 "Sucker" (Featuring Norah Jones) - 2:33
11 "We're Not Alone (Remix)" (Featuring Dub Trio) - 5:10

Yes, Raposa plods through the record track by track with a brief dismissal of each. This should probably be expected of an unambitious zinester or an even less ambitious volunteer at the high school newspaper, but for fuck’s sake. Rather than continuing to lambaste him for his laziness, I’ll instead offer a tedious but nonetheless entertaining alternative.

Five Seconds
Soft. Loud! Soft. Loud! Add
Odd Nosdam

Mojo is the single
Which is an obvious choice
For lovers of beats

Getaway does suck
But it is only because
You didn’t hear it high

Next, time I see a Raposa review, I hope to find a few written in warrior haiku.

- E. L. Eauface

Review of Tim Finney’s review of Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, 6.1

Tim Finney’s review of Timberlake’s new record opens by introducing him as a celebrated iconoclast of the decade and the four singles released from his previous record are hailed as “monumental”. Once Finney has sold his reader on Timberlake’s artistic gravitas, he dispenses that a successive record to any monumental work could only yield diminishing returns. This idea is nothing more than music journalism folklore.

Adroitly, Finney clothes repugnant generalizations in content that actually engages Timberlake’s stylistic influences just as a frozen Salisbury steak can hide in the thickening skin of cafeteria gravy. Repugnant Generalizations™ like: “Nothing I necessarily gained (and often much is lost) when pop music attires itself in notions of artistry and ambition”.

When a review of a pop record contains an admission that pop music isn’t served by ambition or artistry, does it serve to do anything but undermine the credibility of the author? Finney’s review is somewhat articulate, adorned with cliticized terms and mapping every flaw to keep his praise of this shitbomb from direct criticism. Finney’s grasp falls short of his reach; the measure by which makes no difference.

- Dan