How (Not) to Build a Rock Critic

In 2014, Caitlin Moran published a novel called How to Build a Girl that largely tracks her teenage career as a rock writer for Melody Maker. Last year, it was made into a film. I am always fascinated by how scribblers fare as the subject of a story rather than its chronicler.

Robert Fripp Would Like a Word

Lou Reed had Lester Bangs to joust with; in our little world, Robert Fripp had a large, shy electric engineer named Ihor Slabicky. This interview, which ran in three issues of Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press, is an amazing colloquy, the sort of unguarded, knowledgeable back and forth you don’t see much of in music journalism any more.

A Tribute (of a sort) to Tributes

I love the idea of tribute albums. I am fascinated by the countless ways a song can be redone. I enjoy the familiar being remade anew. Recognizable bands delight me when they take on a song I like instead of presenting nothing but their own originals. (Despite being proven wrong on a regular basis, I have never gotten over the vague suspicion that all the good songs have been written. I mean, “Waterloo Sunset,” amiright?)

When Is a Corpse Not a Corpse? When it’s exquisite.

The Mekons have long been an exceptional outfit for many reasons, and their latest release, Exquisite, is another link in the group’s inimitable chain. Responding to the unique situation of no-travel home isolation, they just dove in and made a record.

Rocked by the Radio

Beginning around 10 years of age, just as the British Invasion began, my introduction – nay, initiation — to music came through the tiny speaker or the knotted white-wired earplug of a trusty Viscount transistor radio, my battery-powered connection to WMCA-AM.

Spoonfuls of Sugar: From Bubblegum to the Sweet Beyond

Having set myself the challenge of writing a novel about the glam rock era in 1972 England, I did a fair bit of concerted listening to the music. I’ve always valued and enjoyed the genre and found its standing in rock history unfairly low, but then again…

Welcome back, my friends…

To quote Vivian Stanshall’s prelude to “The Intro and the Outro,” “Hi there, nice to be with you, happy you could stick around.” It’s been a minute, as the kids say, since the wheels came off the old site.


In August 1991, K Records organized the International Pop Underground Convention in its home town of Olympia, Washington, a state capital whose insanely charming annual Pet Parade just happened to be scheduled that same week.

Lou Reed R.I.P.

What gave Lou Reed volcanic power over four decades of rock and roll wasn’t his musical talent – in traditional realms like melody, singing and guitar-playing he scarcely had any – so much as his forthrightness and courage.

Record Reviews: Who Needs ‘Em?

I could be wrong, but – adding together a decade of Trouser Press magazine, five Trouser Press Record Guides and a whole lot of freelance writing — I may have reviewed as many albums as any American rock critic this side of Bob Christgau.

A Sad Night in Brooklyn

I’ve been affected in many ways by the thousand-plus rock concerts I’ve attended over the years. Not all of my reactions have been pleasant, and some have strayed mightily from what I took to be the artist’s likely intentions.

Bad = Good (Sometimes)

At some point during each day of the best rock festival I’ve ever attended, 1991’s International Pop Underground Convention in Olympia, Washington, a guitar player would gaze purposefully at his or her instrument, pluck its six strings in turn — bung, bong, bing, bang, skrknkxgg!!!, bung — and then, satisfied despite the painfully audible evidence, start the next song.

Get the Funk Off This Railroad

Among cultural historians, it has long been an article of faith that the ’60s dream died in an ugly bar fight at Altamont Speedway in December 1969. Given the evidence, it’s not a bad guess.