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Re: TP disagreements

TP disagreements
August 13, 2020 05:45PM
The ongoing thread about the Jim Carroll Band's Catholic Boy (about which I have no opinion, as I've never heard anything other than "People Who Died") has gotten me thinking about times I've disagreed with TP's assessment about certain albums. I know this is a topic that's been covered before on the board, but I'm curious to hear what y'all love that the Guide doesn't (or vice versa).

Another part of what got me thinking about this is that I've been listening to the Screaming Blue Messiahs lately, and while their entry dismisses Totally Religious as "tired, verging on generic," it is by far my favorite Messiahs album. I don't dislike the others, especially not Bikini Red (which spins as I type), but to me TR was the culmination of their arc, not the sputtering end of it. It's less cartoonish ("I Wanna Be a Flintstone" just played, and it doesn't hold up as well for me now as it did in 1987) and more powerful to my ears. So I'd like to hear if any of y'all agree with the Guide's take, and think I'm full of it.

Another example is Robyn Hitchcock's Queen Elvis. The Guide calls it the "nadir" of his work. But I wouldn't be a fan if not for that record - its combo of melodicism and eccentricity made me grok not only Hitchcock, but other acts of that surrealist stripe. I'd put the "nadir" label on the previous record Globe of Frogs - that was the first one I heard, and stuff like "Balloon Man" made me roll my eyes back to so hard I gave myself a headache. I almost dismissed his entire career after that.

I could also bring up the Waterboys entry, which is pretty acidic towards their 80s work in particular, which I love. But I actually get why it is - if you have no taste for that kind of let-it-all-hang-out bombast (what the entry calls, quite rightly, "habitual overstatement"), of course A Pagan Place and This is the Sea would be excruciating to listen to. So, even though I love both of those albums dearly, I don't disagree with their assessment. So that's not what I'm talking about. The 'boys aren't a "guilty pleasure" - I don't feel guilty about them at all - but I understand why some folks loathe them and wouldn't tell them they're wrong. Ditto the Alarm - I find their zealotry charming on Declaration (maybe because it's so guileless), though even I will admit it becomes wearying on Eye of the Hurricane, a la "Shelter" and "Rescue Me." (Strength is their best for me, where all that energy sounds channeled instead of just sprayed out like an out-of-control garden hose.)

Of course, everyone's mileage will vary on everything, opinions are like assholes, and there's literally no accounting for taste. After three decades of writing about records, I've come to the conclusion that, no matter how intellectually we can dissect an album and our reaction to it, ultimately a piece of music either hits you or it doesn't. And I know plenty of folks who find certain songs I don't just dislike because of taste, but find either aesthetically or morally appalling, for whom those songs really mean something. And it's hard to argue with that.

***Edit: Bip's reply below makes me think that I need to make it clear that I'm referring strictly to the Guides. I've never actually see a copy of the magazine.***

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/14/2020 03:55PM by Michael Toland.
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Re: TP disagreements
August 14, 2020 10:35AM
This is an excellent idea for a thread. The Jim Carroll Band assessment in the original TP Guide is the first example that springs to my mind. I agree with you about the Waterboys entry. I really enjoy A Pagan Place and This Is the Sea.

Mr. Robbins’ dismissal of Alda Reserve’s only album made me curious for years to hear it: “Brad Ellis delivers pompous lyrics in a stentorian voice that misses being Bryan Ferry by a yard while the music similarly fails in its would-be simulation of Roxy Music.” (Jon Young’s negative review in the February 1980 “Hit and Run” column also mentions Roxy.) I had, and have, an interest in anything Roxyesque, but, after finally getting my mitts on a vinyl rip of the album, I confess I don’t find it terribly influenced by those great English art-rockers, and I don’t think the vocals are particularly stentorian. Love Goes On is certainly not a great record, but it’s one I return to every now and then. The album never completely gels, but what’s there compels me to keep listening to it.

One of the interesting things about the TP Guide is how entries change from volume to volume. For example, the first edition praises Tubeway Army’s Replicas for “forg[ing] a style that was stunningly new at the time.” The second edition, published a mere two years later, adds that the album “now sounds hopelessly dated.” Electronic sounds may have changed through the decades, but Replicas doesn’t sound at all dated to my ears. It’s still future-shock fresh. (Numan’s entry on the TP website is jointly credited to Steven Grant and Mr. Robbins.) Also, Mr. Robbins, in his February 1980 review of The Pleasure Principle, commented that England “should have flushed Numan down the toidy with all the other inconsequential junk that has blighted the rock world,” whereas the Guide merely notes that the album “continued Numan’s maturing love affair with the synthesizer,” and that Gazza’s “interest in technology showed itself to be increasing in both the lyrics and the music.”

The entry for Japan, incidentally, changed considerably from the first to the second editions. In the first edition, the reviewer referred to the “funk syncopation” of “The Tenant” on Obscure Alternatives. There’s nothing remotely funky, I fear, about that Satie-esque composition!
Re: TP disagreements
August 14, 2020 12:36PM
Gary Myrick & the Figures had an entry in the first TP guide, dismissing the band as new wave hacks. That review didn't make the cut for subsequent issues. But for me, their debut album was irresistible, and still one of my all-time favorites. A lot of Gary's later work isn't far behind, although he's been far from consistent. When I decided to write a new Myrick review for this site, I talked with Mr. Robbins in advance -- mainly because his opinion of the debut disc by Havana 3AM is dramatically different from mine. (Ira's assessment of that album can be seen on the Clash entry.) He was quite easy-going on this point, clearly not seeing it as any cause for argument, much less as an "issue."

Likewise, the TP entry on David Bowie views Never Let Me Down a lot more favorably than I do. To me, that one's the nadir of Bowie's catalog. (The TP entry marks Bowie's preceding album, Tonight, as the serious low point.)

I agree with Michael about the Waterboys entry, and I also prefer Queen Elvis to Globe of Frogs.
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Re: TP disagreements
August 14, 2020 01:53PM
It's been my experience (and Ira, please chime in here if you have a chance), that Mr. Robbins' viewpoint is to let someone who's passionate and/or knowledgeable about an artist handle the entry, whether or not he agrees with the assessment. And those folks tend to know when to not let something slide, even if s/he is a rabid fan.

My favorite example is the entry on Christian Death. The entry in the late 80s guide is extremely harsh toward them, in a mostly funny way, and it's one of my favorite things ever in any of the TP guides. But for the 90s guide, it was revised by someone who was clearly very knowledgeable and dedicated to the band. And that person (sorry, I don't have either guide handy at the moment to note who wrote either one), while more forgiving to the band's general vision, was still just as harsh on the stuff s/he thought was crap (particularly in the Valor years).

I try to do the same in my entries, though I'm sure there are folks who'd argue that point. I'm equally sure, given my choices of artists to cover, that there are plenty of people on this board, including Ira, who would have little interest and even less tolerance for the stuff I've written about. That's cool. Ira has been very indulgent, all in the name of passion for music.
Re: TP disagreements
August 14, 2020 02:14PM
The Christian Death entry in the third edition is hilarious. I remember reading it aloud to my sister, who at the time was a big fan of the group. Even she thought it was funny!
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Re: TP disagreements
August 14, 2020 02:45PM
There were certain bands that were very important in my world. Say, Psychedelic Furs. And TP would relegate them to 150 words in "Hit + Run." As if they weren't important enough to merit more. That used to annoy me, but then, I was just 17 at the time.


Raw, green.

BAD raw green.

Sometimes a really funny negative review would get me to listen to an album. To this day my favorite album by Public Image Limited is "Flowers Of Romance." Before I happened to hear it, I read a review by a local writer Larkin Vonalt in a free local Orlando music mag [either "Free Bird" or "Rocks Off"] that was one of the funniest negative reviews I've ever read. I wish I'd have saved it in the big box of ephemera.

Former TP subscriber [81, 82, 83, 84]

For further rumination on the Fresh New Sound of Yesterday®
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Re: TP disagreements
August 14, 2020 03:35PM
Oddly enough, I don’t think I ever recall bands/releases I liked being slighted by TP. I mean, I’m sure they were, but it never really bugged me (I guess?). The magazine folded when I was 18, so maybe I wasn’t as sure of my own opinions back then. I certainly viewed TP as a trusted source for musical guidance (no pressure, Ira!)

I think TP steered me toward many artists, but against? I’m sure I didn’t buy certain albums after seeing a bad review. And maybe even realized later on that I’d been missing out on something I loved. But good examples are escaping me!!

In the guides, one of the more interesting entries to me was Missing Persons. They were commonly written off as hacks in the 80s, but I kind of liked them. Surprisingly...so did TP! ‘Continue to suspend your disbelief’....!
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Re: TP disagreements
August 18, 2020 07:16PM
One thing we all loved was being over-the-top thrilled with music, even though we didn't all have that experience with the same artists or even the same records in a given artist's canon. That level of excitement was generally enough for us to endorse. That's in part why I was encouraged to split out US DIY records, which I was delighted to be sent a lots of (e.g. Crocus Behemoth, a/k/a David Thomas, sending me the first few Pere Ubu singles with introductory letters) into a separate column from Green Circles (I don't know who thought to call it America Underground).

With the record guides, that scope of opinion and its variability was amplified, since bands' artistic arcs spanning years or even decades were charted in a few paragraphs, and the same writers didn't always do the updates in the next edition of the guide.

These days we're all a lot mellower about what people like or don't, even if we relish momories of championing this group and hating-with-a-PASSION that one.

And ... I even disagree with one of my singles reviews of an up-and-coming British band of the day. Not saying which, though.
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Re: TP disagreements
August 21, 2020 09:36PM
I’ve been thinking about this notion of ‘mellowing with age’ over music choices. I can’t argue...it’s a real phenomenon in my case, anyway.

But I wonder if it’s because I’m older, less vigorously opinionated, etc OR is it because the current musical climate doesn’t encourage that kind of debate.

I mean, I HOPE kids passionately champion their favorite SoundCloud mumble rapper the way I championed the Clash. But with the instant immediate availability of everything online, maybe there’s less at stake.

I was spending my teenage dollars on bands and genres I felt strongly about... I had skin in the game!

(I’m okay with being ‘out of the loop’ as I get older, but it would crush me to think there isn’t still exciting music being made and fans who think it’s worth fighting for....)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/22/2020 05:29AM by Bip.
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