Princess Stomper

Because some comments ARE better than others

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Internet rage

By Princess Stomper

Victoria, I’m going to disagree with you here.

1. The ‘Hipster’ Problem

After nine years of writing about music, I was such a hollowed-out, burnt-out, jaded wreck that I stopped listening to music almost completely for – weirdly – nine years. When I got back into it, everything was new. Everything is new. I don’t get to be first to the punch for anything whatsoever, because every band I’m enjoying lately has been going for years and years. In fashion terms, I’m someone going right now into a clothing store and saying, “Hey, jeans are really comfortable!”

That said, even in my fanzine days, which really were the only times I was ever really ahead-of-trend with new bands, they were still only ‘new’ to the mainstream press. Main sources of new music: high-profile support slots (so they’d have been playing live for a while before I saw them); white labels from record companies (so they were already signed); and even listings in an industry circular I got through my dayjob, where A&R folks would write puff-pieces about their new acts and I’d follow up on the ones that sounded interesting. That was hardly some alchemy of innovation.

‘Hipster’ is just a word we use for what has always existed but we didn’t have that word for before. The trouble with that self-congratulatory sneering is that it overshadows the pure enjoyment of the music, and – as we saw with industrial music – can end up stifling the very creativity that attracted those fans in the first place.

(continues overleaf)

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17 Responses to Because some comments ARE better than others

  1. darragh October 12, 2011 at 11:32 am

    “I still remember friends of mine raving about The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and wanting to walk up to each and every one of them and punch them hard in the face after reading it because it was just that shit.”

    Oh Princess Stomper. I totally disagree – for me, this book is immense as is most of McCarthy’s work. But let’s just shoot this in the bud here and agree to disagree.

    Carry on!

  2. Victoria Birch October 12, 2011 at 1:12 pm


    I don’t think the Hipster issue completely rests with staying ahead of the game. It’s also about bucking trends or going against the grain purely for the sake of it. Critics have egos and prejudices like everyone else and I’d like to think we keep those in check when approaching a review – but I believe human foibles will manifest themselves every now and again. That a critic will review something and that review won’t be a wholly honest account of what they hear. That it’ll be muddied by preconceptions and prejudice and a desire to feed the ego – after all attention doesn’t come from agreeing with what everyone else is saying.

    I don’t believe this happens all the time but it’s the reason why the ‘hipster’ accusation can carry water.

    This ties in with the ‘trust’ issue you mentioned. I do trust that you “won’t diss a perfectly good record”, but it’d be foolish to trust without question. The ‘good’ records are easy – I’m likely to be inspired to seek those out for myself and make a call. The ‘bad’ stuff, if I trust you blindly, I probably won’t bother with (there are only so many hours etc etc). But who’s to say you haven’t slated something because you’re having a rotten week, or because an artist reminds you of a shitty ex or your parents’ break-up. I don’t think a critic would consciously allow any of those things to influence their opinion, but can anyone guarantee they’re not sitting in the subconscious pushing the buttons?

    If there are psychological influences at play that a critic may not even be aware of, the clichéd insults Wallace cited are maybe more perceptive than it would appear (even if they’re wielded randomly and with little thought).

    If the tail end of my argument appears to support violent hatred, then I apologise. That’s not my view at all. I didn’t classify the insults Wallace referred to as particularly personal or offensive and those are the comments I had in mind when I wrote the post. I agree that expressions of knee-jerk upset may not be the most constructive but I do think they have every right to be heard. There’s no reason why moderators here (or anywhere) need to publish them. Why does online media need to differ from print in that respect?

    I’m not sure people who respond in such ways are even interested in making a valid argument. It’s more about the fact you’ve sad something horrible about something I love and I want to let you know you’ve made me angry. A bit like if you insulted my mum. I think an expression of anger is valid argument enough.

    Btw the ‘what do’ we do’ bit of my argument was more about understanding how the effort imbalance pisses people of. I stand by the validity of what critics do – which I think I alluded to.

    And the ‘jealousy’ point referred to envying the emotional response music engenders rather than those who are ‘more talented’.

    Oh and thanks for nothing for re-introducing ‘I’d Rather Jack’ back into my brain. It’s wedged in there and not budging.

  3. Ninetyeightytwo October 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    What a shame Charlie Brooker never writes about music.

    I can only think of two instances when he has.

    1. In a critique of Banksy, he took a pot-shot at Blur (because Banksy did the artwork for Think Tank)

    2. In 2007 the Guardian sent him to Glastonbury. I can’t remember his exact wording, but he described it as something like “a post-apocalyptic city built by the cast of Eastenders”.

    Would that I could remember his exact wording – and would that I could be bothered to look it up.

    The point is, though, that he didn’t enjoy himself at all, but – and this is a massive but – at no point did he hate on those who did – a tedious trap many, many many critics fall into when reviewing festivals. He just acknolwedged that it wasn’t for him.

    So it was a fantastically written piece which, whilst not casting the festival in the best of lights – was no less deferent.

    Which makes me think that, were Charlie to address music more often, his writing would, for me, be something of a standard.

  4. Darragh October 12, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Charlie Brooker is a god.

  5. Everett True October 12, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Charlie Brooker is a god.

    Very good, Darragh. Now you’re beginning to understand …

    I am Everett True. Believe in me and I have power like a God. Quit believing in me and I no longer exist.

  6. Wallace Wylie October 13, 2011 at 12:08 am

    “An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection.” Henry James

    “A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.” William Faulkner on Mark Twain

    “I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” Mark Twain

    “To me he is an enormously skillful f#*&-up and his book will do great damage to our country. Probably I should re-read it again to give you a truer answer. But I do not have to eat an entire bowl of scabs to know they are scabs…I hope he kills himself….” Ernest Hemmingway on James Jones

    “I don’t think Robert Browning was very good in bed. His wife probably didn’t care for him very much. He snored and had fantasies about twelve-year-old girls.” W.H. Auden on Robert Browning

    Can we stop pretending that great writers don’t throw out insults left, right, and centre?

  7. Wallace Wylie October 13, 2011 at 1:05 am

    “See, I was never a proper critic. In my head, a “proper critic” is an intellectually rigorous individual with an encyclopaedic knowledge of their specialist subject and an admirably nerdy compulsion to dissect, compare and analyse each fresh offering in the field – not in a bid to mindlessly entertain the reader, but to further humankind’s collective understanding of the arts. True critics are witty rather than abusive, smart rather than smart-arsed, contemplative rather than extrovert. I, on the other hand, was chiefly interested in making the reader laugh. And the quickest way to do this was to pen insults. Oh, I tried to make the odd point here and there, but the bulk of it – the stuff people actually remember – consists of playground, yah-boo stuff.

    I was horrible. I fantasised about leaping into the screen and attacking a Big Brother contestant with a hammer; then, without a hint of irony, announced that Nicky Campbell exuded the menace of a serial killer. I also claimed Jeremy Kyle (who struck me as “a cross between Matthew Wright and a bored carpet salesman”) was the Prince of Darkness himself – almost (“Look at his eyes: there’s a spine-chilling glint to them … Not that I’m saying Kyle himself is an agent of Satan, you understand. I’m just saying you could easily cast him as one. Especially if you wanted to save money on special effects.”).

    The moment anyone appeared on screen, I struggled to find a nice way to describe their physical appearance. David Dickinson was “an ageing Thundercat”; Alan Titchmarsh resembled “something looming unexpectedly at a porthole in a Captain Nemo movie”; Nigel Lythgoe was “Eric Idle watching a dog drown”. I called Alan Sugar “Mrs Tiggywinkle” and said he reminded me of “a water buffalo straining to shit in a lake”. What a bastard.”

    Charlie Brooker

  8. Wallace Wylie October 13, 2011 at 1:07 am

    “Looking back at the earlier columns I see that when I wasn’t preoccupied with looks, I was quite bafflingly angry. I’ve either mellowed since then, or simply grown a soul. For instance, these days – to pick a random example – Jamie Cullum strikes me as a harmless, twinkly eyed, happy sort of chap. But back in 2004 the mere sight of him on an episode of Parkinson sent me into an apocalyptic tailspin.

    “Cullum should be sealed inside a barrel and kicked into the ocean,” I declared, before going on to label him “an oily, sickening worm-boy … if I ever have to see this gurning little maggot clicking into faux reverie mode again – rising from his seat to jazz-slap the top of his piano wearing a fake-groove expression on his piggish little face – if I have to witness that one more time I’m going to rise up and kill absolutely everybody in the world, starting with him and ending with me.”

    Charlie Brooker

  9. Ninetyeightytwo October 13, 2011 at 3:56 am

    Alfred Nobel went on to establish the Peace Prize after having made his fortune in explosives.

    Before Charlie Brooker’s atonement, I had him pegged as, in his own words, “bafflingly angry” – crass negativity for the sake of crass negativity.

    I only really started rating him when he put his hands up and admitted that, in the past, he’d been wrong.

    Humility and the ability to recognise when you’ve been wrong is one of the most admirable traits.

    Who was it who said that to admit to being wrong is merely to admit that you’re wiser today than you were yesterday?

    Also, the writers you quoted are worlds apart from any critic working in any medium. It’s not a fair comparison. Apart from anything else, their medium’s fiction.

  10. Wallace Wylie October 13, 2011 at 5:31 am

    I shall wait patiently for you to admit that you were wrong about Ryan Adams. It would certainly be admirable of you.

  11. Everett True October 13, 2011 at 9:20 am

    So this wouldn’t be the right time to admit to being one of the first people – if not the first – in the UK music press to write about Whiskeytown, then? I hadn’t actually made the connection until a few days ago.

  12. Darragh October 13, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Wallace – the image of Callum in a barrel is a humourous one.

  13. Wallace Wylie October 13, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Was the Whiskeytown review a favourable one?

  14. Everett True October 13, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I discovered it because someone was thanking me for turning them onto Ryan Adams.


  15. Ninetyeightytwo October 13, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Wallace: Don’t be so petty.

    Writing a negative review isn’t trolling, but veering off-topic in order to make a targeted comment specifically designed to piss someone off certainly is.

    Just because Twain and Hemingway were sometimes dicks it doesn’t give you a green light to act in part.

  16. golightly October 29, 2011 at 7:35 am

    I love that pretty underground sketch.

    A music critic is someone who gives a fuck, wants others to know that they give a fuck (and preferably to give a fuck too), especially about the same music as them but not exclusively, since any disagreements are an opportunity to express how much they give a fuck.

  17. golightly October 29, 2011 at 7:37 am

    A hipster is someone who doesn’t give a fuck and wants to prove how much they don’t give a fuck by being into stuff no one else gives a fuck about and by then dismissing music as soon as other people give a fuck about it, depriving them of their ability to not give a fuck. A hipster always fails to be a hipster therefore no one sees themselves as a hipster.

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