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Response from a Disgruntled Gotye fan

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Editor’s Note.

Scott Creney’s review of the #1 Australian album, Gotye’s Making Mirrors, attracted a fair amount of commentary. (One would think Australians had never encountered music criticism before.) After a particularly venomous comment, CB contributor Lucy Cage was moved to write the following response, ending her comment-turned-blog-entry with the challenge:

Come on, Adrian McGruther: bring it on. If you’re going to complain about the writing and the writers on this site you’re going to have to do a damn sight better than that. Or take up my challenge and write something about Gotye that’s going to make me play it at top volume non-stop for the next three days like I did with the last album I ADORED. I want THAT level of wondrousness or you and it can piss the hell off.

Fair play to Adrian. He responded. Just to clear up one point before we start: I asked four different CB writers (two from the UK, two from the US) if they fancied reviewing the Gotye album … I thought it’d be interesting to have a perspective from a different country on the #1 Australian album, especially one that had picked up a fair amount of support among Australian critics. (How great a part does context and familiarity and the notion of ‘he’s one of us’ play in critical appreciation?) Scott volunteered. I had no idea whether he was going to like it or not (I hadn’t heard it at that point) and neither did he. We both thought that the act of having an overseas critic review the #1 Australian album was interesting in itself.

I’m also a fraction confused by Adrian’s constant references to Collapse Board as a ‘blog’, but that’s OK. I’m happy for Collapse Board to be ranked as a blog if it means distancing ourselves from 99 per cent of other websites that feature commentary around music.

OK enough. I just want to note that Adrian’s original comment (among others) also inspired this wonderful article by Wallace Wylie.

Here’s Adrian’s response (which he posted last night on Collapse Board) alongside a whole raft of comments it’s already attracted, mostly from Collapse Board contributors. I’ve given it its own blog entry, with his permission, in the interests of parity.

———————————————————————————————

By Adrian McGruther

To start, I must say that this whole thing has got way out of hand. I’d normally have better things to do with my time than to defend an off-the-cuff rant that I made on an indie music blog. But because my hasty post has been unfairly and selectively dissected (and taken out of context on at least one occasion), I’m happy to ‘bring it on’.

I’d like to point out that I didn’t launch to Gotye’s defence because I was ‘hurt’ that he was being dissed. I didn’t set out to defend the album (though I do like it). I was directing my frustration at the absurdity of the review. I couldn’t give a rats what some world-weary writer (or anyone else, for that matter) thinks of the music that I happen to like. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. But to resort to unconstructive hyperbole and delving into prognoses of irrelevant aspects of the artist’s personal life, that aren’t backed up by any facts, is poor, self-indulgent, incredulous writing.

I’ll admit that on my first listen of Making Mirrors, I felt a slight disconnect with the album; partly as a result of the breadth of genres covered by it. Part of me also thought that some tracks would have been more apt on an album by Wally de Backer’s other project The Basics. But with each listen, the album developed more cohesion and more depth, as some of the underlying motifs became exposed. Which is great, as it suggests that it isn’t one-dimensional. But to me (and many others), what the album does, if nothing else, is showcase an eclectic group of songs that have been delicately and individually crafted. Each track stands up on its own and they all ‘do’ different things. When I listen to the album as a whole, I feel a sense of boundless freedom, which is probably a product of Gotye’s music-making philosophy. It’s refreshing to hear an artist who doesn’t feel constrained by the limits of a particular sound or genre. A common problem with artists that work within a narrow brief is that you’re left with albums that contain a handful of ‘filler’ tracks. Not always. But it happens to many acts, big and small.

Another important (and unique) aspect of Gotye’s work is that he has a particular approach to crafting his songs. The majority of his tracks stem from an obscure sample that he plucked from a long-forgotten work (or inspired by a sample of an interesting sound or instrument). Like many artists, popular or otherwise, part of the artist’s story helps shape the art. Take Banksy, for instance. In the abstract, a spray-painted stencil of a cat on a wall is shallow and meaningless. But having been told it’s a Banksy, the cat suddenly springs to life. We understand where it came from, its possible political meanings, its context within Banksy’s portfolio, its lifespan. I wouldn’t necessary say that having an appreciation for Gotye’s approach to his art is integral to being entertained by it, but helps inform it. It’s also part of the fun; when I listen to renowned Australian sampling artist Katalyst, I enjoy hearing the dust blown off records that have been buried deep in the crates. Throw in some interesting sounds and arrangements, and at the very least, I’m engaged.

In Scott’s review, he said, “There are a lot of different styles on Making Mirrors, but the musical variety doesn’t feel like an artist frantically trying out ideas, more like someone throwing a bunch of shit against the wall to see if anything sticks. Not eclectic, but desperate.” Nowhere in his review, once I negotiated my way around his excessive use of italics, did he say why the tracks come across as ‘desperate’. Perhaps not understanding Gotye’s songwriting approach led him to that conclusion. Or, perhaps Scott only gave the tunes a superficial glossing-over without any proper thought or truly open ears. Either way, I’m not going to take beef with him over it; it’s subjective, and I happen to disagree with him.

Scott also said that he could sing George Michael’s ‘Faith’ over ‘In Your Light’. That’s fine. I can also sing every U2 song over every other U2 song. That aside, ‘In Your Light’ actually uses a sample of a song by Atlas. I refer you to the liner notes on the album. I also refer you to the above paragraphs on Gotye’s approach to songwriting. Take up your issue with Atlas. In any case, it’s not an uncommon chord progression, and I enjoy Gotye’s recontextualisation of the traditional ‘sunshine-pop’ timbre and structure. Having said that, it’s not my favourite song on the album and I appreciate that it’s not for everyone. But if I were to attack the originality of a tune, I’d first make myself sure of its source. Be informed.

(continues overleaf)

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41 Responses to Response from a Disgruntled Gotye fan

  1. Everett True September 20, 2011 at 9:58 am



    Scott Creney says:
    September 20, 2011 at 12:59 am

    I’ve tried to stay out of this. It’s like the Queen used to say, ‘Never complain, never explain’, right?

    But, you know, fuck the Queen. Seriously.

    First off, I’m pretty sure ET didn’t ask me to review Gotye because he wanted me to slam the #1 artist in Australian music today. He did it because (as someone who lives in the good ol’ USA) I’d never heard of the fucking guy, or heard any of his music, and I’d be likely to listen to it without any sort of bias. Because (get this) I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THE #1 ARTIST IN AUSTRALIA.

    Second, Adrian wants to get all intellectual up in this shit, blowing me off as an undergrad while he’s some kind of deconstructionist or something. Which is fine, I suppose. But he probably shouldn’t turn around and suggest that Gotye’s work has depth because he worked in a library (or as Adrian puts it, ‘was led to believe that he worked in a library’ LOLZ). Any deconstructionist worth his salt would eat that argument for breakfast. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biographical_fallacy

    And dude, I fucking WISH Wally worked in a library that only stocked copies of Animal Farm and The Tempest. Now THAT would be a cool song. More interesting than the “you’s” and “I’s” that populate his work. At least the name ‘Snowball’ would have some kind of double meaning, perhaps suggesting Gotye’s belief in semen-swapping as some kind of great sexual equalizer. Instead, it seems that Goye’s library only stocked copies of Erich Segal’s Love Story (although I don’t remember Gotye metioning death or cancer, so my apologies to Erich Segal).

    And oh yeah, the fact that people like Banksy’s art just because it was made by Banksy doesn’t reflect postiviely on Banksy, or his art. It reflects negatively on people, and their stupidity.

    And this argument is awesome. This one, Adrian McGruther, I am going to take with me to my grave. This story will be told for years around the campfire when critics reminisce about the internet years:

    ‘First, I made a blind accusation that Scott is a ‘talentless freelance journalist’ in my original comment, and you leapt to his defence. You totally missed the point I was making. I was demonstrating the very aspect of Scott’s review that I criticised – making blind, uninformed assumptions. I’m obviously in no position to make statements about Scott’s career. I don’t know him. I’ve never heard of him. I don’t know what his employment arrangements are. But that’s just what Scott did in ‘reviewing’ Gotye’s album – made a bunch of unsubstantiated (and irrelevant) presumptions, for his own self-aggrandisement.’

    Dude, that’s awesome. That is just fucking (wipes tear from eye) BREATHTAKINGLY AMAZING. You were making a POINT?!? Well it seems like you did a really bad job of it, since people just assumed you meant what you said. Wait. So are you saying that you DON’T think I’m talentless? I guess I’m still confused.

    Oh yeah, the whole ‘Swiftian insight’ bit was a set-up for a Taylor Swift joke. Please tell me you realize there’s a joke in there (laced with a criticism of the simplicity of Gotye’s music). You can find it funny, or not find it funny, but you do realize that’s all a joke. Right?

    Also, what kind of an asshole has a list of the three (THREE! I LOVE it) essential qualities they look for in music?

    Last thing,

    ‘And that’s the best thing art can do; start a conversation’.

    Really? The BEST thing art can do? Yeah! Who needs art when we have the fucking weather? Am I right, people? Am I?

    Sigh… sometimes I think the WORST thing art can do is start a conversation.

    Wallace Wylie says:
    September 20, 2011 at 1:31 am

    Passing, if I may, over the wasteland of banality in adrian mcgruther’s post, I’d like to pay special attention to the last thing said.

    “…if the album has done one thing, it has provoked this dialogue. And that’s the best thing art can do; start a conversation.”

    This, right here, is bullshit. I hear this said so often I honestly don’t know what is more frightening: the idea that people think repeating such a statement makes them sound intelligent and insightful, or the idea that people actually believe this. Here is art reduced to some base utilitarian purpose, chained and broken, reduced to a mere talking point. It surely takes only a second of thought to realise that the statement above is so undeniably false, so maddeningly small-minded and petty, so crushingly foolish that as an opinion it shouldn’t last more than a minute. But no, I keep hearing it again and again.

    Here are what I consider some of the best things art can do: make me laugh, make me cry, fill me with a sense of aesthetic wonder, make me dance, make me want to throw my windows open and weep openly for all the sadness and hurt in the world, make me want to reach out to each and every person I see on the street and say “I get it. Life is hard. Life is incredibly lonely. I understand every fucked up mistake that haunts you and makes you feel lost. It’s ok though, you’ll make it”, make me want to slam my door in humanity’s face in complete disgust, make me so fucking angry that I can barely talk, make me feel that there are kindred spirits in the world whom I’ll never meet but who nevertheless exist, make me feel horny, make me feel good about myself, make me feel bad about myself….the list goes on. You think starting a conversation is the best thing art can do? No wonder you like Gotye. No wonder you like an album that sounds like “a professional smile”. You insinuate that anyone who doesn’t ‘get’ Gotye has a ‘narrow box of comprehension and convention’ not long after saying it has three essential qualities that you look for in all the music you like. One of them is “It’s timeless”. Not only is that a meaningless phrase it also smugly implies that you are able to recognise a timeless classic almost immediately. The album came out in August and it’s already timeless? I’ll give you a stone cold guarantee that nobody outside of a bunch of obsessive superfans (of which you are clearly one) will give a flying fuck about this album in ten years time.

    You must think Scott wrote a great review because it started a conversation. I must love your reply. I must have loved it when a customer at my work pulled back his fist like he was going to punch me in the face because I had so many conversations about it afterwards. Same with the time a guy took a shit on the floor. So many conversations. Must be great art.

    sid says:
    September 20, 2011 at 3:14 am

    haha yes, art should also scare the fuck out you that you bang your head repeatedly on available chair ..

    Lucy Cage says:
    September 20, 2011 at 3:43 am

    “I couldn’t give a rats what some world-weary writer (or anyone else, for that matter) thinks of the music that I happen to like.”

    Given the length and detail of your reply, I beg to disagree.

    But, although I don’t find any of your arguments against Scott’s review convincing, kudos for replying. I mean that.

    Your reaction to the music Gotye makes is just as subjective as Scott’s, you know. The fact you know stuff about him and his methods (the samples he uses, the way he constructs his music); the fact that you have familiarity with the cultural context in which his album has been produced, marketed and bought by thousands that Scott doesn’t: these things have contributed to the way you hear the music. But it doesn’t make your response a more valid one than Scott’s, and certainly not a better expressed one. Music criticism isn’t about writing a text book or a commentary: it’s about articulating a personal reaction, about being perceptive about the way the music works on you, insightful about the way you hear it, the way it lives & breathes out in the world.

    This:

    “When I listen to the album as a whole, I feel a sense of boundless freedom, which is probably a product of Gotye’s music-making philosophy.”

    That’s more the sort of thing, even if – sadly – listening to ‘Someone… ‘ induces in *me* all the freedom of an afternoon spent looking for new work shoes in the local shopping centre, rather than wide open skies and endless oceans.

    I don’t know why human beings respond to music in the way they do. I can’t draw up definitions to describe music’s effects on the human brain/body. Criticism tries to pin down the ineffable, so arguing that someone hasn’t ‘got’ the music, that they have the wrong ears on, that they don’t understand, is really, truly, never going to work. You’ve got to persuade me with more than facts about its process that it is worth another listen.

    Btw, Wallace: that was lovely to read. Thank you. I’m so glad that humans have art. I’m so grateful for music. I’ve just come back from a funeral for a friend gone way before her time and when the music that she had chosen started up, the thing it did, the thing it did to us all in that room, was to clutch at our hearts and let us be lost in it; it provoked a whole cluster of different emotions at once – grief, communion, joy, suadade – like lights rippling across water. It was exactly what was needed. (It wasn’t Gotye.)

    Princess Stomper says:
    September 20, 2011 at 4:50 am

    First off, this isn’t some “Collapse Board writers gather round and punch the dissenter” thing. If you spend any time on this blog, you’ll notice I comment on pretty much everything. A lot of us do, because we’re just passionate about music and are usually provoked into responding in some way.

    Secondly, I too have to call you up on the Banksy ref. You can call me uncultured or closed-minded or just plain out-of-touch, but I regard most modern art as bollocks. You can tell me something’s by Banksy, and I’ll still think it’s bollocks. You can tell me the context or the history or give me an academic reason why I should appreciate it, and I’ll still think it’s bollocks. I’ve long held that opinion about most non-traditional art.

    Except for ‘Red on Red’.

    That abstract painting by Mark Rothko … it just does something to me. I couldn’t tell you how or why splodges of subtly different shades of red paint would provoke an emotional response in me, but somehow it just does. It hits a spot that can’t be reached by words, and that’s why the artist chose paint, not poetry.

    Great art does that. It hits the spot. Melody Maker said of Skinny Puppy that their music has the power to manipulate mood. I’d agree with that. My favourite songs – by them or anyone else – has the power to find me in one mood and leave me in a totally different mood. It can change me from happy to sad, or lift me from the depths of despair. It can make me smile or feel relaxed or energised, or vent aggression. I don’t have to know anything about it for it to do that – I don’t need context or history or academic discourse. Knowing more can help, and finding out the processes or rationale behind it can enhance the enjoyment, but it can’t add enjoyment where there was none to begin with.

    I played the Gotye clips, and they made me feel cold. Not spooked or chilled, but coolly indifferent. It wasn’t the worst music I’ve ever heard, but it provoked absolutely no emotional response whatsoever, other than one track that made me yell, “Gaaah! Make it stop! Make it stop!”

    The best art doesn’t start a conversation because it stops conversation. It goes beyond words and hits the audience on some primal level that cannot be articulated.

    Erika Meyer says:
    September 20, 2011 at 5:43 am

    I get that song, ‘Someone I Used To Know’. It’s a breakup song, which is one of the best kind of songs for #1 hits. It feels genuine to me, since emotions come first, and the attempt to attach logic or reason to the emotions is usually an afterthought – pretty much always, unless you’re some kind of mythical Spock-like creature. Something I like about the video: the singer’s teeth. I’m pretty certain you couldn’t have a #1 hit with teeth like that in the US. American #1 hit teeth must be white and preferably straight. Also, the line “I think of all the times you screwed me over.” That’s not the kind of thing you hear in American #1 hits. The lyrical dialogue seems totally realistic, like what you would hear people saying in a real breakup, for what that’s worth. Maybe not much. I like the instrument and vocal arrangements. In most breakup songs, there is no “answering” at all, so I like that touch. I do see why this song would resonate with people. The main problem with it in my mind is it takes itself way too seriously. Maybe there are other songs on the album that lighten the mood?

    Lucy Cage says:
    September 20, 2011 at 6:38 am

    See, there you go: Erika has made me want to go back and listen to it again. And look at his teeth. None of those slamming Scott’s review have done that, despite thinking the song special enough to feel affronted by his dismissal of it.

    Lucy Cage says:
    September 20, 2011 at 6:48 am

    Agh, it’s OK. And I don’t mind petulance in break-up songs, because it’s better than undiluted misery. It’s a chart song, that’s all, with a charty little melody and charty vocals and nice simple charty noises. It’s OK. Ish.

    (Teeth?! They’re fine! It’s an American thing, right? He’s got nice hair, though.)

    Darragh says:
    September 20, 2011 at 7:46 am

    See what Gotye is doing to everyone? Making them all go mental.

    adrian mcgruther says:
    September 20, 2011 at 8:46 am

    …knibb high football rules!

  2. Chad Parkhill September 20, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Much like the question of whether or not Gotye’s music is enjoyable, the question of whether this is a dialogue about or an in-house circlejerk is in the eye of the beholder. Surely we’ve all had enough of this?

  3. Wallace Wylie September 20, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Everyone is invited to Collapse Board circlejerks, even you Chad. If you weren’t such a jealous hipster maybe you’d join in.

  4. Wallace Wylie September 20, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Plus, I have to commend you for saying “circlejerk is in the eye of the beholder”. Now that’s wordplay.

  5. Everett True September 20, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Surely we’ve all had enough of this?

    If you’ve had enough of this, why are you here?

  6. Joe Woolley September 20, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Any chance you can get Scott to review the Art Vs Science album? I might die from laughing…

  7. Darragh September 20, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I second Joe’s suggestion.

  8. HipsterDouchebagTroll#25447 September 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Don’t quite understand the reaction from Lucy or Scott on this. Maybe someone can explain to me why criticism should be exempt from being criticised? I actually agree with most of Adrian’s points, but regardless of this, Scott’s original review should have been left to stand on its own merits, no matter what you thought of it. Jumping in to defend it just seems petty, like it would have been if Gotye jumped on here to defend himself after Scott’s review (and like Ryan Adams’ famous critic-retaliations have been), and that’s ignoring the borderline hypocrisy of it all – what’s the saying, ‘don’t dish it out if you can’t take it?’ But having said that, this has all been a great distraction from that ‘real world’ place everyone’s been talking about so please continue…

  9. Everett True September 20, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Maybe someone can explain to me why criticism should be exempt from being criticised?

    I’ve encountered this statement a lot since moving to Brisbane. It’s a very odd statement.

    The first reason it’s an odd statement is that no one here has suggested that critics should be exempt from being criticised. Far from it. This is Collapse Board, for fuck’s sake: not Street Press Australia. We think about what we do. The following quote is taken from my avatar, which can be seen at the side of EVERY post I put up on CB.

    IMy name is Everett True. I am a music critic. This is what I do. I criticise music. The clue is in my job description – music critic. I do not consider myself a journalist, as I do not research or report hard news. I do not consider myself a commentator as I believe that everyone should be a participant. I criticise people and in return I am not surprised if other people criticise me. It is part of the whole deal of being in the public arena.

    Which part of ” I criticise people and in return I am not surprised if other people criticise me” don’t you understand?

    The main reason this statement is so very odd is that it assumes that there’s something wrong with critics seeking to clarify and explain their intentions when called upon to do so. There seems to be no logic to this assertion whatsoever.

  10. HipsterDouchebagTroll#25447 September 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Which part of ”I criticise people and in return I am not surprised if other people criticise me” don’t you understand?

    The part where you all seem, you know, surprised that Scott’s review attracted such “venomous” criticism, hence Lucy’s response and Scott’s comment, etc.

  11. Everett True September 20, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    The part where you all seem, you know, surprised that Scott’s review attracted such “venomous” criticism, hence Lucy’s response and Scott’s comment, etc.

    Why would I have seemed surprised? This might come as a knitting-needles-in-the-eyes type eye-opener to you, but I have encountered adverse reaction to pieces of music criticism once or twice before. Even to my own. No, really.

    I repeat the question: Which part of ” I criticise people and in return I am not surprised if other people criticise me” don’t you understand? Or do you really believe there’s something odd about “critics seeking to clarify and explain their intentions when called upon to do so”. I think perhaps you’re at the wrong website, if so. Why not go somewhere where people really couldn’t give a fuck? Pitchfork, perhaps.

  12. Matt O'Neill September 20, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    I think it comes down to the perception on Mr Troll’s part that Collapse Board writers flock together in some kind of gang – one for all, all for one, all against all, sort of thing.

    Which is, of course, ridiculous. I actually said in that comment thread that I didn’t think it was a very good review. Since then, I’ve revised my opinion to say that it’s a very good review in a style of reviewing I don’t particularly like but, regardless, Collapse Board is not a club. It is a confederacy of individuals.

  13. Tom R September 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    I’d pay to commission that review.

  14. Everett True September 20, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Collapse Board is not a club. It is a confederacy of individuals.

    As opposed to the majority of music writing websites, which are a confederacy of dunces.

  15. Tom R September 20, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    A day or so ago, I was chatting amiably with a kid at my work when he mentioned that the task he was doing was so bad that he wanted to stab his eyes out.

    I can tell you, I called to an immediate halt my jovial office manner and told him in no uncertain terms that his turn of phrase was an instance of unnecessarily extreme hyperbole which detracted from the credibility of his comment. I then told him to return to said task and not to cease until he could describe its negative effect on him in more neutral terms.

  16. adrian mcgruther September 20, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    nicely put in his place, tom r. would you describe the task that kid was asked to perform as ‘art’?

  17. Hans Moeman September 20, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    LEAVE ADRIAN ALONE!!!!!!!!

  18. Chad Parkhill September 20, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Wallace: Thank you for noticing it.

    Everett: I come here to read the vanishingly-small number of pieces that actually engage in writing about music (some of it decent!), as opposed to the increasingly-large number of pieces about Collapse Board itself, or how much Pitchfork sucks, or about how everyone other music critic in the world is crap, or about how Everett True is such a legend, mad contradictory bastard that he is, etc.

    I know that your response to that will be “If you don’t like it, don’t read it,” and you have every right to continue on with the project of installing new chips on your shoulder and building up CB’s insular little mythos. I’ll simply observe that every truly wonderful and successful cultural product (book, album, website—whatever) I’ve ever encountered has succeeded because it has its eye on the task ahead of it, not on its posterity and self-mythologising. Something to consider amongst the flood of manifestoes, meta-whinges, and complaints about how others suck at music criticism.

  19. Everett True September 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I’ll simply observe that every truly wonderful and successful cultural product (book, album, website—whatever) I’ve ever encountered has succeeded because it has its eye on the task ahead of it, not on its posterity and self-mythologising.

    You’re obviously not a fan of the following then:
    Bob Dylan
    The White Stripes
    The KLF
    The Beatles
    PJ Harvey
    Nick Cave
    Nirvana
    Banksy
    (I could go on and list another few hundred thousand, but I’ve got to put the pizzas on the barbie)

    Good on ya, mate. Clear head, and all that. Stick to the straight and narrow, that’s best.

  20. Matt O'Neill September 20, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Pizzas on the barbie?!

    You really are a mad bastard.

  21. Chad Parkhill September 20, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    I can take some of that list and leave some of it, too. They’re all very talented artists, though, and I can guarantee that any self-mythologising in their work is subservient to the focus of the work itself, *or* represents their artistic nadir. (Yes, some of that list have put out crap albums. Happens to everyone, often when they’ve stopped focusing on the work and started focusing on themselves.)

    But, y’know, keep doing what you’re doing, man. Keep working on the myth of Everett True and his merry band of fellow critics who stood up to Pitchfork and the general crapulence of modern music criticism and won. Maybe if you repeat it enough times it will magically come true.

  22. Everett True September 20, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    I can guarantee that any self-mythologising in their work is subservient to the focus of the work itself, *or* represents their artistic nadir.

    You really don’t understand the first thing about popular music, do you?

  23. Chad Parkhill September 20, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    See ya, Jerry. Good luck with your site.

  24. matt September 20, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    I’m with Chad. I’ve had enough. You guys are just mean.

  25. Lucy Cage September 20, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    “Mean”? Seriously? If you respond to criticism from readers, you’re mean?! Even if the criticism is in the form of a personal attack?

    I responded to Adrian’s critique of Scott not because I thought Scott was offended (he wasn’t and nor would I be) but because I thought Adrian had misunderstood what music criticism is for. There were fundamental differences between the way he thought a review should work and how Collapse Board approaches writing about music: the reply was for the sake of clarity. It’s not a question of being surprised about the level of disagreement and certainly not one of not taking what you dish out: this is a dialogue, it aims to boost critical thinking about music and about writing. If anyone wants tick boxes and points, go elsewhere. If you’re fascinated by the process, stick around and argue, because a critical, self-conscious approach to the way that one’s adoration or loathing of music is articulated is part and parcel of anyone’s (not just a writer’s) relationship to music.

    What I love about Collapse Board is that it sets the bar high: for music, for writing, for critical thought: that goes for its readers too! Better music, better writing, better listening. Passion in all things. That’s a good thing.

  26. Ninetyeightytwo September 21, 2011 at 12:26 am

    And can we all agree that the pits of musical journalism are not to be found on Pitchfork, but on The Quietus?

  27. Joseph Kyle September 21, 2011 at 2:41 am

    I’m eagerly awaiting the Response from a Disgruntled Collapse Board fan…

  28. Lucy Cage September 21, 2011 at 3:36 am

    “And can we all agree that the pits of musical journalism are not to be found on Pitchfork, but on The Quietus?”

    No. The Quietus published all six parts of this: http://thequietus.com/articles/05942-neil-kulkarni

    Read it. You wouldn’t find anything like that on Pitchfork.

    “I’m eagerly awaiting the Response from a Disgruntled Collapse Board fan… ”

    Oh yeah, me too! Come on, come on!

  29. Princess Stomper September 21, 2011 at 4:31 am

    You guys are just mean.

    Ow, that’s harsh!

    http://icanhascheezburger.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/funny-pictures-bunny-is-sad.jpg

  30. Everett True September 21, 2011 at 6:52 am

    “And can we all agree that the pits of musical journalism are not to be found on Pitchfork, but on The Quietus?”

    An absolutely ridiculous assertion (about either site, really) when you consider the sheer deluge of absolutely rank music writing websites out there, people who can’t even string a sentence together even while they’re in the process of lifting it direct from the press release. (For example, Eleven Magazine here in Australia – favourite whipping boys of the vocal commentators on Mess + Noise.) If The Quietus fails sometimes it’s because it fucking tries … (for the uninitiated, it’s also a regular home to great music writing).

  31. Everett True September 21, 2011 at 10:36 am

    I’ll simply observe that every truly wonderful and successful cultural product (book, album, website—whatever) I’ve ever encountered has succeeded because it has its eye on the task ahead of it, not on its posterity and self-mythologising.

    Someone needs to tell Daniel Johnston – and quick!

  32. adrian mcgruther September 21, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Hello everyone. I’m back from the music morgue, after having my skin shredded apart and my innards severed by that bloody barrage of blasphemy the other morning. I now know what ‘death by a cynic’ feels like. I’ve come out the other side feeling like an ’emo’ (are they extinct yet?) – all torn apart. But I must congratulate you all for providing this highly amusing thread. Really. I thoroughly enjoyed reducing Scott to tears (again). And I’ve entered a whole new world of feedback, after having my arguments described as a ‘wasteland of banality’. Wasteland! Not even a field of banality, but a wasteland! Brilliant. That, my friends, is a new one. If I ever end up a teacher, I’ll be sure to use that line when marking assignments. Positive reinforcement, eh? I’ll also remember to prescribe Making Mirrors as mandatory material in the school curriculum. Alongside Erich Segal.

    Now, it’s quite fitting that I post my response today. Why? Because (take a deep breath), Making Mirrors has officially gone triple platinum in Oz. Your prayers have been answered, CB folk. I’m guessing a few high schools placed a bulk order after adding it to their curriculum. Because, after all, the songs are clearly too shit to actually resonate with anyone.

    I promised myself that I would engage in this debate no further, but due to popular demand, I thought that, well, you’re clearly an audience in need of my high insight and worldly wisdom. So, grab a cup of tea, or a beer, or a tub of KY, and it’s time to go on with the borophyll.

    Swimming, if I may, through Wallace Wylie’s cesspool of violent contradictions (I could barely breathe at one point), a few things struck me as utterly moronic. First up, Wallace dismissed as ‘bullshit’, my claim that the best thing art can do is to start a conversation. He said that art should do any number of things, and then set out a list of possible reactions that a person might have to a piece of art, including this gold nugget:

    ‘…make me want to reach out to each and every person I see on the street and say “I get it. Life is hard. Life is incredibly lonely. I understand every fucked up mistake that haunts you and makes you feel lost. It’s ok though, you’ll make it”

    Now readers, this reminds me of the time that my girlfriend told me that girls don’t do poos, while she actually sat on the can to offload a ferocious dump. Wallace, old buddy, I’m not sure which solar system you hail from, but here in ours, that is called having a conversation. Reaching out to everyone on the street and spewing out the verbal diarrhea that you cited is ordinarily regarded as ‘starting a conversation’. An exchange between two people. And, in your example, it was provoked by whatever music you happened to be listening to at the time.

    But, I’ll play fair, Wally. You did shit out a bundle of other possible reactions, which, I’ll admit, were colourfully articulated. But, you missed something. Even the most retardedly unperceptive person would realise that, inevitably, all of those reactions lead to one thing: you wanting to share your experience with someone. I guarantee that if a song leaves you shell-shocked, you’ll want to jump on the phone and tell someone as soon as you come to. If a painting makes you weak at the knees, you’ll recommend to your (I’m making an assumption here) friend to go check it out. If an album makes you horny, you’ll be hitting that booty call speed-dial number immediately. Heck, who am I kidding? You’ll probably be straight over to the local escort service. The point is, whatever your immediate reaction to a piece of art, if it’s good art, you’ll want to share it with someone. And what does ‘sharing’ involve? I know it may scare you blinkered sociopaths, but that typically involves…starting a conversation. Hallelujah!

    The people of your solar system, Wallace Wylie, must also lack any cogency. Another one of your earth-shattering brainwaves included this:

    ‘You must think Scott wrote a great review because it started a conversation. I must love your reply. I must have loved it when a customer at my work pulled back his fist like he was going to punch me in the face because I had so many conversations about it afterwards. Same with the time a guy took a shit on the floor. So many conversations. Must be great art.’

    Before I say anything else, is it surprising that someone took a shit on YOUR floor, or that a customer at your work wanted to knock YOUR lights out? Or maybe he did bump you one, and that’s where your sense went. My quote was this: ‘the best thing art can do is to start a conversation’. I’m sorry, maybe computers in your backward galaxy reinterpret words on the screen, like some sort of technological dyslexia, but I don’t recall saying, ‘anything that starts a conversation must be art’. The best thing that Mexican food can do is make me drop my guts. But conversely, just because I drop my guts, doesn’t automatically mean I ate Mexican. (I apologise for all the excrement references, but I can’t help it after reading some of the bile splattered on this page.)

    Clearly, there are times in life where I will encounter something that will prompt me to talk to someone. I know, I know, Wal. It can’t be easy sitting on your pale, splotchy arse in front of a screen all day, where human interaction is both rare and unwelcomed. But most of us will experience things, other than art, that will make us talk. I have to do talking for my job. I have to talk to the bus driver in the morning. I have to talk to get my groceries. Lord, I have to talk to my missus after sex. Actually, that doesn’t count, as I do consider some of my moves in bed to be works of art. That thing I do with my elbow…sheesh…I’d talk to MYSELF about that if I had to. (And I do.)

    Look, I’m obviously not saying that a piece of art must start a conversation right away – that is, while you’re still listening, looking, feeling, tasting, etc. Quite the opposite, in fact. Plainly, if I were saying that, then I’d be suggesting that you talk over the top of the music while you’re listening to it. It clearly wouldn’t be doing its job if that were the case (ever been to a La Roux gig?).

    Yet I’m actually starting to think that yes, maybe Mr Wylie’s customer at work DID actually punch him square in the temple, because this next gem attempted to simplify, twist and distil the ‘conversation’ sentiment into this overwrought, faux-philosophical trash:

    ‘Here is art reduced to some base utilitarian purpose, chained and broken, reduced to a mere talking point…But no, I keep hearing it again and again.’

    Wow. At no point in my response did I discuss the purpose, function, or goal of art. I was merely talking about individual reactions to it (amongst other things). And I loved your reference to art being ‘reduced’ to a mere talking point. Apart from your wrongful trivialisation of the nature of dialogue (being the subject of conversation, any conversation, is a great achievement), it’s painfully clear that your pre-existing aversion to agreeing with any common thought is what drives you to skepticism. As far as you’re concerned, clichés must be buried, no matter how right they may be. The way I see it, your self-appointed role as some sort of indispensible, superior social commentator is threatened if you’re seen to share the same opinion as the ‘masses’, in this case on the conversation-starter thought, and so you have to vehemently disagree at any cost. It’s how you justify your existence. Much like those who flew the flag for Arcade Fire in the early days but all of a sudden turned around and burnt it the second they released an album in a glossy, four panel digipack, or when they saw some guy at the gym wearing an Arcade Fire t-shirt.

    Oh, and just when I thought I’d spotted a nice, safe island in the middle of Wallace’s sea of hypocrisy and bullshit, I realised that, alas, it was nothing but a mirage. The contradictions continued when he attempted to refute my assessment that Gotye’s album is ‘timeless’. Please, readers, if you only take away one thing from today’s lesson, make it this gob-smacking piece of watertight reasoning:

    ‘…it smugly implies that you are able to recognise a timeless classic almost immediately. The album came out in August and it’s already timeless? I’ll give you a stone cold guarantee that nobody outside of a bunch of obsessive superfans (of which you are clearly one) will give a flying fuck about this album in ten years time.’

    So, let me get this straight, Wally. First, you’re saying that it’s not possible to predict whether an album will be timeless, until the appointed amount of time has actually passed. And, then, in the very next sentence – yes, the very next words you uttered – you made a prediction that the album won’t make it to ten years. Fuck me, I should’ve brought my floaties out here.

    But, if you must know, yes, I am so smug that I think I can predict timeless hits. It’s called good ears. Or at least open ones. And I certainly know those acts that WON’T make the distance. Look around you, just in Australia – Gypsy and the Cat, Tim and Jean, Van She, Cut Copy, and the rest of those throwback rip-off acts of today – they’ll all be dated in ten years time, labelled as those 1980s synth reference bands of the early 2000s, and nothing but gym t-shirt fodder. In fact, just throw the entire Modular catalogue under that umbrella (except The Swiss, they’re grand).

    While I’m on the topic of timelessness, I’ll now direct my attention to Scott-daddy, who must be feeling neglected by now. In his reply, Scott said this:

    ‘what kind of an asshole has a list of the three (THREE! I LOVE it) essential qualities they look for in music?’

    First, I love that he called me an ‘asshole’. Like having a ‘formula’ (which it isn’t) makes me a mean person or some kind of dickhead (which I am). What I originally said was that there are three qualities that I look for in good music – timelessness, simplicity, and difference. I should clarify this by saying that I don’t actively go ticking off those boxes when listening to music. But, when analysing all the music that I love, and the music that society has put on its pedestal over generations, they all share those qualities. Those qualities not necessarily prescriptive yard-sticks to measure music when writing a review or to immediately look out for when you first pick up an album. But you’ll find most of the best music over time share those qualities. That’s not to say they won’t possess other similarities, and it’s not to say that there aren’t exceptions (like most things), but I find it pretty reliable as an indicator of quality. Whether or not the music resonates with you personally, is a different story.

    But Scotty boy couldn’t stop his criticism at just music. Oh no, he’s a talented little thing, making mummy proud – he’s also a well-versed hater of the visual arts (and people in general, apparently). Check out this sloppy turd:

    ‘…the fact that people like Banksy’s art just because it was made by Banksy doesn’t reflect postiviely on Banksy, or his art. It reflects negatively on people, and their stupidity.’

    Banksy is now a best-selling author/artist (not that it counts for much with you, you’re above us all). I guess the Bible’s popularity reflects negatively on people and their stupidity too (leaving Richard Dawkins to one side). But, I must express my ambivalence towards Banksy; I could take him or leave him. The point I was making (yes, Scott, I was making a point. Tell mother.) was to describe the effect his work has on people, generally. Naturally, I wouldn’t expect you CB-folk to ever give Banksy the time of day. Heaven forbid if anyone ever mistook you for one of those mainstream-underground ‘coffee table book’ types. Instead, you’d prefer to buy into some other copycat-passenger nonsense. Or, maybe you’d prefer to lazily namedrop proven artists of the past, in a misguided attempt to demonstrate your sophistication and worldliness, though it really saves you embarrassment and effort of taking a gamble on an unproven commodity. Or maybe you’re just a horribly delayed laggard.

    I’m sorry to keep harping on about the whole good-art-starts-a-conversation thing, but I can’t help but tripping over your constant contradictions. Princess Stomper had this drivel to say:

    ‘The best art doesn’t start a conversation because it stops conversation. It goes beyond words and hits the audience on some primal level that cannot be articulated.’

    Internal inconsistency aside, Ms Stomper then went on to discuss Rothko’s ‘Red on Red’, and in the process, fell into old man Wylie’s trap:

    ‘…it just does something to me. I couldn’t tell you how or why splodges of subtly different shades of red paint would provoke an emotional response in me, but somehow it just does. It hits a spot that can’t be reached by words, and that’s why the artist chose paint, not poetry.’

    Yes! So, right after saying that the best art is incapable of expression, you actually tried to leap your own hurdle by trying to articulate your reaction? Nice. Look, having a conversation can equally be an articulate, precise and expressive one, as it can be a bumbling, dumbfounded one. Remember, humans are morons and think they can outrun their own weaknesses. Even when we can’t pinpoint the words to convey our feelings, we try, nevertheless. Even if those words are, ‘I have no words’, we’ve still started a conversation. The closest I’ve been to experiencing true speechlessness was after an Olafur Arnalds show. I didn’t know what to say. My mate and I kept looking at each other in awe, paralysed by wonderment. But to this day, we still talk about that gig. And here I am, having that conversation with you. So, it doesn’t matter whether that Rothko work made you cry, or made you smile, or made you shout, or made you stab yourself in the eyeballs with knitting needles; it was good enough to make you share your reaction with us (and, in all likelihood, with your ostentatious, wannabe art git friends too).

    I do have one concession to make, however. In my last posting, I referred to Little Red Riding Hood venturing into the woods, leaving bread crumbs. Sorry. I meant to refer to Hansel and Gretel. Although, on second thought, Ms Hood probably should’ve taken some frangers with her – at least she would’ve had another option to tame the wolf.

  33. Ninetyeightytwo September 21, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Of course there are worse sources for musical journalism than The Quietus, but I really cannot think of any that I hate more.

    I realised this when I read their verdict of the best albums of 2009 (or was it 2010?) which they introduced by saying something like – of course you’re free to discuss this as much as you like in the comments, but that doesn’t make you any less wrong.

    OK, such a comment is not to be taken seriously. But I see it as the tip of a very large iceberg of “we’re the best music writers on the planet and don’t we just know it. Everyone else is wrong.”

    And then earlier this year when The Queen Is Dead gets the anniversary tribute and they publish an article by some guy who’s arguing that it’s a vastly overrated album unworthy of the attention it’s receiving.

    Allowing for “contrary views” to be aired or iconoclasm for the sake of iconoclasm? I’m sorry, but I’m convinced that it’s the latter.

    It’s just the little things, you know? Like how they feel they have to justify Wayne Coyne’s love of Pink Floyd and The Who when he’s listing his favourite albums, and how they turn some writer’s gripe at not having received the King of Limbs boxset into a massive diatribe which condemns Radiohead for daring to even exist.

    If The Quietus was a person, they’d be middle aged, balding, bearded, bespectacled. Their arms would always be folded, their face always a sneering smirk. They’d start every single sentence with “I’ll tell you why you’re wrong”, and they’ll take great joy in arguing for the sake of arguing.

    But they won’t call it arguing, they’ll call it a “debate”, or a “conversation”.

    They might even state that the best thing art can achieve is to start such conversations.

    I’m sure there’s a word for people like that.

    But yes, at least they try.

  34. Wallace Wylie September 22, 2011 at 1:38 am

    adrian…you’ve made some huge assumptions and some basic factual errors. Making a statement is not necessarily meant as a conversation starter. In fact many statement are meant to end conversations. Some are not meant to be replied to. Some are fleeting. So singling out a statement I made as an attempt to start a conversation, which it clearly wasn’t, was wrong. Now, I realise from your long winded responses that you imagine talking incessantly means having a conversation but in actual fact it doesn’t. A conversation is two or more people actively engaging with one another.

    Great art could be enjoyed by someone locked in a tower Rapunzel style with a library of books, a thousand CDs and a mountain of movies. If that person were never able to start a conversation about the art would it somehow make the art less important, seeing as, according to you, the best thing about it couldn’t happen? And just because you are able to point to people having conversations about art on this very page, doesn’t mean people can’t disagree with you about saying that starting a conversation is the best thing art can do. If someone were to say the best thing art can do is make you spend money and you disagreed would they win the argument by saying “Look moron, you spent all that money on art”? No, they wouldn’t. Just because people do spend money on art, and just because people do have conversations about art, doesn’t make a cliched opinion correct.

    What I was describing was the feeling art created inside me. I don’t actually feel the need to act on every idea that passes through my head. So making these leaps to say that every internal emotion that art conjures up is the first step to having a conversation is weak reasoning. It was merely me trying to sum up the emotional relationship I have with art. Whether I share that with anyone really isn’t big on my priorities. The main thing is what I share with the art in question. If your first reaction to an emotional response is some kind of “Mummy, you’re not watching me” need to have it validated by a witness then I’m sorry.

    You said starting a conversation was the best thing art could do. The best thing. Don’t blame me for taking your cliched talk at face value. You now say:

    “being the subject of conversation, any conversation, is a great achievement”

    So I misread you somewhere? Someone taking a shit on the floor of my store really is a great achievement? Make up your mind. If staring a conversation is ultimately the best thing art can do, then why bother with art? Cut out the middle man. Make up lies about yourself. Take a shit on shop floors. It’ll start a conversation which is a great achievement. Just admit it. You repeated some banal statement because you heard it parroted by other people without actually thinking about what you were saying.

    So you think there’s a contradiction between declaring something not timeless right away, and calling someone out for calling something a month old timeless? OK, timeless means it’s up there with the greatest music ever created. I would guess that there are a million album released every year that a lot of people could safely say “This is not a timeless classic, one for the ages”. That does not constitute the same kind of judgement as, after a month, calling something timeless. I hope you see the difference. It’s quite simple.

  35. Everett True September 22, 2011 at 7:02 am

    OK, such a comment is not to be taken seriously. But I see it as the tip of a very large iceberg of “we’re the best music writers on the planet and don’t we just know it. Everyone else is wrong.”

    That’s fair enough, Ninetyeightytwo. Such attitudes are always to be challenged. Over her at Collapse Board, we embrace our wrongness.

    I mean *here*

  36. Darragh September 22, 2011 at 7:47 am

    No more italics!

    That’s better.

  37. Darragh September 22, 2011 at 7:47 am

    blergh, that didn’t work

  38. Gerry September 22, 2011 at 10:24 am

    I really enjoyed Scott’s review, & I really enjoyed Adrian’s reply. I have not heard this record & am not familiar with Gotye. I do enjoy discussions about music though, and there was one going there for a little bit.

    I think it is vital to have a ‘critic’ you know, especially given the amount of available information floating about. Regardless of whether you agree with your critic or not, their position can inform your own. I guess I don’t see the point in trying to change your critic’s mind.

  39. emptyhead September 25, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Gentleman self hometown come
    Should know hometown affairs
    Come day silk window front
    Cold plum show flower not yet
    You also come from my home town,
    You must know all the home town news.
    At dawn, before the silken window,
    Is it too cold for plum blossom to show?

  40. shutupandlisten December 6, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    there is no actual music criticism in this thread.
    one-upmanship is sooo not attractive, so try forming a fucking opinion about the music.

    here’s an exsample:

    Gotye’s first album was hot. hot like the surface of the sun. hot like lycra in a brisbane summer. it was right. it was challenging. it sounded fresh. and just so, so sexy. it made me a fan, even his work with the basics grew on me after that album, really left me waiting for more.

    Making Mirrors was.. uncomfortable.. to listen to.
    The changing genres just made me feel like i was listening to a b-side radio station. The synth was excruciatingly over-used and he seemed to be hiding behind power-melodies with nothing that matched the mood, rather than crafting well rounded tunes that evoked a higher level of emotion.

    Oh there were some good songs on there, but they were hidden between crapola and shit-sauce.

    the hit ‘somebody that i used to know’ needed the vocals turned way up and the tempo slowed way down. It reminded me of the songs i used to make up in early highschool; the ones where you just jammed the words in there no matter how many syllables were going on. that was an awkward memory for me.

    There was some fun to be had in picking the influences of each song -Phil Collins was pretty obvious in his fist album and showed up a little in mirrors too.

    Easy way out was a great song, but again wally’s voice was too quiet and his everpresent knock out percussion and dubbing skills were played way down on this track – and it ends just when you think it’s going somewhere, like so many failed relationships.

    Eyes Wide Open blew me away, I still can’t stop listening to it. it crystalises the current thoughts most educated people are experiencing, but that’s besides the point – it’s a really engaging tune, lyrics that narrate effectively and it sounds seriously peter gabriel in parts. The drums forcibly drag you into the song, there is no argument. Yes it’s catchy, but so was mrs robinson, so was my generation, and so was just about everything the rolling stones wrote, so i’m not down on him for that.

    Smoke and mirrors was made for driving. More peter gabriel, but his voice just doesn’t let loose like you want him to.

    I Feel Better just felt like counterfeit motown. Unless I’m drunk – then it’s like the best opportunity to break it down like the supremes in my loungeroom. i don’t mind it then, but sober is just nasty. his voice is tight and he jammed way too many sounds into the track that dont flow into each other. shame really.

    In your light smacks of phil collins and i can’t resist that kind of cheese, so it works for me. It’s just made for cleaning your bathroom on saturday morning, but you wouldn’t want to live there.

    State of the art never, ever should have hogged a whole 5.22 of my life. he was trying to recreate A distinctive sound (which is patently brilliant no matter what you think of the second album, go listen now, then come back and keep reading…see? awesomesauce.
    It sucks balls, unfortunately. And no-one wants to suck balls for 5.22, right?

    The rest of the album sounded like gap-filler, so i’m not going to bother with writing about it.

    So all up, it kinda sucked, let me down etc etc. but sometimes a second album will do that. I think the next one will be better, so i’ll hang out for that.

  41. shutupandlisten December 6, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Adrian mentioned his process, and this is the link to the doco on how he found his sound for this album – check it out, i think now that he’s gotten the ‘experimenting-with-every-damn-sound-i-find’ part out of his system the next album is going to be smooooooth – enjoy!

    http://gotye.com/video.html?current-video=making-making-mirrors

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