Not the Pazz and Jop 1973 – #4

Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure

(This is going to get a bit meta, so please bear with me. I will (eventually) get to Roxy Music.)

A while back, a friend described what I do here as criticism. I don’t think that’s accurate, though I do have opinions about what I listen to because, hey, I’m a human being with functioning ears and a soul. I think a lot of the time, music critics feel like frauds. Everything cultural is about taste, and we all have it. I may think you are crazy for liking Jethro Tull, but what I can’t say is that you are wrong to like them. Well, I can say it, and you can tell me to go to hell and that I’m just as crazy for liking Olivia Rodrigo. And we are both right, and also both wrong. And it doesn’t matter, because everyone who disagrees with us can ignore anything we have to say on the issue.

I (almost) never feel like a fraud on this blog. I do this for free, so if I want to babble on for several paragraphs then take a parting shot at a band – it’s coming – I can, and you can read it or not. But what about people who get paid to do this? What is a writer to do when an editor needs 500 words on something you don’t give a shit about and the rent is due?

It’s easy to write about things I love – just open a vein, as they say, and it flows out, whether it’s an old love like the Bay City Rollers, or a new one like Can. It’s also pretty easy to write about things you don’t like – I rather enjoy coming up with new digs at Jethro Tull. The worst are things I like and respect but don’t feel passionate about, or that I can’t connect to my own experience. Stevie Wonder is frickin’ awesome, but I had so little to say about “Innervisions” that the piece I wrote doesn’t even sound like me. If you’re reading this, it’s because you like my voice, and if that’s lost, I don’t really have anything to offer that you can’t find somewhere else from someone who knows a buttload more about music than I do.

Anyway, my point (you knew it was coming) is that, while it is growing on me a bit, this feels like a record that only a music critic could love from the get-go, because it invites extensive commentary, and soon enough you have those 500 words. It all seems very clever and creative, but to me there is almost nothing here that grabs the listener and makes you pay attention. It’s a very mannered record, all artsy pretense and rich sounding and dry as fuck. The one track that stood out was “Grey Lagoons”, with a rockabilly feel dominated by pianos and horns that is just messy and energetic and fun. This record definitely needed more fun. But critics loved it, and through some madness it ended up as the 4th best record of the year in their estimation. If anyone actually listens to this for pleasure, I’d love to hear from them. Because I have a 10cc record I think they should check out – and Olivia Rodrigo, too, for that matter.

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