Monday, March 20, 2006

The New York Times Rocks On; Beefs Up Its Music Critic Corps

At last, the paper of record discovers a genre
Hasn't been apparent if it's happened earlier, but I noticed in today's N.Y. Times arts section two reviews that said "Rock Review" for the teaser head. That's notable, as the Times, no matter how hard or loud the music, has long said "Pop Review," as if System of a Down and the Backstreet Boys could somehow be lumped into the same category.
In any event, good to see the Times arts domos getting some new pop/rock reviewers into the fold. Laura Singara, who's toiled for the late Tracks magazine and the Village Voice, has been getting some ink of late. Today's paper had her engaging take on a rare concert by cult faves Silver Jews.
Also, on the same page was a review of a Stereolab show by Hawaii native Nate Chinen, who's also done time at the Village Voice, Philadelphia City Paper and Billboard Online, among other outposts. Chinen's also co-wrote the autobiography of jazz impresario George Wein.
Chinen knows his stuff, no doubt. But he has to avoid catching Parelesitis, the contagion spread by Times chief rock critic Jon Pareles, who gets so enamored with his music erudition that he often forgets to tell you whether the music is actually worth listening to.
Chinen needs to avoid writing more sentences like these, from the Stereolab piece:

For much of its 15-year recording history, this British band has produced a gleaming alloy of retro-rock that offers the cool reassurance of meticulous order. But the group has also trafficked in pseudo-Marxist rhetoric, despairing or superior or alarmist in tone.

Huh? Is someone at the copy desk actually reading this stuff? Or, do they have no clue and hope the critic does?

Better instead, to emulate Kalefa Sanneh, whose lead sentence in a review of the new Kenny Rogers album is a typical winner.

Barely five minutes into the new Kenny Rogers album, the guy starts singing about swastikas.

Rock On!

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