Lorde – Writer in the Dark

We’ve now had a few days to digest Melodrama. I am suspicious of overly positive reviews so close to the release of an album. “Real” critics have previews, of course. Yet everyone is looking behind their shoulders — thinking, “what if the other critics have differing opinions to me? What if I look stupid?” Everyone’s waiting to see what everyone else thinks. Which is why Stereogum’s hack piece on Katy Perry — I won’t bother linking — is reactionary journalism based on taking the sentiment of the world~. And of course, all the other critics have similar thoughts! Take this sneering headline from Vice: “Sorry Katy Perry, We’ve Seen Your “Performance Art” Before”. Oh Vice! You are killing me with you alternative hot takes! So underground! So very now!

In other words, whilst the other critics are probably very nice people by and large their writing is baseless trash. Now, Russell Brown (via facebook) might claim that metacritic cannot lie. All the critics like it! Here is your evidence metacritic lies. IT’S ALL LIES:

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Melodrama is super serious. Even when it is appropriating dance record influences (‘boom boom boom’) it feels a little po-faced, a little self-serious. Obviously the intention is quite different from a dance record — one of the most misguided claims in reviews is that it is a breakup record disguised as a dance record. That sounds pretty clever, no? It’s a great line for parties. Unknown Pleasures is more of a dance record. A dance record has some kind of inward motion which propels it forward, compels it forward. Though I am allegedly reviewing a single here, the whole of Melodrama lacks this kind of momentum. When you are dancing you feel this momentum, willed by the record, and it makes you dance. Melodrama is not a dance record.


In my drafts for RRR, there are twenty eight posts. I won’t publish many of them. Three of the drafts are various attempts at writing about Melodrama. Every time the conclusion is Melodrama is like, maybe a B-. The struggle is explaining myself. Writer in the Dark is perhaps the best track, Kate Bush-esque in its exploration of vocal possibilities; that chorus like a circle of English crows. And yet..


And yet it feels fair to compare the two. Bush is a noted influence on Lorde, both albums centre around piano ballads. I don’t mean piano ballads in terms of Randy Newman, who uses the piano as punctuation. I mean piano ballads in terms of lush indulgence of the piano itself, a celebration of the piano as instrument. Bush is a lot older. Aerial is a document of domesticity, of being set in place. Melodrama is not about domesticity. It almost seems to be about being not fixed in place, about moving, about being in motion. Bush enjoys herself. “Swishy swashy swishy swashy/get those dirty shirties clean”. As a writer Bush isn’t afraid to seem ridiculous, to play with the accruements of everyday life. Her vocal experimentation follows suit. Writer in the Dark is a lot more leaden. ‘To be a good man for someone else/sorry I was never good like you” has the same self-serious significance any young adult carries around.


I don’t care about Lorde breaking up with her boyfriend and going out to party all night.


Ok – you say – you’re not the demographic. That’s a point. It’s a record aimed squarely at thin cis white females. If you’re not a cis white female? If you’re trans? Queer? Of colour? then the record can be hard to relate to. This is the pervading feeling that follows around Lorde/Taylor/et al when trying to engage with their work – the feeling when you enter into these spaces of white womanhood: Baby Showers, Hen’s Nights, cafes occupied entirely by thin women in Lululemon tights. It’s not such a struggle to engage with the privilege of wealth. Kanye unabashedly embraces it, rejects it, mocks it with startling clarity.


The best part is the really Kate Bushian part, where Lorde crows ‘I am my mother’s child/I love you til my breathing stops/I love you til you call the cops on me’ because for once Antonoff’s chorus-wall is effective, yet also because it’s Lorde at her most intimate, unafraid to sound like the madwoman in the attic. The accruements of white womanhood are exaggerated (’til my breathing stops’, like some Bridget Jones-esque caricature) til they fall apart, stretch, move about. It takes your breath away. B




Saturday Night – The River Jesters

Maybe The River Jesters should call themselves The River JETSTARS and then at least they would have a pun going for them but The River Jesters are too serious for puns. They don’t take their music IN JEST. More like The River SERIOUESERS, amiright?

I actually came into contact with this band which sounds like a bunch of walking penises slapping guitars into one another’s ballsacks through a tweet reply to a more talented Dunedin musician, who will go unnamed:Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 5.39.21 PM

What got me was NOT ALL MEN and I cackled and cackled and cackled until I had to have another sip of my Really Really Review Wellness Tonic (TM) and then I thought, with a name like the River Jesters, they’ve got to be goofy, right? Like — at best some middle aged dudes from Tauranga making lute-based prog rock, and I can get into that. But no — Saturday Night is more inane than Friday, by no.1 pop goddess Samantha Black. At least Friday is a no-holds barred lyrical JOURNEY through Samantha Black’s own life. I mean “Gotta make my mind up, which seat can I take” is a real QUAGMIRE many of us can relate to, us car-riding citizens of the world. When the singer in The River Jesters wails out “You want me, yeah you need me” it comes off as gross masculine posturing — I dislike this type of lyrical conceit in general. It can perhaps be pulled off by Bo Didley or Nicki Minaj, but not by some young faux-70s ‘rockers’ who sing it guilelessly without a trace of irony. The guitar solos are as rote as they are dull. The whole of The River Jesters output is inane yet deprived of any joy. In the words of DEAN OF ROCK CRITICS Robert Christmas, what is this shit?


Swish Swish – Katy Perry ft. Nicki Minaj

It’s been aprox. 2 years since my last post, so in a last-ditch desperate attempt for relevance I’m BEING INTERVIEWED BY THE SHAKING WRECKS OF FRAGILE MASCULINITY AT ZM. Ha ha that was a Lorde joke. No, but my attempt at relevance is opening up RRR to the whole world, because it was obviously chomping at the bit to be reviewed by this discerning mind. The best thing on Katy Perry’s new album isn’t on it. It’s Swish Swish, which sounds like Blood on the Dancefloor-era MJ. Just listen to that enunciation! (‘A tig-ah‘ ‘you’re cal-u-lated’). Or: it sounds like Katy Perry trying to sound like MJ trying to sound like Trent Reznor. Both Bowie and MJ made albums influenced by wee Trent, but MJ’s are superior by far — supremely odd inflected pop with disregard for slavish devotion. Swish Swish has impeccable timing. Listen to it loud. Wait for the ‘swish’ to drop. Listen to the pristine clicks. Listen to Perry inflect “number” like the deepest cut in a sea of deep cuts (‘numb-ah!’). Listen to Nicki predictably be Nicki (though ‘silly rap beats/just give me more cheques’ is a pretty sly wink and rebuke to Nicki’s recent collaborations with every pop singer ever) (uhm) (ah). A