The Talkhouse is a website dedicated entirely to musicians writing about music. This is a noble goal and an interesting way out of the rock-critic echo chamber. But every once in a while, it will forcefully show us that a gifted musician can also be an absolutely appalling writer. Case in point: Arcade Fire’s Will Butler, who just reviewed Grimes’ staggering new album Art Angels and who should never write anything other than song lyrics ever again.
Butler’s Art Angels review seems to be, more than anything else, about his own views on digital pop music, which he detests. He seems to be wrestling with the idea that this Grimes album, which (I think) he likes, draws on all this music that he loathes. Choice quotes:
• “My problem — my personal problem — is that I grew up prejudiced against 2000s pop, and that the atmosphere of the Jurassic period has the wrong ratio of elements for my organism. I’m more Cretaceous.”
• “I appreciate and admire Art Angels. That sounds lame — no, it’s like how Orthodox Jews and devout Mormons get along.”
• “There’s a lot of filter sweeps on the bass and drums, either at the starts of songs or the ends of songs or in the middle of songs, and it instantly makes me feel like I’m listening to ‘I’m blue boo da ba dee da boo die doo daba dee daboo die.” That’s just the song that was everywhere in my teenage years, and I hated it. And I hate it still.” (The song Butler is referencing is Eiffel 65’s 1999 single “Blue (Da Ba Dee),” and even if you hate it, you still have to spend the two seconds it takes to Google it and discern the actual title.)
Butler also goes into digressions about Elijah and the priests of Baal, about whether U2’s “Mysterious Ways” “earns” its funkiness, and about how he personally learned how to stop hating reggae. And look: I know I’m not exactly Joan Didion out this motherfucker, and it’s generally a bad idea for writers to publicly call each other out for bad writing. But this thing is rough. Butler should be glad that he plays in a great and popular band and that he will never have to try to make a living in the competitive field of rock criticism.
You can read the whole thing here.