An End Has a Start

Reviewed by: Ian Cohen
Reviewed on: 2007-07-17

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Posted 07/17/2007 - 07:57:24 AM by smezzer:
 "Do the 2000's really have to end like this—with Final Straw revealing itself as one of the ten most influential albums of the new century?" Amen
Posted 07/17/2007 - 01:02:14 PM by mdf---:
 Stylus has long been my favourite internet based magazine as it seems to be the only one almost entirely consistant with my own opinions on music and, importantly, the quality of the writing is usually ace. This review reminds me of something I read on the site a nummber of months ago concerning "disposable" pop music (eg Girls Aloud). In the article the writer talked about the "dark ages" of music journalism wherein anything of a specious nature was dismissed, and said that those days were over. I think that kind of thing is now referred to a rockist viewpoint? Anyway apparently there is one rule when it comes to reviewing pure poppy pop, and another when it comes to innoffensive indie-rock. Bands like Coldplay, Snow Patrol and now Editors get mauled every time by this site and many others and its starting to get a bit repetitive. Now I admit I've only heard "Smokers..." from this particular album and it seems nice, effectively produced with a rousing, anthemic mood. I really can't see what is so bad about that. We're all aware that its not hugely innovative and blah blah, essentially its just a good tune, which is fine. What is the difference between this pop and Girls Aloud pop? This question extends beyond just the "U2 inspired bands", what is so difficult to accept about these "NME bands"? Are they all being disparaged purely by association? U2 aren't so bad, "City of Blinding Lights" is an awesome song, and the NME exists to sell itself, unlike stylus which seems to get by on credibility alone. Why do all the "good tunes" have to be about going to a club and not an emotional state?
Posted 07/17/2007 - 02:48:22 PM by meatbreak:
 mdf, I guess you're waiting for Ian to answer really, but since I always stick my oar in I see no reason to spare this. I hear what you're saying about the seeming double standards of reviewing between Pure Pop and Indie. It's as if Pop is now deemed an entirely distinct entity where we are supposed to accept that it is focus grouped, photoshopped and pro-tooled to meet the demands of a defined audience, so we ignore all that and focus on the quality of music within that capitalist market driven system, comparing it to only other releases of that form. When it comes to Indie however, those same laws of the market that apply to bands like Editors, Maximo Park, the View et al. get ignored and albums are savaged because they are being held against the rockist canon of 'greats' (see the comment string below Ian Mathers' Husker Du 'On First Listen' article for an exposition on the futility and pretence of that), and are given a much harder time of it accordingly. However, Stylus has reviewed a lot of Pure Pop and totally caned it for the same reason, but my opinion is that it's just not worth giving the space over to stuff you don't like - to which the retort is that Stylus want their opinions on it in the public domain, which I kind of agree with, but still see it as a waste of space. I completely disagree with your final comment about the high scores going to club tunes and none about emotion - though the Of Montreal grade should have been an A+ for sure.
Posted 07/17/2007 - 03:35:49 PM by espechemode:
 On Metacritic Stylus Magazine reviews are ALWAYS the most negative so it's not surprising that this album got trashed. You guys make Pitchfork look impartial and unbiased.
Posted 07/17/2007 - 03:38:31 PM by mdf---:
 With the last comment I made I was really just asking again why a song like Coldplay's "The Hardest Part", which is just a good as something like R. Kelly's "I'm a Flirt", can't be granted the same unbiased consideration. Ok maybe Its not quite as good as "...Flirt" but y'know what I mean. Cheers for sticking your oar in meatbrreak. Also from what I know about Editors D- actually seems fair, it was only the content I seriously disagree with.
Posted 07/18/2007 - 04:21:15 AM by yarn24:
 D- is ridiculously harsh but not surprising given the review Interpol's new album got. Stylus really does make sites like Pitchfork and Cokemachineglow look like Entertainment Weekly lately with the harsh reviews they've been handing out. Anything rousing and anthemic gets panned, anything electronic and a little off-kilter gets raves. I myself am more of a fan of the off-kilter (The National, Of Montreal, and the new Super Furries disc are currently my top three albums of the year), but I don't think bands like Editors and Interpol are complete shit. They definitely have their redeeming qualities, and while they aren't as good as the The National's and SFA's of the world (both lyrically and musically), they don't deserve D range grades, even from overly snobbish critics.
Posted 07/18/2007 - 05:03:03 AM by Carnivore:
 While the album is a disappointment in comparison to the band's previous effort, I do think D- is a little harsh. The band are still capable of writing great melodic, uplifting music and there are tracks on this record that could conceivably rank as some of the finest released this year (Escape The Nest, title track). The review itself is very well written and makes a very convincing argument but I can't help but feel that sentences like "So you can imagine such a sharp U-turn in songwriting ends up sounding like the work of someone who was a cum laude graduate of the 'Fix You' Night School of Emotional Fascism, where damaged damsels can only be redeemed by ubermensches of empathy like Smith himself" were probably written before the reviewer even heard the record. Also, we're not given any examples of where this supposed emotional fascism occurs. On what track? In what lyric? Other than that, I do agree that Smith needs a lot of development as a lyricist. Far too often he veers into banal territory and Urbanowiscz's four-square, geometric guitar lines are becoming very boring very fast.
Posted 07/18/2007 - 05:32:16 AM by alexa17:
 I'm not trying to be antagonistic here, but it's true; Stylus is beginning to stand out among the websites as the tedious statement-maker. From the songs I've heard, the Editors album is banal, and they should be punished for it -- but not at the expense of a reliable grade. If you were to give them a C- or D+, you'd still get the point across -- that they've taken their sound in the wrong direction and ruined any hope they had of distinguishing themselves -- but it would be a reasonable score. Below average, and utterly dull. But not completely inept. You really are making Pitchfork look like the mature ones in the game, not only in scores, but in tone. Say what you want about Pitchfork, but their reviews are usually characterized by some intellectual curiosity/honesty - no matter how indulgent - whereas the Stylus reviews are almost invariably (and insufferably, AND indulgently) snarky. I don't give a crap about Editors, but Stylus is no longer useful if it's preoccupied with commenting on larger trends rather than individual albums.
Posted 07/18/2007 - 05:46:32 AM by alexa17:
 Supporting my point: Pitchfork gives it a 4.9 (certainly not a great score by anyone's standards, but probably more fair). It's thoughtfully critical, and the faint praise comes in the form of "their songs don't totally suck." You see, it is possible to get a message across with a bit of basic nuance. You're either insulting your own intelligence or ours. You know, I really should have written this stuff in the Interpol section -- I repeat, am NOT defending Editors!!
Posted 07/18/2007 - 12:45:43 PM by OrvilleM:
 I concur wholeheartedly with nearly every comment above, especially those from ‘mdf’ and ‘yarn24’. And unlike Alexa17, I guess I *will* defend the Editors. I mean, all this talk about reviewing ‘pop’ as ‘pop’ but then slamming the likes of Coldplay is probably one of my biggest gripes about publications like Stylus. For me, the album worked. For a while. At first I was turned off by the production, but I was stuck in traffic and let the whole thing play through instead of slicing it up like I’m wont to do. And for some reason, at that space and time, the songs clicked and I made a connection with them at some level. That’s not to say that this album was suddenly catapulted atop my personal favorites list, but just that for what it is (a collection of bloated, human-condition anthems) it worked for me. Call me crazy. I love off-kilter stuff – just like ‘yarn24’ – Of Montreal and SFA are two of my favorite bands…but I always, inevitably, reach this point in my music listening cycle where I just want some straightforward anthemic stuff. Then, after a couple spins of the Editors or U2, or *gasp*, Coldplay, I’m ready to get back to the quirky staples of my collection. A D- rating is especially harsh for this album. In the moment that I really enjoyed it, I would have given it a B+…coming off that high, I’d say a C+ or B- would suffice. Mainly just because of so many references of running through “fields of trees” – which, in case they didn’t know, are sometimes referred to as “forests”. But you know, before I even clicked on the Metacritic page for The End Has a Start, I made a mental list of the various magazines that would slam this “type” of album, and guess what? I was spot on! Why is that? Because Stylus’ reaction to this “type” of music is just as predictable as they claim the music to be. But, music-critic street-cred does not come easily these days, and admitting to liking just an ounce of this genre would be akin to career suicide. This review comes off very similarly to the Interpol review, as others have said here, it seems to have been written months prior to the first listen. Too bad Ian couldn’t have pulled a “Soto” for us and just gone into a full-on critique of the Editor’s latest grooming habits or band-crowd interaction level at some past concert. Now that’s what I look for in my music reviews. But back to my view of the album, I’m glad to hear that the two bands are separating from each other more (Editors & Interpol, that is) or probably more like I’m glad to hear the Editors try to ape some other groups. The shoe fits, and it sounds comfortable. They might even “wear it like a dove” according to some.
Posted 07/18/2007 - 02:47:42 PM by alexa17:
 "Because Stylus’ reaction to this “type” of music is just as predictable as they claim the music to be." Well said.
Posted 07/18/2007 - 04:58:58 PM by OrvilleM:
 ^ Someone read my excruciatingly long post! And you made a great point with your comment. It's funny how in trying to build up so much credibility, these guys lose it by going too far. "A bit of basic nuance" would be a well-applied approach indeed.
Posted 07/18/2007 - 05:56:57 PM by mdf---:
 OrvilleM, I think you've pretty much summed up these comments, It's clear the reviewer had a preconceived notion of what this band's about and found it difficult to part with when given the task of evaluating their new album. I suppose if every review was completely objective it would make for a boring site and fewer interesting comment/conversation thingys. I do think you need some balance however, and Ian Cohen displayed none here.
Posted 07/23/2007 - 04:46:58 AM by cinatyte:
 "Because Stylus’ reaction to this “type” of music is just as predictable as they claim the music to be." I just wanted to repeat this line once again for maximum impact. I don't want to rag on the Stylus staff too much (except for Passantino), but I just agree that it has become far too predictable. Pitchfork tends to rag on stuff, too, but their writers usually include relatively in-depth reasonings for why they give an album a particular rating. I just get the impression that Stylus will never give Kelly Clarkson anything lower than a B or Editors anything higher than a D. Take this as you will.
Posted 07/23/2007 - 02:47:54 PM by OrvilleM:
 Wow, that quote is getting a lot of mileage…I’ve been thinking about it more and more, and perhaps Stylus (like other like-minded, heavy-handed music publications) gets a bad rap (somewhat) unfairly. I mean, when you browse through the reviews, you get the feeling that it’s all about who the review was assigned to. Ian Cohen, for instance, gave Travis’ latest effort a B-, what seems to be a fair and balanced review – if not overly fair. I happen to like that album, too, but I found it lacking compared to some of their previous achievements…but that’s not worth getting into here. Another example of similar music getting the “nice” treatment from Stylus is Embrace. Nick Southall notes that Embrace is one of his favorite bands, but you get the feeling that This New Day wouldn’t have received similar marks from many of his “if it’s not glitchy-indie-electronic, it’s crap” Stylus-peers. I’m not saying that they should hand pick assignments based on whether or not the critic in question enjoys the particular band, but it would be interesting to see a composite score from an entire panel of writers. Soto’s bashing of Interpol’s mustaches and this pre-listening-written review of the Editors might turn out to be anomalous when compared to the entire group. To that end, it does seem like some of the reviews fall prey to their own predictable outcome…a band like the Editors, who were critically lauded the first time out, get smacked down for, apparently, being too vaguely anthemic. Embrace, who personify the idea of “anthemic” (and another band that I enjoy, albeit in small doses) are sort of the underdog, however, since their “glory” days are nearly a decade old. Since the Editors are “fresh” and “new”, they get slapped, but the relatively not-talked-about Embrace (and Travis) are safe to lavish (minimal) praise upon. Certainly, the policy gets fuzzy when comparing Kelly Clarkson reviews to Editors reviews, but you get a much more accurate cross-section when you throw Embrace and Travis in the mix. That’s where the inconsistencies are more glaring.
Posted 08/09/2007 - 05:35:04 PM by cwperry:
 Doesn't it stand to reason that if Subject A is predictable and similar in all its permutations, Analyst A will always have a similar response? OrvilleM's statement is not the missing link of genius that everyone is making it.
Posted 08/09/2007 - 05:35:51 PM by cwperry:
 P.S. Editors is about the worst band I can think of in the last three years, which might also have something to do with the low rating here.
Posted 08/14/2007 - 11:33:11 AM by mdf---:
 I don't think its as simple as that. "Analyst A" ought to have a creative enough mind to recognise "Subject A" for what it is and, with thought, review it. The album doesn't always define what's written about it through its own sounds and style. Interpretation is a non-specific thing surely? Also, what does "Editors is about the worst band I can think of in the last three years" even mean?