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A Disappointing Year for Music, by Mark Erickson

Two weeks ago the Wall Street Journal featured an article in its Life and Arts section called, “What Happened to the Negative Review?” Writer Neil Shah posited that critics these days are less able to interview musical artists; instead, they rely on self-promotion in this digital era. Shah also wrote that critics are more likely to write positive reviews in order to please artists who could shun the outlet in the future in response to a negative review. Shah cites statistics from Metacritic, which aggregates reviews for television shows, movies, video games, and music. Regarding the latter, Metacritic reported that over the last few years that out of over 7,000 musical releases, only EIGHT received a “red” score. The article defines a red score as “generally unfavorable” or worse.

With last Christmas, 2017 Father’s Day, and my birthday (7/11) having passed, family members gave me seven musical releases – some appeared on a list and others did not. These releases included Neil Young’s Peace Trail, two by Opeth (Blackwater Park legacy edition and their latest, Sorceress), Roger Waters’ is this the life we really want?, David Bowie’s last release, Dark Star, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and the latest from Al Jourgensen’s latest musical incarnation, Surgical Meth Machine.

Let me tell you how boring, monotonous, and totally un-rockish the releases are by Young, Bowie, and Waters. I’ve listened to them each twice, and will probably never listen to them again. Very disappointing. The Opeth releases do not equal their masterpieces though Sorceress has its moments. The reason I asked for Lamar’s cd was two-fold. I heard one rap song, “The Blacker the Berry,” which played during the credits of the film about writer James Baldwin, I am Not Your Negro. That song really punched me in the face. I had also seen Mr. Lamar perform a multi-layered funky number that equaled anything by George Clinton. I’m not a rap or hip-hop guy, but do recognize that Kendrick Lamar is extremely talented!

Of course, I had to get the latest from the Ministry frontman. The first half of the debut by SMM incorporates Ministry’s past – the industrial, programming, sampling, and thrash – to create a fantastic beginning. However, the second half is subpar, and the final song is boring, monotonous, and does not rock at all. Every time I listen to the opening track, “I’m Sensitive,” I crack up. Jourgensen vocals:

Hello folks. It has come to my attention lately that I am sensitive. Apparently I am so sensitive that I read your little Face Book comments and actually take them to heart. And some of them are very very cruel. And I must say this just leaves me blanking empty, making me very sensitive to your comments. Well, I’ve been thinking about this. And I’ve decided to change tactics. My new way of interpreting your rants against my person is to just say, “I just don’t fucking care!”

He continues…

Keep talking shit, keep talking shit. Doesn’t bother me a fucking bit. Keep talking shit, I’ll just unfriend you and then I quit.

To summarize, I received too many lame musical releases in the last seven months.

Mark Erickson

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