Music Journalism Cliches
October 11, 2004 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Music journalism clichés. I'm trying to compile a list of clichéd rock journalism similes, along the lines of 'sounds like a cat being strangled', or 'sounds like a drum-kit being thrown down a stairwell'. Trawling through 40 years of archives will prove to be somewhat time-consuming. Can anyone help me out with any? Points scored for the ridiculous/absurd, points deducted for ones you've made up yourself. Thanks!
posted by nylon to Writing & Language (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"New Dylan," "next Bob Dylan," "this generation's Bob Dylan" and any variations thereof. Beyond being hackneyed, it's often the kiss of death to any artist it's misapplied to.
posted by jonmc at 5:36 PM on October 11, 2004

points deducted for ones you've made up yourself

oops - unless of course you're a respected music journalist.
posted by nylon at 5:39 PM on October 11, 2004

long-awaited second album
posted by planetkyoto at 5:56 PM on October 11, 2004

I've seen the phrase 'angular guitars' used literally dozens of times to describe any band that sounds anything remotely like Polvo.
posted by saladin at 6:04 PM on October 11, 2004

"Eponymous second album"
"...brings to mind Phil Spector's legendary 'Wall of Sound' technique..."
"...prowled the stage like a caged animal."
"muscular riffs"
"...evades [or succumbs to] the dreaded 'sophomore slump'..."
"Jagger in his youthful, pouting prime"
"...the peaceful tenor of the late sixties officially disappated as Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by the Angels..."

I'm sure I can think of more - I'll post later if so.
posted by GriffX at 6:17 PM on October 11, 2004

-- "... sounds like Band X and Band Y in a blender."

-- "... sounds like Band X on acid [or speed, or oxycontin, whatever]."

-- "... sounds like Band X in a time warp to [whenever]"

-- "... sounds like Band X with a chainsaw"

not similes, but also nerve-grating:

-- "lush soundscape"

-- "latest outing" or "latest effort" in referring to a new album

-- mentioning how your cat reacted to hearing it for the first time

-- "songsmith"

/spent too many years copyediting music magazines
posted by lisa g at 6:39 PM on October 11, 2004

Oh, also: comparing any group with women musicians (especially sisters) to the Shaggs. That's right; we're all enthusiastic 14-year-olds who haven't mastered barre chords yet!

/loves the Shaggs
posted by lisa g at 6:42 PM on October 11, 2004

"the newest british invasion"

"retro-(anything)" or "(anything)revival"
posted by amberglow at 8:13 PM on October 11, 2004

You'll want the "Rock Snob's Dictionary" articles in the November issues of Vanity Fair of recent years. Google it and you'll hit some coverage on my sites.
posted by joeclark at 8:24 PM on October 11, 2004

haunting melodies...obtuse guitars...-core...
posted by drezdn at 8:41 PM on October 11, 2004

Band A's awesome new release, "..." combines the postrock postpunk industrial stylings of obscure Band B you never heard of with the emo stylings of obscure Band C, producing a sound like Jackson Browne going down on Joey Ramone. In one of the most anticipated albums of the year, Band A's mysterious front man, Surly Haircut, takes his art to a new level, rawly exploring his relationship with his mother and crack in howling, tortured lyrics like "perfectly obvious metaphor/something something semaphore." When I was a kid, I wanted to be Lester Bangs. Did I mention that yet? Also, I got high with the band. I hate them, and myself.
posted by melissa may at 8:52 PM on October 11, 2004

"(inset band name here) have (finally) grown up"
anything about saving rock and roll
"best band since..."
"this could be the best album of the year!!!"

or my favorite
"I don't want to lower myself to lame cliches, but (insert lame cliche)"
posted by Quartermass at 8:54 PM on October 11, 2004

"balls out rock"

"In the end, (insert album x) suffers largely from the hype---there’s no way this album could be as good as it was supposed to be."

" (band x) is challenging expectations and listeners by stretching theri musical boundaries and defying people to come along for the ride through close listening."

"(album X) is an essential listen for anyone interested in where music might take them."

"A record filled with such emotional scope and range that it's tailor-made to showcase (band x's) world weary roar."

" (Album X) is nothing short of remarkable."

"(band x) trumps any pretension with melody and sheer fervor."

"(album x) is a tour de force"

"(band x's) jaw-dropping debut..."
posted by Quartermass at 9:13 PM on October 11, 2004

I spent quite a while compiling rock critic cliches for my Robot Rock Critic.
posted by inksyndicate at 10:36 PM on October 11, 2004

"This is finally the album/act that will bring techno into the mainstream!"
posted by kindall at 12:59 AM on October 12, 2004

not similes but interesting: ILM: dumbest music journalist term
posted by donth at 1:20 AM on October 12, 2004

Kind of a post-cliche - the NME once said Idlewild were the sound of 'a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs'
posted by ascullion at 1:38 AM on October 12, 2004

'sonic cathedrals....' - every bloody time!

and : '-esque' - grrrrrr
posted by mattr at 2:33 AM on October 12, 2004

It's a guitar. Not a bloody axe.
posted by salmacis at 2:44 AM on October 12, 2004

Is it too soon to try to step on "screamo?"
posted by jfuller at 4:47 AM on October 12, 2004

I feel a need to reach for my gun every time I read either "seminal" or "high-octane." Or anything with "-core" suffixed to it.

Also: that phase in the mid-90s when rock writers thought it was clever to try to string together seemingly disparate music descriptors like "slamgrass," "thrashgrass,"... other examples are elusive at the moment, but oh god that shit makes me wretch.
posted by yalestar at 8:44 AM on October 12, 2004

Similes, people, similes!
I really appreciate the answers you've all given so far, don't get me wrong, but I was specifically asking for similes, not your generic, common-or-garden cliché.
posted by nylon at 9:20 AM on October 12, 2004

Actually, screamo (as a label) has been around since the early nineties. Its kind of funny, but I remember arguing about which bands were "screamo" and which were just "emo" back on alt.punk in 1995. I actually started alt.emo myself back in '96.

The agreed schism at the time came between bands like Texas is the Reason, Boys Life, Ordination of Aaron and the like - melodic, leaning towards shoegazer style, with mostly singing (though some screaming was acceptable) was emo. Screamo was a term for band that play old style emo - i.e. really emotional (here is another cliche - "heartfelt") music, with lots and lots of screaming - i.e. Rites of Spring, Mos Icon, my all time favorite, a band called Frail, and most of the Ebullition Records roster at the time.

Unfortunately, like all good subcultures, "emo" has now been commodified, and such labels don't really apply any more. Also, it is kind of embarassing now with all my old school emo LP's and 7"'s, I am completely sick of most of it due to the fact that every mall girl in the world love "emo" now. Ugh. I mostly listen to Hip hop now.
posted by Quartermass at 9:31 AM on October 12, 2004

I once read a review of Daft Punk's Discovery that described the song "Digital Love" "like the incidental love theme music from Magnum P.I.".

I think that's possibly the only time I've ever heard any reference to the music on Magnum P.I.
posted by Down10 at 9:40 AM on October 12, 2004

I think you're being too ambitious, nylon. You don't want just rock critic's clichés, but the rock similes that are also clichés?

I suggest just getting a stack of Rolling Stone and Spin issues from years past and just have at it. After all, at what point would you even know that a simile had become a (recognizable) cliché?
posted by Down10 at 9:47 AM on October 12, 2004

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