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If Only I Could Be So Pretty: An Open, Conciliatory Hug From CMG

By Dom Sinacola | 22 December 2007

Dear Metacritic Message Board Guy Who Called Me a Dick,

Just wanted to say hello and thank you for recognizing my name and what I write enough to think I suck. I'm not being facetious when I say that and it saddens me to have to qualify that in the first place. But I'm serious. Announcing ".my main gripe is Sinacola is just a dick" isn't all bad, even though it's slightly crass. I hold more attention than, say, whatever gripe is at number fifteen.

I mean, I've honestly tried to soften up my reviews, to have them do less wandering. Not to rely so overtly on big words and puns. But I think you're making some unfair assumptions about what I write here at Cokemachineglow. Or maybe you give me too much credit. Which reminds me.

A few weekends ago, this was Pretty Boy Floyd AKA Money Mayweather after fulfilling his prophecy all up in Ricky Hatton's ass: "I'm just happy to be part of the Mayweather experience," he so humbly consoled the seething Brits after jabbing flashy through some rough first rounds, later standing by Marc Cuban and celebrating invulnerable American entrepreneurialism at its Dancing With the Stars-swinginest. It was marvelously said, I think; what better way to sum up the impenetrability of what he's created as both an athlete and a serious figure of celebrity business? Make the image bigger than the man and you make a machine. Of sorts. Hatton and De La Hoya were to be reckoned with for sure, and Mayweather can be a capital dick as easily as 50 Cent can buy a segway only to ride it through a barbershop, but that's how myths are built, and Mayweather talks a Beowulf game. Of course, a comically placed "I'm-a bust that ass" spent next to a sweating De La Hoya does not an icon crown, but factor in the family drama, the money, and Mayweather's absurd confidence and sports fans have themselves a bona fide saga. Which means Mayweather Jr.'s got himself a bona fide institution.

I love the guy, eat up every single bombastic contradiction he represents because he still knows how to flaunt the "Mayweather experience" so flawlessly, past the shame in Floyd Sr.'s voice when he interviews about his son, past the shameless milking of the gracious American teat. God bless you, 2007, you made the world safe for the super-image: Mayweather will never lose a fight, never lose his youthful exuberance and gobs of money. Same with the New England Patriots. It must be easy for Tom Brady to date the women that I want to date. Or all of reality will crumble.

And Guy Who Called Me a Dick, God bless me if I could ever muster up that kind of suction, but I don't and probably never will. Whatever thrill I feel writing Danny Seim a "congratulations on the Menomena camp getting a Grammy nod" e-mail is only butchered by the deprecating cadence I know Danny must read into my text, thinking how I am undoubtedly writing half-sentences between manic bits of looking over my shoulder to make sure my office boss isn't witnessing something not administrative- or marketing-related. Yeah, I work a day job and make it sound like I'm sacrificing integrity for that notion of survival. Sure, the e-mail smells of networking itself, but Danny's a friendly and giving guy and it was Danny who once asked me, while I flirted with a Friend and Foe obsession for the better part of this year, attempting to infuse my review of the album with overbearing, boyish joy, "What do you think happens when Slipknot takes off their masks?" I told him I didn't know and wondered what will happen when the Polyphonic Spree drinks the punch.

While I tried to balance my role as critical source with my role as music lover, I really only succeeded at stymieing the guy who made the music and who, to a certain extent, may have felt indebted to the critical source that was attempting to craft something with authority, something that could spread the word on Friend and Foe, open it up and put food on Danny's table. I couldn't help it: what Menomena did instead of allow me an argument and four paragraphs was stir up a loud wash of nostalgia. I was completely honest when I said that "My My" reminded me warmly of Jars of Clay, that whatever objectivity I typically stuck to was squandered enjoying that lovely memory of first playing "When the Levee Breaks" again in middle school and anticipating the opening percussion, getting goosebumps over something as simple as that. "Air Aid" pressed that node I told Danny, the same node tickled again as I started serial hours of Super Mario Galaxy muted to In Rainbows. Too bad insular, personal anecdotes and namedropping don't make for good business. Let alone good journalism. Danny didn't seem to mind as I meekly alienated some potential and built his band's review as an allusory circus.

The strangest bummer about having more than two people read your opinions about music is that sometimes expressing anything less tangible than concrete logic and a general reticence to the human beings behind the music isn't going to be greeted very kindly. Love is critical immolation (I think Ratatouille said all this better). And people don't read Pitchfork to get clued into the latest breed of early-twenties martyrs, amiright? Still, there're going to be a lot of viable economic targets just like me that won't buy the Deer Tick album or the latest Fog album because of mediocre and, in the case of Ditherer's, downright damning ratings.

I sound bitter because I like those records and I want those guys to succeed. In fact, I know the dude who wrote the Deer Tick review, I went to high school in Detroit with him and we now live in the same neighborhood in Chicago; I don't really believe in any ulterior politics governing the public relations apathy that he ultimately gave War Elephant. I just disagree with him big time, and it's unfortunate that such a rich and exciting album has some troubled times ahead because of that 5.8 it got sitting in the gutter of the daily five. Of course, my desire is only as warranted as the want of another writer to tell that ole boy DT to grow up, but maybe if we had talked it out over some Wii bowling or some New Belgium 1554 (new to Chicago, finally, as it's delicious; screw you guys in Iowa City for insulting my taste and only offering "beer from Colorado" as an alternative even though New Belgium is, um, from Colorado) then John McCauley's staunchly little album wouldn't teeter so precariously over the Used Records rack.

I guess I'm past the point of no return, have taken the masks off my nu-metal gimmick band so to speak, and maybe, Guy, you see that as my last step into the Dark Side of music criticism. I apologize, but what kind of person would I be if I had a Mayweather shield, if my every word only further sanctioned my immutable ideas until "Dom Sinacola" was cast in stone and I got to sit on the couch in my pajamas every morning drinking a cup of coffee and doing a crossword with my petite brunette wife until it was time to write a review after lunch? Maybe the same. So, at the mercy of ever being caught a fraud if in case I am ever lucky enough to comfortably support myself with a career in music journalism, let me tell you a few things to de-Mayweather my position here at CMG, lay on you some stains to my tenure:

. I hate myself when I listen to noise music. But I listen to it often. I'm talking about drone and feedback and grinding detritus and everything that sounds primally fun to make. And when I listen it's deftly, with headphones and an intent to stay focused. Afterwards I take out my self-loathing on insulting bands and musicians and other critics and, when all those wells have dried up, myself.

. I know next to nothing about Bob Dylan. I've never tried to earn whatever it is people find so rewarding about him and his songs. Documentaries about him are only boring, like visual jargon too steeped in itself to help me care. The sole reason for all this is laziness.

. I enjoy Linkin Park. Apparently I am never too lazy to attempt some justification for this enjoyment. I also enjoy John Mayer and a few weeks ago I gladly sold my copy of The Soft Bulletin to Reckless in order to obtain store credit to buy a copy of Room For Squares.

. I usually have these words edited out of my reviews: "ennui," "malaise," "spackle," "fat," "crunchy," "grooves," "thesaurus," "challenge," "heart," and "spangled." Though I've made a conscious effort to use "tagged" more often.

• I know that Geoff Farina is the lead singer of Karate, though I can only remember seeking out one Karate song and then never actually playing it. This fact was simply memorized the moment I decided to try music criticism, noted and stored and unearthed here for the first time.

. If someone sends me an e-mail that calls me a dick or singles me out as a dick on a message board, it hurts my feelings. Similarly, I'm terrified that I'm completely dependent on having my opinions validated, even praised, by my fellow writers and by readers. I wonder, Do they know that I see this stuff? Do they care?

. When I listen to Deerhunter, all I can imagine is that Bradford Cox probably smells really bad.

• Hip-hop intimidates me. I'm convinced that I will always lack the commitment to contribute uniquely to any discussion about it. Same goes for the Cure, the Smiths, Pavement, the Band, Velvet Underground, Zappa, and even artists I claim to love like Talking Heads or Prince or the Pixies or Spoon. I sincerely am starting to see that I have nothing to add to their legacies, that I shouldn't even bother to dance around their statues because -- one last confession -- I can't dance anyway.

There's lots more, of course, plenty of black and white, unattractive things I could tell you better left hidden. And even now what's the difference between revealing some more ugly stuff and reaching to preserve some reputation that's pretentious to assume anyway? A solipsistic plea-bargain's all I got. Please stop making fun of me, dear CMG reader, because my prose is clumsy and impenetrable; at least I'm never dishonest. I'll never claim that I'm-a bust any ass. In turn, if you keep reading, maybe we can talk about some good music, actually consider each other, entertain the other's stances and conceits, try to understand how our arguments work when all we want to do is tell the other about how great something sounds. Or could have sounded.

Perhaps instead of levying insults at each other (as I once thought: "Well, my main gripe is your ugly face.") or clamoring for the last word in a devolving beratement, we can both admit that the universe is a shrinking place and that all this poisonous boardtalk only takes room away from the music itself, the music that we're supposed to be discussing anyway because that's what the music deserves, right?

I mean, I was never cut out to represent any real truth in music criticism. There probably isn't any, if truth in music criticism is anything more than an honest effort to communicate admiration as a mix of fanboy obsessions and prudent, technical vocabulary. Maybe you don't think so, Guy Who Called Me a Dick. I wish you did, and I wish you could like me more. I'm no machine after all. I weep; my stomach-lining ulcers. My scattered musings are never meant to stab you in the heart or kill your faith in Internet zines or shit on your newborn kittens, just to figure out the line between love and fifteen dollars for a compact disc. If there is one.

Ya know, in other words, just don't take it so personally,
Dom