Rock Critics: a lop bam boom

OK - I admit it: I have a thing about rock journalism. I stopped reading rock reviews years ago because so much of it was utterly bewildering (a bit like this sentence; can rock reviews be an 'it'?).

It's as if the reviewers have a completely different set of parameters for assessing music to either the fans or the musicians: y'know - rock writers are from Mars... musicians are from Bradford. It only struck me quite recently that rock reviewers are blighted by their job: they can only ever be followers, never leaders - and that's the difference.

It doesn't matter how bad the music is, it's the critic's job to follow it. The talent with the velveteen trousers and the harmonica patched through a digital effects rack doing ambient soundscapes (hmmm - there's an idea) still makes the poor reviewer clamber through hoops trying to discover whether this represents a new urban movement, or if it's a sly post-modern dig at Larry Adler or if those really are rather cool velveteen trousers. You could be the worst doe-eyed Britney Spears wannabee, but the reviewer still has to wait until you've got up on that stage and sung your song before their venom can fly.

I mean, how do you qualify for the job? Charles Shaar Murray describes rock journalists as failed English under-graduates (and I'll get to that later) but I suspect that most rock writers (notice how skillfully I avoid the expression 'rock hacks' - shite: I've said it) fell in love with the romance of rock music at some point, took the job and then got stuck.

That's why rock journos are all desperate for a new movement, like punk or dance or (but preferably not) folk. That's why you get nonsense like 'This band will change your life!" headlines every year or so. These people believed that rock music meant something new and fresh and different and they wanted in on the revolution. They wanted to march at the front waving banners proclaiming "we found it first". And yet there they have to sit, drumming their fingers waiting for some callow youth to be proclaimed the new saviour of rock n' roll.

Look, I'm trying to give these people the benefit of the doubt here: I'm not even going to touch on the cynicism that permeates the industry from manager and distributor to plugger and hack (bugger - said it again).

But the problem is that most rock journalists seem peculiarly ill-suited to review their subject. I often get the feeling that journos can't distinguish between arrangement and production or content and delivery. Actually, some of them can't even tell the difference between music and clothes. I saw one promising Manchester band go down to London for a showcase gig and get a negative review about the fact that they wore hats. I kid you not. No mention of the music, Just a long rant about bands that wore hats.

And then there's the failed english undergraduates... Sheesh!

OK - here's the scenario: five kids get together in a garage and start writing tunes. They bang away for a while and then decide they're great but they need a singer. So they get a singer called Spike with all the right moves and the tone they wanted and they're brilliant! And they do a showcase gig and everyone is astounded and the band and the talent scouts watch the papers and the journo says, "Spike sings with bravado 'Baby I want you/ It's now and I want you/ you know that you want to', but I'm afraid I don't and it's about as now as my mullet."

Since when did words have anything to do with pop music?

Wang wang doodle?

Wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom?

Despite the fact that I haven't read the music papers in years, I managed to catch a review of U2's latest album last week in a UK daily paper. It complained that the band were doing nothing new and then quoted lyrics to prove it: "As Bono notes in "All Because of You": "I just arrived; I'm at the door/ Of the place I started out from."

Well, there's a surprise.

Anyway, enough ranting, I'm off to wang my doodle...

Or should that be doodle my wang?