Remember those album-review sites? You know the ones – not AllMusic or Pitchfork or PopMatters. The ones that cropped up around ten years ago, maybe more. Not blogs, but websites with coloured backgrounds and ratings systems, usually numbered ones or graphics (one dot = crap, five dots = essential). You know, where they review whole catalogues of bands, in chronological order? I did a whole post on them at one of the old blogs – can’t remember if it was “Pond Of Tunes” or “Blog Is Not…”
I found another one of those review sites yesterday, while searching for information about the song “Sugar The Road“, by Ten Years After (the English psychedelic/blues-rock band). I was looking for some insight into whether Alvin Lee, the lead singer and guitarist of T.Y.A., really had sympathies with the counter-culture, or was just band-waggoning it for record sales. I suspect it’s the former, though I don’t know if Alvin ever dropped acid, or even smoked a joint er two. I never did find any solid evidence – but I did end up checking out the review site. It’s called Only Solitaire and the reviews are by a guy called George Starostin. From what I can tell, he’s a Russian linguist who studied for a time in the U.S.
He’s got a passion for the music, I can say that much and his command of English is miles better than my command of Cyrillc (which I suppose isn’t saying too much, as my command of that language is pretty much zilch). He worships at the altar of the 1960s, particularly the “Big Three” British bands (Beatles, Stones & Who), plus the lone Yank in the pack, Bob Dylan. He has a page of his musical ‘creed’, made up of philosophical “superstitions”, where he outlines his taste. Granted, he’s updated most of his tastes since then (I’m guessing around the year 2000, Gregorian calendar) and he’s happy to admit that – but honestly, it seems a bit dangerous to me, to say “The 1960s was the best decade for music”, as it gives already far-too-smug baby boomers another soap-box to declare how much better they are than anyone else. I can see where he’s coming from, as I used to have the same opinion…I just never had a website to give the boomers the opportunity to showboat.
He also uses the word ‘pretentious’ much too much, particularly when discussing art-rock, prog and even psychedelia. I didn’t count, but in the Procol Harum section alone, the ‘p-word’ appears a lot. I seriously want to start a campaign to have that word removed from music reviews. At the very least, have reviewers purchase a thesaurus, so they can find a less loaded and over-used one. Based on what I’ve read of his reviews so far, he can sometimes conflate his opinion into fact, forgetting the subjective nature of reviews…and sometimes he seems to think he knows what was happening with the bands at the particular times certain albums were made. Now, some of that information can be found in interviews, but sometimes it seems it’s just the reviewer talking out of his arse.
For all that, though – I’ll be damned if I’m not reading a lot of his reviews! He doesn’t try to be Lester Bangs, which is a definite plus. He doesn’t get too unbearably academic, though he does seem to approach it at times. Yes, he seems a bit of a windbag, like a lot of muso-nerds – but that charge can be levelled at me from time to time as well. His tastes seem very orthodox (just rock-n-roll, none o’ that hip-hop, avant-garde, jazz and ‘lectronic stuff for him), but he cares about the music he writes about. He doesn’t pull any punches, either – even when dealing with his own sacred cows. He excoriates my beloved Pink Floyd, but in the end, I found myself partly agreeing with some of his observations (though I still love Floyd, for all their flaws) of their early work. I heartily agree with his assessments of both “The Final Cut” and the Gilmour-led band.
It easy to get sucked into the site and spend hours going through the various discography reviews. He may infuriate you, but you can’t help but reckon he’s got a point or two here and there. He also loves Tyrannosaurus Rex‘s “Unicorn“, which is one of my all-time fave LPs – so he can’t be all bad (heh heh). Anyway, go have a look for yourself, though if you’re a hardcore muso, you may find yourself sucked in for hours as well.
P.S. – Looks like George has got himself a blog now. He’s also discovered Antony & The Johnsons, Animal Collective and Autechre!! See, I was all wrong about him being stuck in the 60s and a rockist….I hope.