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“Review Above by Mad Season? Eh, Let’s Just Make Fun of Pitchfork.”

The populace criticizes music and music criticizes the populace. So it has been, ever since our modern modes of communication were mobilized. One is a magnanimous commodity, the other, when unsavory, amounting to a sort of unexplainable, alienating buzzing in the air which causes babies to cry when they emerge from the womb.
We are at war, constantly, in America. We are a country founded on slavery and genocide, hence obviating that atrocities will continue to largely prevail over our culture, for indefinite periods.
The most famous lyrics from the grunge movement, to name one instance of music actually informing our culture’s aesthetics, are “With the lights out / It’s less dangerous / Here we are now / Entertain us / I feel stupid / And contagious / Here we are now / Entertain us”. Now, you might say, it doesn’t really MATTER whether there’s a pervasive epidemic of negativity and snobbery amidst human beings — you should just always strive to do your best and find your own good graces in the world. Well, if you say this, you probably haven’t read the Pitchfork review for Above, a document so thick in its diabolical and circular snobbery it could kill a yak, or crush anybody’s will to live, for that matter.
In a grammatically incorrect opening sentence in which Stephen M. Deusner precedes a compound conjunction with a comma, he gets instantly into digging his teeth into these musicians’ backgrounds: “Drug abuse was as rampant in the Seattle scene as frayed flanneled shirts, and few local artists chronicled junkie conflicts quite so persistently as Layne Staley.” This, of course, begs the question of why Pitchfork would choose to WRITE about Layne Staley in the first place, given that they seem him in such a negative light [1]. Well, the answer is probably that this band was really POPULAR, Alice in Chains, hence potentiating the online traffic click count on a Pitchfork review of said musician. So here already, in the first sentence, we have mediocre writing, opportunism and antipathetic voyeurism. Let’s see what else we can unearth. Don’t forget your gas masks, folks.
Deusner spends the entire paragraph of this extremely long, extremely negative review (talking about having a lot of time on their hands.. these guys make us bloggers look like the freakin’ Secretary of State) droning on about drugs, and Layne Staley’s drug habits, whereas throughout the entire first song, I don’t even hear a single reference to drugs. The other glaring faux-pas Deusner makes in his almost impossibly stiff-necked pouting is that first he whines about Staley’s glorification of drugs in songs like “Junkhead” (again in no way framing his discussion with the exact tinge of Alice in Chains’ overall APPEAL) and then, I sh** you not, he utters the line “So combative and caustic with Alice in Chains, Staley lets his ongoing self-examination curdle into clunky therapyspeak and ponderous nonsense.” Well, he has not CITED any of this allegedly crisp “combative” or “caustic” aspect — all he’s done is try to knock down Alice in Chains, again begging the question of why he’d write about them in the first place, and then in attempt to the best of his ability drive a dagger into the helpless Mad Season (keep in mind Layne Staley had been dead of an O.D. for 11 years by the time of this review), he tries to extol Alice in Chains, finally, to make Mad Season look even worse. But don’t worry, it’s easy to see why he spends four more paragraphs taking cheap pot shots on a band which has been defunct for a decade and a half. His mom gave him a sh**ty swirlie and then grounded him. In the byline for the review Deusner remarks that Above “may have killed off grunge” (notice how nobody will ever admit to how bad the Screaming Trees suck, always wanting to look hip by liking obscure bands), but considering that all Pitchfork ever did to grunge bands was pi** on them, this killing-off-of-grunge should be a feather in its cap! As even popmatters.com had the wherewithal to notice, though, “While ‘Grunge’ is certainly an ingredient in the Mad Season formula, Above is a much more complex and experimental album that still defies a single standardized label” [2]. This “killing off of grunge” stuff might have been funny if (a.) Mad Season were actually an act of a high enough profile to generate an obligation and buzz reaching out to the whole zeitgeist of grunge, (b.) the argument stating this weren’t so rife with fallacies, and finally, and most importantly, (c.) if it weren’t such an unspeakably black attack on one of music’s heroes, now fallen by way of tragedy. I’m starting to believe this whole “get what you pay for” adage for online music criticism. Don’t answer that, by the way.
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[1] He then starts railing against “Junkhead”… it’s like why write about this guy if you hate him? I don’t know any Alice in Chains fan who’s ever named “Junkhead” as their favorite tune.
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[2] http://www.popmatters.com/review/169894-mad-seasonabove-deluxe-edition/.

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