A Review of David Cross’ Review of Music Reviews


If you had informed me that a cynical wit, the caliber of stand up comedian, and writer of the incredible Mr. Show, David Cross (aka Tobias Funke) (aka the Chicken Pot Pie guy), was going to mock the verbose, wordy, prolix, grandiloquent, garrulous, and logorrhea found in most music reviews, I would sing, “Hot Dog, Hot Dog, Hot Diggity Dog!”  Like most comedic ideas, however, the ambitious idea of what the essay Top Ten CDs to Listen to While Listening to Other CDs portends is much more enticing than the actual results.    

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As anyone that has tried to sell the artistic merit of “challenging and difficult” music to a friend knows, describing music can be a difficult and challenging thing to capture.  The effort that those of us —that know little to nothing about the complexities involved in music creation— put forth usually results in us saying something nonsensical along the lines of: “It kind of sounds like a cross between the second side of Led Zeppelin III and the first side of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica.”  When our listener’s express varying degrees of annoying confusion, we usually end up saying, “I don’t know, here, just listen to it.”

Those of us that regularly read professional music reviews, regularly skip the time-consuming, flowery verbiage of music reviews, to their summation of the particular songs on the album that lets us know that This is the best song on the album, and that we may want to check out the propulsive, crunchy beats on That, but that the song “…And the Other Thing!” doesn’t quite accomplish what the band had probably intended it to.  We then listen to the samples of This, That, And the Other Thing to make an informed decision on the album based on what the reviewer has stated is a decent representation of said album.

If the reviewer really enjoys the album, however, and I mean really enjoys it, you will usually finish their review with the belief that this latest offering from Quiet Riot could lead you on a spiritual journey not seen on this planet since Jesus of Nazareth spent forty days and forty nights in a desert.  

As Cross writes of the website Pitchforkmedia.com:

It is a site that basically reviews music but in a very, very precious and often overly verbose way.”

In the essay, Cross mocks the idea of these tediously verbose music reviewers by writing his own fictional review, of a fictional band’s, fictional album, using an equal measure of verbosity to capture the essence of the particular review he lines up for the reader.  The idea behind Cross’ indirect mockery is that most album reviews are overwrought and probably intended to either feed into whatever collegial relationship that the writer presumably wants to have with either the material, or the band, by lending it exaggerated weight, or that the writer of said review can find no other venue for showcasing his writing abilities and extensive vocabulary.

When Cross reprints the reviews, such as the unintended comedy Dominique Leone provides in his review of Animal Collective’s album Sung Tongs, for Pitchforkmedia.com, laughter ensues:

(The song) “The Softest Voice” layers clear-toned guitar figures upon each other, as (singers) Tare and Bear whisper in harmony above, as if singing to the vision peering back at them from the skin of a backwoods creek.  The rustic, secretive manner of their voices and the barely disturbed forest around them suggests that whatever ghosts inhabit these woods are only too happy to oblige a lullaby or two.  Likewise, the epic “Visiting Friends” gathers in faceless, mutated ghosts (i.e., oddly manipulated vocalizations from the duo) to hover over their dying fire in visage of nothing better than the tops of trees.  The constant strumming moves alongside the voices, helping to keep them afloat, but never suggesting they should organize themselves into anything recognizable or predictable. It’s windy, and if it rains they’ll get wet and continue to play.

Again, it’s difficult to find the perfect verbiage to describe music, or the seemingly ethereal vibe of Sung Tongs, but some of the times the authors of these reviews get so carried away with their use of language that one can’t help but think that the reviews are intended to impress upon the reader what an adept writer they have before them.  A reader  finds themselves wondering, a thousand words in, if this review is so concerned with showcasing their ability to write like Faulkner that their attempts at sharing an appreciation for music becomes secondary.  Either that, or Dominique wrote this particular review in the hopes that he might receive a call from Animal Collective’s Avey Tare that communicated a collegial respect Tare had for Dominique’s ability to capture the ethos of his album, in a manner a less adept writer would’ve struggle with.  “You got it, Dominique, you really captured the essence of what we were trying to do with this album!  I like you!  I really, really like you!”

Cross then provides his thematic review of his fictional group, and their fictional album, in the same overwrought themes Leone used in his Sung Tongs review:

—why not listen to As I Became We by “Tishara Quailfeather.”  The virulent and hermetically sealed pinings of the world’s only triple-gold-selling Native American artist living in an iron lung.  It’s as if newly dead, and thus still pure angels, reached down into the Virgin Mary’s throat and gently lifted out the sweetest and more plaintive sounds man will ever hope to hear in his life. RATING—7.17     

Again, if you’re anything like me, you would’ve rushed out to the bookstore to purchase Cross’s book I Drink for a Reason the minute you heard that this comedic legend attempted this particular spoof, in essay form.  If you’re anything like me, you thought that these self-indulgent music reviews —done by writers that can’t get read anywhere else— are an untapped goldmine of material that probably should’ve been tapped long ago, but no one had the guts to do it to a reviewer that might be eventually be reviewing your material at some point, down the line.  If you’re anything like me, you thought it was such a clever idea that you were just dying to laugh at all ten attempts Cross made in this essay, and if you’re anything like me you eventually ended up thinking that the idea of doing it was so much better than the finished product.  It’s kind of funny, in that Cross successfully matches the theme of self-indulgence these reviewers engage in, but it’s David Cross’s maybe not as hilarious as this David Cross fan expected it to be.

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