The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

“Hey Boss, I’ve Got This Awesome Metaphor To Use As A Critical Tool…”

Posted by Clem Bastow on August 1, 2008

It’s no secret to anyone working in the music business that it is a foul and shallow money trench (thanks, Hunter S.) where sexism still flows freely; as a music critic by day, I would say that the music journalism/criticism world is even more riddled with back-slapping boys’ club-isms, whether it’s the complete lack of female artists in The Age’s recent 50 Greatest Australian Albums list, or simply the distinct lack of female staffers at titles like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.

(Incidentally, it also seems to be very hard to discuss the sexism inherent in music criticism without being accused of bitterness, sour grapes or, even better, having my period. Go figure.)

So when I was trawling the net for Weezer info (having written a column on the topic this week) and I stumbled across this review of their most recent album, from Australian webzine Wireless Bollinger, my eyes rolled so hard they almost fell out – to wit, the writer, Ed Butler, paints each of Weezer’s most noted records as, wait for it, women! (Sorry, “girls”.) Stick that in your Music Criticism 101 pipe and smoke it!

Pinkerton. The apex of indie pop-rock. Smart, funny, willfully abstract; if it was a girl, it would be the perfect girlfriend – challenging, attractive, good dress sense, a mysterious, darker side, a real class act.

Weezer (The Blue One). The debut de rigueur of indie die-hards the world over. Flawless guitar pop. If it was a girl, it would be your best friend’s gorgeous younger sister – not so challenging, but great fun to spend time with on the odd occasion, and always tempting to revisit.

Make Believe. Urgh. The drunken, shambolic chick passed out in the corner of the pub, semi-conscious fingers clinging desperately to a half empty bottle of vodka.

Nice, huh? He then takes a holiday from trying to be Lester Bangs for a few paragraphs (conveniently forgetting – as most jock wannabe critics do – that Bangs was, in fact, a feminist) before returning with this denouement:

Right now, if The Red One was a girl, she’d be the slightly unhinged girl with a twinkle in her eye, Doc Martens and a tutu. In other words, probably not marriage material.

Now, I’m no fan of metaphor in criticism at the best of times (I used it when I was but a wee critical bairn; I look back at it and cringe, hard), but this instance is particularly odious. I mean, where do I start? Fitting value judgments, lecherousness, and sexist stereotyping into a handy metaphor, all within the space of a capsule album review? Ed Butler, you are clearly “THE MAN”!!


6 Responses to ““Hey Boss, I’ve Got This Awesome Metaphor To Use As A Critical Tool…””

  1. maxwelljay said

    she looked out into the street and turned away to impale my order onto the bill-spike.
    later, in my car on the way to the police station, i saw a crash. it was just a contortion of metal and smoke. a huge man stood near a lorry holding his hands to his head.

  2. Clem Bastow said

    ^^ I let the above comment go through because, spambot or not, it felt oddly… appropriate in terms of our discussion of critical metaphor and hyperbole.

  3. Daniela K said

    I notice the two posts prior regarding the sex of “Ed Butler” have been removed, as have your alterations to the original piece – can you tell me if Ed Butler is actually Edwina Butler or not?

    (Not that it makes the slightest difference to your original criticism, which I believe is valid either way, but I’m curious!)

  4. Clem Bastow said

    Hi Daniela, yes, and I forgot to put a second postscript up – evidently the “Edwina” Butler was nothing but a troll. The real Ed(ward) Butler has stood up and will be responding in due course.

    Does anyone else have a headache?

  5. maxwelljay said

    I’m not a spambot…whatever that is. I just write things for people. Thanks for posting it.

    All the best

  6. Daniela K said

    Hmm, yes, NOW I have a headache…

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