It’s rare to see a lot of buzz around a review of a new release. I’m not talking about buzz around a release itself like ‘Godzilla’ or ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, but instead a lot of buzz about a review of a release; the ghost of Mr. Agreeable has been everywhere I looked. I haven’t been able to keep track of how many times I came across references to Mr. Agreeable’s review of the new Coldplay release in The Quietus.
My initial reaction was: wow! This is a good thing. That means people are still actually paying attention to what critics have to say about things. People aren’t just looking to crowd-sourced reviews of products to make decisions. There is still some amount of authority that can actually get the attention of a lot of people.
However, my reaction changed after I read the actual review.
The Ghost of Mr. Agreeable
So, some actually thought that the Mr. Agreeable article was really good, some thought it was an utter piece of trash. Certainly, dropping fifty-three F-bombs in the first four paragraphs of the review made for an article that was more than a bit difficult to read (in fact, in a humorous commentary on the article, one commenter just put several hundred F-bombs).
But even I get that Mr. Agreeable is a character, and profanity laced diatribes are exactly the kind of thing that we should expect from such a critique of a recording. But, here’s the thing, the amount of critique of the recording can be boiled down to three points:
- Chris Martin needs to get over Gwyneth Paltrow.
- Mr. Agreeable hates Coldplay in general.
- Mr. Agreeable hates / loathes this release.
And that’s it, that’s all that anyone even making the most intense effort to get something out of this review can find in it. But that wouldn’t be such a bad thing if as the character of Mr. Agreeable tends to do, the review had some other point about it that made it worth reading. Certainly not all critiques are about making some intellectual argument for or against a release, but there is generally something to them that makes the time spent reading them worthwhile.
The honest truth is I have read more interesting and entertaining criticisms on the wall of a men’s bathroom in a truck stop than I found in this article. And yet, this article manages to drone on for over 1200 words without anything entertaining or interesting to say, just a high density of F-bombs.
David Stubbs and the History of Mr. Agreeable
David Stubbs is actually a music journalist with a long history of excellent writing on the subject, including several books, and working for some of the best music magazines that have ever been available (NME, Vox, Uncut and Melody Maker). And, while in college, he was one of the founders of Monitor.
The Mr. Agreeable character arose in the post-disco, punk-rock backlash days of music as a way to cut through the excessively convoluted music reviews. The idea was perfectly well-matched to the times. The punk-rockers of the world viewed everything with disdain and ire and lashed out at anything that even smacked of conformity or institutional-ism.
These days, Mr. Agreeable is relegated to occasional appearances in The Quietus. A website which, otherwise, seems to produce some very high-quality, well-written music journalism. Certainly a far cry from the sneering, leering F-bomb laced commentaries of Mr. Agreeable.
Some might say there is still a place for a Mr. Agreeable in music journalism. And, I don’t completely disagree. We need people who are critical of music, who are critical of the excesses and pomposity of today’s over-produced pop schlock that the music industry is producing. Certainly, lambasting the Miley Cyruses, Avicii’s and Justin Beiber’s of the industry is well worthwhile.
However, Mr. Agreeable seems to be out of place in this era. He’s like a middle-aged, addle-minded punk-rocker that can’t stream together a series of coherent criticisms, or produce a sarcastic commentary worthy of the space on the screen, let alone in the pages of a good music magazine.
It’s time for Mr. Agreeable to retire. Most of these flash-in-the-plan pop rocker’s know when to quit. Take the profits they earned off an unwitting mass of the public and run. David Stubbs should, as a music critic, be able to tell when a character has run it’s course and is no longer entertaining. It’s not that there isn’t space for real criticism, but it’s time to move on to a character that fits with the times instead of clinging to the past.