Columns - "The Sign of a Good Time" 07.01.02

My stereo sleeps with the fishes. The victims (aside from myself) were an excellent receiver, an average CD player (who needs an above average CD player?), and a flat-out amazing 1978 Technics a friend. The theory that many murders are committed by someone close to the victim is something that I can now put a whole lot more faith in. How could I, a record geek of epic proportions, allow such a catastrophe to happen? Well, by an enormous and unprecedented error in judgment that I should've seen coming. Let the record show that I could have prevented this whole mess and be rocking my stereo RIGHT NOW if I was actually living up to my title of "asshole record reviewer".

After reviewing records for zines for about 2 years now, I had come to the conclusion that LISTENING to records and REVIEWING them really have little, if anything, to do with one another, at least from the standpoint of the average reviewer. I mean, if you were one who CAN make music, you'd probably be out there DOING IT rather than WRITING about it. Sure, plenty of reviewers at punky zines like Blank Generation are in bands and can rock and stuff, and that's great. But you have to realize something about record reviewers in general: THEY ARE FUCKING SCUM, SLOBS AND ASSHOLES. Every record reviewer I know is an asshole. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

Look at how the writing of good reviews vs. bad reviews is approached by your average record reviewer. I feel I must state the obvious, and I can only speak for myself here, but only good records get good reviews. No brainer, yes, but this is not universal for all reviewers (assholes). A lot more goes on when it comes to giving a record a good review. Point blank, if the record gets a good review, the reviewer wanted to buy it before he/she got it for free, or would've bought it eventually. Furthermore, it gets a good review because the reviewer wants to keep getting these kind of records from these kinds of labels'n'bands for free. Other times, the reviewer will review a record because they bought it, loved it, and want everything that comes out in the future for free. It should be noted that, as an exception to the rule, there are cases in which an unknown record completely blows you away. This is the true joy of reviewing records, hands fucking down. It's the best possible feeling a reviewer can have. Doesn't happen too often though, sad to say. Now, bad reviews are a completely different ballgame. 9 times out of 10, if something sucks, it's Frisbee material and a chance for the fat, ugly record reviewer to re-create his/her pitiful image as a slim, sexy, $150 sunglass-wearing know-it-all ROCK GOD who is compelled to tell the parties responsible how incredibly awful they are, pumping themselves up and using what little "writing skills" they have (hardyfuckinghar). It should also be noted that this technique is ALWAYS used with little or no mention of the music the band is offering on their humble little platter. In case you haven't been able to infer, THIS IS ASSHOLE BEHAVIOR. I'd be the first to admit that I have fallen victim to this.

For any given issue of Hit List, I review upwards of 100 records. And, to be quite honest, 75% of the records I get for review suck BAD. Why bother? BECAUSE I WANT ALL THE FUCKING RECORDS IN THE WORLD FOR FREE, THAT'S WHY! This should come as no surprise. Regardless, for every issue of that zine, I have to come up with 75 different ways of saying something sucks. How is this done? Mostly by using hyperbole and being downright mean. Some of these bands deserve to be slagged endlessly, but mostly they are just so boring that any discussion at all is a total waste of time. This is probably the main reason why lots of reviewers (like me, sometimes) fly off the handle about shit. But, for whatever reason, I write like an asshole sometimes (especially with Hit List, where that kind of behavior seems like a prerequisite). The real surprise though is that I feel like I'm actually a decent guy (others may disagree). THAT'S THE FUCKING PROBLEM!!! If I really was (or thought I was) the giant asshole I made myself out to be in my trashing (and sometimes praising) of records, I'd still have my stereo.

My stereo was broken one night by a drunken friend trying to play his ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead CD. SHUT THE FUCK UP! IT'S NOT FUNNY! THIS IS MY PAIN! Yes, it's true. I can see you all smiling right now and I can hear all your giggles. My friend broke my stereo by TRYING TO PLAY SOMETHING THAT TOTALLY FUCKING SUCKS on it. The ultimate sting...salt in the wound.... When it's all said and done, there is one thing that stings about this whole mess. It's not that my friend did it. It's not that he was drunk, blacked-out and didn't even remember doing it. It's not even the fact that my stereo is fucking gone. The things that kills me is that I allowed him to play something shitty on my stereo and, as a result, lost the ability to play REALLY GREAT STUFF on it (for the time being). And, to top all this off, I DESERVE EXACTLY WHAT I GOT!!! I forgot to be an asshole record reviewer.

How could I have prevented this? He asked me to play that bullshit and I said yes. What would I have done differently? Let's see, first I'd do my best to make him feel like a spineless twerp, which I'm not good at, so I would probably just call him ugly or something. Then I'd tell him he had the most shitty taste I've ever run across and I wondered how he made it through the day being as LAME as his is. Then I'd loudly refuse to let him listen to his swirly Pink Floyd jerk-off "rock" and force him to listen to MY AWESOME SHIT. Sounds of The A-Frames, The Kill-A-Watts, The Piranhas, Gravy Train!!!!, FM Knives and The Leg Hounds would fill the room and I would repeatedly run up to him to tell him how much he sucked. Then I'd throw on the first Le Tigre album and dry hump the back of his head, laughing manically and screaming "ROCK'N'ROLL FUCKFACE!!!" over and over again. Then, as the grand finale, I'd play The Rip Offs' "My Baby Yeah" 20 times in a row while I threw balled-up dirty socks at the back of his head the whole time. If I really was the asshole record reviewer I sometimes seem to be, that's what would've happened. Sure, it's fucked up. But I'd still have my goddamn stereo.


1) Since the death of my stereo, I've been going to a lot of shows to get my fix. Over the past few weeks I've seen some amazing bands. The A-Frames were fucking fantastic. Great guys, great band. THE SACRAMENTO POLICE CAN NOT STOP THE A-FRAMES. Also, I was at the much-famed Kill-A-Watts show in SF where they were nearly shocked dead by a sparking wire. Glowing guitar strings, fire, sparks...a pure, perfect rock'n'roll moment that I won't soon forget. One of the most amazing things I've seen in a while. And, just to clear things up: Mechadrum is waaaaaaaay hotter than I am…
2) In case anyone is curious, Blank Generation’s record reviews are the best anywhere.
3) The FM Knives CD is the best record of the year, so far. John Wilkes Booze is fantastic too.
4) The Rock'N'Roll Adventure Kids record I'm putting out is still happening...slowly but surely. I'm shooting for October...
5) Thanks to all the kind folks who sent me e-mails about my last column. Overall, I'm not so happy about how the column turned out, but the response was surprisingly positive. Keep writing! Especially if you hate me!
6) All bands and labels should continue the trend of sending me free shit, regardless of the statements mentioned above.
Mitch Cardwell
1405 Rose St.
Crockett, CA 94525

© 2003