The Rock Critical LIst

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Perfect Sound Forever

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Apr 11, 1999, 3:00:00 AM4/11/99
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This anonymous piece had been circulating recently and was posted on
the Spin site. I'd be interested to hear what other people thought
about this. My apologies if this has been posted here before.

Jason


KOOL THING: THE ROCK CRITICAL LIST

1998's TOP TEN LIST

Neil Strauss. (New York Times, Rolling Stone,
SPIN). No writer better exemplifies
music criticism's pathetic, post-alternative
slide into irrelevance than this balding, dickless
imp. Always an obvious thinker and clunky
stylist with shaky-at-best tastes, Strauss
once got over on enthusiasm and pluckiness
(i.e., he listened to lots of records and
interviewed lots of folks). But these virtues
only get you so far, so your ol' pal Neil
decided to develop some vices-namely, a taste
for schmoozy self-mythology, including
dumb wigs, a stand-up comedy "act," and an open
flaunting of his female "friends" (which
he wasn't really fucking, but hey, who could be
sure?). His writing quickly abandoned
any pretense to reporting or insight, turning to
the more pressing question of how the
artist felt about NEIL! Was Neil bright, cute,
or witty? Had the artist heard about the
rare vinyl that Neil just discovered on a press
junket to [fill in city]? Did the artist know
that Neil breakdances? But trying to snicker
under your breathe 24 hours a day is a
grueling job, particularly when you're supposed
to be producing a weekly column for the
TIMES, and, eventually, Strauss crumbled. In the
past two years or so, vis his DAMN
YANKEES floor show with Marilyn Manson, and,
most recently, his goo-goo-ga-ga
bedroom session with Jewel for ROLLING STONE
(welcome to the nadir of '90s
music journalism), Strauss has become the most
craven, punch-drunk phony in the
business. Giddy publicists think he's just so
cuddly, and really intelligent, despite all the,
you know, bullshit. Artists can't wait to get a
gulp of his thin, drooling Q&As. Young
writers stare in awe of his best-seller status,
lofty pulpit, and unlimited free records.
Meanwhile, Strauss openly rewrites press
releases for his "Pop Life" column and counts
frequent flyer miles as the competition (LOS
ANGELES TIMES' Chuck Phillips) mops
the floor with his lazy ass. Careful kids, don't
let this happen to you.

Rock Critical Quotable: "Yeah, totally ... heh
heh ... like, that really blew me away ...
uh-uh ... heh heh heh ... but yeah, you're,
like, a total workhorse, but ... I know ... well
that's what I was going to ask ... uh-huh ...
yeah, totally ..." (Strauss, interviewing Beck
on THE MUTATIONS CONVERSATIONS CD, 1998)

Josh Clover/Jane Dark. (VILLAGE VOICE/SPIN). The
only award-winning poet
ever to turn to music writing as a cure for
menopause, Clover was the rock critical
darling of '98, appearing out of nowhere (the
poetry scene) to pen lyrically glittery lead
reviews for the VOICE, and later procure a
writing contract with SPIN, despite a series
of vapid, awkwardly quippy pieces that betrayed
his potential talents. Biting from both
Frank Kogan (minus the philosophical heart;
Clover's zine SUGAR HIGH was a
Puffy-esque sample of Kogan's classic WHY MUSIC
SUCKS) and Chuck Eddy
(minus the obssessively catalogued stylee), this
horny, graying brat is the Urge Overkill of
music journalism--an enjoyably vampy ironist who
too often descends into desperate,
amoral starfucking. The faker the better is
Clover's suspect credo, and until someone
informs him that the joke's not funny anymore,
he'll keep milking it in lamer versions.
Extra points off for the most cringeworthy
impression of a woman since Vince Vaughan
in PSYCHO. Will pay for sex with a Dixie Chick.
Rock Critical Quotable: "Despite
what the hardcore Lydonheads would have us
believe, little sign that any McLarionettes
have cold-rocked a party since parting ways with
him." (Clover, incoherently preening,
on Malcolm McLaren for "The Svengali Hall of
Fame," SPIN Dec. '98)

Joe Levy. (ROLLING STONE). Known for his
enormous head, tiny feet and fluid
line-editing, Levy was once ... oh, who can
remember anymore? After fleeing the
VOICE for the designer swag of DETAILS, this
would-be confidante of John Spencer
went into a men's room at Spy Bar, flushed his
Royal Trux records down the toilet, and
became an unabashed, self-righteous propagandist
for pop music's ephemeral pleasures.
In other words, indie-rock was over, he had a
reservation at Union Square Café with
Elastica, and, hey, we're a winner, baby! Now at
ROLLING STONE, with Boz Scaggs'
son bringing him coffee, he mulls over
existential dilemmas such as: Does Sheryl Crow
have a boyfriend? Though once a master of
balancing his sarcasm with sincerity, Levy
now comes off like a morning-radio
zookeeper-smirky, self-hating, and wound a little bit
too tight. He resents any definition of success
but his own, disarming naysayers with a
pensive, buffalo-headed nod, followed by a
disingenuous leer, "Come on, [fill in name of
astonished rock critic], you know all music's
good, just relax and enjoy it!." In the "You
Can't Go Home Again" department, his VOICE
review of Rancid's latest album featured
a key paragraph in which the writer and the boys
dined at one of Say It Ain't So Joe's
preferred East Village ristorantes, apropos of
absolutely nada. Hey Big Spender, we
know you can get a table, but can you get a
fucking clue? After years of jocking Mike
D's dick to out dismay, Cotton-Eyed Joe managed
to place the Beastie Boys on two
ROLLING STONE covers, and then, for a VH-1 promo
spot, graced the corridors of
publicity firm Nasty Little Man to present the
Beasties' Adam Yauch with a ROLLING
STONE "music award," adding that Lil' Joe's
favorite group was being honored for
"service above and beyond the call of 'booty'."
Yock yock, rimshot, fart noise.

Rock Critical Quotable: "Bozo the clown can
sing? Who knew!? Who knew?! ..."
(Levy, grinning like a mental patient about to
receive his noontime feeding, on the
success of Prodigy's Keith Flint, for an MTV
year-end program)

Simon Reynolds. (ex-SPIN, author of GENERATION
ECSTASY: Into the World of
Techno and Rave Culture). Proudly, almost
militantly, ignorant of American post-punk
and alternative rock, not to mention hip hop,
this shaggily taciturn, rave-glazed
Englishman somehow managed to helm the record
reviews section of SPIN for almost a
year. How? Because it was assumed by outsiders
and oldsters that Reynolds was the
chosen oracle of "electronica," and if anyone
had the key to unlocking its Next Big
Thingness, it would be Simon Sez. Unfortunately,
Reynolds resents any term he doesn't
coin himself, so "electronica," unlike his
still-born babies "post-rock" and "neuro-funk,"
was, per Simon, a tiresome sham by which he
refused to be sullied. His editorial
imperative boiled down to a dour import column
and page after page of hip hop record
reviews by an army of aggressively misinformed
British fuckheads. On more familiar
ground with the release of GENERATION ECSTASY,
Reynolds slipped back into his
role as heady, raver-rific tour guide-popping
Es, worshipping speaker cabinets, and
blabbering about post-structuralism. As a
history of rave culture, his book is good, clean
pretentious fun-an authoritatively info-crammed,
Eurocentric fan's notes (though his
decision to exclude hip hop is a fatal flaw, he
apparently doesn't give a shit). As a cultural
manifesto, however, which is how Reynolds would
obviously like it to be viewed,
GENERATION ECSTASY is a long, breathless slog;
its adjective-addled,
"post-human" theorizing about the pre-eminence
of sensation over identity is repetitive
and tiring. No writer has ever made dance music
seem so hysterically important, yet so
impenetrably dull.

Thomas Frank. (HARPER'S, WASHINGTON POST,
NATION, BAFFLER, author
of CONQUEST OF COOL: Business Culture,
Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip
Consumerism). Though Frank's lengthy essays
demythologizing "The Sixties" and its
romanticized life partner, "The Counterculture,"
are somewhat admirable, if turgidly
written, his music criticism is sentimental,
pro-forma clap-trap. Still holding a wee torch
for the artistically scrappy, "independent"
epoch of '80s underground rock (boy, was that
paradise!), Frank's basic thesis is this: as
evidenced by the co-opting of indie-rock into
alternative rock (like the co-opting of punk
into new wave, etc.), corporations are now
so thoroughly and quickly marketing all aspects
of youth culture that music is tainted
beyond anything but guilty, "middle class"
pleasure. "Rebellion," as traditionally defined,
in "pop music," as traditionally defined, is
"dead," as traditionally defined, matter-of-factly
proclaims Dr, Frank (hey, close your eyes and
it's like Noam Chomsky, if he'd seen Big
Black at Maxwells in 1987! Cool!). With today's
multimedia complicity, our unequaled
economic largesse and '60s-fetish elitism now
part of the mainstream, yada yada yada ...
Get it? There IS NO UNDERGROUND! Give it up,
kids. Your anger and
dissatisfaction are meaningless cliches (and if
you're black or Latino we'll get to your
hypocritical whining later). For his most
asinine throat-clearing to date, Uncle Tom
wasted thousands of words in Harper's bemoaning
the artistic frustrations of University
of Chicago bud Chris Holmes (aka Yum-Yum, aka
Sabalon Glitz, aka Ashtar
Command, etc.), and how his friend's failure to
strike musical platinum symbolized the
overall Death of Pop Music (Holmes once
"pranked" a major record label by dressing
up a bunny suit and playing sugary pop songs,
only to have his genius go unrecognized).
Meanwhile, Frank continues to wear his father's
ties, but not ironically.

Matt Diehl/Toure. (ANYONE WITH AN EXPENSE
ACCOUNT BUDGET). No
matter how you dress 'em up, a bitch iz a bitch
iz a bitch.

Robert Christgau. (VILLAGE VOICE). Though I
refuse to believe it's an age thing
(being decrepit and disillusioned myself), it's
notable that Funk Doctor Bob's late-era
writing has been tripped up less by his sadly
clotted prose and populist autism than by his
total lack of feeling for today's most important
youth musics-hip hop and electronic
dance; try as he might, the man just has no ear
whatsoever for digital beat-science or
vernacular poetics. If it ain't got a
traditionally defined point-of-view-left-resistant
(Chuck D, KRS-One) or party-hearty (Puffy,
Mase), the Dean is left flapping his
dentures in the breeze. And his annual Pazz &
Jop handwritings are case writings in
what's all wring with pop criticism-the need
(mostly on the part of aging white guys) to
tabulate an officially tidy history of events, a
canonical text in which
ambivalent/irrational/comical passions are
viewed as petty typos. That said, the nearly
universal critical acclaim that greeted the
publication of Xgau's long-awaited essay
compilation (GROWN UP ALL WRONG) was cowardly
and inexcusable. The man
may have his head up his pseudo-academic colon,
but he deserves a fair hearing,
certainly as much as overrated frere Greil "The
Nutrageous Professor" Marcus.

Eric Weisbard. (VILLAGE VOICE, SPIN). The Boy
Who Wanted to Be Christgau,
and then changed his mind. Presently abandoning
editing after a tumultuous run at SPIN,
and then a rather bland tenure at the VOICE,
Weisbard appears to be somewhat
humbled these days, or at least less of an
arrogant, post-collegiate pinhead. It could be
that insulting, tone-deaf critiques of other
writers' works finally caught up with him, or
maybe it was his insistence on the artistic
merits of Garth Brooks, or possibly it was his
own inability to produce any music writing that
made one smidgen of impact or sense at
all (check out, if you've got some caffeine
pills, his incoherent VOICE book report on
THE ANTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN FOLK MUSIC). His
laborious assessment in
SPIN of a recent Bruce Springsteen reissue was
so blindly literary that one could've
walked away thinking that this Springsteen guy
just played music to write cute little
vignettes about cars and chicks (which may be
the case, but ...). Maybe, as some say,
Weisbard's heart is in the right place. But in
1999, that and a dollar won't get your ass on
the F train.

Ethan Smith. (NEW YORK). From SASSY cabin boy to
EW sniglet editor to NEW
YORK pop music critic, this emaciated young lad
has risen steadily to his current level of
total incompetence. Issuing consistently
jaw-dropping summations of music he's
obviously never heard or felt or understood,
Smith is probably what the
Seinfeld-mourning consumers of this Hamptons
leaflet deserve, but he should still be
ashamed of himself. Much like Thomas Frank,
Smith has the profitable ability to prattle
on like a mid-40s patrician (therefore pleasing
his mid-40s patrician editors), yet still
front like he relates to the wounded,
channel-surfing troubadours of his generation
(Beck, Elliott Smith, other nerdy white people).


Danyel Smith. (VIBE). Once a stridently poetic,
yet level-headed critic of hip-hop and
r&b, the editor-in-chief of Big Willie Inc.'s
periodical division has evolved into a remote,
two-timing industry prickle-puss. With the
introduction of glossy hip-hop stepchild
BLAZE, she's now free to pursue her dream of
transforming VIBE into a touchy-feely,
art-directed celebration of faux-bourgeois
splendor (free of rap-related grime). These
days, if you read a cover feature by Smith,
expect the following-powdery, boudoir
boy-bonding, wine-sipping diva-lectical coos and
whispers, lovingly extensive hairdo
deconstructions, and absolutely, under no
circumstances, any critical evaluation of THE
MUSIC, or how its sound might inform the artist.
And while she has faced inexcusable
physical threats, Smith's implication that
brutality against hip hop journalists is an
African-American "family matter," and that the
mainstream press is blowing it out of
proportion, rings extremely hollow. It's a power
thing, not a race thing, which is why
SPIN's Craig Marks gets choked by Marilyn
Manson's goons, and not ROLLING
STONE's Joe Levy. More bothersome is the fact
that Smith, like so many
writers/editors, would rather get a hug and a
pound from an artist rather than a nod from
a fellow journalist. Therein lies the hugest
chunk of the problem.

THE UNEARNED CHIP ON HIS/HER SHOULDER AWARD:
BLAZE's Jesse
Washington, who suddenly transformed into a
self-righteous paragon of hip hop
journalism after being threatened and beaten up
by ghetto superstars Wyclef Jean and
Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie (aka, The Madd Rapper).
Sadly, Washington's overhyped,
overbudgeted, and under-edited magazine would
never have earned him similar props.

THE PREMATURE END-ZONE-DANCE AWARD: THE SOURCE's
Editor-in-Chief, Selwyn Seyfu Hinds, who seems a
tad too satisfied that his troops have,
so far, avoided the working-over received by
fellow hip hop scribes. No matter how
hard you push Ice Cube's weight, he aint's never
gonna invite you over to split the
dividends. Believe that. And if he ever does,
watch your back.

THE GET YOUR LIPS OFF THAT EXHAUST PIP AWARD:
XXL Executive
Editor Robert "Scoop" Jackson, who, in a late
'98 issue, wrote this for the "Respect
Due" (sic)tion: "To Mack 10 and Ice Cube: Heard
you all don't 'like' the stories. Damn
shame. Thought we was one-mind. Brotha just
tried to look out, seriously. On that next
level. Got too much love for both of you to
misrepresent or sell you out. Read deeper.
Just trying to show you niggas real love,
because I got nothing but that for both of you. It
hurts y'all don't feel it. My bad. I'm tired. I
quit." MY BAD!!!??? Hey Scoop, how
about a little motherfucking respect for
yourself and your readers, asshole! In case
you've forgotten, that's who you're writing for,
not some egomaniac studio gangsta who
spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on a
bullshit music video so he can
"metaphorically" gun down playa haters, aka
music writers, aka YOU!

THE DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD AWARD: The NEW
YORK POST's
Lisa Robinson, the legendarily used-up floozy
who could always be counted on to stroke
the egos of rock music's biggest jerks, was
finally put to editorial pasture. Upon hearing
the news, Robinson column faves Billy Corgan and
Michael Stipe were spotted
smacking themselves over their pampered bald
heads with rolled-up copies of SPIN.
THE AVERAGE WHITE MAN AWARD: SPIN executive
editor Charles Aaron, for
his heart-rending attempt to explain, in 56,000
words or less, why we should feel sorry
for the misogynistic asshole in Limp Bizkit
("What the White Boy Means When He Says
Yo," SPIN, Nov. '98). Sorry Charlie, but no
amount of cultural studies blood-letting will
ever change the fact that Mr. White Folks should
GET OFF THE FRIGGIN' MIKE!
It's the Eleventh Commandment, homeboy.

THE WHERE DID SHE GO AND HOW CAN WE KEEP HER
THERE?
AWARD: Evelyn "RENT Rules" McDonnell, rumored to
be "working on a novel." OK,
you can stop laughing now.

IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT AND I
FEEL FINE
AWARD: Sonic architecture enthusiast James
Hunter and once-brilliant wit Rob
Sheffield, whose cynical, fawning affirmations
of pop/r&b fluff are B-plus term papers, at
best. Imagine Rosie O'Donnell with a graduate
degree in English. Then kill yourself.

THE MY-AREN'T-WE-SMART-BOYS-WITH-OUR-TOYS?
AWARD: Of course,
it's the British trainspotter's catechism THE
WIRE, a monthly logjam of the most
defensively arrogant, humorously dense, and
gleefully school-marmish verbiage (David
Toop excepted) you'll hopefully never encounter
in any other music magazine. After
institutionalizing the annoying Euro catchphrase
"electronica," lapping up everything DJ
Spooky ever mumbled, and trashing rock-damaged
Americans for not inducting
Lamonte Young into the Baseball Hall of Fame,
they just keep on droning. Special
shout-out to distressed beat-writers Peter
Shapiro and Kodwo Eshun (who repeatedly
express disgust over the lack of critical
appreciation for the music they adore): If your
prose skills ever remotely approached your
passion for the sounds in question, then we
could chat. Until then, take your banal
hyperbole and sod off.

THE DANCING WITH MYSELF AWARD: Who else but
Kodwo Eshun? Author of
the "avant theory" spank book MORE BRILLIANT
THAN THE SUN, and
hyperactive talking head in the electronica
training film "Modulations," Eshun combines
the frantic, idealistic enthusiasm of a
16-year-old who just found out that the CIA does
really bad things, with the hectoring snootiness
of a crusty Ivy League prof. His haughtily
silly tome (in which he somehow manages to
dismiss the relevance of African-American
history to African American music) was taken
dead-seriously by folks who own no John
Cage records, did poorly on their verbal SATs,
and were afraid to disagree with their
vastly indecipherable vocab. It was ignored,
according to Eshun, by heathens who still
listen to guitars and watch TV (aka, Americans).
Easy enough to avoid at a party, Eshun
keeps popping up in print, even penning a boring
review or two for hated SPIN (which
he later attacked for its "grotesquely
short-listened anti-electronic music policy"). At
present, he's locked in a showdown with Simon
Reynolds to see who can invent more
pointless genre names and corny modifiers for
supposedly high-minded electronic dance
music that nobody seems to hear quite the way
they do.

PEATH OUT ...
JoJo Dancer, aka MC House Shooz
C/o The Rock Critical List
122 Front Street
Apartment Zero
Your Mother's House, USA

AND ANOTHER THING: For years, mediocre feebs
have mewled about the New
York-based "cabal" that controls thought and
drives agendas and keeps "new writing
voices" from emerging. These feebs are usually
underachieving whiners (or closet
"experimental" DJs) who spend their spare time
getting drunk and clawing the anuses of
NYU or UCLA (or whatever) students down at the
local "underground" boho emporium
or open-bar listening party, exclaiming how it's
a crime that Uncle Tupelo or Sonic
Boom or Silver Apples or Charles Gayle or the
Fastbacks or Freestyle Fellowship never
hit it any bigger than they did (which was often
bigger than they could've expected).
CHECK IT! It's a goddamn wasteland out there,
and if somebody has something to say,
the forum will find 'em. But these whiners do
have one point-music scribbling out of New
York-based national publications at this exact
moment IS unnecessarily lifeless, artless
and idiotically panglossed, unless even as a
"consumer guide" (no props to Grandaddy
Xgau, who's got the blood of ENTERTAINMENT
WEEKLY on his hands). Nothing's
at stake, hearts are Cosloy cold, minds are
zipped up in Nike windbreakers, ideas are
messier than Nelson George's Palm Pilot, the
halfway decent people seethe in a vacuum,
and our pitifully compromised editors get their
heads koshed, hair pulled, and necks
throttled by Puffy underlings, Lil' Kim
wannabes, and Marilyn Manson steroid cases.

So, in lieu of yet another over-analyzed,
self-serving, year-end wankorama (that would
be the Pazz & Jop; and it's Lauryn Hill best
album, Aaliyah best single, Nuggets best
reissue, if you need to care), we'd like to
announce our first annual ROCK CRITICAL
LIST, a self-serving circle jerk/séance on the
grinding, but not irreversible, decline of
POP MUSIC JOURNALISM. Out motto: If it ain't
worth a fat lip, then shut the fuck up
... --JoJo Dancer, aka The Gay Rapper

Perfect Sound Forever
online music magazine
http://www.furious.com/perfect

Tom Ewing

unread,
Apr 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM4/12/99
to
perfec...@furious.com_delete_this (Perfect Sound Forever) wrote:

>This anonymous piece had been circulating recently and was posted on
>the Spin site. I'd be interested to hear what other people thought
>about this.

It was baffling the first time I looked at it, funny the second,
depressing the third. He likes his hyphens a bit too much, I think.

(The preamble bit you didn't excerpt is better.)

Cheers,
Tom.

Freaky Trigger: Pop Music Think Tank
http://www.netcomuk.co.uk/~tewing/
Reviews, Ramblings, Rantings - Updated Weekly
NEW! UK Post-Punk Anatomised!


fred

unread,
Apr 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM4/13/99
to
In article <7etq6b$sh5$1...@taliesin.netcom.net.uk>, eb...@netcomuk.co.uk (Tom Ewing) writes:
> perfec...@furious.com_delete_this (Perfect Sound Forever) wrote:
>
>
>
>>This anonymous piece had been circulating recently and was posted on
>>the Spin site. I'd be interested to hear what other people thought
>>about this.
>
> It was baffling the first time I looked at it, funny the second,
> depressing the third. He likes his hyphens a bit too much, I think.
>
> (The preamble bit you didn't excerpt is better.)
and he's *way* too pleased with himself.

the village voice offered their riposte to the list with several
articles. you can catch it on the webpage, http://www.villagevoice.com.
haven't read it yet, but they seem to think that it's the work of
spin execuitve editor, charles aaron.

peace...fred
(np: the stooges, "t.v. eye")

Ned Raggett

unread,
Apr 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM4/13/99
to
fred wrote:
>
> the village voice offered their riposte to the list with several
> articles. you can catch it on the webpage, http://www.villagevoice.com.

Try http://www.villagevoice.com/arts/9914/howe.shtml for the
'I think it's Aaron' response, at least. The responses are
interesting enough at points, but don't exactly overwhelm me
either with potential 'yes, you are *so* right' impacts. Maybe
the whole thing's a prank.

Ned
ned listening to my coworker oink and all at kuci.org

Matthew Maxwell

unread,
Apr 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM4/13/99
to
In article <37137B...@SPAMNOTkuci.org>, Ned Raggett
<n...@SPAMNOTkuci.org> wrote:

> Try http://www.villagevoice.com/arts/9914/howe.shtml for the
> 'I think it's Aaron' response, at least. The responses are

I just wish the original writer had the stones to stand
up and name themselves. The anonymous potshot tends to
lose a little cred (and a lot of the bite). Besides,
we all pretty much know that "music journalism" is about
as pure and principle-driven as say, the Miss America
pageant (to choose a loaded metaphor). Either they're
slobbering dunderheads or elitist pricks. _The Wire_
or _Rolling Stone_. Apply which to whichever you choose.

But i guess i can say that 'cause i'm a jaded Generation-X
'er or something. Let 'em laugh it off that way.

Followups trimmed to avoid unnecessary flamage. I have
no real desire to debate the point.

-Matt

--
mmax...@nospam.san.rr.com
"Sea monkeys are NOT PRIMATES!" -- Max, of Sam and Max

remove 'nospam' to reply

sunshine

unread,
Apr 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM4/13/99
to
Could anyone point me to a place where I could read that preamble? This is
the first I've seen of the whole bit.

someone else wrote:
It was baffling the first time I looked at it, funny the second,
depressing the third. He likes his hyphens a bit too much, I think.
(The preamble bit you didn't excerpt is better.)

--
-Angela
http://www.musicfile.com/sunshine
"The Biggest Little Record Store In The World"

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