Like most rational people, I have almost no time for Pitchfork, because generally speaking neither sneering condescension nor rambling solipsism constitute acceptable alternatives to reviewing music. And yes, I say this in the full knowledge that my own music reviews aren't fit for purpose either. The difference is music reviews aren't the entire fucking purpose of me.
Even so, if a million monkeys bash away at typewriters (all holding pages previously marked with "this band reminds me of a much better one you haven't heard of" or "I preferred this band before they had the money to hire a sound engineer"), occasionally something of interest might emerge by chance. Take this, for example, from the review of Peter Criss's first solo album:
"Writing about music is like dancing to architecture."There is something to that, I'll admit, and the idea has been running through my head ever since I first spun this record and found myself struggling for words. But is it really the case that it must always be possible to pin music down in prose? Isn't the whole point of much of the very best music to bypass your higher brain functions entirely? Is there not a danger in dragging purely emotional responses into the cortex and pummelling them with language?
-paraphrase of a quote oft attributed to Elvis Costello
Whenever I see that line pop up in a review, I think the same thing: "Too fucking lazy to think of anything to say."
Such are the risks in talking about "That's The Way Of The World". Take album opener "Shining Star". Funky, clearly. Awesome, undoubtedly. Utterly banal lyrics delivered so brilliantly that it couldn't matter less? Yeeup, my friends. Victory is yours, gentlemen. This conversation is over.
On and on it goes. The slow, soulful title track. The horn-powered dash of "Yearnin' Learning", which admittedly pretty much recycles the same (astonishingly good) bag of tricks run through on "Feeling Happy", but with the addition of piano and even more awesomeness so that you don't mind. By the time you hit the slow rap on the subject of spiritual self-love in "All About Love" you're utterly sold, and even those who manage to remain stony-faced there will be undone once "Africano" breaks out into a mess of funk guitars that would make Shaft wonder whether he was good enough to walk down the street with this in the background.
OK, so maybe, maaaaaybe, we could get by without "Reasons", and album closer "See The Light" feels just a shade flabby. But these are islands of competence in a sea of excellence, not stumbles by any sensible definition. The individual parts of this are disgracefully good, but the whole simply defies analysis. The idea of there being something so balls-out soulful and funky that my higher brain functions simply refuse to engage is something I don't remember having experienced before,
Which I guess is something to say after all.