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Why I Read TWAS for so Long Preview
11 September 05 from Michael 19
There's a charming comment at the bottom of Mary Lou Lord's new website for her A&R management company, at www.jitteryjack.com/about.htm, referencing TWAS. We can cut Mary Lou a bit of slack on the spelling/orthography of glenn's name.
5 August 05 from Ryuto 18
I am one of many invisible loyal readers.
I came across TWAS around '97-'98, probably searching for Veruca Salt or Echobelly reviews. I browsed through most of the issues in the archive and TWAS quickly became a favorite, one of the very few columns I read every week the day it was posted (other favorites: 'Aiding & Abetting' and 'In Music We Trust').
What made me come back week after week? ... there are so many reasons and so complex I can't articulate them... what I always liked is the "radical free thinking humanism" reflected in every issue.
From a purely musical point of view I mostly diverge from Glenn's tastes but that's to be expected and it's really not important. What I identified with is the search for meaning and there's a highly personal component in what, specifically, is meaningful for each of us (especially at a deep level).
For example, I don't speak English so lyrics don't have an inmediate emotional/intellectual impact on me. I tend to focus on rhythm, textures, ambience, melodies...
This being said, it's almost impossible not to find contact points given the massive range of reviewed music (and I have not listened to 90% of the reviewed records).
A couple of CDs I bought and loved thanks to TWAS:
- Letters to Cleo 'Wholesale Meats and Fish' + 'Go!'
- Big Country 'The Best of Big Country'
One of my favorite reviews: TWAS 417: Aube
1 August 05 from Becca 17
I'm going to use the words of one of my favorite authors here. He was speaking to a bunch of English teachers at a conference but much of what he says applies to why I appreciate what glenn has built here.
"Indeed, Ill go further and suggest that in all of literary criticism and commentary, perhaps the rarest, most wonderful thing is to find intelligent, infectious praise and celebration. It is worth celebrating in itself, when found. I can still vividly recall first reading Randall Jarrells essays on Robert Frost ... glorious, exhilarated readings of the poems, so intelligently enraptured that they changed forever my sense of the New England poet. And the fact that I can so intensely recall this, twenty-five years after the fact speaks - I hope - to how conscious I am of the difficulty of the challenge I am positing here.
But Im doing it anyhow. Im going to leave you - or leave the formal aspect of our interaction this evening, pending followups over single malt - where I began, with an earnest expression of my own awareness of just how important your role can be as teachers. And with a suggestion - not an injunction - that one of the best ways you can define and approach that role is as purveyors of excellence, trying to share and communicate a sense of what has been done surpassingly well, however you personally see and define that.
Poets often offer the best sort of last word. Let me end now with W.H. Auden, from his memorial poem to Yeats, whom Ive mentioned this evening already.
In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.
Auden is right. At the heart of what Im trying to say tonight is the awareness that it does need teaching. And learning. If you can identify what to praise, and can do so with fire and passion, we stand at least a chance of preserving and passing on what we most admire in literature, and in life."
© Guy Gavriel Kay 2001
Thank you glenn for your enthusiastic and enraptured praise. It has enriched my life and helped me see things anew.
25 July 05 from David Gentle 16
I answered the main question here in an email to Glenn early on in my readership of TWAS:
Because this is what the internet is for.
I'm not sure he agreed with me 4 years ago when I told him but I still think I'm right.
10 June 05 from Jimi 15
It was actually Fred, the ridiculously brilliant spider monkey a few posts below, who referred me to this site several years ago. Interestingly enough and not without great effort, I've found little overlap in our (I'm talking about Glenn now) musical tastes, but regardless found myself enthusiastic at a minimum and quite often downright enthralled every Thursday since.
What initially hooked me was his unapologetic passion for the subject matter, which more often than not seemed to be Life. This as well as my very pleasant surprise in coming across someone who both over-thought and wrote about said over-thinking far better than I.
But what has stuck with me and caused me to send everyone I know who I think would care to this site is his overarching thesis that music is what humans are best at.
5 June 05 from zbnet 14
I know this is going to sound like sacrilege, and the amassed TWAS fans will probably simultaneously construct and abuse voodoo dolls (or at least burn effigies) of me for this comment, but here goes anyway:
For me, the best writing in TWAS was always when glenn moved away from music review and into commenting on everyday life.
And I dont mean the big issues like Columbine or the shuttle disaster (good though those articles were), I mean the stuff that is really mundane, like moving house (www.furia.com/twas/twas0130.html and www.furia.com/twas/twas0131.html). Glenns writing lifts these events from the lacklustre of a daily diary and injects profundity and significance into them that makes me audibly draw breath in and repeat the best lines in half-whispered reference.
31 May 05 from Fred von Lohmann 13
Hell, for several years, I looked forward to TWAS every Thursday. Two shining beacons stand out for me from those years:
(1) Glenn's record-review-as-marriage-proposal. It's still just about the most original, moving romantic piece of writing I know, charting the hard course between sincerity and passion, without falling into the corny or trite. "If we marry, it will be remarkable, but for none of the simple reasons, I fear, that it should." What a classic glenn opening line!
(2) His deleriously over-the-top review of Tori's from the choirgirl hotel. As another Tori fan, I couldn't agree more. It's not about whether, in retrospect, some of the review was hyperbolic. The point was that I had exactly the same kind of response the first few weeks I listened to it. And that's the important thing about that album to me, that it could reach down and possess you so completely. (Plus, I was also following the Kate Bush -Tori connection, and was also blown away when Tori exceeded Kate.)
25 May 05 from Dana 12
I found Glenn's column many years ago. I was up late, working on my honours dissertation, and looking for the track listing of a CD I had right in front of me (being a computer scientist the concept of hard-copy data had begun to elude me this late in the writing process).
The album, as it happened, was 'Dont Bore Us Get Get to the Chorus' by Roxette. Google led by the nose to Glenn's review of the album, and I was hooked on the spot... to find a music reviewer who genuinely cared about Roxette all on its own was a true gift, but to realise he had heard of Captain Tractor as well... I was hooked.
The more I read the more involved I became; Glenn and I share some background in our fields of research, and while I am nothing like as good a writer as Gleen (and I can't play an instrument, much less compose a song) I LOVE music. I guess that doesn't sound like much, but Glenn has always made more sense to me than nearly anything else on the web. I especially admired his 9/11 post (which was not, in fact his first review after 9/11, but if you're reading this I guess you know that.
Here in New Zealand, TWAS was published in the wee small hosrs of Friday morning. I can remember being up very late one night, this time writing my masters thesis, waiting for TWAS to come up. While I was waiting, I decided (after reading Glenn's less-than-favourable Placebo reviews) to writeto him about why I love Placebo, in the hopes that after he had read what I had to say, he might see it too. This wasn't the first time I had written to Glenn, nor would it be the last, but it was perhaps the most impassioned.
And, of course, Glenn wrote back to me when I wrote to him, even trying out a Placebo song at my behest many years after the masters incident (sadly, he didn't like it. but there is no accounting for taste). Apart from the Placebo thing, though, Glenn is a guy whol alwayts wrote like he could tell what I was feeling, even about artist I had never heard before. And that's pretty special./ It kept me coming back for years.
23 May 05 from Brian Block 11
Gabe's suggestion that we all post our favorite glenn moments would make more sense, for me, if so many of mine hadn't already been mentioned in this thread. His Columbine commentary as Swedish music round-up is probably the one I've shared with the largest number of people, but yes: his Lucinda Williams-as-reason-to-abandon-a-morally-corrupt-job, his revulsion at Robert Pollard's transformation from happy farting-around schoolteacher to divorced rock star, his Mercedes-salesmen-as-comforting-representatives-of-evil account of car buying ... stunning and provocative pieces, all.
More than any of them, i think i loved both his first piece where he revealed his new Sarah Records obsession, and then his April Fool's short story, which i can't quite consider one of the all-time great short stories only on the grounds that it probably couldn't be understood with about 60,000 words of context/background, which is hardly "short". And is it really something new in the world, that glenn refers to artists by first name like good friends? Because now i do that too, and i hadn't realized that was his notion.
I could be wrong, but i think glenn's been a very influential writer: every year i see more and more people writing detailed, personal, ardently subjective music reviews. Some have voices resembling his -- Jer Fairall at www.epinions.com/user-cryptosicko should appeal to most glenn fans, although i wish he had time to write much more, and some of my own early reviews (i'm at www.epinions.com/user-voxpoptart) were painfully earnest attempts to imitate glenn. Other writers out there these days are superficially nothing like him at all, except for their simultaneous passion for literary ambition and rabid fandom, but i still suspect glenn has made the world more receptive for them: i know Tris McCall at www.trismccall.net is a glenn fan (Tris's epic review of Tori Amos's SCARLET'S WALK, his Lyrics Checks, and his Christmas Music Abstract being great starting points). John Darnielle at www.lastplanetojakarta.com (peaking with his multi-part take on Radiohead's AMNESIAC) is also pretty spectacular, and something new in the world.
His impact can be overstated. I still hear people compiling Best Albums lists who discuss the imagined distinction between "favorite" and "good", and vote for "good", and i still hear Scott Miller sad because hardly anyone bought the Loud Family's albums. But glenn started as an alone voice, and his truths seem more common now. I like that.
20 May 05 from glenn mcdonald 10
Well! Thanks, and mostly not for the first time.
But thinking about Krispy Kreme donuts (my first were in Wilmington, not Raleigh) and that horrific Vibe color scheme in such quick succession has now made me feel more than a little queasy.
20 May 05 from Scott Parkerson 9
I started reading glenn's column when he was writing for Adam Curry's then-nascent online 'zine (the Vibe, if I recall). The columns were great, which helped to detract from the audaciously bad color choices and web design that Adam's team came up with. The fact that we had some overlapping taste in music was also a plus (e.g. Tori, Kate, Marillion). The first time I picked up a CD on recommendation from glenn was Grant Lee Buffalo's Copperopolis, which fit my mood perfectly at the time (I picked up a used copy while visiting a friend in a small town in New Mexico).
I was hooked ever since.
Ian: I had a similar "what if?" experience while visiting Cambridge a few years ago. I did go to Newbury Comics in Harvard Square (purchasing a few things on CD I had once upon a time on cassette: Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden and The Colour of Spring). I almost asked the counter person if "Bob Mould" had been by lately, but then thought better of it.
glenn: If you ate your first Krispy Kreme donuts (featured in #333) in Raleigh, you were less than a mile from my house.
20 May 05 from Ian Mathers 8
I started reading glenn (if he can do it with musicians, I can do it with him) because I had just discovered Plumtree's three albums and while looking for anything about him I discovered his really amazing review of "This Day Won't Last At All". I loved it enough that I started poking around, quickly decided (possibly foolishly) to read the entire archive (this was around #384, which sticks in my head for reasons I'll mention later) and he became (and still is, to this day) my favourite writer about music. Partly because, as we all know, he realized that the best writing about music isn't just writing about music.
I wrote him a few embarrassingly fanboyish emails during that period, including the one I'm really abashed about now where I asked him if I could use his title for my column in the student newspaper because, I swear this is what I said, I couldn't think of anything better.
I'll always be thankful that although glenn naturally refused my request, he was very kind and not mocking at all.
As with 2fs my tastes and glenn's are neither really similar nor disparate, but there's been more weird co-incidences, I think, than there should have been. Everything from the way I luckily started dating a women who thanks to her background playing bagpipes had a ton of Runrig albums after I started reading TWAS, although "Mara" is the only one I love so far, to the way I got to the end of "A New Desert Island" just as I started listening to the Low box set I'd received for my birthday.
I remember one synchronicity (involving some photos glenn took and my new copy of Wheat's "Per Second Per Second Per Second... Every Second") striking me hard enough I emailed him about it. I remember writing something about Mogwai and mailing him the url because while I understood why he didn't like them, I was hoping he could understand why I could, because that more than anything else was what TWAS did for me. Sure, I love Low to take the biggest example, but I'll probably never share glenn's love for metal. But the real beauty of his writing, and something I think more music criticism should aspire to, is that I can understand how and why he loves it, and maybe even participate in that love a little.
I don't want to try to list all of my favourites as that would take forever, but four stand out:
#384, where he wrote about soccer and "You Held The World In Your Arms" and I read while listening to a shoddy radio rip of the song on repeat (I still have that MP3, something about the raw immediate nature of the mix just resonates).
Not so much an entry as an experience, the time I read the radiohead reviews from "OK Computer" to "Amnesiac" all in one go. One of the very few times I've actually cried due to literature, but they were good tears, if a little bit inexplicable.
"Ten Wishes For Six And Seven", which was a little painful to read even then, because as much as I do enjoy the books I cannot read that article without feeling that this _must_ be what she does next, and I know she won't.
"(weight)" - I think I would have found this incredibly inspiring even if I weighed 98 pounds soaking wet, but since I don't and have only really started exercising properly in the last two years or so, it's more so. Eventually I'll remember to print it out and stick it up next to my stationary bike.
Shortly after I started reading TWAS my brother and some friends and I made a road trip to Boston. It occurred to me shortly after we returned to Canada that for all I knew I could have run into glenn down there, on the street or in Newbury Comics or wherever. At the time I was rather glad I hadn't thought of it beforehand and emailed him or anything as I would have felt a little inadequate, but now I kind of wished I had. How often do you get to meet one of your heroes?
20 May 05 from Michael 7
So, this is my first whack at glenn's new forum/discussion system, partly for exploratory purposes I want to see how the interface works and partly because this thread marks the most obvious entry point.
I was reading glenn's stuff back in the middle 1990s on rec.music.reviews, which grizzled veterans of electronic communications may recall as a text-based discussion group on something called "Usenet" in which people could post reviews of music, oddly enough. This was in the top-level rec. hierarchy, implying that this was a form of recreation, although for most of the posters at the time it seemed a lot more like a second job. In fact, I'm quite sure that I read my very first review by him in early 1996 at some point, and was engaging in periodic correspondence by the summer of 1996, when I was leaving for a year in Israel. It was in Israel, starved for new musical interests, that I began a music review column of my own on rec.music.reviews, inspired largely by The War Against Silence. I later lived in Boston, frequently attended shows with him, and consumed fairly significant amounts of Indian food in connection with music-buying and concert-going activities.
Favorite music and musicians for whom I credit glenn's writing or other inspiration:
1. Loud Family (and Game Theory), thanks to glenn's epic-length two-weeklong rapturous commentary on Interbabe Concern.
2. Emm Gryner, whom I saw at the home of a lone fan in Allston Brighton with glenn, where she played in front of ... ten people?
3. Ida, whom I first saw with glenn at a show in Cambridge.
4. Beth Nielsen Chapman, who has two wonderful albums to her credit and several appalling ones.
5. Caulfields / The Negro Problem, each of which have great moments although I can sorta see why they are no longer going concerns.
6. Rachel's / Rasputina / Godspeed You Black Emperor!, all of whom I'd heard of, but wouldn't have probably investigated had not glenn added his critical endorsement.
Host of bands which I purchased based on glenn's writings or other inspiration, who ended up meaning little or nothing to me: Among which are Bis, Kenickie, Marry Me Jane, Then Jerico, Slingbacks, 3 Colours Red, Polara, Rachael Sage, Stretch Princess....
Bands whom I seem to like, but to whom I still haven't given enough respect, although glenn has been writing about them for ages: Joe Jackson, Lucksmiths.
Amusing coincidences: glenn and I both writing dual reviews of Elliott Smith and the Eels; our jousting attempts at a Blair Witch Project writeup at the height of the movie's buzz.
Stuff I was happy to see glenn adopt, after I was already a fan: Low, Chris Whitley, Macintosh computers.
19 May 05 from Gabe 6
I don't really have an interesting story about how I became a TWAS reader (a friend sent me a link to an Ida review; the rest is much like all the other stories here). So instead, here's a totally from-memory no-particular-order list of my own totally personal Top Ten greatest TWAS moments:
-- Glenn's habit of calling musicians by their first names, as though they're his friends;
-- that first review about Ida, in which he described the vocalists as self-aware pools of light deciding that the Venn diagram is all the art we need;
-- the Lucinda Williams review that was a story about a dying tech firm coming to the office of Glenn's tech firm to try to be bought;
-- the one where Glenn gave up buying Guided By Voices records because he couldn't condone what Robert Pollard was doing with his life;
-- the line about Belle and Sebastian's project being an attempt to imagine what pop music would have been like if the Beatles had never happened (it's so true!);
-- the Valentine's Day column in which Glenn explained why he'd just broken up with a girl he'd been dating;
-- the one that compared every extant recording of "Kayleigh";
-- the moment midway through the "(Switch)" column when I realized he'd joined the Mac team;
-- realizing that he was serious about the whole Big Country thing;
-- the way the column was revealed to be a comedy (in the Jane Austen sense), and thus had to end with a wedding.
19 May 05 from rwp 5
I found TWAS while seeking out free MP3's surreptitiously from my work computer, without any kind of assisting software (i.e. Napster). I stumbled across arrogants.com, the site for The Arrogants. I loved "Lovesick," both versions, and I went looking for info.
Glenn had named it a top song for the year it came out, and discussed it in 264:
"While this song plays, I step outside my loneliness, and for a few moments I can see how luminous and beautiful it is. This is why we think pop can save us, and why we think saving is necessary: because every once in a while a song this simple shows us ourselves from a better vantage point than inside."
And I was hooked.
19 May 05 from Steve G 4
I was directed to TWAS in the double-significant-digit days of the column when another online entity told me that there was actually a music reviewer out there who also liked Ian McNabb. I was excited to read reviews about obscure music that I loved (though I've rarely found McNabb solo to live up to the greatest moments of the Icicle Works). It became clear before long that the reviews weren't usually reviews, or at least not completely. There would be a seemingly random introduction which would eventually lead to the discussion of an album or a bunch of singles or whatever, and then perhaps a dare-I-say-quotable conclusion which may or may not have brought you back to where the column started.
At some point (and someone else will have to do the research here) glenn wrote a column with no reference to music at all. It may have been a two-week affair where the first week didn't touch on the album specifically at all, and then the second week was more properly a review (as much as they ever were with TWAS). A solo artist, I think. But it may have happened before that. At any rate, I enjoyed the experimentation for the most part, and every time I though glenn was slipping off the deep end (on a full-column basis) he would come back strong within a week or two.
When glenn wrote a "review" about Abba and some other bands, which was actually about the school shooting at Columbine High School, I knew I was hooked, and I have not missed an issue since, often checking late Wednesday night (West Coast) to see if I could catch the column "early". The Columbine column turned into two, and a bit of three if I recall correctly, and when we had a rally in our downtown, I read some of what he wrote to the crowd. The response was good, and I think I brought some new TWAS fans to the fold as well (though glenn would be the first to tell you that that's a far lesser goal than reducing school violence, which was the point of the rally).
Jumping around in time a bit here perhaps, I found many interesting things to read about bands I'd never heard of (and haven't listened to since either), but two of the greatest music memories for me were when glenn dedicated not one but two weeks to reviewing "Interbabe Concern" by the Loud Family, one of my favorite bands (though I'm somewhat of a minority in that IC is not one of my favorite LF albums), and the ultimate was when he dedicate a column to "Spirit of Eden" by Talk Talk, and praised them for their amazing (unprecedented?) growth over the course of four albums. (Have I mentioned that glenn has been known to write ridiculously long sentences?) "Spirit of Eden" took a long time to grow on me, but it remains the go-to album when my own spirit is down. I don't know that others would describe it as uplifting, but it goes somewhere deep in my soul that no other album does. If I could only have two albums (forget ten) they would be SoE and "Strange Times" by the Chameleons, which is one of the most cohesive albums ever (as is SoE), and also tugs directly at my soul (though in a much more scream-and-jump-around manner).
I would have expected to pick up more new artists to love by reading TWAS, but it was rarely to be. The subjective nature of music the others have been talking about is certainly that. Some successes are Low (especially their Christmas album, which we play every year), and "Amazing Things" by Runrig, which is uplifting, but doesn't strike as deep a chord with me as it obviously does (did?) for glenn. "69 Love Songs"? Who couldn't be sold by glenn's review on the best of the 90s? An amazing achievement, that set, and the accompanying booklet is great as well. I am most obliged, musically, however, for the self-titled Eastmountainsouth album, because my wife loves it so much, and that's a precious thing indeed.
Another thing that kept me coming back was the fact that glenn was only slightly older than I, and he went through some important life changes at the same time as myself. I went through the hell of searching for and buying a car, and what should glenn's next column be about? We also bought homes at nearly the same time. I beat him to the punch on marriage by 11 years though, and his search for the right person was a theme I followed with interested and concern. It's the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and I hope you find it to be so as well, glenn.
A last (?) memory to share. Was anybody/everybody else as shocked as I was, when we went looking to TWAS to hear about glenn's response the the terrorist attacks of 9/11, only to find that he didn't mention them at all? He explained in the next issue how that came to be, but I spend my share of time trying to discern if glenn had a plan in remaining completely silent on the world-wide topic of the day/week/month/year...
As I believe I alluded to above, there were a number of times when I thought that glenn shoud "hang it up", and in truth I'm glad he finally decided on mostly-retirement. Marriage is a huge watershed moment (or at least, it darn well ought to be), and it made perfect sense to me for him go out then.
Too much, I know, too much. But I've spent a lot of time reading TWAS, and sending occasional emails to glenn (to which he was always quick to reply, usually with further insight, or just good book suggestions), and I want to express my appreciation. I don't think that's what he's looking for, but he knew that he didn't know what he was going to get, and here we are.
My tribute to glenn. If you read all of this, thanks.
18 May 05 from 2fs 3
I'm more curious about the setup than having anything compelling to say about reading TWAS - except that somehow, even at its most self-indulgent (and what should a personal website be but self-indulgent) there was always something there worth reading, whether for the sake of the words and flow of language, for more insight than could reasonably be expected from what was nominally music writing, or of course for the music...even though glenn's taste and mine intersected oddly: congruent at some points, sticking off at bizarre jagged angles at most others.
18 May 05 from Will 2
I stumbled across TWAS when digging up information on Weeping Tile. OR rather, I was looking for anything else that Sarah Harmer had done. Given that all I had heard of her was a guest vocal on Jim Cuddy's solo album, well, let's say that TWAS turned out to be just the sort of thing for me to read. Glenn's combination of music and its intersections with, his life, I suppose is the simplest way to put it, kept me reading. The demise of the column wasn't a total surprise, given the greater and greater drift in the last year or two. Still, some of my fondest memories revolved around TWAS. Perhaps the other people waiting at the Jiffy-Lube that particular July afternoon didn't appreciate the rather prolonged and loud laughter of me and my then-girlfriend, but they didn't get a say. It was Thursday or "TWASday" as we christened it and we had to wait on her car which was getting the morally mandatory tuneup before we headed across the country in the afore-mentioned car.
18 May 05 from mlmitton 1
My long-term girlfriend and I broke up a few months back, and I found out last week she was seriously dating someone. As part of the self-pity grieving process, I was immediately drawn to reworking my annual Best-Of music lists for the past few years. Music, either directly through the impact of the lyrics, or indirectly through memories associated with a given song, becomes a repository of who I am, and what I was. So with each life-event, music gets reordered on the list. Some takes on more meaning, some less.
Whether this was intended or not, it was TWAS that led me to decide that music should be judged in reference to your own life. While there is still some so-called objective component to a song's quality, the best music should still in some way receive meaning subjectively. There have always been plenty places to read traditional music reviews that take a purportedly objective view, TWAS included. But TWAS was the only place I found where the subjective component, the part that matters to your life, also matters to the music. I know some people complained that he was more a diarist than reviewer, but personally, I kept reading because he was more a diarist than reviewer. That was the part of TWAS that was unique. Of course it helped that he was a good and interesting writer.
If I had done as instructed and actually hung the DJ, I may have learned this sooner rather than later. At least I learned it eventually.