This Takedown of Arcade Fire Is Criticism of the Best Kind

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 29 2013 12:31 PM

This Takedown of Arcade Fire Is Criticism of the Best Kind

Regine Chassagne, Marika Anthony-Shaw and Win Butler of Arcade Fire

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images For J/P Haitian Relief Organization and Cinema For Peace

Many music writers and Arcade Fire fans are hopping mad about Chris Richards’ rant of a Reflektor review in today’s Washington Post. “Look, I’m sure they’re very nice people,” Richards writes, but “Arcade Fire still sound like gigantic dorks with boring sex lives.” And it gets meaner from there! Richards calls their music “mysteriously devoid of wit, subtlety, and danger.” He says Win Butler is “still as dreadful a lyricist as ever.” And he wraps up with this flurry of a final paragraph:

Dan Kois Dan Kois

Dan Kois is Slate's culture editor and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine.

It’s something conservative pretending to be something bold. It’s Sandra Bullock’s hack dialogue in Gravity. It’s square, sexless, deeply unstylish, painfully obvious rock music. It’s an album with a song called “Porno” that you could play for your parents. It’s fraud.

Jody Rosen, New York’s pop critic (and formerly Slate’s), took to Twitter this morning in response:

And Eric Harvey of Pitchfork wrote that “saying a band has ‘boring sex lives’ is one step away from calling them ugly or giving them a swirlie in the gym bathroom.”  

But in fact you don’t have to be an Arcade Fire hater to think this review is great! Its very over-the-topness is what makes it so outstanding. There comes a time in every critic’s career when he or she can no longer take it, and must shout the Truth from the mountaintops. Chris Richards—a thoughtful, interesting, well-spoken critic and reporter—has reached that point with Arcade Fire. If you truly think a band is conservative and boring and lame, you can only take so many 9.2s before you lose it. And Richards lost it.

If the review was nothing but delicious haterade, I’d still be totally behind it. (Haterade is delicious when imbibed occasionally.) But it’s not! Amid the shouting, Richards makes very clear his issues not just with the band but with this particular album. He states a specific interpretation of the band’s aesthetic and disagrees vehemently that that is what pop music ought to be for. He has an opinion of the purposes and duties of rock and roll, and he thinks that Arcade Fire doesn’t live up to them. You may disagree with his review, but someone making a passionate argument about a record—and doing it loudly and very entertainingly—is not “trolling” or writing “clickbait.” It’s criticism, and the best kind.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.