Saturday, February 25, 2006

Wayback machine

Ah, for the time when pop-music criticism was dense and thoughtful, even longwinded and baroque. I am talking about the heyday of record reviewing in Rolling Stone, and I am thrilled that most of the reviews from the magazine's nearly 40 years seem to be up on its Web site.

I could read these for hours. Most recently I am struck by Debra Rae Cohen's essay on Blondie's 1979 album Eat to the Beat, a 1000-word critique that says the group "pioneered a reverse-twist musical archivism that's antiromantic rather than escapist." I'm not even sure what that means, but it's a lot to think about. Many of the pieces were written by Kurt Loder, and there also are articles by Stephen Holden and Janet Maslin, more recently of The New York Times.

The database has weird lacunae (no review of INXS' 1987 breakthrough Kick?), and the bibliographical information has been compiled haphazardly. Why, for example, does that Blondie review list the album as having come out in 2001? Perhaps because it was reissued on CD then, but there are many careless errors like that. Also, Rolling Stone's site doesn't seem to get along particularly well with the Firefox browser.

But no one said rock was easy.

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