I’ve long thought that Chicago Sun-Times rock critic Jim DeRogatis was a hack, but with his review of Magic, his hackdom reaches new heights.
First things first – as should be clear to anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis, I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. But I’m not blind, and I don’t expect that every review of a Bruce album is going to be a good one. But I do expect an honest effort from the critics that I read, at the very least an attempt to make a rational case why an album works, why it doesn’t, and where it fits in the history and pantheon of rock ‘n roll.
But DeRogatis isn’t built that way – he always goes for the easy insult, delights in confronting fans, trying to come on like what I’m sure he imagines is a latter-day Lester Bangs (one of his idols). But ultimately it’s an insult to the memory of Bangs – sloppy criticism, and the easy way out. But apparently, DeRogatis is neither talented nor intelligent enough to do anything else. Don’t take my word for it, read his stuff. If you think I’m wrong, let me know. God knows I’ve been wrong before.
Why should I let the fact that DeRogatis panned Magic bother me? Well, for one thing, it was absolutely predictable, based on his history, that he would do so. I would have been willing to bet the house that DeRogatis would pan this album. And sure enough, one need read no further than the first line of the review:
“I got a coin in your palm / I can make it disappear,” the Boss croaks in the title track for his first album with the E Street Band since “The Rising” (2002), his folkie but bombastic musing on 9/11.”
In that first sentence, you have “the Boss croaks,” which isn’t criticism – just an insult. And then you have … "The Rising…his folkie but bombastic musing on 9/11." Bombastic? That may be fair, if you can back it up. “Musing?” Maybe, but in this case I doubt it. But “folkie?” If a critic can be said to be wrong only when he makes a factual error, then calling The Rising “folkie” qualifies as ignorance, plain and simple.
There’s more, but you can go read it yourself. It’s mostly juvenile stuff, designed less to comment on the album at hand than it is to raise the hackles of Springsteen fans. That doing so is more the goal than actually trying to criticize the album is painfully clear from the final sentence of the review:
Then again, as the e-mails sure to flood my inbox will stress in words that can’t be printed here, this New Jersey native -- my dad was born and raised in Asbury Park, for God’s sake! -- is the worst kind of heretic: A traitorous non-believer who’s never fallen under Springsteen's spell. As the Boss himself said, “This is what will be.” Deal with it.
It’s all about DeRogatis here. He’s not writing about the album, he’s just delighting in his own toughness.
Whatever. At least he likes PJ Harvey. But in the end, he’s worse than a hack. He’s a dishonest hack.