Critical Overkill | Letters | Chicago Reader

Critical Overkill 

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taglia.qxd

Hey, Margasak:

Just curious as to your reasoning for concluding that Urge Overkill's last album, Exit the Dragon, failed dismally and as to your general hostility toward the band [Post No Bills, May 2].

As for Exit the Dragon, I admit that I didn't particularly like it. (Heck, I even admit I don't own a copy of it or of any of their recordings.) Nevertheless, I was told it sold several hundred thousand records. Gold or platinum this ain't; still, such sales figures (if true) would place it among the top-selling recent records by current Chicago alternative-pop bands. Certainly, if the sales of this amount can be called a "dismal failure," then what level of achievement can you attribute to albums that sell fewer than a third of this amount? After all, your column stated that the Bottle Rockets' last album sold about 70,000 copies [May 16]. Assuming that Exit the Dragon did sell over two hundred thousand copies, what would the Bottle Rockets' record then be: an unmitigated disaster? A total floppola? An embarrassing debacle, inspiring limitless shame and loss of face? Etc.

I think not. What I do think is that the sales of The Brooklyn Side are very respectable, as were those of Exit the Dragon.

What I also think is that you are applying a double standard in commenting upon the commercial successes and failures of bands. When you measure success and failure, you hold some bands that have apparently offended you, such as Urge Overkill, to a different standard than you hold bands that you currently like, such as the Bottle Rockets. This double standard shows both in the conclusions your articles reach and in the differing tones that they take.

Even if the sales of Exit the Dragon were worse than what I was told, is that an excuse for writing about Urge Overkill in such a mean-spirited and petty way? Does such a vicious tone add anything to your audience's understanding of music? Is it good journalism or even funny? I think not. Rather, I think it demonstrates that you are a critic whose pen is overwhelmed by his large personal prejudices.

Could it be that your disparate treatment of bands is due to your personal animosities and affinities toward members of this band or that band, rather than upon any musical rationale, Peter? My guess is that this is so; if you have a personal ax to grind with members of a band, then you use your column to do so, and you savage the band. You apparently have confused your personal vendettas against band members with legitimate criticism of bands' achievements and shortfalls, commercial and artistic. If you don't like the band members as people, then you should write that and be honest in your reporting. To do so would be better and braver than what you are doing now: passing off your grudges, expressed as snide, unfunny features, as either facts or legitimate criticism.

J. Taglia

Chicago

PS: Another point: If Exit the Dragon was such a dismal failure, why would Sony offer the band a recording deal? Further, did Geffen drop the band, or did Urge jump to Sony and a better deal? I would hazard the latter. And if the record was such a failure, why no day jobs?

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