Lonesome Onry and Mean: Envy vs. the Service Industry

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Nursing a medicinal Saint Arnold's Elissa draught while casually flipping through Envy, LOM actually saw something that looked interesting: Adam P. Newton's review of the Service Industry's new album, Keep the Babies Warm.

My first thought: why in God's name would a conspicuous-consumption rag like Envy be wasting space in its extremely expensive glossy pages filled with ads for Dior, Momentum BMW, Tovas Five-Star Day Spa and Hair Studio for Women & Men, and Michael Ciaravino ("The Breast Doc") on a review of one of Austin's most left-leaning, pro-labor, middle-finger-in-the-air bands?

Was super-trendy, super-slick, 21-40 demographic Envy magazine about to show some unexpected depth here? Was Adam P. Newton the swashbuckling reporter who would prove the exception to the Envy magazine rule of lazy writing and even lazier editing?

Uh... that would be a 'no.'

It's hard to call Newton's 300-word essay a review since not a single song title is mentioned, not one line of lyrics quoted, not one artist associated with the project acknowledged. Rather, it is a mushy screed condemning the band for putting political commentary in its songs.

After a rambling introductory apology for his back-handed, oh-I'm-not-against-it-but-people-more-narrow-minded-than-me-might-be critique, Newton dismisses the album as failing "with the actual music." Duh.

The record wasn't bad because the liner notes were in the wrong font? The artwork was too avant-garde for anyone who thinks in terms of "envy" to comprehend? It was the actual music? This is a critical breakthrough of stupendous magnitude.

I've listened to the album quite a few times and will venture to suggest that Newton, a former principal at Conroe Christian School as well as a kindergarten teacher, should not only buy a hearing aid but, even better, should stick to writing technical dogma about eyelash extensions - which is what his real job is, according to his online resume.

How soft and amateurish is the review? Well, it begins with a rambling philosophical set-up worthy of a C+ high school freshman theme, not of a wannabe-cutting-edge magazine that styles itself the "Ultimate Guide to Current Culture."

Quote: "In this reviewer's estimation, the primary difficulty with a band pushing their ideologies through their songs is that they run the risk of pissing off people who are simply out to hear good music that doesn't have any deeper meaning to it."

Newton, news flash - and not just the news that "band" is singular and "they" is plural: I doubt that 96.385% of the people who pick up Envy are looking for deeper meaning in much of anything, especially music. However, if that's the way you personally feel about music, let me get you Best In Texas publisher Ed Shane's phone number, because his monthly is always looking for writers with your mindset.

You should fit right in as long as you don't start looking for deeper meaning. Ah, but I digress.

Moving ahead with the stunning observation that "there is that whole First Amendment thing," Newton proceeds to mangle the English language with all the skill and zeal of Sarah Palin or almost any member of the Bush family: "... no matter how good the music might be, bands have to realize that they just might be automatically excluding people who disagree with you."

If I was still teaching high school journalism (which I did for five years, as well as remedial English), I might feel compelled to point out to Newton that Mother Nature doesn't like it when writers mix third person (they) with second person (you). But what the hell, that's just another of those pesky usage rules Newton and his editors apparently find such a nuisance - or else flabbergastedly confusing, so old-fashioned, so out-of-date.

Of course, the more one reads Envy, the more one comes to doubt whether anyone worries much with editing or proofreading anyway. - William Michael Smith

(To be continued... In our next installment, the Service Industry reviews Envy's review. The band does the work and I get the money; sounds like the music business to me.)

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