A precedent for critical success
Jessica Hopper’s new book shines a light on the best female rock writers
The title of Jessica Hopper’s new book speaks volumes. The First Collection of Criticism By A Living Female Rock Critic may be a bit of a mouthful but you can’t say the editor-in-chief of Pitchfork Review is ignoring the elephant in the room.
Hopper (right) was a Babes In Toyland fan who took the fanzine route before paying work came her way. The book’s 40 pieces are a snapshot of her 20 years in the business including pieces on R Kelly, Lana Del Rey and Hole, ruminations on the excitement of Riot grrrl and a poke around the emo movement’s problem with women.
Besides providing a strong throughline with her whipsmart writing, Hopper also makes you realise how rare it is to see the work of female rock writers collected in this way.
While there have been many female rock critics before now – Hopper lists Ellen Willis, Lillian Roxon and Caroline Coon in the book, and you can add Jane Scott, Ann Powers, Sylvie Simmons, Dream Hampton and Jaan Uhelszki to that roll-call – it’s always the old boys’ club of Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau, the over-rated Chuck Klosterman and others who dominate the discourse.
“Sometimes you have to wave a flag around any sort of precedent in order to make a path,” said Hopper in an interview about her book. “Not to sound too Jesus-y about it, but I wanted to put this book out to create the precedent . . . I want books from Hazel Cills and Doreen St Felix, and every single person that works at Rookie.” Jim Carroll
Welcome to the hit factory
Empire is the latest television hit to take music as its setting; what’s surprising is that apart from it and Nashville, there isn’t much competition. So here’s our pitch for new series Red Rock*, about an Irish band on the make.
Brendan “Off The Chains” McGrane (Robert Sheehan) is a tortured soul and talented songwriter. He loves the cans, is pushing 24, and realises that he’s got one last shot before the music world passes him by. Like all aspiring Irish musicians, he’s already been down the boyband route, but after five years playing shopping centres with LadzTown, he decided he wasn’t artistically satisfied.
Now he’s lying about his age and putting a band together (“Drummer needed. Must have own car”); we’re thinking an Irish rock hip hop crew to appeal to that emerging US market looking to get down with the homies while honouring their heritage (a brief flirtation with the Christian market will provide artistic friction in season four). Local manager “Stabby” Joe Jingle (were thinking Brendan Gleeson) used to be the king of the showband scene, and now Chains looks like his ticket back to the top: one he’s even willing to kill for, albeit in hilarious comedy fashion. He’s also got an eye for a quick buck though; will he have the sense to sign the lads up for that lucrative St Patrick’s Day German tour, or take the easy route and convince them the domestic wedding band circuit is worth a lash? (Poorly written females characters will be added at the last minute or at worst by season three.)
The glamour of the Irish summer festival circuit (in exchange for playing, most of the band get a free day ticket); all the bling of Irish rock stardom (riders include one six pack and two packets of Tayto); heavyweight management struggles with demanding venues (“yeah of course they’ll play Brown Eyed Girl”); crucial artistic decisions that could decide the band’s ultimate success or failure (“Will we do a Eurovision song?”); and endless trips to play down the country, with nice Fáilte Ireland-sponsored swooping shots of cliffs: all the smash-hit elements are in place for any TV company willing to take this on. Rumours that Bressie is attached as executive producer are sadly wide of the mark (call us Bressie). *Name changes possible depending on who sponsors the show. Any similarity to persons/shows living or dead should be taken up with Robin Thicke.