Donkey’s Ears: Music Writing Goes to Hell

A few months ago, Mark Prindle announced his retirement from record reviewing. As nobody cares about music writers, this didn’t actually bring the world grinding to a halt; nevertheless, it was pretty sad news when it arrived. Mark Prindle was a bit of a character in his time, an online figure along the lines of Maddox, who successfully held the attention of a certain early generation of PC-bound music fans for fifteen years, bludgeoning them ceaselessly with opinions, misinformation, profanity, bad taste, lunatic gonzo energy, and the outright lies about musicians and their albums that he saw fit to pass off as his “Rock and roll record reviews”. Mark Prindle’s site plays merry hell with the thin-skinned and the completely humourless: it’s just as well that there isn’t anybody like that on the internet.

Prindle-writing is the best kind of music writing. I’ve heard him compared to Lester Bangs, though he’s much less of a crusader and much more of a madman; neither does he share Bangs’ iconoclasm or sincerity. Like Bangs, though, he avoids boring things like facts (which is what the All Music Guide is for) and objectivity (which has no place in the arts); the end result is the most fun you’re ever going to have reading about records. His writing is the work of a crazed genius: he takes a record and goes batshit all around it, making things up about it, talking to himself, muttering and swearing, wandering off into puerile asides about cunts and assholes, and then, amidst all that, occasionally letting something very profound slip. The whole bizarre episode, typed-up, is his “review”. At the end, if you haven’t cracked a rib laughing or been beaten into stupefaction, you’re left with something which – paradoxically – no amount of diligent describing can do: for all his raving, Mark Prindle actually, repeatedly, successfully gets across a very real sense of the artists and the albums he covers: over the years, his page has come to be one of the most reliable buyer’s guides I’ve ever come across.

Quaint as their sites look now, Mark Prindle and his contemporaries – Wilson & Alroy of warr.org (“We Listen to the Lousy Records so You Won’t Have to”) and the ever-just George Starostin (who’s the only one of that lot who moved on to blogging) – will perhaps be the last big names in music writing. The corporate press has, through its aversion to taking any kind of risks, turned itself into a shelter for the toothless, talentless and timid of the world; there’s nothing good that’s going to come out of that self-made train wreck. Pitchfork – once the great white hope of online reviewing – has fossilised into an impenetrable wall of hipster jargon. Music blogs, run by individuals or by small groups of committed obsessives – which now fill the space left by sites like Prindle’s – will, simply by coming later and to a much larger and more disjointed internet, never command their readership. There is a lot to be said for small scenes and localised, closed-circuit artist-and-media relationships; indeed it looks as if there really is no other way things can go. Still, the one thing that can’t grow out of these is a rock-solid, worldwide institution. Mark Prindle’s website – over four hundred bands, over three thousand albums reviewed, an audience across countries, engaged enough to regularly post comments as long as the articles – was an institution.

Prindle on Ian Curtis‘ off-key singing and subsequent, tragic suicide:

The ironic thing is that the act of hanging himself corrected his voicebox injury, and he sang like a bird with perfect pitch afterward. And sure maybe I should’ve said something to the undertaker, but he sounded so good!

He stopped singing a few minutes later.

Sigh. Warms the heart, it does.

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5 thoughts on “Donkey’s Ears: Music Writing Goes to Hell

  1. Great article. I’ve been a fan of Mark’s website for 10+ years, and I also felt quite sad when he stopped updating. Oh well, he clued me in to dozens of awesome bands I’d never heard of before.

  2. Damn, Prindle quit, eh? I haven’t visited regularly for the last several years, but in the early 2000s I spent a lot of my office time reading his rants. Some of his reviews were complete shit, but brilliantly so. Prindle’s responsible for almost all the music I discovered in those two or three years. I remember being quite pissed off to find that Wikipedia didn’t have an entry on him a couple of years ago.
    Anyway.. thanks for this, I must go back to his site and catch up on my reading.

  3. He is responsible for a lot of individuals thinking up zazzy names and starting reviews sites over the years……but quite right : i doubt that any site or blog will have the audience that Prindle captured. I never understood how he has readers from all over the world and not just the local music scene….the self named WRC was really going strong circa 2000-2005 after which its slowly died out….with the final nail being Prindle retiring.

  4. Pingback: More Moop Letters | Moop City

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