I’ve never been good at receiving compliments – so how do I feel about criticism? Especially a comprehensive annihilation of the idea there’s any worth in my music at all. I got served properly in Paul Lester’s piece in The Guardian last week.
For a little while I decided not to read it. The ‘ignore your own press’ mantra has always been an attractive one. But ignoring has to be a thoughtless act, not an incessant effort, and I was failing at that so I read it.
I can’t pretend his critique was totally off the mark. Yes some of the lyrics on MFTF don’t lay out the secrets of the universe like a tapestry at your feet. I don’t have that fantasy other-worldliness quality of Lady Gaga at the O2 or Ziggy Stardust in 1973.
But then I’m not a stadium act, and playing that grandiose shit would feel wrong in the pubs and clubs I cut my teeth in. I had to walk on stage as me, not as someone else. That’s the reality of a world without massive record contracts. If you don’t like it, go buy some records and make record companies rich again so they can waste it all on capes and special effects. That’s not a failure of imagination from me, it’s just me being me. And just because I’m personal doesn’t mean I can’t be transportative. Who knows maybe I’ll get more into capes on my third or fourth album, but not yet. Let me develop.
Of course I’m disappointed. I’m not going to gloss over it like I totally don’t care. Lot’s of people now mistakenly think my career is a meaningless quest to promote biscuits to the soundtrack of weak lift music. Even worse I was accused of being a ‘fauxhemian’ – a faker. To dislike my music is one thing, to suggest I’m faking it is another. And only someone with no clue could confuse me with Jack Johnson.
But perhaps that’s his point. How can you distinguish between one male songwriter and another if all you hear is the same white noise when they open their identically stubbled faces? It was the genre that took the biggest bashing, not whatever my contribution to it is, and in that sense I escaped the review unharmed.
So don’t be too hard on Paul Lester – he’s just calling it as he sees it and credit to him for that. Perhaps it’s an opportunity for me to learn something that I wouldn’t have learned if he loved it. Who knows – maybe he’ll learn something too – he’s graciously accepted my offer to come down to my next London gig to see what it’s like.
Anyway, it’s all a process and I’m not going away, whether it’s the last press article I get or not. Plus there’ll be no references to the loo in my next album. I want every word to pack a punch.