Talking about it now it sounds like he's been making up for lost time. As he told me about the pieces he writes for Rhapsody (where he has the metal beat) and other publications including Spin (where he writes their “essentials” column) I got the impression he has to be writing practically every waking hour. While it's not that bad, he said, he definitely doesn't have enough time to do all the writing he would like, he said.
But there has been another problem besides time, namely the pieces he and other critics write have, generally, to be shorter.
He mentioned this after I asked him what impact has the Internet has had on music criticism. Surely, I argued, it had to have been changed by the fact that suddenly, when the Internet became popular, everyone has, essentially, their own printing press be it blogs or writing reviews on Amazon or Facebook.
The big change, which he attributes to both the effect of the Internet as well as publications like The Entertainment Weekly, is that now “everything is just bite sized,” he said.
He only has 600 characters, for example, to write a review for Rhapsody, he said.
"It is harder to get a personal voice in reviews of that length,” he said. (These last two paragraphs, to give you an idea of this problem, are 239 characters.)
As I slowly eased the conversation into what I was concerned might be a topic he may be tired of writing and talking about,namely the stereotype of him being a contrarian, I asked him what he thinks makes a good music critic.
After we moved past the obvious – it's a subjective matter, there is no one “right” way to be a critic or to write reviews , etc. – we got to the meat of it.
"Critics should stick to their convictions," he said. “I like critics with strong opinions.”
As you may have guessed, and some excerpts I'll share at the end of this piece should make clear, he definitely is a critic himself with convictions and strong opinions.
For example, we talked about the collaborative album between Lou Reed and Metallica, widely panned by many critics. He didn’t hate it.
Together they are doing a “loud minimalist” style connected to what Velvet Underground used to do, he said.