Revenge Is Tweet – When Bands Answer Back

Twitter is good for many things – showing off, snooping on ex-lovers, pouring scorn on the American right, generally bellowing into the void – but it’s particularly useful for musicians, since it enables them to rail against their critics.

Calvin Harris demonstrated this with a recent Twitter rant, in which he blamed a bad review on the prevalence of “RICH PEOPLE’S KIDS” in the media.

Rather sweetly, Harris seems to imagine the music press is populated by braying, Veuve-Clicquot-quaffing Noel Coward-types – when anyone who’s ever set foot in the NME office knows it’s really full of penniless desperadoes with permanent hangovers and problem facial hair. Still, he’s entitled to his fantasy.

Marilyn Manson displayed a similar combination of delusion and hysterical over-reaction when he threatened to murder all music journalists in their beds via his MySpace blog. This was of course deeply shocking: you mean you still use MySpace?

Manson’s baffling tirade (what’s all this about a nude photo?) was prompted by a piece in LA Weekly in which snarky Buddyhead blogger Travis Keller accused the God Of Fuck of being a cokehead.

The goth-rocker’s response seemed a little OTT. I mean, Keller could have said something really hurtful, such as, oh, I don’t know, you’re fat, old, and your new album’s shit.

The dialogue between band and critic, while seldom edifying, can occasionally be conducted with wit and maturity. Witness The Airborne Toxic Event’s thoughtful rejoinder to Pitchfork’s 1.6 demolition of their debut album (which I thought was grossly unfair: any idiot could tell you it was worth at least 2.3).

Predictably, the music blogs lapped it up, resulting in perhaps the nerdiest ‘beef’ in the history of the internet. Pitchfork vs The Airborne Toxic Event? It’s hardly Biggie Vs Tupac, is it?

And besides, TATE got off lightly. At least Pitchfork didn’t illustrate the review with a video of a monkey pissing into its own mouth, like they did with Jet – a ‘review’ which was, by the way, a good deal more eloquent and considered than this gem from Steven Wells, which we came across in the reviews archive recently. Good old Swells. I think he got a Pulitzer for that one.

There’s a difference, though, between a struggling band engaging in an intelligent debate with a critic, and a spoilt multi-millionaire rock star whinging about a bad review. Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose presumably felt vindicated when he listed journalists who’d wronged him – including Kerrang!’s Mick Wall – in the track ‘Get In The Ring’. But two decades on, it just sounds small-minded and tragic.

Perhaps musicians should rely on actions rather than words. Bono once sent Swells an axe in the post – together with a note asking to “bury the hatchet” – while The Levellers mailed a dog turd to an unsuspecting NME critic (not the first time, nor the last, that we’ve received a load of shit in the post).

Although neither of those gestures were as offensive, or as pungent, as the ultimate insult: Stereophonics’ ‘Mr Writer’. Say what you like about Calvin Harris, at least he exhausts his fury via Twitter, rather than converting it into song. After all, the prospect of a cheesy stadium-house anthem called ‘FUCKING RICH PEOPLE’S KIDS EVERYWHERE’ is too horrible to comtemplate.