Rejection hurts! They say you are supposed to get used to it, accept it, even embrace it. “I sent out my short story to 100 literary journals before one accepted,” say websites run by smart-looking women with their arms crossed. “You will have to as well, if you want to be a writer.” Is that supposed to be encouraging? Why can’t I succeed much earlier, and at a much higher rate?
I recently applied to write about music for a culture website. They had me send in a test review on an album of my choosing. That apparently got me to the next stage (It’s the Tera Melos review that I posted on here). Next they gave me an album to review. I was juggling a lot of stuff at the time, so I tried to pass off stinky brown-wet garbage with no redeeming qualities as music criticism – or so I found out later.
In this case it wasn’t the rejection that hurt. At the time, I didn’t know if taking on another unpaid writing gig was a good time commitment, so I was halfway planning to fail (I planned to turn in something really pretentious and overwrought, but I didn’t have time). In the end I didn’t want to turn in sloppy work, so I did a quick, OK job – or so I thought.
I got an email back saying they’d pass. Fine. Then, wanting to be some young sponge, some paragon of self-improvement and humility, I asked the editor if he could send me an area or two to improve on. WHOOPS – BIG FUCK UP THERE! He forwarded me the comments of the editors, which read like any round-table review of some half-baked screenplay, or one of those stage-lighted undressings on American Idol-type shows, where the poor fool who just tried their best smiles helplessly as their screaming mind runs for the nearest 12th story window. It was kinda clinical and cold, the way they judged me. Took me apart on a cold metal table, naked. Cruel in print, and battering to the ego. I read some of the other reviews on the site, and I didn’t think they were very good, but apparently neither am I…
NEITHER AM I. Yes, I had a crisis of confidence. I’m not some established writer. I’m just some daydreaming, word-spewing asshole who earned the wrong degree for five years and worked in that same wrong field for four more years (four more years! Four more years!) after graduation. I wondered if everything I’ve ever written has been crap, and nobody had the heart to tell me. I had cold-sweat thoughts about the 100,000+ word novel-in-progress that is sitting on my computer. It just really bothered me a lot, that spectrum of mostly-fair criticisms those editors leveled at me.
I replied with something like “Oof! Well, thanks for passing that along.” To which the editor expressed “Sorry man,” and that maybe it would have been better if he didn’t send the email. To this day I don’t know whether I agree with him or not.
I write for another music website, and after every review, my editor writes glowing praise at me until I blush. “Awww [editor], you always know just what to say,” is what I usually coo as I smile into my email. After The RejectionTM, I wondered if I wasn’t just being glad-handed so that I’ll keep working for free.
Eventually I got over it, but I don’t know how many of those gang-judgments I could take. Constructive criticisms, yeah alright. But being rejected and told I’m lousy? Ugh. I suppose I should ready myself for more. Nobody just waltzes in and takes the literary world by storm right? Gotta pay dues right? Gotta paaaay those duuuues.
So without further adoo, here is the doo doo in question, my ham-handed bungling of Ought’s More Than Any Other Day. Enjoy!
Ought: More Than Any Other Day
Review by [FormerConformer]
3.5 / 5
There is a danger in naming your band Ought:
“Who is this?”
“They’re called Ought”
“Well they Ought to have made a better album! Haw haw.”
Ought they have? Is the band’s first proper full-length More Than Any Other Day lacking in some essential way? At first the answer seems like a resounding NO. Album opener “Pleasant Heart” strides through the gate beautifully. The song is an enthusiastic stew of wonderful noise, led by the rambling post-punk guitar and impassioned vocals of Tim Beeler. The rest of the band collage in complimentary parts, building the song into a chaotic, idealistic mix that recalls a less jaded This Heat. “Pleasant Heart” is about six minutes long and earns each one, with even Tim Keen’s extended interlude of scratching violins feeling necessary and harmonious.
Ought conjure up a different kind of energy on “Today, More Than Any Other Day”. Here, after a bit of brooding, Beeler jumps up and runs barefoot through the neighborhood, shouting out how excited he is for “the milk of human kindness”. He beckons his listeners to follow behind, to expose their naked joy to the whole wide world and to delight in the idea that “We’re all the fuck-ing same”. Skinny fists will pump to this, at music festivals and lakeside campfires and farmers markets for years to come.
However, it’s on “Habit” where Ought tip their hand and reveal their real motivations, as well as their real shortcomings. Beeler’s eyes roll back in rapture, and he begins to roll off a rather shameless series of David Byrne-isms. These shtick-y life lessons sound odd coming from a singer and a band, who are so patently young and idealistic. Even in bittersweet mode, Ought’s reveries are all college-beard wistfulness, the sound of wool coats with upturned collars on brisk invigorating city nights. The overriding characteristic – and perhaps theme – of More Than Any Other Day is that optimism permeates all.
More Than Any Other Day offers a good deal of variety, from the cutesy plinkety-plink of “The Weather Song” to the pastoral, ambient violins of “Forgiveness”. “Clarity!” rises and falls with the rollicking energy of a carnival thrill ride. “Around Again” is a groovy, disco-ish post-punk strut, until it swerves suddenly (on a cringe-inducing bit of poetry) into an eerie, chiming menace of an outro, featuring more Byrne-ish incantations from Tim Beeler. Album closer “Gemini” hums with latent energy in the verses, and erupts into a riotous clangor-in-three during the choruses.
In a later part of the Talking Heads Stop Making Sense concert film, David Byrne dons the comically oversized “big suit”. Ought are trying to wear that suit, but the support structure just isn’t there. More than Any Other Day is the somewhat patronizing, slightly pretentious sound of young musicians setting goals for themselves, and beginning to fake it until they make it. Ought may not embody the cool-and-knowing urban shaman sensibility they are striving for just yet, but the results of their first attempt are exciting and mostly enjoyable. They Ought to give it another try.