The Critic’s Lament

detail from The Art Critic by Norman Rockwell

The Critic’s Lament

If you don’t like this then you’re a moron,
If you do like that then you’re a lout,
If you’d rather t’other, then I guess you’re on your own –
For even when the way is shown,
You’d rather do without.

If you don’t like this then you’re a cretin,
If you do like that then you’re a square –
Yet now, for all my years of selfless vetting of the muse,
So you masses never have to choose,
It’s like you just don’t care

How can you reject my spotless taste
In favour of your own ?
Or let my perfect wisdom go to waste
Despite my megaphone ?
For who will sing the praises of the chosen
That they’ve scarcely earned,
And who will prick the egos of the posers
Once their backs are turned ?

So if you don’t like this then you’re a heathen,
And if you do like that, you’re thick as planks –
For I alone am high priest to this seething sea of stars,
I’m crushing dreams, inflicting scars –
Yet still I get no thanks !

Acid Verse

Acid Verse

Lis’ning to psychelic music,
Joss stick sending up a stream,
Lava shadows on the ceiling,
Red wine drifting off to dream.
Don’t need drugs to taste the acid,
Just an over-yellow mind-
It’s gonna be one of those fitful nights
When the gears of my conscious grind.

Too much psychedelia,
It’s not from the drugs, this trance, though –
I swear, just wine, and a lack of coffee,
So why do the colours dance so ?

I guess that I must be dreaming ?
I really hope that I’m dreaming…
Cos if this is really psychotrope
Then I’m trapped inside a kaleidoscope.

I guess there are folks who deal with this ev’ry day –
Does it make me a bad person to say
That I never wanted to end up that way ?
Like this way.  Like slipping down the slope.

Lis’ning to psychelic noodling,
Playing somewhere, distant, bleak –
It’s gonna be one of those endless nights
When the door of perception creak.

Too much recycled dioramaa,
But if not drugs, then what have I taken ?
If only I’d swallowed some bloody caffeine
Cos I need to reawaken.

So why am I still here dreaming ?
Or what am I not here dreaming ?
It’s not any pills from off the shelf,
But maybe my brain has brewed some itself ?

Maybe it’s cloning its own serotonin all day,
Or morphing endorphins to help it to play.
Or doped-up on dopamine, drooling away ?
Who’s to say ?  Is it madness by stealth ?

Lis’ning to psychedelic mumbling,
Needle jumping, stuck on repeat –
It’s gonna be one of those Mobius nights
When Alice can’t find her feet.

Too much psyched-out sepia –
I don’t even own a secret stash,
But these uninvited thoughts wanna dance,
Now this party’s about to crash.

Can I still hope I’m nothing but dreaming ?
I gonna need help if I find I’m not dreaming
Cos I just don’t know how I’m gonna survive
If I’m right here awake and I’m streaming this live.

I don’t want to crash, but I don’t want to stay,
So help me to crash to an overcast day –
Cos there’s so many colours, I can’t find my way –
Help me, pray, when the DTs arrive.

Lis’ning to spaced-out psychic music,
Sometimes my mind is not my friend,
Cos psychedelic may sound angelic,
But it’s based on the blues in the end.

Pump Up, Soak In, Churn Out

Pump Up, Soak In, Churn Out

Ev’ry time we turn the music on
And spin that single, dream that dream,
We’re really lis’ning to the Man.
For ev’ry time we place that needle,
Fire that laser, hit that stream,
We’re all just following the Plan.

Rock & roll ain’t noise pollution,
But it sure is toxic waste
To manufacture vinyl, drop by drop.
And digital is nothing without phones,
Upgraded in a haste –
The beat goes on, the beat must never stop.

The constant chemicals that we abuse
Ain’t pills and coke,
They’re plastic pop and heavy metal ores.
For all our music’s rock music in the end,
To burn and smoke –
We’re so unhip, we groove to dinosaurs.

And where is all this power from to fight the power ?
Nukes and coal.
Our phones get fat while the rainforest gets thinned.
How can we let the sunshine in
To let the records roll ?
The answer, dudes, is blowing in the wind.

Too Fast

Too Fast

Pop tunes reckon that they haven’t got long,
So they splash their chorus in the first few bars –
They’re terrified of the fingers that skip,
They’ve got no time to take a trip.
The ear-economy for any song
Must reach us in shops and lobbies and cars –
There’s no slow build-up any more,
Just one-two-three, then four-to-the-floor.


Photo by SplitShire on


Ev’ry hour on ev’ry radio,
On ev’ry station, Beatles, Bach or Blues –
Upon the hour, come what may,
They force on us the news.

We come here for the music,
But we have to hear the gossip and the noise.
And even worse, the traffic, sport and weather –
What a buzzkill, boys !

And in an hour, then up it pops again –
Just the same with nothing changed, just comfort food.
Headlines full of factoids – got no time,
Yet long enough to wreck the mood.

I don’t mind DJ chat –
At least a human’s in the process somewhere –
But this sounds like an algorithm
Padding out the wavelengths, filling up the air.

Well I’m no luddites, I can read the papers –
Keep abreast as best I can.
I don’t need constant interruptions
Thinking I’ve got no attention span.

Give me a station full of talking,
But let’s keep the others where the music never stops –
No news is good news, so save it for the Albert Hall –
And the top of the hour for the top of the pops.

Sheep Mayn’t Safely Graze

Photo by Nick Bondarev on

Sheep Mayn’t Safely Graze

We rack them out between bridges and nuts,
And crank till they must reply.
And those low, low throbs that we feel in our guts –
Well, the sheep feel them too, by-and-by.
But it’s never their bleats or their baas that are scored,
It’s never their voices that sing from each chord,
And it’s never their own requiem we applaud.
In life and in death, so their tension will always be high.

How many hundreds of thousands of sheep
Have our symphonies dispatched ?
Every cello has reason to weep,
And scream as its sinews are scratched.
How many flocks must we cull to the muse ?
How many sacrificed lambkins and ewes ?
On the altar of Bach shall their entrails ooze.
They live for this music, but always do strings come attached.

Hickory Sticks

broken drumstick close up dark dirty
Photo by abednego ago on

Hickory Sticks

Why do I hate Phil Collins ?
Well, I try not to hate anymore
But why do I so dislike Phil Collins ?
Do I ?  I’m not so sure.
I still think Air Tonight is a classic,
At least, till the kit kicks in –
The rest, I mostly could leave ’em,
But if you dig ’em, I guess you win.

No, the reason I hate…no, never hate,
But maybe biting my thumbs,
Is all because he single-handed killed the 80s
With his drums –
His thudding, crushing, reverb-hushing,
Stop-and-starty gated drums !
His all-commanding, corp’rate-branding,
Undecaying zombie drums !

It’s not all of Phil Collins’s fault, of course,
He only rubbed the lamp,
And soon the genius was loose
To spread itself through desk and amp –
Producers loved its soulless beats
That never swing or soothe,
And ev’ry engineer beheld
The emperor’s new groove.

It took us all the decade to wake up,
Ten years too late,
To suss the subtleties we’d lost
When drumskins don’t vibrate.
How many tunes that now sound dated,
Could instead have sounded great ?
So this is why I curse Phil Collins –
Cos he opened up the gate !

But what do I know, and what does he care ?
He’s loved by thousands ev’ry day –
So he’s the famous millionaire,
And I’m just the whinging, self-smug square
Who cannot even play.
So I don’t like his drums ?  So what ?
Is that the best I’ve got
To think that I can moan away ?

You know what I hate about Phil Collins ?
I hate how he makes me hate.
How all of my petty ugliness
Is rising to the bait.
He lets me let myself off the hook
And lets my mouth run free –
As if my taste is the only taste,
And I dare you to disagree.

So sing it, Phil !
Sing it inspite of me,
Sing it to frighten me
Out of my combative them-and-us cry.
Ignore my stridency,
Forgive my overkill,
Try to enlighten me –
Live and let live till we die.

I guess this is where the toms come in,
The final chorus beckons, I see.
Could we just let them ring out for once, do you reckon,
Just for me ?
Ungate my heart, take me out of the 80s,
And into a decade of long decay –
Or else let’s part, and never be haters.
Bang the drum – not fade away.

Delay Pedal

press to........delay


Delay Pedal

Strike a note – an A – with a delay to fade away and underlay the next you play.
Strike a note – an E – and you will see how easily it echoes free within the key.
Now slide away and do you see how this delay shall carry me
Across the stay, the next, and three, till they decay in filigree ?



Te Deum

Village Choir by Samuel Grimm

Te Deum

The hymns we used to sing at school,
The same we sang again in church –
With dreary verse by dozen verses,
Crawling by as slow as hearses.
Hymns we had to sing at school
Beneath the master’s gaze and birch,
We mumbled and we croaked along
In vain attempt to kill the song.
Amazing Grace,
Thou art no friend –
Oh, will thy tortures never end ?

But maybe those Victorians
Were not so grim in what they wrote –
They knew the lack of vocal fires
Within the souls of conscript choirs.
Those mutton-chopped Victorians
Were scoring for the weary throat –
Just make it monotone and slow,
And not too high and not too low.
Oh, Rock of Ages,
Hear our shout –
Pray let thine organ drown us out !

Of course, they almost killed the music,
Almost beat the rhythm from us –
Generations, stripped and cold,
With not one note that we could hold.
But still…there sang another music,
One with joy and lust and promise –
Yet the faithful still can’t figure
How the Devil’s tunes are bigger…
Hallelujah !
Mutants rule !
With our song Bright and Beautiful !





When the words won’t come
And the rhymes run dry,
When the tunes won’t hum
And the airs won’t fly,

When the metres break
And the scans won’t flow,
When the beat won’t take
And the one won’t go,

When all the lyrics stutter,
And when all the choirs mutter,
And when all rhythms splutter,
Sing along, sing along !

We cannot all be nightingales
With perfect breath to fill our sails,
Or even decent banshee wails –
We were not built for song.

We have no need to score each stress
To make ourselves be heard –
If tending slightly to a drone or whine.

But if you’re rendered music-less,
Well, take our flat and spoken word
That life goes on in monotone just fine.