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Lester Bangs’ Favorite Records

Supposedly Complimentary

Lester Bangs on some of his favorite artists, albums and bands

Even when Lester Bangs was trying to lavish a band or an album with praise, he often couched the compliment inside criticism of the band’s earlier work, the genre itself, the culture at large, or perhaps even the thing he was trying to compliment in the first place. This contrarian streak was part of Bangs’ charm. In advance of How To Be A Rock Critic (May 11 – 21), we’ve assembled some of the best instances of this trademark Lester Bangs move.

On The Stooges

“The Stooges’ songs may have some of the last great rock ‘n’ roll lyrics, because everybody else seems either too sophisticated at the outset or hopelessly poisoned by the effects of big ideas on little minds. A little knowledge is still a dangerous thing.”


On The Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed

“I’ll go as far to say that I think the stories I wrote about Lou [Reed] in the mid-seventies were all better art than the records, any of them, he was making at the time.”


On Joni Mitchell

“It took a while for a lot of people to get to Joni Mitchell. Listening to her albums was a frustrating experience if you weren’t a convert in front. You could tell that Blue, for instance, was an important record and the songs were truly fine, but somehow it seemed almost too personal, too consistently down.”


On John Lennon

“John Lennon at his best despised cheap sentiment and had to learn the hard way that once you’ve made your mark on history those who can’t will be so grateful they’ll turn it into a cage for you.”


On The Clash

“So much of what’s (doled) out as punk merely amounts to saying I suck, you suck, the world sucks, and who gives a damn–which is, er, ah, somehow insufficient…I know it’s easy to be cynical about all this; in fact, one of the most uncool things you can do these days is to be committed about anything. The Clash are so committed they’re downright militant.”


On Miles Davis

“This is the kind of album that gives you faith in the future of music. It is not rock and roll, but it’s nothing stereotyped as jazz either…It is part of a transcendental new music which flushes categories away and, while using musical devices from all styles and cultures, is defined mainly by its deep emotion and unaffected originality.”


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