All-purpose suffix used to convey a punkish undercurrent or an extremity of vision; derived from hardcore, the word used to describe the California thrash-punk scene of the late 1970s. Loungecore describes the over-egged easy-listening vogue; jazzcore describes the kind of breakneck, intricate instumental music that Frank Zappa played on his excursions into jazz territory; emocore describes pitch-black depressive-teen music for depressive teens who are too intelligent to listen to Limp Bizkit and Slipknot.


Suffix employed by rock critics and musicians to bestow an air of mystique and vague internationalism upon mundane words (and often mundane music). Hence the genre electronica and the bands Republica, Elastica, and Panoptica. Björk almost called her most recent album Domestica before settling on the even-more-baffling Vespertine.


Yo La Tengo

Precious, NPR-friendly Velvet Undergound–like trio from Hoboken, New Jersey, anchored by the husband-and-wife team of former rock critic Ira Kaplan and drummer Georgia Hubley. Routinely praised by Snob critics for its “tuneful din” or “atonal dream pop,” Yo La Tengo is in fact a cautionary tale of what happens when rock critics form bands. And that was Yo La Tengo here on listener-supported WNYC...

Las, The

Short-lived Liverpool band unaccountably accorded legendary status by Snobs on the basis of one half-decent album of neo-Merseybeat pop. Led by Lee Mavers, an obsessive who worked through several band line-ups and producers in a vain attempt to capture some elusive lo-fi ideal in his bowl-cut-topped head, the Las finally saw their eponymous début released against their leader's wishes in 1990 and scored a hit with the plangent “There She Goes” (covered in 1997 by anemic Christian alt-poppers Sixpence None the Richer). Mayers subsequently retreated from public view, Syd Barrett–style, amid rumours of mental illness, drug problems, and a vault of unreleased “masterpieces.”


Amorphous genre born of rock-crit necessity in the 1990s, mainly to explain to a skeptical public that the freeform, slomo noodlings of such semi-smart strivers as Tortoise and Low were not lazy, unstructured cop-out jams but the music of the 21st century.

Oh, and our original “content” of the day? We return to an early aside.

production values

Consciously-discernible quality of recording or execution. Most cringe-inducingly apropos example for Canadians: The Box, the early-’80s Montreal pop-guitar dance/New Wave curiosity, whose promiscuous deployment of atmospheric stereo effects would presage home-video weenies' invocation of the World War II codename manqué “5.1.”


Perry, Lee “Scratch”

Mercurial, kooky, formerly-forgotten reggae shaman (born in 1936) who has enjoyed new recognition since being pronounced cool by ageless Rock Snob collective the Beastie Boys in the early 1980s. As a producer and as the front man for his own band, the Upsetters, Perry was, in the 1960s and ’70s, a prime exponent of Jamaica's swashbuckling “dub” remix genre. Though his gargantuan output is as hard to penetrate as the quasi-mystical pronouncements he gives to interviewers from his home in Switzerland, he now plays to packed houses of young hipsters, few of whom actually know any of his songs.

Replacements, the

Shambolic ’80s guitar band from Minnesota whose plaid-shirted, raspy-throated leader, Paul Westerberg, was a profound influence on both the grunge movement and the more recent “modern rock” travesties of the Goo Goo Dolls. Westerberg broke up the band in 1990 due to poor sales and has subsequently alienated his fan base by “going soft.”

Well, one might as well provide elucidation in situ.


In (a) shambles; obviously chaotic. Appears to be a genuine word, even if not readily found in dictionaries (dictionary entry with suspicious imprimatur; OED entry; Cf. “ ‘Shambolic’ control of foot-and-mouth”; “It was shambolic defending for the goals. At times like this I wish I was a joiner!”) Typical uses by Snobs seem to actually mean “mop-headed,” “overly casual.”


power pop

Record-reviewer term for Beatlesesque music made by intelligent-dork bands that, though they’ve given it the old college try, can’t actually muster the songcraft, cleverness, vocal agility, or production ingenuity of the Beatles. First applied to early-’70s acts such as the Raspberries and Badfinger (the latter group actually being McCartnery protégés), and subsequently given a new lease on life with the ’90s advent of such bands as Jellyfish and the Apples in Stereo. The first song on the new Apples in Stereo album shimmers with pure power-pop exuberance.

Oh, and while we’re at it?


Adjective betraying Snobs’ reflexive bias toward an unfun, no-rhythms-allowed-but-mathrock-and-polyrhythms æsthetic. All it takes to produce the “shimmering” sound is a few sweeps of a brush across a cymbal (for extra effect, rattle its outside edge), a move rivaling air guitar for rudimentary duplicability by Catholic schoolgirls. Evokes a putatively rapturous vibe at an alt-rock show while eliding the fact that you can’t shimmer and rock out, or even shimmer and sing, at the same time, cleanly negating two prerequisites of rock performance.



Standby rock-crit adjective used to lend a magical aura to any nonaggressive guitar-based music (even though the word’s primary meaning is “loud and resounding”). Presumably, Snob overlord Elvis Costello is being arch in calling his song-publishing company Plangent Visions Ltd. Stipe’s muffled vocals and Buck’s chiming, plangent guitar made R.E.M.’s ‘Murmur’ one of the most auspicious débuts of the 1980s.

Wilson, Dennis

Strikingly-handsome middle brother of the Beach Boy Wilsons. Long suspected of being a marginally-talented surfer-stoner dude who was merely along for the ride with genius older brother Brian Wilson and golden-voiced kid brother Carl – though nominally the group’s drummer, he often ceded his sticks to Wrecking Crew stalwart Hal Blaine – Dennis surprised fans when, as a novice songwriter in the late 1960s, he ably crafted emotionally fraught ballads; his out-of-print 1977 solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue, is a major cause célèbre among Snobs. An even more tragic figure than mentally-ill sibling Brian, Dennis befriended Charles Manson and facilitated his entrée into the 1960s L.A.-rock aristocracy, and he died in 1983 in penurious, booze-addled circumstances, ironically by drowning in the Beach Boys’ beloved Pacific. The title of a recent Dennis biography, The Real Beach Boy, neatly encapsulates the fervent ethos of Dennis Snobs.

And our neologism of the day?


Frat rock for a generation with attention spans too Nintendo-attenuated to understand Rush, let alone Tool. Nü-metal’s spiritual leader, Fred Durst, too sharply reminds older Snobs of the heavily-indulged sexy tough guys who beat them up in junior high and went on to become captains of industry. Nü-metal is metal the way house music is music, preprocessed and extrudable at the push of a sequencer button. Basslines have superficial “heavy” appeal but lack true metal’s commitment to absolute destructive power; nü-metalers rock out at 11 only if it won’t dislodge their correctly-sized backwards baseball caps. Lyrical themes, when they exist, are solipsist (Durst’s own “My Way,” “My Generation”) rather than satanic. Tracing itself to Helmet (four, later three, clean-cut boys who gave a hoped-for combo of erudition and heaviness their best shot and crashed nonetheless), nü-metalists crib from the wrong half of the Rosetta Stone. Variously called mook rock. I know everybody’s his fan these days, but for ninety bucks a ticket Ozzy’s got to lose the nü-metal opening acts.



Luddite recording æsthetic championed by contemporary artists who tend toward sparse, raw production and believe that older, analogue equipment produces a more “honest” or “organic” sound; or, more realistically, by artists too musically incompetent tand undisciplined to record crafted, finished music. Pavement combines Phi Beta Kappa smarts with an endearing lo-fi slipshodness.

Low-fi should pretty much get killed off by software. If you can run ProTools or Cubase, I want production values coming out the arse. (Production values: Another term you can never find a definition for.)


Squelching old-school synthesizer invented in 1965 and first popularized by Walter Carlos’s bachelor-pad suite Switched-On Bach. The prodigiously-corded instrument (and its Austin Powers–sounding offspring, the MiniMoog) went on to become a staple of prog rock and Krautrock. Today, the Moog is fetishized by instrument snobs such as Beck, as well as dance-music acts such as the Prodigy and Fatboy Slim, who remixed a track on this year’s kitschy Best of Moog compilation.

Bit of an echo of “prodigy,” but no matter. Ron Loranger tells me that Robert Moog, who is in fact British, pronounced his name not in the Dutch way (“mohg”) or even in the obvious English way (“moohg” as in “moo-moo cow”), but as a rhyme for dog. A direct quote from Moog contradicts this (“According to Bob Moog, his name was originally pronounced “[moohg].” But his former wife Shirleigh taught the first grade, and when she told her students to call her Mrs. Moog, the kids had way too much fun making cow noises. At her request, the pronunciation was changed to ‘moe-g.’ Today, Bob diplomatically says, ‘Either is correct’ ”).

Technics SL-1200 Mark 2

Unassuming turntable that began its life as a hi-fi component for 1972 Hef aspirants, but, thanks to the sturdiness of its belt drive, was later adopted by whiplash-wristed club DJs, who linked pairs of htem to a mixer. To this day, the SL-1200 is the prime instrument of turntablists worldwide. Though hiphop and dance music tend to be weak spots for the Rock Snob, knowing about the SL-1200 Mark 2 is still de rigueur, a touchstone of dance-culture insiderism. Dude! I just got an SL-1200 for the apartment!


So let’s add one.


Musical discipline embraced by Dance Snobs distancing themselves from what they actually otherwise are, DJs. Refocuses on the equipment rather than the music despite the fact that punters come to hear discs being jockeyed, not tables being turned. Notable mismatch with previous rock-vernacular backformations, viz. the way that “acoustic” guitars were so named once it became necessary to differentiate them from “electric” guitars.