Starostin on "Magical Mystery Tour"

Michael Gerber
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I recently praised George Starostin’s “Only Solitaire” review website on a comments thread, and wanted to draw the attention of Hey Dullblog’s readers to his blog, which features reviews of new music and revisitings of music discussed on the original, now archived “Only Solitaire” site. The latest review is of “Magical Mystery Tour,” and includes much to think on for any Beatles listener.

[Background info: George Starostin isn’t a professional reviewer, but a Russian linguist, born in 1976, who is a member of the faculty of the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow.]

Postscript (added May 12): you can find George Starostin’s original site, which includes hundreds of reviews, here:

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  1. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    I don’t know whether to thank you or not, Nancy. I can see I’m going to be spending a ridiculous amount of time reading his blog!

    But this sentence alone made the whole review worth my time: ” Clouds? Wizards? LSD? Absurd ism? Not for Paul, really, who provokes the whole band into conjuring mushroom imagery and then quietly backs out while there’s still time.” HA!

    Now I’m off to read more of his reviews.

    — Drew

  2. I find this guy’s writing absolutely delicious.

    And nice defense of “Your Mother Should Know,” which I have always enjoyed out of proportion to how good it probably is.

  3. Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

    You should also check out the original review site, which you can find at

    One of the things I love about his writing is his enthusiasm for what he loves, and his appreciation of a variety of styles. And he’s not afraid to call a spade a spade (check out his review of “Press to Play. Ouch!)

  4. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    Nancy: Just read the Press to Play review. That was way harsh, George (as the kiddies say). I stridently disagree with him about McCartney II. It’s a fantastic album. And The Quietus and The AV Club both agreed with ME in their reviews this year of the McCartney II reissue.

    I think George S. clearly did not like the genre. I couldn’t find a single review on his site of Kraftwerk or other artists in the electronica realm. I confess I don’t understand why a reviewer who hates a particular genre would even bother to review an album in that genre.

    Still, I love the guy’s writing and am enjoying all of his Beatles reviews. So RIP George. And thanks for the heads up on this, Nancy. Plus he adores Ram so he has my complete respect. 🙂

    — Drew

  5. I fucking love this guy. I went to his “Old Site” and downloaded the Word document containing all of his posted album reviews from 1998 to 2007 (it tops out at almost 1,300 pages). At random, I came across this perfectly worded gem of an insight:

    “The rather obvious trend, as my experience has shown me, is that people usually value musical criticism not so much according to the literary skills or erudition of the writer, but according to how much their opinions on music coincide with those of the writer. This gives even us the illiterates plenty of hope: we may write like third-graders, but we are still bound to find admiring fans because we think the same thoughts of Led Zeppelin. Or, on the contrary, you may be a reincarnation of Lenny Bruce, Nabokov, and Jean-Paul Sartre combined, but you will still be called an incompetent hack by the first reader who takes insult at your sacrilegious treatment of the German industrial scene.”

    Sometimes words are so true, you can only bow before them.

  6. OK, I entered the fray in the comments, talking about “All You Need is Love,” and satyagraha.

    George is getting the full Dullblog treatment. 🙂

  7. Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

    Really glad people are enjoying the reviews of George S. In my opinion he’s often more insightful, passionate, and funny than a lot of paid reviewers, and deserves to be much better known.

    Here’s my favorite paragraph from his “Sgt. Pepper’s” re-review, which he posted this April:

    “The one big difference of ʽA Day In The Lifeʼ is that it is essentially a tragic song, performed in a «high register». The rest of the album has its share of sadness and melancholy, but it is either light and meditative (ʽFixing A Holeʼ), or contrastive (ʽShe’s Leaving Homeʼ — tragic for one party, bright and optimistic for the other). ʽA Day In The Lifeʼ structurally comes on as an «en­core» from the Lonely Hearts Club Band — but it is almost as if an entirely different band appe­ars on the stage here, or, rather, this is the spot where the band justifies the «Lonely Hearts Club» moniker. It’s not as if, on a formal, objective basis ʽA Day In The Lifeʼ made far more musical and lyrical «sense» than the other songs. It doesn’t. It just makes a sudden dash at the foun­dations of your soul; a dash that you can hardly expect after thirty four minutes of music that guided you through the multicolored fields and forests of «Pepperland» — and now, suddenly, out of no­where, you are led to the shrine. And the shrine is a downer.”

    I LOVE “it just makes a sudden dash at the foundations of your soul.” That captures what I feel when “ADITL” starts up after the “Sgt. Pepper’s” reprise like nothing else. And that’s the kind of thing that George Starostin is doing all the time in his reviews.

    Craig, George may be a bit too hard on “Press to Play” (I think there’s a couple of decent songs on it, which is more than he allows), but then I think he’s too easy on “Pipes of Peace,” which he hates, but not enough, in my opinion. Essentially my reaction to “Pipes of Peace” is the same as his to “Press to Play.”

    What I appreciate about George’s take on McCartney in his reviews as a whole is his willingness to separate the good from the bad and to be clear about the basis on which he’s making the distinction. He gives McCartney the kind of truly constructive criticism I wish more critics would. He’s willing to shred the bad stuff, in part because he “gets” the good stuff.

    I just can’t recommend highly enough reading through George S’s reviews. I find him more illuminating and more helpful than most of the Really Big Names in rock criticism, and much better company as well.

  8. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    I think he uses quotation marks too often. -Alex

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