A famous quote of mysterious provenance (most likely the American actor and singer Martin Mull) has it that, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture," and anyone who has ever tried to write about music will know that language can be an inadequate tool.

One of the most popular complaints about music critics is our annoying penchant for pigeonholing — our incorrigible urge to define. There are legitimate concerns behind this criticism, in that the very act of defining or classifying a work implicitly shuts it off from other material not in its approved category. The flow of neologisms from the keyboards of music critics can seem baffling and pretentious — post-this, proto-that, nu-whatever — but the root of this ever-changing meta-vocabulary is in the failure of language to adequately describe an ever-changing, largely intuitive art form.

One of the greatest words ever coined by a music writer is "skronk," attributed by Lester Bangs to fellow critic Robert Christgau. Basically referring to any music with guitars (or these days sax, synth or any technology that comes to hand) that sounds like sheet metal being attacked alternately with dentist's drills and chainsaws, its strength and resilience lies in how the word embodies an admission of language's failure. "What does it sound like?" "Well, it's got these crazy guitars and they just go, 'SKRONK!' " Skronk isn't a genre, it isn't a pigeonhole, it is not a thing you are: It is a thing you do.