I know all those squares with their fancy philosophy books and their Greenpeace stickers want you to believe that even-handed, well-informed discourse is at the heart of all true critical understanding--but let me tell ya: all that shit is vastly overrated. And as anyone who's ever read this paper can attest, we here at the Mercury pride ourselves in our awe-inspiring ability to stretch the most infinitesimal nuggets of comprehension across pages and pages of editorial content--a practice which has kept us in business (knock on wood) for nearly half a decade. How do we do it, you ask? The answer is simple: constant knee-jerk contrarianism.

Contrarianism is perhaps the greatest weapon in the Music Snob's arsenal--it's the barometer that allows for the sort of immediate one-upmanship necessary to maintain social snob dominance, whether or not you know what you're talking about. It's contrarianism that allows snobs to profess their love for Ashlee Simpson in the same breath that they dismiss the entire Beatles discography. Contrarianism doesn't really have to be sincere, make sense, nor be consistent--all that matters is that it's contradictory, and maintained with the conviction of a pope.

The following guide is meant to assist you in the basics of contemporary contrarianism--with some surefire ways to take the piss out of your friends' favorite bands. Of course, no single page of newsprint can hold the ammunition you'll need to lord complete superiority over everyone in the world--but when push comes to shove, just make shit up.

Talking Heads: Pointy-headed art school pricks whose wellspring of creativity dried up the minute Brian Eno stopped writing their records for them.

DNA: Stands for "Do Not Adulate." The only thing worse than listening to Arto Lindsay's atonal approximation of Free Jazz is listening to assholes prattle on about it.

The Velvet Underground: Middle-class tourists with a good publicist.

Bjork: A classic example of why aging fashionistas shouldn't be allowed to use ProTools--that, or her records should come stamped with an expiration date.

Les Savy Fav: Stay on the stage, fatso.

Cat Power: After nearly a decade, she still can't seem to get her shit together and perform live without sounding autistic.

Kraftwerk: Even Afrika Bambaataa couldn't make these plastic Krauts sound soulful. Though I must admit that "Pocket Calculator" song breaks my heart every time.

The Pixies: Black Francis was too blinded by sexism and ego to acknowledge that the bass player wrote their only good song.

Joannah Newsom: "Tomorrow! Tomorrow! There's always Tomorrow! It's only a day away!"

Elvis Costello: A man whose inability to pen a decent tune these days is only outdone by his myopia. Paul McCartney wrote all of his good songs, anyway.

Public Enemy: Buzz saw samples are not a substitute for "the Revolution."

The Kinks: Just what the world needs: another reason to hate the English.

Minor Threat: Ridiculously obsolete punk band that spawned the worst two plagues in modern punk music: straightedge and Brian Baker (Bad Religion, Dag Nasty, Junkyard).

The Smiths: Like it takes a genius to shepherd an army of suicidal, closet-cased pubescents (read: half of Britain's pasty populous) into a lazy revolution of narcissism, petty crime, bad poetry, and unemployment. I mean, what are you, 12?

Joy Division: The best thing that whining, mule-throated Ian Curtis ever did was die early enough for Bernard Sumner to start a good band.

Spacemen 3: Further proof that even British people on a shit-ton of smack can't make Lou Reed's solo career sound good.

Wilco: A band who manages to extract the blue-collar credibility from country music and combine it with the meandering pretentiousness of free-form jamming and Exquisite Corpse songwriting. WB was right to drop them.

Beat Happening: I liked them better when they were called the Cramps. The only reason they got the box-set treatment is that they own the label that released it.

The Clash: Every good thing Joe Strummer ever did he learned from the Slits. Everything else he just learned from being an asshole.

Devendra Banhart: Even Marc Bolan knew Tyrannosaurus Rex was boring--why do you think he wrote "Bang a Gong"?

M.I.A.: When your entire fanbase consists of music bloggers, you must be doing something right, right? Right?!?!

Slint: The only band of the early '90s with more to answer for than Nirvana. Oh, and we're still waiting for that Zwan reunion.

Fugazi: Shaming upper class trustafarians into having annoyingly hypocritical social consciences since 1987.

Nick Drake: What's more dismal than dying from an overdose of anti-depressants? Living to see your fanbase consist entirely of baristas and assholes who exclusively cultivate their record collections from Volkswagen ads.

Husker Du: Worst recorded band ever--featuring the head-scratching lineup of two gay guys and a heavily mustached (straight) bass player.

Deerhoof: It's like John and Yoko... but without John, songwriting, or talent.

Wolf Eyes: Unlistenable noise band that is worshipped by people who only talk about how much they listen to music.

David Bowie: A bourgeois, coked-up parasite who managed to ruin Iggy, Lou, and Eno only to muster one good record (choose one--Let's Dance, Never Let Me Down, Outside) in his entire asinine discography.

Brian Eno: A pompous, pseudo-intellectual porn-obsessive who--aside from being directly responsible for New Age music--stopped making good music the minute he left Roxy Music.

Prince: Nobody can fuck with Prince.

And lest we forget:

Belle & Sebastian: I liked them better when they were called (choose one--the Smiths, the Pastels, Orange Juice, etc.).

CAN: A jam band with a German accent is still a fucking jam band.

The Fall: Mark E. Smith is a racist homophobe with an ego that's more expansive than his discography. Sure, they've written some pretty good songs--but with that many records, odds are something'd stick to the wall.

Pavement: Sort of like the Grateful Dead, but with a "smug" pedal.

Gang of Four: Doesn't anybody remember the last two times Gang of Four got back together? Shit was dismal.

Lightening Bolt: About as intense as watching zoo apes vigorously masturbate. Except the zoo ape plays his instrument with more musicality.

Stooges: A white-trash MC5 with a singer who has gone 30+ years without a shirt, or a decent song.

Animal Collective: Finally, another rock band to justify the beanbag chair and hookah braintrust.