In the back booth of Sulimay's Restaurant in Philadelphia, you'll regularly find three saucy old-timers. Between them, they've lived almost 100 years in Philadelphia's Fishtown, but these three aren't just fixtures of the neighborhood diner scene. Ann Bailey, Bill Able and Joe Walker have become surprisingly popular — as pop music critics.
As Walker, 84, explains, "It is the music of the age — it is the music of the young people. And it's what they're going to remember years from now, with nostalgia. I don't know how, because it really doesn't appeal to me. But I try to listen to it and give an honest review."
Breakfast at Sulimay's is a viral success. Their reviews are posted on YouTube almost every other week. Marc Brodzik, of Philly-based Woodshop Productions, is the man behind the reviews. Brodzik is a frequent diner at Sulimay's, where you can't avoid Walker, Bailey and Able.
Apparently, Brodzik was "dazzled by the wit and humor and the erudition of these guys sitting in Fishtown, in a little restaurant, talking," — at least, so Walker says. "I couldn't believe he was asking us to review the music, because I know nothing about rock 'n' roll or rap. He put it on tape, and it sort of caught on."
Pitchfork, The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones and others are impressed with the candidness of the three diners.
"I think some of their reviews are actually really brave," says Philadelphia Weekly music editor Brian McManus. "There's a community of critics, and we all kind of live within a bubble. If you don't like the new Animal Collective, it might be a scary thing to say in front of critical company. I think what makes Sulimay's so great is they come with none of that baggage. They're honest."
In fact, the Sulimay's critics did pan the critically acclaimed, hipster-idolized Animal Collective single "My Girls."
"It's giving me a headache," Bailey, 66, said. "The lyrics were repetitious; it was as bad as 'Rocket Man.' "
"I don't think this band is going to make it very far from Baltimore, Md.," Walker added.