I hope that I’m building an audience. I mean, I know people are looking at this blog, and I know there’s more of you now than there were before; but I hope some of you are reading it specifically because of my frankly weird approach. I have talked, and will talk in the future about how I write about music, and why I do it that way, but I sometimes worry that it’s hard for people to stick with me when what I review is so seemingly random. Most blogs specialise to some degree: I set out very deliberately to feature indie-pop alongside jazz, black metal alongside bossanova, and misanthropic technical death grind alongside ambient folktronica. Because it’s all music, and although it’s certainly worth acknowledging music’s immediate stylistic context, it should all be examined on the same basis, in my view. Personally, I can find something to love and hate in every genre, and while I know that everyone reading this will probably hate at least one thing I love, my intention is to continue bringing the widest possible variety of music to your attention, and doing my best to get under its skin and enrich your listening.
So if I don’t discriminate on grounds of style or genre, how do I choose my subjects? I actively seek out music that ticks one or more of the following boxes, in rough order of importance:
- it’s local (to me)
- it’s by someone I know (and like)
- it’s unsigned, and is either DIY/ in need of exposure, or both
- it’s on a small label, the smaller the better
- it’s musically creative, experimental or plain oddball
- it’s in a genre or style that is subversive or underground
- it’s music that I feel is important to share for its sheer quality
- it’s just something I love listening to
But any artist can bypass all of that by sending me their stuff. I will review everything I’m sent. I may take a while to get around to it, and the review may not be incredibly long or in depth, but I will review it, irrespective of its style, quality, creative integrity or artistic validity. I like getting music for free, and I’ll pay for it with a review: if I don’t like it, then it might not be a glowing review, but it’s unlikely to be an unequivocally bad one, unless it’s either very generic, or it’s famous and has been over-hyped. When criticism is due, I try to make it constructive criticism, of a sort that might actually be useful to the act under scrutiny.
The reason I don’t tend to give bad reviews is twofold: firstly I’m a musician, and I know how it feels to get someone’s opinion on your work, good or bad. There’s a lot of work and emotional investment that goes into writing, performing and recording original music, and I have tremendous respect for that. Secondly, although I’m egotistical enough to think my thoughts are worth sharing, I’m not sufficiently arrogant to think that my unvarnished opinion is of any particular interest; so even if I dislike something, I’ll still talk about why the music sounds the way it sounds, and whether I think the artist was successful in realising their intentions, as far as I can discern them. What I won’t do is act as though the fact that I am writing about someone, rather than talking to them face to face, gives me the right to be rude or discourteous: there are some writers that think their job is about dishing out a verbally agile trashing to anything that they don’t like the sound of, but I have to say that on the whole they don’t come across as though they know why they feel that way about the music.
Here’s an example of constructive criticism meted out for the best reasons (and some damned fine writing to boot):
This is an interesting view on why the music industry is still dominated by stars, and why it may well continue to be, despite the traditional institutions’ loss of their traditional revenue streams:
If you live in New York, or can get there easily enough, East Village Radio are running a competition for two pairs of tickets to the last ever LCD Soundsystem gig, at Madison Square Gardens on April 2. The competition is on until Friday:
Jon Bon Jovi has gone on record to express the sort of conservatism that was obvious to many from the music he released in the mid 80s, and to blame Steve Jobs for killing the music business with his evil heathen digital devilry. I agree with Bon Jovi about the pleasure of getting your music in a nice physical package, but as for Steve Jobs, he IS the music business. And if someone could kindly kill it (not Jobs personally), they’d be doing music a great service.
This, to be honest, is the only music news of any real moment that I have to share: with the passing of one of its pioneers it becomes a little clearer that we are out of the first big era of electronic music, and into the next one, where sounds are processed as information, rather than as voltages, signals, or models of voltages. RIP Tsutomu Katoh:
My five albums on heavy rotation at the time of writing are as follows:
Cardiacs - A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window (pronk)
Los Chicharrons - Blow For You, Blow For Me (funk/ house)
Maras - Raskol (black metal)
The Phenomenal Handclap Band - The Phenomenal Handclap Band (funky psychedelic rock)
Turner Cody - Quarter Century (folk/ country rock)