Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Prairie fires and pitchfork choirs

Over the weekend, I talked about seeing SOUND team live and made a small mention about the band's recent scathing review by Marc Hogan in Pitchfork. Fellow Texan Christopher Zane left a comment mentioning that he wrote a letter to Hogan to get a better understanding of why. I applaud Zane for addressing the issue and I applaud Hogan for actually responding, but a part of me wonders: why am I that interested in understanding why someone would write a scathing review?

I will not lie: I have never enjoyed reading tacky and pretentious music reviews. Yes, Pitchfork does print some from time to time, but they aren't the only publication that does this. I've reached a point where I rarely read their reviews, but back in college, I read them all the time. Keep in mind, this was before MP3 blogs were all over the Internet. I never enjoy reading a review where the reviewer sounds like he or she is nitpicking the record to death, but I can understand the urge to do so as a reviewer myself. That said, I never mean to hit below the belt. Something inside of me thinks a lot of other reviewers don't mean to either.

With writing my reviews for Punk Planet, I usually just let the records play without having any clear or high expectations beforehand. I'd like to think that all music reviewers do this, but they don't. I'm not saying I'm in the clear here either: certain qualms I have tend to bring out some rather scathing comments, but I'm supposed to be honest, right? Well, being honest is really in the eye of the beholder and the beholder's personality. I'm more likely to say "the record really lacks the defining hooks the band that the band is known for" than something like, "the band jumped the shark when Bob Rock produced their hypocritically vomit-inducing versions of the Shaft sequels," but that's just my perspective.

A music critic I really respect is Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times. He's usually very fair, tactful and sincere, but from time to time, some of his reviews aggravate me. For example, reading his Death Cab for Cutie concert review made me wonder why he was so vitriolic about the show and the band's music. "It is difficult to find catharsis in music so utterly boring, banal and snooze-inducing," he wrote. I know Death Cab for Cutie's live show is one of slight motion and a lot of slow, building songs, but I wonder what would prompt something so vicious. I seriously doubt he's on a mission to take the piss out of stuff and piss all over it, but that's the way I used to think music critics went about spilling their guts.

I used to think that all music critics were insanely hard to please. In some ways, the opinion I have with listening to a record I bought can be much different than reviewing a record I've been given to write about. Plus, listening to music for pleasure over listening to music to write a review for a job is a different process. That said, there is plenty of carry-over.

As someone who has a tendency of listening to what I already know more than sample stuff I don't, I get excited whenever I discover something that I really dig. If Dave had not sent me the Forecast's new record, In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, to review for Punk Planet #75, I can safely say that I would have never listened to it since I hated their last record. With me really enjoying the album, I wonder why I get so guarded in general. That discussion is for another time.

1 comment:

Nick Fulton said...

You sound like a good critic who is prepared to say what they think. I write reviews for a magazine in New Zealand and post some on my blob (, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on my reviews.