Friday, July 10, 2009

A Question For Debate on Methods of Criticism

About a week ago, I was driving somewhere with my boyfriend and talking to him about how on occasion, when I receive music to review, I often find myself at a loss for what to say because, since I usually choose an album by the name or the vague and generally overly flattering description given by the press release, I frequently end up with an album of a style which I know is popular, and common, but I don't know what to call it or how to describe it because I don't listen to other things that sound like it, and don't know what to compare it to.
He responded by suggesting that it's not necessary to know the history of a work of art, its influences, or its significance in its own genre in order to criticize it adequately, you only have to know what you think about it, and communicate that.
So, what do you all think? Is it useful, and or necessary, to offer comparisons to give an idea of a band's sound, or is it a cop out for when you can't put your feelings into more descriptive words? What style of reviews do you like \ what features do you like to see in music reviews? What, to you, constitutes a good music review? I know I love how at the end of Bitch Magazine's music reviews they always have a really clever "listening suggestion" like, "listen while : making a bonfire out of your highschool prom photos" or "goes well with red wine and asparagus" but I rarely come up with that sort of thing, and besides, I wouldn't want to cop their style.

4 comments:

Goldie Davich said...

Copy their style! I love it. I like when I know a band that they are similar to...

Jess Gulbranson said...

I use similar artist comparison in almost every review. I think it's a meaningful tool. If I refer to a band as... "strumstep," for example, how many people do you think would be able to agree on a precise definition of said genre? There is a long and sordid intarweb history of people pissing and moaning over whether this band or the other fits into various containers. I try to avoid that. If I want to say Extra Golden sound like post-Morrison Doors with Fela Kuti singing, that's a personal statement that reflects my feelings on listening. In another pertinent example, saying Double Dagger sounds like Black Flag was a nongratuitous use, if you will, because it helped me make a point that their description of themselves as "loud pop" was not truth in advertising. :) So for me, phenomenologically, making comparisons or talking about bios or dealing with any of the meta- stuff is the best way to bridge the gap between the reader looking at words about a piece of art they've never heard and the critic attempting to express the qualia of his mental events upon experiencing that art. No cop out at all. Unless you're wildly entertaining (read: Eriq Nelson), attempting to do a mind-dump usually results in cheezy Beckett-esque hippie rambling. There's just no easy way to artistically reveal your innermost thoughts in a direct, non-symbolic way. At least, outside of William Gibson stories...

That's a cool idea that Bitch had. Obviously you wouldn't want to exactly copy what they did, but throwing in something distinctive and consistent will add a nice touch to your reviewing. Which is already just fine. For a magazine like that it's probably mandatory that they have some sort of schtick. We don't have a rubric yet here at CIMTB, which probably suits our collective style a little better.

Any ideas anyone has, though... readers especially. What would you like to see?

Goldie Davich said...

I just want to remind the bloggers that we are the readers and that most of the readers out side of us are bloggers. This blog is a community. It gets a little bigger here and there. Please feel encouraged to experiment and have fun.

Amber Dawn said...

so this means I win, right? :D
thanks for replying, I thought I had out-dorked everyone and wasn't going to get anything..