Monday, July 19, 2004

Music Reviews That Don't Suck

If the best source for good music is word of mouth, then why is it that most published music reviews suck? Many reviews are masturbatory exercises where critics expound on how this reminds them of that, or pontificate on imagined influences and precedents of the music at hand. Nothing is provided about whether the music is actually any good or not, nor why – besides maybe some stars or other rating scheme. I blame this all on postmodern art theory; an insiders dialog in a language that only other insiders understand. For example:

“This, the sophomore effort for Steaming Manhole Covers, has a dark backbeat rhythm reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie. Smith’s vocal stylings, obviously derived from Blue Airline Blanket’s feverish Todd Merryweather, perfectly captures the angst and passion of this album.” What? Death Cab for Cutie has a dark backbeat? Only one? And who the hell are Blue Airline Blanket? Feverish? This stuff gets boring real quick.

Of course, music is a very personal thing. What people like varies widely. It’s a rare thing when I can find a reviewer whose taste I share. And when that match reveals itself, I latch on. Even when it comes to sharing music recommendations with friends, occasions where tastes converge rather than collide is rare.

Its fun too, to figure out the meaning behind any kind of creative effort (it’s not always just about sex and drugs). Not necessarily the most insightful, your humble blogger checks out other reviews for perspective more monumental than my own.

But the most important part of a review is whether the album in question is any good or not. Unambiguous opinions (with explanations) are essential. Even if you hate the stuff I like, at least you’ll know what not to buy.

How a recording actually sounds is also very important to me, so I include an assessment of the sonic qualities of a recording. For reference, at home music is reviewed on a Naim CD2 CD player and Naim amp and pre amp. Speakers are Celestion. Naim interconnect and speaker cables are used throughout. On the road I use a Sony portable CD player and an iRiver IFP-390P mp3 player with Sennheiser M500 earbuds and Etymotic ER6 earphones. The Etymotic earphones are a must for air travel. This inside the ear canal earphone provides the best isolation from loud ambient noises.


Post a Comment

<< Home