Earlier today, I posted a review of Extradition Order‘s Since The Bomb Dropped. Now, the album is one of my favourites of 2009 so far and my inbox anticipated the writer’s opinions full of butterflies, truth be told.
Why didn’t I review it myself? The answer is bipartite: (1) I’m promoting a show in October featuring Extradition Order, so didn’t want to compromise and further blur the line between guises, and (2) I don’t want a site replicating my opinions. Who wants to read the opinions of one person on a space as vast as the Internet? I’ve acquired a gaggle of brilliant writers who can really write. Their opinions are a foil to their writing, rather than the vice versa.
Would it’ve been a conflict of interest if I’d have reviewed the record myself, what with me putting the band on in about six weeks time? Maybe not, but if the option to use our vast pool of writers exists, then why not use it. That’s just the side issue in this debate; a more interesting consideration is how it feels, as a musician, to be misinterpreted. I’ve had a fair few comments and reactions over the past two years to reviews I’ve written where the artists have either been scathingly personal in comments (hello, Chris T-T), genuinely upset (hello, some anonymous bands I saw playing Camden High Street at 2008′s Camden Crawl) or graciously appreciative (hi, Field Music). The internet (and given, print, but it’s less applicable now in this field) is oft impersonal, and it’s a forgotten fact that there’s someone at the other end reading your opinion of their art. Not to say a writer should restrain themselves, moreover welcome this sort of debate and be ready to engage in it.
Alastair Harper (Extradition Order’s guitarist) wrote a review of David Lichfield’s review, and I feel the need to express an opinion on the word-volley as opposed to put copy live in an isolated, dehumanised fashion. It starts with this: now that Spotify‘s been born, the likelihood of me seeking out a review as a pre-cursor to downloading music is ever-decreasing. I read reviews because I want to read well-written prose, I want to see personality seeping from the words’ edges. Our house style guidelines explicitly tell writers to show personality. I want to sense emotion, I want to know why the writer feels the way he or she feels. In the context of live reviews especially, I want to get inside that writer’s brain and understand where their opinions come from. Two great examples of this are the infamous highly-critical review of Kasabian at the Eden Sessions, and a reaction to Frightened Rabbit’s Scala show. Both pieces feel touchably human, something lacking in the person who can’t write.
The great thing about the world wide web is just how easy it is to get your voice heard. Given you may be shouting into a forest sometimes, but it’s a forest with no gate (tut tut). If you don’t want people to read your writing, there’s something wrong with you writing to an open platform.
My view on the original review? I thought it was constructive but yes, the referencing of other bands always does come with a certain stigma. It’s an easy route in to explaining the unfamiliar. The riposte may have focused on the Doves reference too much but hell, it can’t exactly spread its focus on the original’s every word.
And the riposte’s closing paragraph may come across as the sort of condescending opinion the good person would shy away from, but I’ve always been a member of the never-say-things-by-halves school. This is something I entirely stand by, something which extends way further than the ambit of music journalism. I wrote a review of The Twang’s album for Drowned In Sound recently which was met with over 40 comments mostly condemning me to the sort of pokey responses I strove against. A test? Proofreading writing and standing by it before submitting it. Calling someone’s opinion wrong is contentious to those with a brain, but calling their writing bad is something which should only be done if I agree.
Even more to the point, you should give the record a spin – after you pre-order it, that is. BECAUSE IT’S GREAT and I’m currently drinking a cup of tea and switching between writing a review of a review of a review and writing about the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. You’re picturing me now, right? A faceless wonder almost literally jumping between personas…