WHAT DOES A ROCK CRITIC DO?
I'm not sure yet, but I'm starting to wonder if "Rock criticism" has anything whatsoever to do with music any more.
Isn't it rather a branch of sociology, the study of fashion, the affectation of slightly superior taste? Could, indeed, the slightest knowledge of or interest in music, constructive thoughts and words about the actual, organised sounds vibrating the air, even be a drawback? Is knowledge of music just some anorak stuff for saddos? Like musicians for example?
Forget the music, and the task becomes much simpler. The writer just positions him or herself as either a defender of the old (as in the T-shirt above) , or the new, some sort of chronological snobbery. Here's what you do: you station yourself upwind of the types of music you know least, (and therefore believe stink)..... like jazz, for example, but I guess there are others....and away you go.
IN GERMANY THE ART MAY BE DEAD ALREADY
This was in the weekend "Frankfurter Allgemine"
"If you hang around pubs, and find yourself among a clutch of music critics chatting, you risk an evening of extreme boredom. Bearded hoodie-wearers, their faces growing ever redder, will discuss Brazilian vinyl imports, body politics in R & B, the revival of Dutch trash techno. An onlooker could easily find himself wishing he would rather be among a crowd of ride-on lawn mower manufacturers. One coud say: music critics today are a boring as most music."
Wer heutzutage beim Kneipenbummel in eine Traube parlierender Musikkritiker gerät, setzt sich der Gefahr aus, einen äußerst langweiligen Abend zu verbringen. Bärtige Kapuzenshirtträger, die sich stundenlang mit stetig röter werdenden Köpfen über brasilianische Vinyl-Importe, Körperpolitik im R ’n’ B oder das Revival des holländischen Trash-Techno unterhalten, können beim Zaungast nur den Wunsch auslösen, lieber in einem Pulk plauderseliger Sitzrasenmäherhersteller zu stehen. Man könnte sagen: Musikkritiker sind heute ebenso langweilig wie die meiste Musik.
Yes, this piece did indeed strike a chord. Bald men arguing over a comb. Who cares apart from them?
THE MUSIC-FREE WRITING ZONE
There has been a substantial readership for my piece about Nick Hasted's comment in the Independent about Radiohead alienating audiences by turning themselves into what he pejoratively called a jazz group. Hasting was, according to most of the people commentating on my piece, or indeed on the Independent's website, using the word jazz to diss music he feels is beneath him.
I'd also read on Friday this long puffpiece about Massive Attack by the Guardian's "Head Rock and Pop Critic" (sic) Alex Petridis.
C'mon. What is as plain as day is that Petridis' piece is just an extended plug for a record launch. But why should that be an excuse to write it without ANY substantive mentions of how the music actually sounds, of the methods used. Or is the tonal palette here so narrow there is actually nothing to say?
Peter Hum may have started the backlashagainst these kind of attitudes in this blog post about Pat Metheny.
Someone please find some counter-examples? I do hope there are some to balance out my conjecture. I would sincerely like someone to convince me that rock criticism is not what Hans Keller used to call a phony profession; that there is still such a thing as knowledge of music, rather than just posing and attitude!