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 Everett True

that ‘new’ Radiohead video/a 10-point survival guide for online critics (redux)

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This blog entry is intended to replace the previous two entries, that ‘new’ Radiohead video, reviewed in full AND a 10-point survival guide for music critics in web 2.0. This is the final edit, where I strip away most of the unnecessary verbiage. I’ve left the other two up online: not least because of the dozens of comments generated.

If you’re thinking of linking back to one or other of the previous two entries please consider this one instead. It’s much more focused.

P.S. I’ve included the original 10-point survival guide as an addenda, but it really isn’t all that.

That ‘new’ Radiohead video, reviewed in full
It’s like Bono, minus the ‘charisma’.
It’s rock music, minus any of those pesky dynamics you usually associate with the form.
It’s like those irritating buzzing flies that always come into our kitchen around 5.30pm and buzz around the trails of blood until I get the electric badminton racket out.
It’s drum n’ bass, watered down and made putrid for popular consumption.
It’s rock music as mime: all the posturing and none of the substance. Or humour.
It’s rock music as midlife crisis: premature and unwanted.
It’s rock music as mud: grey, formless, useless.
It’s Radiohead. And I do not like it.

The reaction to the release schedule of the new Radiohead album, reviewed in full
“I want considered, informed and beautifully written reviews,” writes one commentator. “Not tossed off live-blogged gut reactions.”

Since when was music criticism “considered, informed, beautiful writing”? Even given a lead-in time of a month or more, the overwhelming majority of music critics would struggle to fill that brief. Most critics listen to an album with half an ear, and move on. Maybe the fans don’t. Maybe the fans make for ‘better’ critics? That’s not my call. Also, if – across the vast field of the Internet, music critics were struggling to come to terms with the new Radiohead album in under 24 hours – the question begs: why?

It has long been the tradition at the big record companies that when a Madonna or a White Stripes or a Kate Bush release their new album to invite a few select journalists in to have a listen, one listen: and then the critics to go away and write their review. And they did. And often those reviews were great, and more often they weren’t, but the fact remained: they got written. Why are critics not able to do this when an album is available for immediate streaming – and hence can be listened to as often as they want? There’s no difference. It should be easier, if anything.

Perhaps it’s a reflection of the quality of the music critics working online or – more pertinently – the quality of the music critics writing about Radiohead online. Radiohead aren’t a very interesting band, fundamentally. So maybe it comes no surprise then if the quality of the writing about them reflects that fact.

Why not take the sports journalism approach, and review the album in real time?

Of course, this approach only works if the writer has any clue.

For example, ‎”A beatific étude, bejewelled by extremely restrained strings, and shy brass. Piano swims back into the mist” … (taken from the online review at MOJO). Fuck sake, man.

How does a piano swim? What is shy brass?

Radiohead are very astute at marketing themselves, and their often substandard music. The revenue they lost by allowing their fans to download their previous album for free, if they chose, was clearly more than offset by the ridiculous amounts of free publicity they received in return. This time around, the band gave no advance warning of the release date of their new album, the soporific The King Of Limbs, and critics and the blogosphere went into a frenzy to try and prove that they were still able to contribute to the dialogue around the album. Does this prove music criticism is dead? Quite the opposite, in fact. People were desperate to write about the record, so desperate in fact that they were prepared to write any nonsense to show they ‘got it’: people were equally as intrigued to read it.

Yes, sure: maybe this means that the dialogue around the album didn’t help sell copies of it (although I think I would argue otherwise) – and that used to be one of the requisites of music criticism. Yet there are numerous examples of where the dialogue around music still does translate directly into sales: see the recent mainstream success of Arcade Fire, and Fleet Foxes, and The National, and Vampire Weekend – four very ordinary college rock bands – all of which has its roots in immensely popular online US publication Pitchfork’s unswerving support for these bands. Indeed, you could argue that Pitchfork have more power than any of the traditional UK music press weeklies since their prime.

Now, how the hell is that the death of music journalism? -> -> ->


A 10-point survival guide for online music critics

  1. It is never too soon for anyone to judge/review an album.
  2. You are a critic. Not a fan. Not a blogger. Not a hack. A critic.
  3. Who gives a fuck the effort a band put into making a piece of music. IS IT ANY GOOD?
  4. Who cares how much time you have got to review that piece of music. Review it. Do your job.
  5. It doesn’t take long to make your mind up.
  6. If you’re not trusting your gut reaction, you shouldn’t be writing about music.
  7. Don’t worry about Search Engine Optimisation. But don’t drop off the map either.
  8. Music journalism isn’t dead. The ways it’s being accessed are mutating. As are the ways music is being accessed.
  9. You are not a parasite. No more than musicians are.
  10. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion different to other people’s

Illustration of Picasso’s ‘Woman’: Isaac Snazell Thackray, age 5

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