What the hell are we doing here? A Collapse Board manifesto of sorts.
by Scott Creney
Some people continue to misunderstand us. Collapse Board keeps making them angry. Angry to the point of hacking into the website and shutting us down for a week. [Actually, we still don’t know what happened – Baffled Old Hack Ed]
We’d like to take this opportunity to explain ourselves. We have very good reasons for writing the way we do. There is, to quote PiL, “meaning behind the moaning”.
We don’t want to be bored. We’re tired of being bored. And we don’t want anyone who reads us to be bored either.
This should be a golden age of music criticism. Thanks to the internet, you can hear anything you want to. Music writers no longer have to describe the music. In theory, none of us should ever have to read about ‘jangling guitars’, or ‘pounding drums’ or ‘throbbing bass’ ever ever again. Make the video part of the article. You can actually HEAR the music while you’re reading about it. Brilliant. A music review in the 21st century has no purpose other than to entertain the reader and (possibly) make them think. It can, and should, exist SOLELY as a vehicle for the writer’s thoughts and ideas about the music. Nothing more.
Some people don’t like this. They think CB has a responsibility to be as dry and pedantic, as consumed by know-it-all dullness as the rest of the music writing they come across. (Or as some commenters have put it, “music journalism” — a pretty ridiculous word to toss around about a record review.) Because it’s not enough that there’s 34 places for them to be bored, apparently they need a 35th in order to feel happy.
You don’t need someone to tell you what this music sounds like. You don’t need someone to tell you where it comes from. And you damn sure don’t need someone to tell you whether or not it’s any good.
We can learn the facts about an album — where it was recorded, what has the artist done up until now, what kind of ‘buzz’ is leading up to it — from the goddamned internet. We don’t need criticism that regurgitates a press release. If I want to read the press release, I’ll go to the artist’s label and download it myself. I don’t need some 20-something college graduate posturing and pontificating around something a publicist wrote about a band’s new album. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, including the artist.
Hell, most music is already boring enough. Do we really need to read reviews that are equally boring? Reviews that seem determined to turn music into something as dull and tedious as the people who are writing about it?
Paul Morley described the current state of music criticism better than I ever could.
By 2003, being a rock writer was a nice career, sort of idle management, a way of organising a very chaotic world of music into nice patterns and packing them into a brightly lit supermarket. To be a rock critic in 2003 is to be a sort of clerk a civil servant, a statistician. You give records marks like you are a geography teacher. You have a duty to discover new artists, but you perform this duty politely, with a corduroy reserve, a grey consistency.
Collapse Board, and the people who write for it, strive to never ever become any of those things.
Music is supposed to be fun. It isn’t supposed to be church. Here at CB, we believe there is NO SUCH THING AS BLASPHEMY. No artist should be placed on a pedestal. We insist that the listener is — at the very least — the equal of the artist. No matter who you are, you deserve as much respect. Any of you could do what Kings Of Leon do, or Fleet Foxes, or Cults. There is nothing special about these people, whether you love their music or not. Their music may feel magical, but it is not as complicated as it seems. They are not better than you. They are not deserving of hero worship. And they should not be given special dispensation simply because they are able to make music.
We are playing for the same team, Collapse Board reader. You and I are both listeners. We are both consumers of music. We are both passionately in love with music, and will most likely stay that way for the rest of our lives. Please understand that our teasing, our mocking, even our disrespect, is firmly rooted in a place of love.
Pitchfork’s decimal-based rating system originally began as a joke on Rolling Stone, Spin and all their ‘3 ½ stars’ bullshit. Ten years later, and with actual real advertising $$$ riding on every last decimal point, Pitchfork’s editorial board assigns the score as a group, and only after much debate and discussion. (Incidentally, if I ever find myself in a room full of music editors arguing whether the new Matt And Kim album deserved a 7.3 or a 7.8, please pull out a gun and fucking shoot me — because I am obviously already dead.)
[7.3, clearly. Oh no. Wait. Let me just email Lucy and Wallace. And Hannah – Ed]
As we see it, the critic’s job is to make whatever they’re writing about seem interesting, by any means necessary. It has nothing to do with whether or not we like the album. Nobody gives a shit. YOU certainly don’t give a shit. And you shouldn’t. We at CB believe you’re capable of having your own opinions, forming your own conclusions, and deciding for yourself what’s good and what isn’t.
Sometimes we intentionally lie, because we don’t want you to trust us. Sometimes we rage, because it’s better than being asleep.
We have a freedom that Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, daily and weekly papers lost a long time ago. The freedom to say whatever we want to say, however we want to say it. We want to help blaze a trail, to drag music criticism kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. We at Collapse Board demand a criticism defined by feelings, defined by its emotions and its intelligence. A criticism that entertains. A criticism from multiple perspectives. A criticism that doesn’t pretend to be objective, but rather insists on the subjectivity of its writers.
Any consensus that emerges, about an artist, about a musical trend, will emerge from all the disparate voices that make up our site. That is why the editor puts so much goddamn energy into trying to find people to write for him who have voices you wouldn’t normally hear. That why you get to read this, or this, or even this. Takes on music that you’re not going to find anywhere else.
We are interested in hearing what people have to say about music. Period. The comments left by our readers, especially by the ones who are unhappy with what we’ve written are more interesting, and infinitely more passionate, than most of what you’re going to read in other places. Seeing your thoughts and ideas makes us very happy. Being misunderstood, or being attacked for not writing like Pitchfork, makes us less happy. To respond to the person who wrote,
“I am still confused as to whether this site is pure genius or the Spinal Tap of music journalism – it sways between the two. Moments of prodigenous insight are punctuated by moments of journalistic shame.”
We strive, most of the time deliberately, to be a little bit of both.
We welcome any and all readers, any and all opinions (though we prefer ideas and thoughts instead). We’re all in this together.