Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Thing About Music Criticism ...

... that you've got to understand, is that it's all about who's paying a critic to write, where that person is coming from and what direction they'd like to take things - if any. The saying, "opinions are like assholes — everybody's got one," applies, but what separates the paid from the unpaid asshole is the paid asshole has English skills + there's someone who thinks that writer also has good taste but, more importantly, the kind of taste that can help him sell magazines or books or page hits, and push his agenda in the process.

I was on MySpace a little while ago and saw a Grimey's bulletin about the in-store reading they've got coming up in a couple of weeks with author Hayden Childs, who wrote a book about the making of Richard and Linda Thompson's masterpiece Shoot Out the Lights. I wasn't aware of the 33 1/3 series it's a part of (that's how much music reading I haven't been doing in the last ten years), so went and looked it up.

They have a wonderful group of books about some wonderful albums of the last 40 years, with an emphasis on bands that influenced the artists who are often described as the best of the current flock in the indie world. (Well, most. I don't know about Celine Dion.) As much as that's the series' fantasticness, that's also what makes it kind of suck. As you look over the full list of albums that have been examined, the scope and breadth of the works is shockingly narrow. What's not on the list is as telling of the state (both commercial and artistic) the music industry is in as what is there.

So, while I'd definitely recommend taking a look at the books, I'd also recommend that no one who loves music accept their list as even remotely definitive of "what's good." Just a wee bit of it.

No comments: