We’re still in a bit of a poptimism boom – people wanting (only) to find the good in things; supported by the idea that success, and selling, proves the point – this must be good. Hundreds/thousands/millions thought so. So there.
I’ve reviewed more ‘good’ albums than ‘bad’, probably by two-to-one, or three-to-one, but it’s always like pissing in the wind when I claim that. So be it.
A long time back I reviewed some Australian “blues” hack, Shaun Kirk. He’s visited New Zealand – his publicist wanted me to interview him, possibly review the show. I agreed to first listen to his EP and then the album. Both were truly awful listening experiences. Crayon sketches of “the blues”. Not even close, actually. The most revolting guitar tone – ever. And this cod-phrasing. Frankly hopeless. Embarrassing. Comical.
And the review I wrote went nowhere – which is fine. I was never expecting it to mean a whole lot, he wasn’t well known here and I don’t believe he’s deserving of any audience – his music vile. But then, a couple of months on, the artist found the review and posted it to his Facebook page, marshalled his troops, encouraged them to strike out – and they sure proved they had his back. And that’s fine. That’s how it is. That’s how the game goes.
Suddenly that review went from being unnoticed to gathering a bunch of comments – many of them were comical.
I was told that “A critic’s role is to build up new and exciting acts – rather than spit out poison like that. If you don’t like an act then just move on and find one that you is more to YOUR liking.”
We’re living in an age where it’s never been easier to find the criticism you’re looking for – you don’t like a review you scroll on, Google harder, you can find what you’re looking for. The platforms are there for you to write your own review.
The role of the critic is redundant.
Well if that’s the case then isn’t it strange that there’s still hostility. Shouldn’t the critic – like the artist/s – just be allowed to do what they do?
The point of criticism is to criticise – to reflect an experience, to frame up a discussion around an album or show or book or film, to offer an opinion. To merely promote and announce and select based only on some positive angle is the role of the publicist, the PR hack. That’s another job entirely.
I always thought the point of reviews – as a reader – was to take the information on board, process it as a way of shaping your own opinion. Bad reviews – nasty ones, the negative ones, will always draw more readers. I often wish that was not the case. But it’s just a fact. We love negativity, love a good giggle. Just don’t like being told that we – ourselves – might be the ones with the very bad taste.