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adam punknews.org
08-28-2006, 04:49 PM
This was a great article Jordan, let's discuss. I'll quote it here.
I spotted an interesting article today linked from the Largeheartedboy.com blog, titled "Death of The Critic." Ralph Berrier, a music writer for the Roanoke Times, half-heartedly laments the demise of the mainstream media music critic (which he acknowledges to be a part of) in recognition of where today's "tastemakers" are lining-up. (Ego stroking time: ahem, ahem).

Berrier brings up an interesting though hardly novel point -- in a medium like that internet that allows everyone to be a critic (I guess he reads the comments at Punknews.org too), how do certain writers or whole outlets build up the trust of their readers? The internet is much more prone to flux than say, the lead music critic position at a major daily newspaper, and with younger writers comes the cost of less musical knowledge and a slimmer overall perspective in both music and wordly matters.

So dear readers - I ask you this - what makes a reviewer or publication credible in your eyes? What things cause you to second-guess an opinion? Email me your thoughts, or post on our message board.

I think the whole structure of most music magazines / webzines these days doesn't allow the "star reviewer" to develop. The single paragraph capsule review in particular is a horrible medium, but necessary due to the huge volume of releases these days. At the worst you get a description of the record and a "you'll like this if you like..." type statement. The word limit sort of reduces any real criticism to a smarmy sound byte. You certainly don't get anything thought provoking. Websites allow more words but there's still very little to identify the author or establish that author's body of work. I can't tell from a clickable cover image if this review's the opinion of Anchors or Jordan Baker or Brian Shultz, and even once I click through and find out, there's little to make me care who that author is.

You're never going to get a Lester Bangs out of that. I'm not advocating excess but read one of Bangs big 10 page rants. There's so much passion and emotion in the work that you don't even need to have heard the record to get into his argument. The current model just doesn't allow for that.

The answer I think is in blogging. I really think reviewers, if their publication allows it, should keep a running collection of their writing. If anything, just to help them get some perspective on their own voice by putting it in a vacuum.

jordan pastepunk
08-28-2006, 06:15 PM
The answer I think is in blogging. I really think reviewers, if their publication allows it, should keep a running collection of their writing. If anything, just to help them get some perspective on their own voice by putting it in a vacuum.

I definitely agree with this. Although I still enjoy writing reviews, it has become a bit mechanical (ok more than a bit) after 2000 of them. But blogging (on the Pastepunk news page) keeps presenting a new set of challenges and the space needed to craft the identity of the site.... particularly with the assistance of the staff as a whole. I cover so many more bands by talking about them on the news page, versus doing formal reviews, and our commentary style of posting (versus pure objectivity) attempts to inject some personality.

I didn't get too much feedback from that post, but Ronen Kauffman (Zombie Apocalypse, Issue Oriented Podcast) said the two big things for him with a publication are regularity of output, and consistency in voice. The first one is easy... but the latter one is a bit more trying, even with the best of intentions.

adam punknews.org
08-28-2006, 06:45 PM
Voice is hard particularly on the internet when you're thriving on volunteer submissions.

I think blogging, even just blogging reviews and music news, can create that voice as long as there's some consistency in the author / writing style. The downside is you don't filter though content as quickly, but hopefully what you do present has more to say.

One of my favourite new music sites is Victim of Time (http://www.victimoftime.com/). They report on a lot of garage punk stuff so it's not of huge audience `round these parts, but their format is awesome. They may only post two or three times a week, if that, but everything they post has a ton of meat on it and is interesting. You can definitely get a feel for the "voice" of the zine.

lokithelion
08-28-2006, 06:57 PM
The issue of voice is one that I've been working on with Mammoth Press for the last few months. I'm going from main reviewer to head of review staff, and putting together a group of writters that share your voice without sounding like a million mini-me's is hard as hell. I think we are one of two sites in the world to publish a posi-Cute is What We Aim For review, and it felt so out of place. Do any of the elders statesmen of the zine world have ideas that could help us zine news with consistancy of voice.

BNO
08-28-2006, 06:59 PM
I listen to reviews only from punknews/pastepunk.

And depending on the reviewer, I will do the exact opposite of what the reviews says I should do like, "go out and buy this!"

MikeM
08-28-2006, 07:36 PM
For sites like punknews, I generally know by now whose opinion I trust (I'll definitley avoid anything Adam or Justin recommend). But if a user still makes a good case for an album, I might check some stuff out. It's pretty easy to spot a review that looks like a press release.

I feel I have more to say about this, but can't really explain it....so...yea.

jordan pastepunk
08-28-2006, 07:46 PM
And depending on the reviewer, I will do the exact opposite of what the reviews says I should do like, "go out and buy this!"

Haha... that's an awkward way of putting it, but that's pretty cool.

adam punknews.org
08-28-2006, 07:47 PM
Punknews is, by design, voiceless outside of the news content. I wish the PR people would pay more attention to the writers for that reason. Seeing a pullquote attributed to Punknews.org on some shitty record just because a one-time non-staff person sent us a decent review is kind of a bummer. I'd much rather see the author get a co-credit on that and have it attributed to "Brian Shultz - Punknews.org" etc.

sad_dc
08-28-2006, 07:54 PM
I agree that the saturation of music reviewers makes it difficult for someone to have a unique voice, but I think people emphasizing their style in this sort of overcrowded environment makes for poor reviews.

I think people need to focus on three main things to a review: what the record sounds like, whats good about it, and whats bad about it. If someone can describe these three main points well then style will gradually emerge. I think Adam, Aubin, and Jordan exemplify this.

CoreyPastepunk
08-28-2006, 08:37 PM
Originally posted by adam punknews.org
Seeing a pullquote attributed to Punknews.org on some shitty record just because a one-time non-staff person sent us a decent review is kind of a bummer. I'd much rather see the author get a co-credit on that and have it attributed to "Brian Shultz - Punknews.org" etc.

I totally agree with this. When Acclaimed was still around, we had a few quotes in print ads, and one time there was a quote that made no sense from someone that gave an average album a glaring review - someone that wrote maybe 2 more reviews after that. With that said, I was always happy to see a quote even if it did just have "- site name" but getting additional props as an author would more than boost the voice of a writer.

The only person I can think of in this area of webzines that has his name known as a "critic" is Jason Tate - he's got his name all over the place (namely large stickers on Gatsbys and Say Anything albums) and most of the time it seems like the quote never even came from a review - just a pre-fabricated sentence just for the use of advertising. kind of sucks in that context.

adam punknews.org
08-28-2006, 08:40 PM
For Tate it's a double edged sword though, because his name is going to turn away a certain group of people who have opinions about him. That's really probably how it should work though.

lokithelion
08-28-2006, 08:43 PM
The only time Mammoth's been used in a print ad was for that boring So They Say album and it was a one off review our old news editor wrote. I was bumed but since it was a ad in Alt Press a ton of kids saw it and it helped drive us some traffic. For growing sites like ours its bittersweet, but if I was someone like Punknews I'd be a bit pissed.

adam punknews.org
08-28-2006, 08:43 PM
Originally posted by sad_dc
I agree that the saturation of music reviewers makes it difficult for someone to have a unique voice, but I think people emphasizing their style in this sort of overcrowded environment makes for poor reviews.

The problem of emphasizing style (or posting gimmick reviews) isn't so much a problem in and of itself as it's a symptom of the overcrowding. Just how does the reviewer make his work stand out? A lot of them decide to try for weirdness or comedy, which never works. Without that framework constructing "who the reviewer is and what their tastes are" standing out is a challenge.

lokithelion
08-28-2006, 08:47 PM
Originally posted by adam punknews.org
For Tate it's a double edged sword though, because his name is going to turn away a certain group of people who have opinions about him. That's really probably how it should work though.

Tate is why I didn't check out Gatsby's until Brian said it was the bomb.

MikeM
08-28-2006, 08:52 PM
Originally posted by adam punknews.org
For Tate it's a double edged sword though, because his name is going to turn away a certain group of people who have opinions about him. That's really probably how it should work though.
You have to figure though, the average record buyer isn't going to see one of those stickers and be like "oh shit, Jason Tate said something about this!" I don't think he's that widely know, or any too many music reviewers for that matter. I think the marketing departments who come up with those stickers know that they can get away with putting out of context quotes from no name websites and it won't make any difference.

adam punknews.org
08-28-2006, 08:54 PM
Originally posted by MikeM
You have to figure though, the average record buyer isn't going to see one of those stickers and be like "oh shit, Jason Tate said something about this!" I don't think he's that widely know, or any too many music reviewers for that matter. I think the marketing departments who come up with those stickers know that they can get away with putting out of context quotes from no name websites and it won't make any difference.

Oh probably in most cases, but lokithelion just helped prove me right :)

monsterriffs
08-28-2006, 09:14 PM
I had a whole schpiel written up and then I realized it was competely redundant and added nothing of value to the discussion. To me, important factors in choosing which web and/or print publication to read are mainly the artists covered and writing. To a lesser extent, layout is important, but I'll get to that in a minute.

Naturally, I'm going to read a site that covers artists I want to read about and if there is a positive trend in recommended artists that I subsequently listen to regularly and enjoy, I'm going to trust that site more. Writing is important because clarity of thought and expression will make the reviews and recommendations more compelling for me to check out. If the writing stinks, I'm not going to bother reading the review, because it hurts my brain. The same goes for layout, which I mentioned. I hate to pick on Alternative Press, but the layout hurts my brain a lot. I realize this is because the target audience is in their teens and not mid-twenties, but AP and a lot of the British music magazines are unappealing to me because of that spastic, overly colorful approach to layout.

With the internet and blogs being as entrenched in music culture as they are now, the reader is going to find a publication that speaks almost uniquely to him or her, because there are so many sites that can fill a specific niche. I think 10 years ago when it wasn't as easy for individuals to post their thoughts for a wide audience, that's when you had the necessity for an all encompassing "rock critic."

InaGreendase
08-28-2006, 09:43 PM
I've seen a few press rips we've gotten in various ads and maybe 1 or 2 stickers. Definitely more than half have been from staff, at least.

It is weird to have such out of context quotes, though. Victory took a quote from an old June review we ran for an ad of the band's new album that said something like "songs you swear you've heard before." That was written by our guy Greg, who wasn't saying that as a positive thing, and actually gave the EP a 5/10.

And then there's the fact that we wait until release dates for reviews, which means our press rips are few and far between. Like, I actually got one on the sticker for the new Trophy Scars, but it was from a review I wrote of an EP they released in 2004 -- since then they released another EP in 2005 (which I reviewed), and said new album.

Originally posted by adam punknews.org
I'd much rather see the author get a co-credit on that and have it attributed to "Brian Shultz - Punknews.org" etc.

Oh if Victory wants to crib press rips from us for the Atreyu record, crazytoledo can have alllll the credit he wants for it, if that's what you're talking about. I'd like my name to be far away from that as possible in situations like that.

BARONE
08-28-2006, 10:45 PM
I think a classic example of having a strong voice in regards to reviews is Daniel Lupton formerly of Deep Fry Bonanza fame. Though he carried a rather skewed view of modern punk and hardcore, if 77' punk is your thing, and he gets stoked on something, you better believe it's worth picking up.

Red Medicine
08-28-2006, 11:12 PM
The only Punknews staffers whose reviews I trust are Adam, Aubin, greg0rb, and (to a lesser extent) Jesse. These people have a wide taste in music that extends far beyond punk rock. In all likelihood, the other staffers secretly still listen to Taking Back Sunday's first album, and thus the gleaming four-star reviews they award to the "hottest new Long Island melodic hardcore" bands are to be dismissed.

Anchors
08-28-2006, 11:29 PM
Originally posted by Red Medicine
The only Punknews staffers whose reviews I trust are Adam, Aubin, greg0rb, and (to a lesser extent) Jesse. These people have a wide taste in music that extends far beyond punk rock. In all likelihood, the other staffers secretly still listen to Taking Back Sunday's first album, and thus the gleaming four-star reviews they award to the "hottest new Long Island melodic hardcore" bands are to be dismissed.

With every comment you make, the intelligence just keeps on dropping. Now, let me say this right from the get-go, I don't give a shit what you think of my reviews. Judging on how you comment here, I hope you hate them. But let's get one thing straight, no one on our staff tries to hide their musical likings. I still love that Taking Back Sunday album, as do other people on staff I'm sure. Nobody is trying to "look cool" or whatever stupid shit you're driveling.

And how does TBS compare to long Island hardcore anyhow, besides coming from Long Island? Pretty sure I've never seen On The Might Of Princes or Silent Majority compared to Taking Back Sunday.

Maybe I'm just a little more inclined to be an asshole right now because I'm drunk, but for the love of God, shut the fuck up, you idiot.

Christopher
08-29-2006, 12:23 AM
Originally posted by Anchors
With every comment you make, the intelligence just keeps on dropping. Now, let me say this right from the get-go, I don't give a shit what you think of my reviews. Judging on how you comment here, I hope you hate them. But let's get one thing straight, no one on our staff tries to hide their musical likings. I still love that Taking Back Sunday album, as do other people on staff I'm sure. Nobody is trying to "look cool" or whatever stupid shit you're driveling.

And how does TBS compare to long Island hardcore anyhow, besides coming from Long Island? Pretty sure I've never seen On The Might Of Princes or Silent Majority compared to Taking Back Sunday.

Maybe I'm just a little more inclined to be an asshole right now because I'm drunk, but for the love of God, shut the fuck up, you idiot.

he's kinda like Big Guy .. I dismiss everything that guy says, too.

Big_Guy
08-29-2006, 12:43 AM
just a question, what have I said that was so stupid that you just dismissed it?

Christopher
08-29-2006, 01:02 AM
it's not really stupidity on your part, it's just I tend to disagree with you at every turn.

you don't really annoy me like some of the bad ones.

Big_Guy
08-29-2006, 01:09 AM
well, disagreeing is part of a forum I suppose, and I'm definitely not here to annoy anyone.

not to sound cliche, but what would this forum be if everyone agreed with eachother? that sounds like Absolutepunk.net

Christopher
08-29-2006, 01:37 AM
I totally agree, I'm just saying I kinda take your opinion posts with a TINY grain of salt. ;)

Big_Guy
08-29-2006, 01:40 AM
understood

dpg
08-29-2006, 06:36 AM
the internet is so vast and easily accessible these days that i feel less and less inclined to read reviews with every passing month. thanks to sites like myspace, people can just as easily spend 5 minutes of their time listening to a band for themselves and forming their own opinions than putting their faith in some writer.

now i know that might seem like a shitty thing to say considering we have so many reviewers in our midst but i'm sure you understand where i'm coming from. it's a noble cause and there are definitely reviewers that you learn to trust more than others, but after reading countless reviews online their influence begins to wear off, not to mention the fact that the internet gives every kid with an ipod the power to be his own critic (and sometimes find an audience).

as far as finding a distinctive 'voice' in online journalism, i think the writers themselves are in as much of a predicament as the bands. the sheer volume of music and writing about music makes it nearly impossible for writers/bands to find a substantial audience given the number of others that they are constantly competing with. and the internet does get a bad rep for being an unreliable source (in many cases), so really who's to say you should trust one reviews site over another?

i was surprised when i found out that there are actually 'pitchfork endorses this album!' stickers on albums in australia, in mainstream record stores. because it's like the internet underground music movement has finally come full circle, not to mention gone global.

sorry for the erratic nature of this post i just have lots of different opinions and its hard to get them all out in a coherent way.

iwilltotallyfuckyouup
08-29-2006, 07:27 AM
Originally posted by Anchors
With every comment you make, the intelligence just keeps on dropping. Now, let me say this right from the get-go, I don't give a shit what you think of my reviews. Judging on how you comment here, I hope you hate them. But let's get one thing straight, no one on our staff tries to hide their musical likings. I still love that Taking Back Sunday album, as do other people on staff I'm sure. Nobody is trying to "look cool" or whatever stupid shit you're driveling.

And how does TBS compare to long Island hardcore anyhow, besides coming from Long Island? Pretty sure I've never seen On The Might Of Princes or Silent Majority compared to Taking Back Sunday.

Maybe I'm just a little more inclined to be an asshole right now because I'm drunk, but for the love of God, shut the fuck up, you idiot.

Dude, did you seriously just jump down this guy's throat because your name wasn't listed in the Punknews staffers' opinions he trusts? In-sane.

Jordan, seriously, I think you're a super-talented writer, but you need to detach yourself a little bit as to not drive yourself crazy.

BNO
08-29-2006, 07:27 AM
Originally posted by dpg
the internet is so vast and easily accessible these days that i feel less and less inclined to read reviews with every passing month. thanks to sites like myspace, people can just as easily spend 5 minutes of their time listening to a band for themselves and forming their own opinions than putting their faith in some writer.

now i know that might seem like a shitty thing to say considering we have so many reviewers in our midst but i'm sure you understand where i'm coming from. it's a noble cause and there are definitely reviewers that you learn to trust more than others, but after reading countless reviews online their influence begins to wear off, not to mention the fact that the internet gives every kid with an ipod the power to be his own critic (and sometimes find an audience).

as far as finding a distinctive 'voice' in online journalism, i think the writers themselves are in as much of a predicament as the bands. the sheer volume of music and writing about music makes it nearly impossible for writers/bands to find a substantial audience given the number of others that they are constantly competing with. and the internet does get a bad rep for being an unreliable source (in many cases), so really who's to say you should trust one reviews site over another?

i was surprised when i found out that there are actually 'pitchfork endorses this album!' stickers on albums in australia, in mainstream record stores. because it's like the internet underground music movement has finally come full circle, not to mention gone global.

sorry for the erratic nature of this post i just have lots of different opinions and its hard to get them all out in a coherent way.

All that needs to be said is that Punknews and Pastepunk just keep on doing what you're doing, cause its working.

jordan pastepunk
08-29-2006, 08:50 AM
the internet is so vast and easily accessible these days that i feel less and less inclined to read reviews with every passing month. thanks to sites like myspace, people can just as easily spend 5 minutes of their time listening to a band for themselves and forming their own opinions than putting their faith in some writer.

This factors into my thoughts every day. I always believed the ideal situation would be the whole 'celestial jukebox' where everyone could hear everything for a nominal fee, but having access to everything presents 'navigation' issues -- when there's so much to sample, where do I start? There's been a shift from writing about why you should buy something to why you should merely just check some band out...

Every time a full-length album streams come out for a notable release, I find myself feeling less motivated to review the album for the very reason you mentioned, despite knowing that there's much more to writing about music than what you can gleam from hearing it.

Anchors
08-29-2006, 08:54 AM
Originally posted by iwilltotallyfuckyouup
Dude, did you seriously just jump down this guy's throat because your name wasn't listed in the Punknews staffers' opinions he trusts? In-sane.

Jordan, seriously, I think you're a super-talented writer, but you need to detach yourself a little bit as to not drive yourself crazy.

No no dude, it honestly had nothing to do with that, but I was drunk, and that dude annoys the god damn hell out of me. And my post was the result of that.

ebullientsoul
08-29-2006, 10:05 AM
Honestly, I've bought CDs on the positive reviews of Aubin., Adam punknews, Scott punknews, Jordan punknews, Justin punknews and Jordan.

So baisically, if I see a CD I'm already positively inclined towards, or don't hate it, if I see it a store, I'll buy it because you guys said it was good.

As for the futility of writing reviews nowadays, I don't know, I haven't been writing long enough or with any kind of authority to tell you.

Simulacra
08-29-2006, 10:11 AM
If b1tches are clamoring about a band on Pastepunk or MUP, I'll check them out, or at least make a note to check them out. Same with movies, if the reviewers on aintitcool.com suggest a particular film, it goes on my Netflix. So I guess I trust Pastepunk & the ad hoc reviews here on MUP. I'm also not in a good position to discover new music on my own, given limited time & resources. I used to dig the semiweekly Punknews reviews, but my office blocks that site now. >:(

Fuzzy
09-01-2006, 08:53 AM
Originally posted by ebullientsoul
Honestly, I've bought CDs on the positive reviews of Aubin., Adam punknews, Scott punknews, Jordan punknews, Justin punknews and Jordan.

Oh man, I got "Justin punknews'd" twice in a week. Hilarious. I'm flattered but I wouldn't necessarily put myself in the group of people with "good taste."

This is a great discussion and once I'm actually back in San Francisco, I'll write up something. I've been in the woods of Georgia and just got wifi in the ATL aeropuerto.