I’m A Blogger, Not An Executive Producer
A few years ago, I went to a large music festival in the States where I witnessed the frontman of some American indie band (whose name and music I’ve now forgotten) ranting about how people who drive SUVs suck to rapturous applause. The fact that many of the thousands there – myself included – had traveled there in some manner of gas-guzzling people carrier was neither here nor there. Everybody hates people who drive SUVs – it’s self-evidently true and we don’t challenge it.
The story came to mind over Christmas and New Years when I read a blog post by Handsome Young Stranger with the somewhat snarky title: “How to win friends and influence people.” The blog, without going into any specifics, said that Irish music blogs aren’t critical enough and basically act as PR outlets for the musicians they write about. Fair enough. A couple of days ago, Irish Times blogger Jim Carroll came back from his Christmas holliers and +1d it on his blog, adding that certain unnamed members of the music writing clique are band whores.
I thought it was funny because I’ve said much the same in the past myself. I think everyone has. It’s self-evidently true. It’s especially self-evidently true when you avoid going into specifics, and even self-evidentlier true when you imply you have an inside track on what’s really going on but you won’t name names out of respect or whatever. It may even be more self-evidently true than the existence of god. But is it actually true? And if it is true then why can’t you go into specifics – who is not holding up their end of the deal?
When I have something to say, I tend to just say it, regardless of the consequences. I’m naively, stupidly and possibly even self-destructively honest. That’s why these thinly-veiled allusions drive me nuts. They’re too safe and they’re too easy, and beyond hypocritical when your central point is that the music media lacks critical insight. Are there blogs and websites out there that aren’t pulling their weight critically? Name them. Is there a band whore on the block? Fuck it, call them out. There may be good reasons for not naming names, but then why rock the boat in the first place?
It’s just all very… vague, isn’t it? I saw people agree with the Handsome Young Stranger post on twitter and on their blogs, yet it seemed like a lot of people sort of read what they wanted in it and went away satisfied. Being vague and open to interpretation is great when you’re an artist, but if you’re trying to make a serious point then it’s probably the opposite of what you’re trying to do. I don’t read Irish blogs as much as I should, but amid the general Hype Machine buzz Irish music blogs in general are an oasis of insight and damn good writing.
Jim Carroll is a good writer who expresses uncomfortable and well-researched opinions. Nialler gets the community involved and serves as the best link between Irish music and international blogs. Nay McArdle digs deeper than anybody into Irish music and gives air to countless artists who could otherwise be cut off from the media entirely. Eoghan O’Sullivan has recently become as prolific as he is thoughtful. Hardcore For Nerds doesn’t write as much about music as he used to but I love that lefty punk vibe. Darragh McCausland is probably the best actual writer of the lot and he spindles together music and brutal personal honesty in a way that I wish I could.
Are they as critical of the music scene as they could be? Of course not. Should they be? Sure, if they wanna be.* Aside from Jim and Niall, none of makes much or any money from blogging. As Nay points out in comment #10 on Jim’s blog, everybody has their own reasons for blogging that reflect their own personality. I personally do it to promote myself (yeah, good job, right?) but most bloggers just do it to share the music they like with more people. Sometimes I read blogs that are all gushy about everything, and they remind me of those permanently jolly people I actively avoid in life, but so what? If I don’t like it, I won’t read it.
I can’t find the link, but Karl McDonald on twitter said he finds it difficult to criticise musicians when he considers many of them friends and associates. I can understand that. If a friend invites you over and cooks you dinner, you don’t turn around and tell them you find their food shallow and pedantic. (I might, but I’m not a very good example of a human being.) It’s just not done. He suggested some people might band together to create an anonymous blog so as to offer unrestrained criticism. This seems pointless – anonymity undermines how useful any point you make can be. To extend the metaphor too far, it’s like popping an anonymous note in your friend’s letterbox suggesting they use less salt next time.
I’m not going to sit here and tell any blogger they should start being more critical. It’s not their job to be critical. I will be critical because I am a critical person, not out of any duty of care to music scene or arrogant belief my opinion should mean something to the artist. I’m a writer, not an executive producer. If a band want to pay me a fee to come in the studio and say ‘that song’s good, this one’s shit, that one needs more glock,’ I will do it. I will Clive Davis that shit. If a magazine is paying me to review something, I won’t pull any punches. But on here, I’m a writer and I will write whatever I want to write. I’m a rounded person (kind of) and my blog will reflect that I like some things and dislike others, and hopefully that means that when I enthuse about something people know that I really, really mean it. But that’s it.
Here’s Henry Rollins.
*I’m aware that asking and answering questions is an incredibly irritating writer habit. I don’t care. I’m trying to be emphatic.