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How do you like your critic, sir?

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 8:34 am
by howard male
Blimey, time flies. I just realised it's been over two months since I've written anything here. There's been a couple of reasons for that. Firstly I've been obsessively tapping away at my novel, which at last seems to be feeling more like a novel rather than just a very long story peopled by cardboard cut-outs. And secondly, I just haven't thought of anything I've felt strong enough about to put before you.

The first reason I think has a lot to do with the second. I was putting every ounce of my creative writing energy into my novel and realised that when I would spend time putting up something on the forum, I was expending a lot of that energy I needed for my book

A few weeks ago I asked the question below in another thread. There were no takers but the topic but it's continued to bubble away in the back of my mind, so I thought I'd try to get it started again:

Is it a critic's job to try to be objective, or to plough in with all guns blazing? I can sometimes feel myself being torn between these two positions, both of which could produce equally valid comments or criticisms.

So how do you like your criticism? There no longer seems to be any kind of hard-hitting criticism of music left in the media that I'm aware of, apart from the odd grumpy grumble from Paul Morley on Late Review. In fact some publications actually ask you to only write about the music you love as, I suppose, they want to keep everything upbeat and rosy. But isn't a critic's job to warn people not to buy stuff as well as to suggest what is worth buying?

I tend to choose to only review what I like because I only have a certain number of slots (between 4 & 6) a month to fill, so what's the point of wasting one of those slots slagging some hardworking group's music off. But then that can give the impression that I'm just being one of those typical world music journalists who Andy Gill recently criticised, for just disproportionately 'bigging up' every world music album because someone's got to do it. His beef at the time was that the Ali Farka Toure album was such a critical hit last year because of this predilection of world music critics.

Yes, I've given certain albums the benefit of the doubt, but that's been one of those instances of trying to hear the thing from outside my own narrow band of 'what I love' (and let's face it, every music lover and critic would admit to a similarly narrow band if they were honest about it). So one of my questions is - what kind of criticism do you want to read? Do you want to see dodgy albums laid into with precision savagery - like in the good old days at the NME - or would you rather hear about as much of the good stuff as possible?

Also, how do other writers who contribute to this forum, approach musical criticism? I feel that the most important thing the best critics have, is that they've retained that teenager's questing passion; that the next CD might be the best thing they've ever heard, and if it isn't, then they can't wait to hear the next one, just in case that is. But then again, a bit of objectivity doesn't go amiss either. Over to you lot.

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 10:18 am
by NormanD
Hello Howard
I'll limit my attempt at criticism to your above post.

I found your use of sexual metaphor inappropriate and quite charmless. I also suspect that you haven't grasped what you've written. If it's time for you to have a w*** (as you delicately put it), what does this make you?

A ;) ?

A couple of weeks back
you wrote:I really should think before I post!


Sorry, your second para made me lose interest in the rest of the post.


Re: How do you like your critic, sir?

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 11:12 am
by Rob Hall
howard male wrote:Edited

I couldn't read anything past this point. I hope you enjoyed yourself Howard.


Re: How do you like your critic, sir?

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 11:26 am
by Charlie
Rob Hall wrote:I couldn't read anything past this point. I hope you enjoyed yourself Howard.Rob

Well I got past it, but only just. I couldn't help wondering if Howard thought that any women might read his thread and if so what he imagined they would make of this adolescent boys' stuff.

Howard - couldn't you just take that second paragraph out? It feels unnecessarily grubby and doesn't have any bearing on the rest of your topic, which is as interesting as your pieces normally are.

This Charming Man

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 11:54 am
by Gordon Neill
As an adolescent 49-year old, I managed to get past Howard's metaphor (he can always edit out the stain, later).

Anyway, to try and answer the question..... I would like to sit on a comfortable fence. I think a critic should come to an album with an enthusiasm for that perticular artist or type of music. There wouldn't be much point in me having a go at a Britney Spears effort (apart from having a laugh). There's stuff that isn't aimed at folk like me; it would hardly be a revelation that it missed.

On the other hand (while still sitting on the fence), there's always the danger of things getting a bit too cosy. For example, I felt that there was a rush by critics to praise that latest album from Tinariwen. In my view, it's perfectly fine, but there's little risk of losing your socks when listening to it. You wouldn't know that from the lavish praise heaped all over it. In my view, of course. These things can be subjective.

In other words, a bit of both. As a punter who has to fork out for these shiny CDs I do appreciate a bit of constructive straight talking in a review. Charlie, for example, can often praise individual tracks, but make it clear that, in his view, the overall album isn't great.

I do miss the 'precision savagery' that the NME used to excel in. Music writing can be terribly bland. But, of course, there's always the risk that the style will take over from the content....

Re: How do you like your critic, sir?

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 2:38 pm
by Gordon Moore
howard male wrote: a bit like having a uniquely indulgent experience just before you're going to have mutually satisfying interpersonal relationship - not a good idea. But now that the book is in better shape, it feels like time for to take care of myself even more [edited due to pressure from the censors :)]

... Over to you lot.

I never could understand the difference between a metaphor, a simile, or objective reality.

Of course if you now follow CGs advice about deleting the offending paragraph, then what will I do? Will I have to follow suit?

Difficult philosophical issues!

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:12 pm
by howard male
I've been out all day so only just got back to find, to my surprise, a clutch (can I say clutch?) of replies upset by a couple of barely naughty words. My apologies - I've now removed the offending passage.

I really wasn't trying to shock and I'm frankly shocked that I did shock. I thought my metaphor was perfectly reasonable and accurate in relation to the idea I was trying to convey - that writing my novel feels like love, and writing on the forum is often just short-lived, egotistical and self indulgent.

And of course I thought about it before posting it, and honestly didn't dream that it would course such a fuss. I'm also fully aware that women read this forum but thought it would in fact have been more sexist to consider that they are too frail and delicate to be able to take one word which can be found in any dictionary, and one word which I actually self censored anyway.

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:13 pm
by howard male

And I've just notice Gordon has quoted me anyway, so Gordon, perhaps you could remove my evil words too, before anyone faints.

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:23 pm
by Rob Hall
It wasn't the words that prevented me from reading on Howard, it was the contempt that you displayed for anyone who did.


PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:52 pm
by howard male
I'm sorry Rob, you've lost me... I really don't understand what the problem is.

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:59 pm
by Gordon Moore
I've edited my post, but you'll have to read the adjusted quote :)

I, of course, will happily remove it totally if you wish, but it's quite funny - I think!!!!

I suppose this is a family show.

Rob will have to sort out his quote as well !!!!

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:14 pm
by NormanD
howard wrote:... I really don't understand what the problem is
you also wrote:...perhaps you could remove my evil words too, before anyone faints.

You really don't get it, do you?

I just give up.


PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:21 pm
by howard male
OK, I've just reread my ill-chosen words again, Rob, and I think I understand where you've misunderstood me. My fault for not being clearer. When I was comparing writing on the forum with onanistic diversions I was actually attempting to make a dig at myself and my habit of pouring out all my trivial thoughts and (to some) pointless philosophical ramblings about music, here.

If this isn't what you meant and I've misinterpreted what your problem was, let me know. But I can assure you I have nothing but respect for everyone who contributes to this forum, that's why I find to visit most days even if I've not found as much time to post longer pieces myself recently.

And, yes, Gordon, the tide of filth seems unstoppable - quick, Rob - censor your post too, before the Daily Mail readers get wind of what's been going down here (can I say 'going down' here?)

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:28 pm
by NormanD
No, you haven't got it.

And I really have given up on this one.

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:44 pm
by Rob Hall
howard male wrote:I'm sorry Rob, you've lost me... I really don't understand what the problem is.

I'll PM you with an explanation.