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Thread: 4 Stars (or: The reviewing of art vs. the art of reviewing)

  1. #16
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    does anyone think the quality of interviews have gone down a bit too? maybe its cos there are so many sites running them that theyre no longer that special and a lot of artists/labels have become jaded about doing them as a result, or it could be just that the current era is just a bit boring, we dont expect artists to have opinions and well, everyones playing it safe.

    or maybe i just need to read more of them in proper magazines rather than website Q&As.

  2. #17
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    "I have heard several times from label people that a review usually doesn't affect sales at all, nobody really cares. I guess that doesn't help to encourage writers to write good reviews."
    Definitely true with films. When a super blockbuster comes out it is hyped and trailed for aaages in advance with merchandising and all kinds of tie-ins, it's Conan that covers the buses and advertising hoardings at the moment but it could be anything. It can get slated in every credible (whatever that means) publication going but millions will still go and see it - and probably leave feeling slightly disappointed though unsure why. There's obviously too much money involved to risk letting anything prevent this happening. I think I read somewhere that the average age of film-goers is decreasing which makes perfect sense when you see the average maturity-level of the biggest films which are increasingly action adventures with less plot and more explosions.

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by IdleRich View Post
    Definitely true with films.
    Well, it's true with a lot of music as well. The point of reviews was a lot greater when it was hard to hear a given record before it got released because it wasn't on mainstream radio and you didn't have access to the internet. These days if I buy a record it's normally because I've heard it on mixes or radio shows that I've listened to repeatedly, listened to it on youtube, listened to clips on Boomkat etc, so I don't really need someone to tell me what it sounds like...

    Reviews become a lot more interesting when they're about forms of music that it's still quite hard to find out about - full albums, for instance, or things that don't have a web radio / mp3 mix culture, or when they're actually interesting reading in their own right. Both of these are reasons that The Wire is about the only place I read reviews these days...

  4. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by gumdrops View Post
    does anyone think the quality of interviews have gone down a bit too?
    Read two interviews with BenUFO and one man yesterday. Clashmag one was good. There was at least four year when (with the exception of BD) every dubstep interview was identical.
    Beginning to change now a bit.

  5. #20
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    "I have heard several times from label people that a review usually doesn't affect sales at all, nobody really cares. I guess that doesn't help to encourage writers to write good reviews."
    Certainly no direct relation, but good reiews still help. When record shops existed, a good reiew could be the difference between a face display and not. I'm sure there are now people who'll listen to an album on Spotify, or pay that bit more attention to a track on the radio, if they've seen good reviews. And good reviews (good press in general) creates its own outlets - it feeds into radio playlists etc etc.

    But no, the days when a 5-star review in Q could put a couple of thousand on sales are gone (if they ever existed).

    (and sorry about typing here - my v key is dying a slow death, as is the l and possibly the x)

  6. #21
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    "Well, it's true with a lot of music as well. The point of reviews was a lot greater when it was hard to hear a given record before it got released because it wasn't on mainstream radio and you didn't have access to the internet."
    Yeah, when you hear people talking about the days when they would wait by the radio on the day a song was released because it wasn't played before that day it sounds like a different world. Not necessarily a better one but I'm sure that it was true that there was more excitement about releases and probably songs in general.
    Just picked films as an example because of the sheer cost of making a big film - it means that everything is exaggerated compared to an album. Plus I've often read film reviewers lamenting the lack of influence they have on film goers. Of course, the other side of the coin is when certain reviewers have the power to make or break a new release and I'm not exactly sure that's healthy either. Problem now is an influential reviewer with a bad review can probably squash a tiny indie film but have no effect on Transformers Seven so you arguably end up with the worst of both worlds.
    One thing that's no-one has discussed is that romantic(?) idea of a review or critique as a kind of engagement with a work that increases the experience of the whole thing. Basically a review that regards as utterly unimportant how it affects sales but which can be enjoyed on its own terms at any point in time.

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by IdleRich View Post
    Basically a review that regards as utterly unimportant how it affects sales but which can be enjoyed on its own terms at any point in time.
    All reiews should be like that. People who review stuff solely to boost its sales should give up now, because it's just fundamentally dishonest way of working. Your responsibility is to provide an engaging and informative read, to illuminate both the artist and, with luck, the wider culture. Anything else is promo.

  8. #23
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    I get irritated when writers say they don't like reviewing bad records cos what's the point when there's so many good ones out. There's no point jumping on some obscure little no-hoper just to give it a kicking, but crap music is as much a part of what's going on as good music. and your good reviews only have any impact if you write some bad ones. as mentioned above, if everything is 4-star, then 4-star reviews are meaningless.

  9. #24
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    "All reiews should be like that. People who review stuff solely to boost its sales should give up now, because it's just fundamentally dishonest way of working. Your responsibility is to provide an engaging and informative read, to illuminate both the artist and, with luck, the wider culture. Anything else is promo."
    Should be yeah. But wasn't the romantic view also that some things were actually below the level where it was possible to engage with them in this way and that they actually didn't qualify as art? That would probably be almost every mainstream film these days...

  10. #25
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    i miss the old days of gonzo journalism, back when lester bangs would rattle on and on and sometimes hardly even mention specific songs, but in the end you knew if the album was worth getting. that's probably back before many of you were even born, lol!

    i wouldn't want only that type of reviewing, but i do miss the entertainment value of the more off-the-wall, often substance abuse-fueled bloviating when it's done well (and it's a horror when it's not done well).

  11. #26
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    I've done a couple of reviews/pieces, working on a few at the moment too. It's really a case of writing about albums/artists that I'm really into, trying to communicate what it is I like about the music (especially as compared to what others DON'T like about it, or what I didn't like about it myself initially), trying to make it a bit funny in places and also - let's face it - making myself feel like a big man.

    I find it very hard writing reviews, its a step-up from just giving my half-baked opinion on a forum/blog. I have a hard time cutting things down to reader-manageable levels. I've got loads of bad habits in my writing - too - many - dashes (and paragraphs), for example. But I dunno, I think I'm getting better at it... One thing about online reviewing is that you have to try and keep it short and sweet because of the nature of people's online reading habits (i.e. the majority probably won't read that much before clicking the next link).

    I really like the hip-hop reviews David Drake (so many shrimp) does for Pitchfork. I'm deeply envious of his reviewing ability. Actually most of the rap reviews I've read on Pitchfork have been good.

  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by IdleRich View Post
    Definitely true with films. When a super blockbuster comes out it is hyped and trailed for aaages in advance with merchandising and all kinds of tie-ins, it's Conan that covers the buses and advertising hoardings at the moment but it could be anything. It can get slated in every credible (whatever that means) publication going but millions will still go and see it - and probably leave feeling slightly disappointed though unsure why. There's obviously too much money involved to risk letting anything prevent this happening.
    I think this is an important point, Rich. The (undoubtedly true) inference is that most people don't read reviews or do research or seek to obtain any other views, 'expert' or otherwise, before parting with their cash. Was it ever thus? Sadly, I think it was to some extent. I tend to fall back on videogames as an example, but there were about two million Playstation 2s in the UK in the machine's prime years. The Official Playstation 2 Magazine (a prime offender in giving things an uncritical, easy ride, but that's another point), had a circulation, I believe, of about 200,000. So that's just 10% of owners who are actively seeking information or guidance as to what to buy (and not getting good advice, but again, I'll leave that for now). My point, then, is that even allowing for other magazines and websites, comfortably more than 50% of people sought no further information and simply bought the games with the biggest advertising spend or the recognisable brand name on the box, or even just the ones they liked the sleeve art of, which, although it can occasionally pay dividends (I'll buy records from charity shops with cool sleeves for 50p) seems like madness with games costing 30 upwards. It's the same with films, plainly. I've definitely heard people at cinemas debating what film to watch and going solely by which actors appear, whether it's in a series they are familiar with, or if they've seen it advertised.

    Are these people stupid for not reading reviews? Not necessarily. Or, rather, in absolute terms they probably are, yes, but are they unhappy with their choices? My guess is 'no'. If you've only ever seen blockbusters, or played Need For Speed, or read Dan Brown (for examples), and you enjoyed them, then you're unlikely to take notice of negative reviews anyway (or read the publications that give them), and the positive reviews ('4 Stars' - Baz Bamigboye, The Mail; '4 Stars' - Alex Zane, The Sun (sorry, more brackets, but how the hecking fuck did Zane get to be a film critic? Being a cunt to innocent people on Balls Of Steel and having a modern haircut is all you need these days, is it? Bicycling Christ...)) don't need to be read because they're already on the film poster, or book jacket (big stickers on the front of paperbacks, ugh) or whatever. If you've only got a narrow strata of experience in a given medium, you're much less likely to find fault - and as Rich says, even if you do "leave feeling slightly disappointed though unsure why", it must be difficult to pinpoint why you're disappointed, and so the same mistakes are made again.

    That's why I like reviews, and why good reviews are important. I don't like wasting money and haven't the time to try everything out on the off chance I might enjoy it. The good reviewer (or reviews section, if all the writers are on point) is like the rich kid who's your best mate, who has the time and money to try everything, and tell you if that album starts well but tails off, or if that film is actually great, even if the director's last one was an abomination, or if that game looks lovely and plays well but spends all its time loading from disk, or whatever. Things you couldn't get just from the trailer or playing a demo or reading the plot synopsis on the inner jacket.

  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Damien View Post
    I used to read Terrorizer magazine avidly as a youngster but stopped when I noticed previews of upcoming albums were basically paid-for press releases, writing such as 'will divide opinions' and 'this band doesn't follow the rules' usually meant that the reviewer hated the album but was not allowed to express such opinions.
    I know the (ex) editor of Terrorizer and I can't speak for him, but will say that that sort of stuff may have been the staff trying to get good stuff past the (idiot) owners, so they were trying to sell (i.e. review good stuff not shit) to their "market audience" as they'd been told to do, whilst knowing that the idea of a "market audience" is crap. See also early Bizarre, good journos trying to get interesting stuff past idiot editors. In the end we all lose.

  14. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ulala View Post
    I think this is an important point, Rich. The (undoubtedly true) inference is that most people don't read reviews or do research or seek to obtain any other views, 'expert' or otherwise, before parting with their cash. Was it ever thus? Sadly, I think it was to some extent.
    isn't film different to other media in that it is a kind of experience? and mainstream films are this plus special effects plus iconic actors that people relate to or fancy, a promise of blinding experience. the trick is to make the product as visible as possible, reviews are a supplement to this and irrelevant unless the film is really catastrophic.

  15. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by mistersloane View Post
    I know the (ex) editor of Terrorizer and I can't speak for him, but will say that that sort of stuff may have been the staff trying to get good stuff past the (idiot) owners, so they were trying to sell (i.e. review good stuff not shit) to their "market audience" as they'd been told to do, whilst knowing that the idea of a "market audience" is crap. See also early Bizarre, good journos trying to get interesting stuff past idiot editors. In the end we all lose.
    I was pointed towards a recent Terrorizer article in which they previewed the most recent Morbid Angel album. Now this album is beyond terrible and has been universally panned.

    In this preview they gave glowing praise and made all the bad points of the album seem good ie the quotes I used above 'this band don't care what anyone thinks, they do what they want etc)

    This is clearly a case of either

    a/ a magazine being payed to praise a crap album

    b/ a magazine trying to double guess it's audience

    either way, I find this unforgivable and I am glad I stopped reading a long time ago
    rap game hard but the dope game crazy

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