Monday, January 02, 2012

I find it strange when a musician addresses the critics. I can't quite understand why I feel this way, after all, musicians, like artists, are sensitive folk. Surely if their music is unfairly assessed, if their performances are unduly slated or their business decisions duly dissed, surely the musician has a right of rebuttal. Yes? Maybe? I don't think so.

I refer to a time when there was scant information available online about Bloc Party. Of course, there was the stylish and minimal official site which reflected the artwork of their first EP. Typically enough, there were also angry music snobs saying unkind things about the band on Drowned in Sound.

It would be the first instance where I'd witness a band member defending their music. The bassist addressed the indifferent, he implored them to just give them a chance. I thought it a rather desperate move to make, but then as a fan and rather naive music listener, I harboured a belief that the music should be assessed on its own merits. Should it really have to come down to begging?

I was reminded of this instance when it was brought to my attention that Tim Rogers replied to a rather unfavourable live review in the Townsville Bulletin. The complaints were unsurprising: bad sound, sloppy stage show, the needless heckling and the jeers, "I'll be the one your girlfriend is thinking about later tonight!".

Although eloquent, Tim's response seemed pointless and self-satisfied. He assures the writer, Amanda Gray: "I need to make it clear to you my writing has nothing at all to do with whether you think our band is rubbish or that I am a complete tool." He goes on to defend his banter, to explain that his sexual bravado is something of an in-joke, that he finds bad language to be so "bewilderingly exciting".

Flecked throughout is his gratitude to be a professional musician, to have toured the world for twenty-two years, "with this humble self-satisfaction intact". Yet, all this carefully drafted posturing makes me wonder why, if Tim Rogers is so successful and self-assured, why does he feel compelled to even read the reviews of some small town paper? More to the point, what does he get out of addressing the grievances of this one unimpressed critic?

I understand that it is difficult to accept that universality: not everybody is going to like you. I suppose the point I am trying to make here is that you cannot convince someone to like you by obliterating them in an essay about how good you are. Tim, may I suggest that you take solace in the support of those who do appreciate your music and stagecraft. Although the lengthy rebuttals may amuse some, they ultimately come across as needy and insecure.

Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Mod Podcast #37
The Kinks - All Day and All of the Night
The Drums - Book of Stories
The Pipettes - Because It's Not Love (But It's Still a Feeling)
Francoise Hardy - Il est tout pour moi
Gerry and the Pacemakers - It's Gonna Be Alright
The Beatles - All I've Got to Do
Wishful Thinking - Step By Step
The Jam - Happy Together
INXS - Wishy Washy
The Chords - Maybe Tomorrow
The Monochrome Set - Monochrome Set
The Coctails - Whoopsy Daisy

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Dr. FrankenRock said...

I disagree C&CM. I think when the critisism is just then responses from musicians is quite futile. but when the critisism is just plain nasty and uneducated then the muso has every right to put them in their place. I think TRs response to the article wasn't to satisfy his own ego but to defend first and foremost his longtime friend, Jimmy Barnes who was attacked as being back on the booze by the "critic" in his dicision to chosing You am I as support band, which is particularly low blow considering his battles and victory over alcohol in the past. I think TR was responding not to a critic but a nasty writer who wasn't writing about how poor the YAI show was but how she just didn't like it. And wrote in a way that implied the whole audience felt that way. I don't think it fell into the critical or review category of writing at all. I didn't see the point in the article other than to slander YAI. which i think any muso has the right to respond to. critical writing does not mean you can bag the shit out of someone without somethign to back it up. TR wasn't asking to change the mind of the "critic" mentioning he is comfortable that not everyone likes his band, rather he was illustrating that her writing was just plain hurtful.

I think there is a fine line between critic and just being an ass. I recall reading reviews of Hotel Yorba by the white stripes and some people loved it and others were scratching their heads as to what the attraction was. However i found no critical response to the music. Rather just people happy to jump on the "this is overhyped rubbish" bandwagon.

So who wins with that sort of "critisism"? I think it's futile for bands to win people who don't like thier music over. The Jet/Clem bastow battle years back illustrates this. But i think it is fair to ask those who write about not liking it, for reasons.

smudgeon said...

I think Tim's response was more about what seems to be a rather mean-spirited and lazy review. If an artists is going to go down the route of responding to this sort of thing, I think they should take the Tim route and keep it above the belt.

There's definitely more room for artists to defend their work and performance against this sort of thing. Critics/reviewers risk little, and hold a position of influence.

That's from Ratatouille, isn't it?

Don said...

I've never heard of Tim Rogers or You Am I so I haven't enough information to form a decision.

I just wanted to stop by and say that I'm always pleased to see that you've made a new post and curious what you have to say each time. It's always a treat to hear your podcasts, especially when you speak French. We don't get many who can do it as well here in NASCAR country.

Eleanor said...

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments!

In spite of my post, I very much agree with both Dr FRock and Smudgeon. There should be no place for mean-spirited, poorly written musical criticism. I agree, this review was below the belt in regards to Jimmy Barnes in particular. However, it doesn't detract from the fact that this one critic went along to this night and simply didn't enjoy herself. That may be because she didn't have an intimate knowledge of You Am I's back catalogue or she otherwise felt uncomfortable with Tim's on-stage persona. But then, within her writing, I read an implicit admission of ignorance and for that reason alone, I didn't particularly see her as a credible source.

I understand now, (no less, in an extremely ironic manner) that it is tempting to qualify your work to vicious critics. I'm currently grappling with such a temptation and all I want to do is slam down the critic who saw fit to completely eviscerate my writing. What I need to do is to take stock and realise that it is the ignorance of the critic that is exposed when they write something so needlessly cruel and vitriolic. How I would love to do what Tim has done (and how I would love to be applauded, as Tim has been applauded), but it's all quite unnecessary and it ultimately detracts from the art.

And as for Don: Thank you so very much for your comment! There is little French in the upcoming episodes, but then they should be coming out every Monday for the next couple of weeks at least!