This morning I wasted nearly an hour of my life (and my workday) trying in vain to buy tickets to the just-announced Wilco show next month at the 9:30 Club here in DC. Wilco was one of the absolute best shows I saw last year; I got lucky and snagged a ticket then while all my friends ran into a brick wall (damn thing sold out in just a few minutes). Well, I didn’t get lucky this year. Oh well. Nels Cline is playing a solo/duo show with fellow Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche the month before, so I’ll let myself be satisfied with that.
Someone at ProgressiveEars posted an amusing rant by Jem Godfrey of Frost* about the quality of prog reviews. If I understand correctly, Godfrey is a pop musician who consciously decided he wanted to make a “prog” album. Not surprisingly, the result (Milliontown) sounds, uh, self-consciously “proggy” and is pretty much like 90% of the other utterly forgettable stuff on the InsideOut label: competent but ultimately inconsequential (even though it all garners rave reviews at your usual prog sites). But that aside, Godfrey’s criticism of prog reviewers is actually pretty much spot-on. Basically, he takes prog reviewers to task for not being good writers like the pros are: prog reviews, he says, read like absolutely dull, lifeless “shopping lists.” They lack wit and color.
To which I would point to a few of the reviewers on this site for the sake of counter-argument; but they are the exception. I myself often feel like my own reviewing is totally uninspired and dull. Most of the time when I read reviews on other prog sites, I feel the same. The fact is, these are all amateur writers — they are not professionals and expecting them to be as engaging as professional journalists is a little unreasonable. I don’t get paid to write music reviews and there’s probably a good reason for that. (Which doesn’t mean I’m not trying to improve my writing, of course.)
Then there’s his closing paragraph:
To these people I implore you: buy a Dictionary. Buy a Thesaurus. Enrol on a writing course. Anything to prove you deserve to do this thing that you’re very serious about and would do a lot more of if it wasn’t for the football, the wife, the kids, the dog, the dayjob, the pub, your mates, the TV…
Then you can call me names and I can take you seriously.
Aside from the rather funny “enrol on a writing course” thing, to which a snarky ProgressiveEars poster responded, “Physician, heal thyself,” this conclusion seems all wrong after an otherwise good rant. Just because someone isn’t a professional writer, his or her opinions aren’t worth taking seriously? Just because the average prog reviewer has, you know, a life, doesn’t mean he or she is worth listening to? Kind of smells like Godfrey is sitting on a high horse looking down at this scene because he’s more than just a prog musician, he’s a pop musician and is used to getting reviews from the big boys. This amateurish prog underground thing isn’t good enough for him.
Well, his slick, professional music strikes me as awfully boring, so I guess we’re all square. Anyways, he still deserves kudos for urging prog reviewers to learn to write. It’s true… there’s plenty of them out there who can’t.