Monday, September 03, 2007


Summer is a strange thing; I think it must be something to do with the fact that for the entirety of my life so far summer is associated with doing nothing, enjoying oneself, running around and getting drunk (that’s a fairly recent addition) but I find it very hard to motivate myself to do anything that I don’t particularly want to do during the summer. I am some sort of seasonal hedonist, during the autumn, winter and spring I am capable of self control, discretion and determination but in the summer I eat drink and am merry. This, I rather suspect, is the reason why I spent the whole summer finding the whole ‘getting a job’ thing distasteful in the extreme and why, now, as the summer is coming to an end I’m feeling a real need to get a job and sort myself out.

I could also be argued that this is because I’ve got a bigger belly than I had at the start of the summer, because my bass amp is broken and I don’t have the money to replace it, but I’m feeling like I’ve done enough relaxing now.


I’ve been reading reviews of albums on pitchfork media today. I find them fascinating because, if nothing else, they seem to be the established template that all the godawful music reviewers in campus newspapers across the globe try to copy. They always write some kind of introductory paragraph which serves a few different purposes, firstly it sets the tone for the review, secondly it establishes a voice for the reviewer* and thirdly it allows the reviewer to make himself sound all clever, imbuing the review with a sort of gravitas which it doesn’t really deserve. They aren’t all bad, some of the writers are quite good, the problem with the others is that they are all presumably mimicking the idiosyncratic style of a small group of writers, a style which they don’t have the ability to carry off.

A couple of times I’ve tried to write music reviews, little pieces about albums I’m listening to and like or dislike, but I can’t ever grasp the style that most reviewers, pretentious or otherwise, aim for. I am unable to get past my own opinions and tastes when assessing music; I find it impossible to give some sort of assessment of the quality of a piece of music because I don’t really have any universal criteria with which I can put it into words. I know that many of my reasons for disliking music are unreasonable and unusual but I have no other methods of assessment. When writing a review of a piece of music I invariably feel like a man trying to transcribe a piece of music in words, trying to express changes in specific pitch and duration without any objective standard to use – writing something like ‘it is now getting higher than the last bit, but not as high as the bit that came before that’ isn’t going to help anyone play the piece of music. By the same token I think that that saying that you find a piece of songwriting to be ‘somewhat derivative’ will not provide any useful cues to someone who wishes to discover its quality for themselves.

Despite all this, however, I think that there is such a thing as good music and bad music - different people like different things, but there is a dim and vague universal standard of quality which would probably manifest if you polled people over whether an album is bad or good. The best reviewers seem to be able to tap into this. It makes me wonder if perhaps the closest thing we have to objective perception in this society is a sort of strange composite of a multitude of subjective ones – I mean one person sees something then that doesn’t count for much, he could be nuts, wrong or stupid, if more than one person sees it then it is considered more likely to have been so. I suppose the logic is that two unconnected people are unlikely to be crazy in the same way and so what their perceptions agree on must be truth.

Hmm. I should shut up now. I have no idea what I’m writing; I’m an English graduate veering dangerously into musical and philosophical territory, which is somewhere I don’t understand in the slightest.


*which is very important if you are a creative writing student with gonzo pretentions