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RE: Why I'm starting to loath news paper music critics
It's funny how our response to a critique of our own
work often has more to do with how we'd *like* the
piece to be interpreted/understood than with whether
or not the reviewer is actually panning or praising
For example (and of particular relevance to this
thread when you see who the reviewer was!), last
October Krispen Hartung wrote the following brief
review of a piece I recorded several years ago:
"The backdrop in the beginning of the song is
beautiful....and the bass groove that eventually comes
in is very tasteful and catchy, almost old Terje
Rypdal sound in nature. Nice! Give me more of this and
some "outside" melodic work on the top and I'll be in
ecstasy. Nice job."
Now, eight months later, when I re-read that I see it
as a decidedly positive review, much better than the
tune deserved. All the adjectives are glowing:
'beautiful', 'tasteful', 'catchy' and not one, but TWO
instances of 'nice'. The Rypdal mention is right on
target, for I enjoy and respect his music very much.
Moreover (and most importantly) the listener enjoyed
listening; mission accomplished. I guess...
Then why was I somewhat irked when I first read
Krispen's review? Context.
You see, prior to recording the tune to which Krispen
was referring, the majority of my press reviews had
resulted from a period when I'd been the lead
guitarist for a much more commercially-oriented group,
a band in which I was usually seen by critics to be
the 'outside' one. While there was a fair amount of
praise for the originality of my approach and the
off-kilter edge my parts gave to what in their eyes
would have been just another early 90's 'alternative
power pop' act, there were just as many critics who
slammed me for coloring outside the lines, using such
nice words as 'gratuitous' and 'pretentious'.
When I recorded the piece that Krispen heard, my head
was miles away from wanting to put on a lot of guitar
solos; at the time I was more interested in texture
and atmosphere, doing things that I wasn't already
known for. So when I read his review, replete with the
conditions to which I should comply in order that he
"be in ecstasy", it was easy for me to overlook all
the nice things he'd written and feel that he hadn't
"gotten it" because he would have preferred more "
'outside' melodic work on the top'... At the time, I
felt "Well, gee, if I'd wanted to do that, I WOULD
have!", feeling that I was certainly capable of doing
so had I chosen to, and that I was a misunderstood
artíste. It reminded me of some comments Brian Eno had
made re: critics and the influence of his well-meaning
audience on his music's content which may be found at
As far as good/bad critical response, I used to get a
kick out of juxtaposing completely contradictory
reviews in my press kit. :P
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