Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A funny thing happened to me on the way
to writing a review the other day.

So I previewed Eiesly's show at Double Door last week for Chicagoist and then found myself reviewing it the next day since my preview apparently had a few folks up in arms demanding a follow-up. Fair enough. I expect fans to get a little upset when you don't say 100% nice things about a band they love. I mean, I can get the same way from time to time. Someone close to the band even contacted me to chat about my thoughts and I can appreciate that as well.

I bet you think I'm edging into a negative commentary just about now, don't you? Like I'm gonna pull back the drapes with a bog ol' "Gotcha!" to folks who disagree with me, right?

Well I'm not.

I've been writing about music for a really, really long time. I've been writing about music for so long that, at my age, it's slightly embarrassing I don't have a staff job at a major newspaper or magazine. One reason I think that I don't is that I truly believe music criticism needs to come from some balanced place between historical knowledge and honest emotional response. By trying to achieve balance between these two extremes I can usually come out with a piece or opinion that I really believe is well balanced and helpful. I believe that if people are going to take their time to read what you think then your opinion better be based in something stronger than a momentary whim.

So when I wrote about Eisley part of me wanted to gush because they really do seem like kids wowed by the opportunity they're been given and that pure enthusiasm in infectious and refreshing. Their songs do belie their years and do deserve notice. At the same time the critic in me has years and years of music and other bands to compare them to and that has to be mentioned as well. In that particular pantheon they are less immediately impressive. Again, fair enough. They are young and they do it all themselves and they are still growing into their own as songwritiers so this is not particularly surprising. The point is that they have a lot going for them and just because I don't think they're quite deserving of all the praise they've accumulated thus far, that doesn't mean I don't think the day is not too far off where that praise will be well deserved.

What am I getting at? Why am I writing this?

I'm not sure but I think it has to do with the fact that a writer wants to be understood. When the things I write get taken the wrong way -- which often happens when people focus only on aspects of a piece they want to focus on -- it upsets me and frustrates me. I don't think many folks understand what goes into actual music criticism. There are attitudes that separate folks that view this genre as actual "criticism" rather than simple "opinion pieces" and I'm not sure the average reader knows (or really cares about) those differences.

I'm getting off track again.

The whole basis for this meandering chat we're having is that apparently music criticism sometimes can get under people's skin and upset them. Fans, bands, clubs...they're all vulnerable to this response. I think that if they knew what a critic -- an honest and ethical critic -- goes through when writing a review they might get a little less upset about the results. No one is trying to hurt anyone's feelings, that's for sure.

There's a reason that Chicago bands know better than to ask my opinion of what they're doing unless they're prepared for an absolutely honest response. Suffice to say that when I'm negative about something I can be just as strong in my opinion when I'm face to face with a close friend as I am typing away on a keyboard preparing something for a faceless existence in print or on-line. I try to be as honest and fair and balanced as I can be no matter who is involved.

And that's all I can really do.

You too can be a critic!

C'mon down to innjoy tonight and you can turn the tables on me and criticize my song selection when Rudy and I spin from 9pm until 2am. Cheap eats, drink specials and scantily clad cage dancers will be there to greet you at the door. Okay, the cage dancer is actually just Rudy in his underwear and he'll only be at the door during my sets since I refuse to be seen in public in a speedo yet.

There'll be lots of new music played by such hip up and coming little known groups as Franz Ferdinand, The Twilight Singers, Nighmare Of You, Editors, Rogue Wave, Sigur Rós, Broken Social Scene, Morningwood, Big Star, Bloc Party, Diamond Nights, blah dee dee blah de blah, etcetera etcetera.

No comments: