Them’s The Vagaries#3: efil4zaggin

9:33 PMKarl: Wanna do a TTV?

Sean: Yeah
What on?

9:34 PM Karl: Em, being offensive to Irish bands?
Or: something else?

9:36 PM Sean: Review scores?

9:38 PM Karl: Yeah that’s good.
So from first principles, should reviews have scores?

Sean: No
It’s for like, phone card collectors

9:39 PM You could argue they once had value but, now everyone can listen to anything and often do, it’s sort of just for gombeans to settle arguments on Tumblr

9:40 PM Karl: In an ideal world, you wouldn’t need review scores but something like the review section of the Wire, to me, is a decent argument for having them

9:41 PM That just turns into endless fields full of reviews of things you’ve never heard of described in terms it’s difficult to turn into something concrete in your head.
A score can help you figure out what to read and what not to.

Sean: But would you not just read everything?
Like I still read magazines cover to cover if I pay for them

9:42 PM Pavlovian response developed by being 13

9:43 PMKarl: I read the features through in any magazine, and i’ll generally read the reviews too in Q (which I am in no way endorsing), I’ve heard or know of 80% of the bands they cover I could read that with no scores but Wire’s not like that. lots of things aren’t.

9:44 PM It’s hard to make yourself read through what could be five consecutive mediocre Japanese noise records just to get to one good Japanese noise record

9:45 PM Sean: Yeah but I find as I get older, I don’t care about whether a record is good or bad, I just find it pleasurable to read how someone processed it.

If Wire reviews had scores, I’d skip them

9:46 PM but you can’t really rate noise records or whatever in 60% or 72% or whatever, it’s whether they foulfill their intention

I feel that way about all records really

9:47 PM Karl: I know English professors who would call that an outmoded way of approaching criticism. How do you know what the intention is? how do you know they got it right or not?

9:48 PM Sean: But that’s part of it, discovering what this person decided the intention is
and how they decided that

Karl: Also I hang out with dozens of English professors

9:49 PMSean: Oh implication understood

Also I don’t have a proper degree and so don’t understand criticism

9:50 PMKarl: You could teach a degree in getting mad at music criticism anyway.
Another important question, are scores, presuming you have to have scores, too important now in the wake of Pitchfork and their marks out of 100?

9:52 PM Sean: Oh certainly, many seem to ignore the rest of the article but invest scoring schemes with giant intricate conspiracies.

I genuinely have no idea how most scores relate to their reviews, especially P4k ones apart from the obvious Statement scores like 10 or 0.0

Karl: Statement scores.
This brings us to our customary I.V.K.

Sean: People dropped all sorts of bollocks over that though

9:54 PM Karl: Is a 10.0 an editorial decision do you think?

Sean: It must be because it says a lot about how important a record is in forming the publications identity for that year

9:55 PM Karl: So someone can’t just horse in saying the new Brick Squad mixtape is the best thing since efil4zaggiN and demand it be given a 10?

And by “someone” I mean like Nitsuh Abebe or whatever

9:56 PM Sean: I see you’ve been learning heaps and heaps about rap music

Karl: I wanted to type efil4zaggiN

9:57 PM Sean: Well, they could but that enforces music journalism being more about a collection of personalities than a publication’s sentient identity which I prefer, I think

Karl: So scores are by their nature an expression of a publication’s identity?

9:58 PM Sean: Well reviews are, they have to be right?
Like any “objective reviewing” I’ve encountered is written by people who are clearly loons

9:59 PM Karl: But is that not just a result of the type of writers a publication lets in?

Statement reviews are a different thing. I do believe they exist too but they’re like a couple of times a year. NME trashing the band NME used to love in order to move on or whatever. Other than that, the “taste” of a site or magazine is just the collective taste of who writes it

10:02 PM Sean: Nah man, there has to be a party line. I mean no group of people gets together and just happens to produce something as bland and shitty as Paste.

But also, it’s not a massive conspiracy like message board fanatics who don’t even really like new music seem to rave about (I am one of these people obv)

When I was an editor of a culture section in a College paper, the editor of the paper demanded scores so I just didn’t tell writers I wanted one and then assigned them at random just before printing.

Then again, I’m awful

10:06 PM Karl: Indeed.

In the college paper i am sure you are completely unaware i edit, i inherited academic scoring and i wasn’t against it, cos it’s kinda loose, more a ‘feel’ thing than a strict scale but then again there’s usually only 2-3 music reviews, which means everything’s a I or a II.1 because people review what they’re excited about

Do you think anyone noticed you were randomly assigning scores?

10:08 PMSean: No one in DCU can read, so no.

But like, a score can change the whole tenor of a review. Like the discussion often becomes “this is a very positive review for such a low score” instead of “oh that’s an interesting review…”

They don’t help writers, they stop readers processing the review themselves and bands always fucking hate them

10:11 PM Karl: It is weird.

That time I did a Girl Talk review, I hated it for a hundred different reasons but kinda felt like I had to give it an alright score in the end cos it’s not for me and the person it is for probably wants to know if it’s good on their terms, even if i have no interest in talking about that

Is that a bad move?

10:13 PM Sean: Well, it’s a difficult thing to do, right? But these days, people will usually listen to it if they think they’ll like it. I think you should have given it a bad score. People should be able to read your review, realise they think differently from you and make their own choice. And they totally can do that, if they were let.

10:15 PM Karl: This isn’t really about scores, but it’s related:
Are reviews about giving an album a narrative then? giving it a kind of storyline or point that people can agree or disagree with?

10:16 PM Sean: They shouldn’t be definitive statements, they should just be what you though. They should invite discussion, the start of a conversation rather than a gospel statement.

I actually find myself listening to albums people give conflicted reviews of more than ones that get universally positive reviews

10:19 PM Karl: Do you like them more?
Or are you just more curious about them?

10:21 PM Sean: More curious. Although there is a certain pleasure in reading someone affirm your love of something. That always feels a bit self-indulgent though. Like I barely talk about Nomeansno to people who already love them.

Actually that might be more out of fear of them liking them for crap reasons. It’s weird. Reviews have become a thing on their own for me, they aren’t really to do with whether a record is merely good or bad anymore at all.

10:22 PM Karl: You can’t expect it to be like that for everyone though?
The huddled masses that make magazines and big websites worth existing financially probably don’t intellectualise it as much

Sean: Shit one, the huddled masses.

Karl: Even though they are all sound and I am not casting any aspersions.

Sean: You totally are.

But had reviews never had scores, do you think people would demand them? Like why do you think the huddled masses, people with real jobs and that, get out of reviews? Is it still a consumer guide? Or just a congratulatory stamp for your taste.

10:26 PM Karl: I genuinely think it’s a combination of both of those things and I’m not judging anyone for that but if you’re spending less time on it, you’re looking for a publication that broadly agrees with your taste, and then looking to find what else it thinks is worth hearing.

In fact, I do that

10:29 PM Sean: I just tend to look into bands that people in bands I like listen to. Or recently I got to message boards and read threads about specific moods rather than genre and get into them that way.

A lot of people fetishise reviews from sites though, and use them as ways to win arguments. They aren’t finding out about bands to like, they’re taking something as being engraved into stone tablets

10:30 PM Karl: I suppose you could argue that reviews are just reviews, and they’re different things to different people whether they’re completely valueless, like some bands claim sometimes, or the fucking gospel

10:31 PM Sean: Basically.

Bands that argue that tend to tout people/fan power though and people/fans are usually fucking morons

Karl: Sorry, huddled masses

Sean: No no, I like them.
I’m just talking about everyone I have met in my life so far, on a person to person basis. Mostly dicks.

10:32 PM Karl: There is an argument for numbers over taste though.

Sean: No there isn’t. Well, there is, but like that’s considering people who live and die by music and people who need background shit t (both perfectly valid) as the same group as people.

10:33 PM Karl: That kinda leads into something else i’ve been thinking about
Say Goblin comes out by Tyler the Creator, I should say, cos other people will read this and might not know.

Sean: Fuck those people

10:34 PM Karl: Every review is going to give 33% of its wordcount to trying to explain what OF is some of them will do it in really broad and inaccurate strokes.

Sean: That’s most journalism though, including all of mine.

Karl: And that shit just makes a review unreadable if you already know about OF
(OF is Odd Future lads)

(and ladies)

Did the internet ruin print music writing for anyone who’s into music on the internet, like?

10:36 PM Sean: As it used to exist, probably, but I still read Wire, but Wire presupposes a massive level of knowledge on the part of the reader.

Karl: The Fader’s probably a good example.

I bought the Lil B/Odd Future issue and it doesn’t assume prior knowledge on the part of the reader, but it does cover relatively obscure stuff. Both pieces were kind of boring

Sean: You can buy the Fader here?

Karl: They were for Fader readers, not Lil B or Odd Future fans

Yeah, Tower

Sean: Ah lads, I’d no idea.

I buy a lot of magazines, for whatever reason. (aspiration probably)

Watching bands evolve does make a lot of shit like that really boring though. Like I couldn’t buy Mojo now, even if they went back to being good, cause after a while, you know the basic stuff about most of that stuff.

Karl: I never liked Mojo kinda for that reason even though I didn’t know some of it.

10:40 PM Sean: It got me into good shit when I was a little lad.

Karl: But when Wikipedia exists, you don’t need to hear about the time Dylan went electric
or Iggy and Bowie in Berlin or whatever.

Sean: oh I never want to read about Bob Dylan again or Iggy fucking Pop.

Who gives a shit?

But when Mojo did more weird shit, it was before I found any music outlet online that got me into garage rock etc. I still cannot recall one review score of any album I like though, from any publication.

10:42 PM Karl: i can remember a few, all positive and mostly Pitchfork. I remember Q giving Room On Fire 5/5 and then getting it and being like “you just did that cos you know people love The Strokes”.

Sean: The loss of innocence.

Karl: That was probably an early example of music criticism self-awareness, yeah.

10:43 PM Sean: I think the libertines did that for me. Yer man, after that, a constant stream of doted-on dogshit, because of what the Libertines Could have been.

Karl: One of Hipster Runoff’s redeeming characteristics in the stream of gossip blog bullshit these days is the review score meme. Always Pitchfork, again but like, “Kanye is 10.0 and every relevant buzzband I like is 8.1-9.2” kind of stuff. It does a good job of poking fun at it.

10:45 PM Sean: I haven’t read it in over a year.

I just read comics and blogs by ex-punks about field recordings or whatever

Karl: Reasonable.

Can i register at this point that Merriweather Post Pavilion is categorically not 0.1 less good than Funeral.

10:47 PM Sean: They’re both shit music for losers though, in fairness.

Karl: You seem to have accidentally formed an incorrect opinion there.

10:48 PM Sean: That’s the kind of thing I do the whole time.

Karl: This kind of feels like it’s done. Can we end with this:

10:49 PM Sean: As it should be.

Karl: Mega.


About seanvsonlinejournalism

Contrarian, spitter-while-speaking and quality dinner guest.
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