'Sounds-like' or 'Cross-between'(September 11, 2015)
Sometimes we receive emails and letters that approve of what we do, sometimes we receive criticism, all of which is fine and dandy. No problem. Really, no worries. And when we receive a missive that raises a point worth discussion we'll reply.
“So why don’t your reviews compare bands to those we know? It would give people a better idea of what someone sounds like. Your reviews are just the personal views of your reviewers. If you said a band is a cross between ‘so-and-so’ and ‘such-and-such’ or 'sounds like' that would give your audience a better idea of what you're talking about.”
Well, there’s some truth in there. Yes, our reviewers do give their own views. With respect, what else would they do? They listen to everything we receive and review most of it. They spend considerable time listening to the albums they review, sometimes again and again. Not one of us regurgitates the accompanying press release or listens to tracks 1, 5 and 9 and then makes an assessment. We listen, and I do mean listen. And then we make a personal judgement and write what we feel. Sometimes we write enthusiastically, sometimes not, sometimes we offer comment and criticism. Not everyone feels the same about everything. That’s why we try to find the right words to describe what we’re hearing, and incidentally, the right words to convey the feelings the music evokes.
So why is there an absence of ‘sounds-like’ or ‘cross-between’ in our reviews? Well, essentially it’s because the team and I believe that simply listing comparisons is lazy journalism and does no favours to the artists involved. If you’ve worked hard to create something, pouring in your heart and soul along the way, how much of a disservice is it for the reviewer to list a selection of comparisons? Get into the music and try to feel what the artist put into it, otherwise what's the point?
Possibly, adding a ‘sounds-like’ might help pinpoint an artist for some people but to me that’s too close to finding a convenient box, classifying accordingly and leaving it at that. To review work you have to get inside it. I passionately believe that anyone reviewing or commenting on music has a responsibility to understand and make clear that understanding, hopefully in a way that helps the audience know what to expect. Personally, were I a musician, I’d hate my work to be described as a ‘cross-between’ or a ‘sounds-like’.
Then again, that’s just a personal view.