Friday, October 26, 2007

Blog will eat itself

It's been an uncomfortable and odd couple of weeks in the music arm of the blogosphere, even betting without Sasha bloody Frere-Jones and his Simon Reynolds-meets-iLX cat/pigeon juxtaposing. In the middle, of course, came the enforced closure of Oink, which you suspect will be more a torrent equivalent of Napster then a closure of one source of music downloads - plenty will spring up in its image, and perhaps already have.

Hitting closer to home, at the tail-end of the weekend before last came Marathon Packs' lengthy critique of the mp3 blogging scene. As the area gains a higher profile of course it'll be defiled to some extent by anyone and everyone with web space or a FileXoom account having a go (and of course this whole thing feeds back to Oink's raison d'etre, which will be interesting to keep an eye on in the immediate future). That the best and most worthwhile act as an inbuilt taste filter is their great strength, especially now every man-jack has a Myspace music account and fifty CDRs. Although we don't go a bundle on overt criticism, we like to think that whenever we post a Myspace link or an mp3 we get across what we like about it and how passionate we are for the music involved, and that establishes the Sweeping The Nation quality kitemark filter through which we sneak twenty random song links every Sunday. Blogs should always be about content.

For our own part, it becomes noticeable in writing up about new bands and releases every week by choice just how limited the language of music criticism is - there's only so many ways you can describe what a song sounds like before you have to distance yourself from musical theory detachment. Many a blog can pull off the music equivalent of New Journalism, with a soupcon of Gonzo, but we've always thought most punters don't want the big analogous pieces. By the same token, though, the best bloggers, your Fluxblogs and Said The Gramophones, achieve what they do not necessarily by openly engaging their prose with what the music sounds like, but after you've heard it the reaction if it's worked would be "right, I see now". Not to say the direct route doesn't equally work.

But what content? Idolator wondered whether herd mentality is making looking properly at new bands next to impossible, taking as its theme the Pitchfork-led wave surrounding the not especially outstanding (ACTUAL STN OPINION) Black Kids. This piece is flawed in that it's a reasonable argument welded to "hey kids, that band you like - they're shit!", but even so their CMJ set brought on a blogger backlash of sorts, on the basis that the still starting up band still without a record deal or any UK press bar a small bit on the Guardian website weren't the finished live article yet. Well spotted. Now broadband means you don't have to put in the work, the research and the Peel listening hours, the churn of new bands has been unsustainable for a while and has already seen off the commercial chances of a few bands held high early on (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Tapes N Tapes, Annuals - who'll care by album two, three in CYHSY's case?) Inevitably you can barely keep up with it as it is - we've got the Vampire Weekend single somewhere and haven't got round to listening to it yet. There's almost too much music to both love and be told to love - maybe it even heightens the thrill of the off-blog-Broadway fresh discovery. Conversely there's bands like Arcade Fire, the Gossip or We Are Scientists, who when they hit big had a few years of touring and the odd album in splendid isolation from Jo Whiley's Live Lounge (isn't it time the first two Gossip albums were reissued in the way Snow Patrol's were?) Blogs, frankly, aren't the world.

So, let us ask you. What do you want from an mp3 blog, or indeed just any old music blog like this? Are these the concerns merely of the hyperspeed music blogger? Does pointless lengthy scholarly discourse when all you want is self-regarding gubbins about new bands make you want to kill people? Why are we trying to justify ourselves? Why doesn't anybody leave comments here any more?


Ben said...

Both types of music writing work for me, though not necessarily all the time. The lexicon of music criticism does often feel limited (I often get the nagging feeling that I'm repeating myself or echoing something from a few months earlier when writing up gig reviews), but there's still something to be said for the direct approach - because the indirect approach can occasionally drift off into directionlessness and pretentiousness. There's nothing worse than an album review that tells you nothing about the album and everything about how clever the reviewer thinks he/she is.

The long and short of it is that, unlike some other blogs, I think Sweeping The Nation strikes the right balance between the two. Could do with less about Jeremy Warmsley though ;)

The Daily Growl said...

Unlike the Marathonpacks piece, I actually understand your one. Well said really.

There's also the blogs that just post a load of mp3s with little or no commentary, but I don't really view them as proper blogs.

Like you, I'm regularly stumped about what to say about music, and feel the limitations of my vacabulary, which is why I can make up for my lack of writing skills by posting a track that people can listen to.

The old writing about music/dancing about architecture maxim is obviously pish, but the odd supplementary tune does help...

Ben said...

There's always room for well-written music sites - all the more so now that Todd Burns has decided to close the doors at Stylus...

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