British music website Drowned in Sound has been running a series called Music Criticism R.I.P.?, and aside from the awkward title—are they asking if music criticism is dead, or are they wondering if, now that it is definitely dead, it’s resting in peace as opposed to chaos?—it’s been pretty good. There was a guide to being a record reviewer, which I assumed would be a massive piss-take but wasn’t. There was a piece about the end of Plan B Magazine, and an excellent tribute to Philly-based writer Steven Wells, who died of cancer a few weeks back. Today, they posted an article by Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, in which the guitarist offers his take on the state of music criticism. It’s a bit schizophrenic, and his perspective as an artist, as opposed to a regular music fan, doesn’t really come across, which seems like something of a missed opportunity.
He starts off with what seems like a nostalgic look at how people used to find out about new music—either by hearing it on the radio or by reading about it in their music magazine/fanzine of choice. By the end of the piece, though, it’s less about mourning the days when you wouldn’t hear a band for the first time until after purchasing their record and more about… Pitchfork.
When music became freely available in this way, it excited me on so many levels. Imagining suddenly that we’d all become free of the shackles of the herd mentality to music and all become wiser and everyone with an amazing song or idea would be able to distribute their music to anyone and everything was going to be wonderful….
In 2009 the source of critical opinion has changed but the outcome is the exact same. Swap 90s NME for 00s Pitchfork and people are still willing to buy into pretty much anything they are presented with. Both publications have of course championed some great music but isn’t it a little bit sad that with all the music now at our fingertips we still need someone else to tell us what to like?
So it’s not that he’s pissed about music being available to everyone all the time. He’s pissed that we still turn to critics at all. which is a pretty dumb thing to be pissed about, obviously. [Largehearted Boy]