(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Essay: Discouraging words?

Ultimately, this essay comes down to a question that I hope you'll answer: how useful or interesting are negative reviews?

Music is a central part of my life: songwriting, playing, and listening. I started this blog to share some of what I've discovered or experienced. I listen to a lot of different styles of music and I tend to be quite open minded about what constitutes interesting music. This does not mean that everything I hear is necessarily worth sharing.

For example, I scored promotional copies of a couple of disks that I listened to and chose not to review. Commercial by Los Amigos Invisibles was billed as sort of alternative Latin rock/funk. Excellent. In truth, though, the album sounded like '70s pop and disco layered onto a Latin beat. I'm sure there are some people who enjoy this, but it did nothing for me.

Similarly, Cazwell's Watch My Mouth was promising. It looked like it might be amusing, with a single called I Seen Beyonce at Burger King. Cazwell is gay and Studio 360 recently did a segment on "homo hop", so it should have had some cultural relevance. Unfortunately, the single was repetitive and not particularly clever. Cazwell has studied Eminem's style and, though he works hard to be shocking, none of this was very entertaining.

I chose not to write extended reviews of either of these disks because they didn't hold my interest and they weren't even that fun to tear apart. It's not so much that I'm trying to be Mr. Positive, but I assume that no one really wants to read several paragraphs that I summed up in a few lines. I think that the most entertaining negative reviews are short and punchy, like Lester Bangs' rants or Dorothy Parker's barbs. It also takes the inspiration of a deserving target to take that path. On the other hand, the most useful negative reviews are for the incredibly overhyped dross that people might be sucked into. The examples I gave here don't meet either criteria. But what do you think? Should I have taken the time and space to pan these albums? Would it be worth even posting the short review of Cazwell's CD?


  1. I think you should take it as a kind of challenge to come up with a short review which, if you don't like something, says just that. For instance, the two discs you just panned in this post - not much more needs be said, but I found it worth saying. It's interesting to me to know what doesn't 'click' with you. Sort of a figure/ground kind of information layer.

  2. Thanks for the support. That's a good point about figure/ground.