Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Nashing of Teeth

This appeared on the letters page in the October issue of R2 (Rock N Reel) magazine. I won't garnish it with any unnecessary commentary, suffice to say that letters of complaint are of course the Holy Grail for most critics. I've had a few in the past, and I very much enjoyed this one even if it is a bit too easily shot down for me to bask in it properly. The offending article can be found here.

Dear Sean,

I am a big fan of R2/Rock N Reel and have been for some time. I especially enjoy the reviews of new album releases, which I find to be both informative and interesting. What I like is the fact that the majority of reviews are written by critics who either like the music of the artist and are therefore aware of their history, or in the case of new artists, by critics who enjoy that particular genre of music.

It is because of the above that I felt compelled to write and express my disappointment with regard to the review of the Crosby, Stills and Nash album Demos, as written by Barnaby Smith. For a start Barnaby Smith does not like the music of CSN, or at least a third of their music, as he refers to the 'monstrous compositions' of Graham Nash that 'forever blight' their legacy - a bit harsh!

The review starts with a rather negative tone when Barnaby compares the band's latest tour to a 'depressing monolith', which 'chugs' across the world. Whilst I can see that the individual members may 'chug' around on stage, they are hardly depressing. I watched the clips of the band on BBC2 from Glastonbury and felt that, like most acts, they did not come across on TV as they do live on stage. I was fortunate to see them at Manchester MEN and they were excellent - including Graham Nash, whose 'monstrous compositions' have the audience singing along.

I carefully searched the review section of R2 for another contribution from Barnaby - I could only find one, the album by Emma Tricca. I followed this up by listening to some of her songs on MySpace and as a result I felt that the review was a fair one. Maybe Barnaby prefers new artists rather than old ones?

I am aware that music is subjective and one person's music is another person's noise; further, I note that David Crosby is a big David Crosby fan - although I would have loved to have read his review of Thousand Roads, with its synthesisers and contributions from Phil Collins. However, I do hope that this is not a trend for future reviews. I would encourage you to invite critics who like a band or genre to review new material.

If I want to read reviews that give vent to personal dislikes then I could always return to reading a magazine I used to buy - no names but its title was one letter!

David Jones, St Helens

PS The album Demos contains exactly what it says on the tine - DEMOS!

I have considered posting my response to this here, but I won't. It is good to know that at least somewhere Web 2.0 hasn't conquered all. Life is too short for the menial back and forths that many critics have to go through now on blogs and forums. So I will leave the final word to Mr Jones.

Three songs: 'Mingus and Pike' by The Ruby Suns, 'Things Fall Apart' by Built To Spill and 'In The Morning' by Wolfmother.

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