Something for the Weakened

The Reviewer’s Pain

Friday, May 14th, 2010 by Alastair

I sometimes wonder why I do it myself. I enjoy writing, God I do. The fact that I’m still churning this shite out after all this time must be testament to that. But this is aimlessly emptying my head of things the that often get lodged down the back of cortexes and need nudging out with a ruler. That’s all fine. It’s when someone charges me with the task of writing something that I really begin to struggle.

Current example – I’ve been asked to plug into a group mind to help review a night of two dozen bands I attended a couple of days ago. I managed to catch glimpses of about half of these acts and managed to take notes on most of them (though for one band I did just write down a series of increasingly weak puns). I must now of course turn these half arsed, barely legible squiggles into cogent opinions. Rather than being the hieroglyphs I scribbled down while half cut in a darkened room, they must now blossom into beautiful prose butterflies to flap across the eyes of all bored enough to read them. I have to formulate arguments as to why I think one band sounded sweeter than hummingbirds pouring nectar into my ears, while another was like landing lug first in a midden full of bear traps.

I find this hard.

There are a number of reasons for this – I’m out of practice at doing this sort of thing, though even back when I was contributing to a monthly magazine I still found it really hard work. I feel that I’m pretty out of touch with new music – of all music stations, Radio 2 is the one I listen to most (since Adam & Joe went on hiatus) and that’s hardly the best way to find new and exciting stuff. My subscription to any music papers has long since lapsed and I only really read about comedy and comics on the web, so I’m now more out of touch with new music than I ever have been. I’m not even buying that much at the moment, because of my pauper’s income. I hardly download anything on ethical grounds (actually, mainly because I own no kind of mp3 player and there’s barely enough space for the pornography stored on my hard drive as it is).

Then there’s my musical lexicon. I can’t just keep describing things as ‘nice’ or ‘very good’, because that’s appalling reviewing and makes you sound like an utter tool. Instead things must be ‘angular’ or ’skittering’, two of the words I’ve used most in my history of reviewing, and a couple of the one ones that I actually understand. In my notes I describe a drummer as ‘fractious rather than fractured’ and was going to sling that into the review until it occurred to me that, much as I like the word ‘fractious’, I don’t exactly know what it means. Having looked it up, describing a drummers style as essentially being stubborn wouldn’t have really worked in the context I was planning on using it. I could have used the ‘unruly’ definition, but that again would have been the road towards tooldom. Yes, I did do GCSE Music, so have a vague idea of some words I can use, but the grade of E that I achieved wasn’t entirely unjustified. The people most likely to be reading reviews of local music are, I’ve found, local musicians. They can play instruments, which I can’t (I again refer you to the E grade) and no more about what’s being played than I’m ever likely to.

Is my opinion worth more than theirs?

Of course it is.

It’s my opinion and thereby trumps all of mankind’s.

There’s also the fact that this is a fairly small city, my having a fairly recognisable face, name and tendency to go to gigs. I don’t want to say unpleasant things about someone I might find myself standing next to in a sweaty room a week and a half later. I could use a pseudonym, but I’m also too much of a massive egotist to ever do anything like that (see opinion trumping above for further details).

So why do I keep going back to it. Because of  the end result to some degree. When I’ve got through the hours of procrastinating, the forced distractions (I could be writing it now you know), the far too regular fag breaks (normally up to one every half hour when I should be typing), I’m normally relatively happy having sweated the words from my head and onto a screen. And because paople seem to think I’m quite good at it. At least that’s what they sometimes say, and the aforementioned ego does like a bit of a stroke every once in a while (as in kittens, not partial paralysis). And mainly, because a mate asked me to. I’m such a soft touch (not like a kitten, but more like…actually quite like a kitten – stroke me and I will purr).

So that’s another half hour wasted, now I have to go and buy some veg. Maybe I’ll finish it this evening.

On a Friday night.


One Response to “The Reviewer’s Pain”

  1. gappy says:

    Aah, poor old Al. Not only does he have writer’s block, but seems to be unaware that using words like “skittering” and “angular” make a reviewer sound like an even bigger cock than using “nice” – because reviewers are all, without exception, cocks. The good ones are just right as well.

    Anyway, whilst you wait for our hero to squeeze out his (doubtless excellent) comments, you can hear him mumble at some point on this rather ace “puntcast”, which should give the old ego one more stroke, & possibly a small ball of wool to bat about.

Leave a Reply