In Review: A Review of Reviews

This was originally published in The Water Tower, a weekly satirical paper based in Burlington, VT.

As music lovers, we face a debate that is considerably paramount to that of the ‘chicken or the egg:’ on one hand, we must choose between listening to an album in full, thus forming our own opinions and potentially becoming those free-thinking individuals we always dreamed about being, or on the other less attractive hand, read some grandiose reviews made by faux-bespectacled twenty-somethings who have more attachments to their vegan cookies than to the bands you love.

In this wacky Age of Information, where much of what we read is online, we’re doomed to drown beneath the gnarliest web-surfing waves. This may be true, but it doesn’t mean we need to cash-in on what these blog-happy buffoons have to say. I like to compare sites like Pitchfork and Stereogum to a fleet of Jamaican bobsledders – they’re seemingly innocent and entertaining, but somehow you find yourself standing at the end of a life-sized ice-luge, waiting to get pulverized by the crew from Cool Runnings. Only it’s worse because it’s NOT those dudes – it’s a bunch of skinny boys with dirty hair.

Not to mention the ratings are fussy and inconsequential – what qualifies the massive leap from a rating of 8.2 to 8.3? Do tell, Ranking Prophecy in the Sky, do tell! One album does not necessarily make a band, and one review shouldn’t discourage a whole population of potential fans from checking out their tunes.

These reviews don’t even dance around the concept of human emotion and its connection to music. Where’s the love, man? They follow the most simple review-writing formulas – brief history, slight praise, harsh critique, and ultimate disapproval – even my golden retriever hates these reviews, and she loves everything (I don’t really have a dog). I’m beginning to question whether or not human-beings come up with this stuff and it’s not just a heartless robot with a MacBook and access to Wikipedia.

With Benjamin’s in mind, reviews become indifferent and unimpressed in hopes of cementing an artificial status as a critic guru. Don’t let these vintage-tee’d bros brain-wash you like they have the others, or we’ll all end up running around like carbon-copied flesh-hungry zombies and not in the cool, Shaun of the Dead, kind of way.

That’s not to say that reviews of all sorts are bad. In fact, I’ve been known to write a review or two in my day, and no one has bludgeoned me with a blunt object for doing so. It’s not that I think what they’re doing is wrong, it’s just the way that they do it, and the way people react to it that seems a little too cult-t to me. Aka, Illuminati. Aka, secret societies planning on taking over the world. Of music.

I just think that the stalking of these sites is bad news bears, and frankly, a little creepy. The Holy book of Pitchfork does not hold the answers to life, and it will not tell you where music came from or where it’s going. It may very well point you in the direction of yet another cover by Bon Iver (turn back now), or you may find yourself scrolling through pages of reviews on the top “Overlooked Albums” of 2011 (run..now run faster).

Proceed with caution. Bring your mace. And the next time someone asks you if you read the review of Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame’s new album Ferrari Boyz, spray them in the face like you mean it.