Wednesday, April 02, 2003
Sean O'Hagan laments how you can't trust music critics these days.
What strikes me about pop criticism of late - and this afflicts the broadsheets as well - is the tyranny of received opinion. I have yet to meet anyone, obsessive fan or otherwise, who thinks the last two Nick Cave albums come close to 1997's The Boatman's Call in terms of emotional depth and songwriting skill, but both releases were greeted with an across-the-board acclaim that bordered on instilled reverence, and an attendant lack of critical rigour. Likewise Beck's last few album releases since the ground-breaking Odelay. I mean, do you really reach for Sea Change or Midnite Vultures when you need a fix of Beck?
What gives here? Maybe writers are too hidebound by the notion of providing their readers with glorified consumer guides rather informed criticism. Maybe the sheer doggedness of the reviewer's task dulls the senses, precludes reflection and encourages the quick response. Are there so many mediocre albums coming out that, were reviewers to be honest, their negativity would send readers scurrying to the news section in search of some light relief? I think, as a record buyer, I honestly would prefer that.