Wednesday, March 11, 2009

about that CityBeat issue...

In the past week since CityBeat released their "Great Demo Review" issue, I've had several conversations about the issue. I responded rather strong, and somewhat hastily, via Twitter while at lunch the day the issue was released, when the discussion turned to a specific review by a specific author with whom I not only vehemently disagree, but who I would just like to see disappear from CityBeat's pages altogether. I have contributed to CityBeat in the past, I respect Seth Combs and Kelly Davis immensely, and I absolutely love the cover featuring Tim Pyles in his sexiest American Apparel pose, but now that the issue is off the stands, I will comment. And really, I just want to know, what was the point? I waited for the issue to be off the racks for a reason. Read my rant if you 'keep on reading'.

There are certainly many reviews that I just disagree with, however, this isn't about difference of opinion. It really surprises me, year after year, that CityBeat, which is so closely tied (some say entwined) to the San Diego Music Awards and the San Diego Music Foundation, which are supposed to encourage music diversity, music education, and music participation in our city, would then endorse the chopping down of so many people who are just doing what they love. Many of the reviews are constructive and even descriptive, but sadly those reviews are so overshadowed by some of the writers trying to prove how snarky and clever they are and not saying anything meaningful about the music. I was counting on CityBeat to come through and it disappoints me for the several reviews that actually give a feel for the music they're written about, for better or worse, there are too many that are purely, to quote Jim Ruland, "dick drizzle", that make the sum of the parts feel snarky, pretentious, and full of music-snobbery elitism. Those "folded arm hipsters" that CityBeat mentions in every issue? Well, apparently they all contributed to this issue. I'm just glad most of these writers don't actively participate in the local music scene, so my folded arms won't be bumping elbows with them as I line up to hear yet another band that sounds like Pinback (and enjoy it).

Some of my favorite music descriptions:

"pretentious and nondescript"; "dick drizzle"; "as appealing as pouring hot shards of glass into my open eyes", "cluster-fuck my brain and give me a bad rash in the the process"; "absolutely pointless"; "I want him the fuck off my stereo"; "smells like dog piss and cheerios"; "deserves to be ass-raped by Michael Bolton"; "maudlin introspective masturbation";"watery load of excrement"; "sentimental garbage"

I didn't really want to link to the original posts, but there were some interesting comments so you can check it out here.

I'll close with one final comment. If a band doesn't explicitly submit their music for review for this issue, they should not be reviewed. Picking up music laying around the CityBeat offices that was submitted during the year for review consideration or even music award consideration should be off limits. If all of it is open game, then a stronger submission disclaimer should be included in every issues of the weekly.


AVicious said...

Did the SDMAs for years. It could be a great show except for the fact that nobody stays in their seats for the biggest awards and if you have a record that does well you get nominated two years in a row for Best Album. Needs a major revamp!

Lazy John said...

Some of CityBeat's writers are good (especially Anders Wright), but many of them try to pass off juvenile rants as journalism. I don't care much for many local bands, but I'm not going to call them silly names as an 8th grader would.

J Andranian said...

What would be nice (given that a review is always going to be subjective) would be if the reviewer would at least tip their hat to a band that does what they do well, without regard to whether they'd want to listen to them on their own.

With regard to the review of the particular band that was referred to as a "Pinback Jr.", 1) what he did not say (unfortunately) is that the recording in question is extremely good for what it is. If read in conjunction with the other reviews written by that reviewer, one would understand immediately that this was a guy who just isn't into that kind music (which is OK), but it would have been more helpful for the reader had he at least said, "The disc is great for it's genre, it's just not my thing/I'm getting tired of this stuff."

All goes to show how random reviewing is, and why one shouldn't get too up because of a good review or down because of a "bad" review, since it seems to be just the luck of the draw whether you get a good or a bad one.


Master of the Obvious

Mangoose said...

I definitely see what you are saying here, that CB's writers spouted out some juvenile drivel...but CB did make it pretty clear through precedent and in their call for works that the old adage "if you've nothing good to say don't say anything at all" did not apply, and that deprecating humor was/is the name of the game. Bands put their music through the grinder at their own risk you know?

As an indie band (as an artist in general actually), you have got to be able to take harsh and non-constructive criticism of your work by one or two or three individuals in stride. Otherwise you just aren't ever going to cut it. Just my opinion though. Besides if I were to get flamed like CB did to some bands in that issue i'd rather it be in this context...small blurbs buried in an issue with over 100 reviews, many worse than than know, and it may prepare and harden one for what could happen in the future.

Yea, now that's gnarly.

take it in stride if you've been dissed san diego indies...use it as motivation to keep creating.


Andrew said...

For me, it honestly seemed like a whose who of writers who don't actually write that much. So in that sense they decided to say the most ridiculous thing their brains could come up with so they get their 10 minutes (or in this sense one sentence of fame). It is unfortunate that people like that think they can go out ridicule, judge, and yes review, a band in such a way that they seem elitist. I'd like to know what those peoples thought process was when they listened to the records (if they even did). Was it, "What is this band doing well?" or was it, "What is every possible thing this band is doing wrong?" I am thinking the latter.

David said...

Judging by the responses on the online version of the article, there were a few who shared your thoughts.

I actually play in a new band that got a nice, full-fisted smackdown (the band is Kinome - one day when we get a gig I'm submitting a listing to you! Love the site! anyway...)but it wasn't particularly personal. Besides, most of the music I like certainly received some bad reviews in its day. I don't believe a demo review is going to hurt anyone - but it could, however, provide a boost in interest. It has led me to check out other bands music who got negative reviews, though, and some are pretty good. Negative or positive, I've seen some cool new stuff I never knew existed.

Mangoose said...

Good point david, for a band that has interest in getting their music "out there" any publicity is good publicity, in a sense. You checked out bands that got scathing reviews (or blurbs really, these were so short), and liked them. I'm sure the same happened for your group. Either way a super positive review may have little to no effect on a band's eventual success or lack thereof, while a total flame might actually lead to an increased fan base.

If i'm reading that issue, and all the bands I LIKE are getting p*ssed on, then all that means is that City Beat's music editors don't really reflect my tastes. Well, anyway. Keep on keeping on SD indies, keep the scene vibrant and diverse.

Rosemary Bystrak said...

I just want to respond to a couple things here.

1. I know at least two bands who did NOT submit their music for the demo review but who were reviewed anyway. (One of those was Addiquit and Seth specifically says so in the review). As I say at the end, if a band isn't specifically submitting for this issue, their music should be off limits.

2. I was privy to the fact that one band was reviewed by 2 authors. One review glowing, the other panned the band. Guess which was published.

3. I think introducing readers to 18 reviewers for one issue is a bit much. People who read CityBeat kinda know when they read Seth or Enrique or Todd where they're coming from. Not necessarily so with others.

4. The White Supremicist rally comment by Sarah should not have been printed. Period. Hardcore may not be her thing, but her association couldn't be more wrong. Obviously she didn't care that the singer is Mexican and they even have songs in Spanish.

Unknown said...

It seems like any band that doesn't play in the usual Casbah/Ken Club/Beauty Bar/U31/Bar Pink circuit basically just got shit on in the "Great Demo Review." I, for one, saw that coming from a mile away. As a longtime citybeat reader I read this article to get a good laugh, as some of the reviews were rather amusing, albeit mean-spirited. The city beat music editors really are just a bunch of close-minded indie kids who are just trying to one-up each other in terms of how creatively insulting they can be to the majority of the bands. San Diego's music scene is very much based around one genre (Indie). Funny how that word is like this generation's version of "Alternative." Neither word really defines a particular genre. That being said, it's quite likely that the city beat editors had to listen to a shitload of awful music. But then again....they are getting paid for it at least.