The Guardian Critics Poll

As I expected, The Guardian’s Critics Poll of 2009 failed to include a single album I actually own. While people keep telling me that there are genres out there other than prog, someone needs to tell The Guardian writers that there is music out there other than lo-fi indie-pop.  Yes I know there’s a bit more variety in the top 50, but the top 10 comes over as very one-dimensional.

It’s probably a consequence of their final list being made up by a committee, and a voting system that favoured the lowest common denominator consensus rather than a list more interestingly varied. Not that those in the top 10 aren’t necessarily worthy albums, but the way they’re described don’t fill me with a desire to go straight to YouTube or Last.fm to check them out.

Still, I think the complete absence of anything resembling Rock is a significant failing, and The Guardian are certainly wearing their genre biases on their sleeves here.  As I said in a comment

There still seems to be a bias against certain genres – whether that’s deliberate or an unintended consequence I’m not qualified to comment.

While I’m not expecting you to review every obscure self-released prog or metal album, I do notice you never seem to review artists such as Nightwish, Porcupine Tree, Within Temptation, Opeth or Marillion, all of whom sell far more albums and concert tickets than many of the indie/alternative artists you do review. Apologies if you have reviewed all these artists and I’ve missed them, but…

Do these bands or their labels not send The Guardian review copies? Note that many of them follow a fan-funded pre-order model, where the pre-orders are typically mailed out long before the official retail release. Is The Guardian not able to accommodate that model?

Or does The Guardian choose not to review such bands on the grounds that they don’t have any reviewers with enough knowledge of the genres to give them a fair review? Or they don’t reflect the perceived values of The Guardian’s brand? Or the bands themselves are afraid of being dismissed with a sneering hatchet job?

The Guardian’s Michael Hann actually responded to this:

Those acts, for whatever reason, seem not to be interested in us – we rarely get alerted to their releases, and rarely get sent the records. We did get the Opeth album in spring 2008, which narrowly missed review. But things like Isis, Sunn0))) and others in the underground metal sector have been written about very favourably in these pages. We don’t have a ton of reviewers who can deal with this stuff knowledgeably – and because budgets are tighter than ever owing to this recession thing, I am not in a position to go hunting for new writers.

I know metal/prog get short shrift in the mainstream media, but in our defence I’d say we Film&Music does more at that end than any of the other papers, and when we do so, we do it without taking the mickey.

On the other hand, if you were a publicist for an independent prog-metal band, saw The Guardian’s top 10 albums of 2009, and decided there was no point submitting their album to The Guardian for review because your band’s music didn’t seem to fit their brand image, who would blame you?

And one commenter identified the brand, and identified it as the “White Urban Metrosexual Macintosh Owner Music awards“. I couldn’t possibly comment…

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