Why they review what they review.

An article on The Guardian Media Site has turned into an interesting tangential discussion on exactly how The Guardian decides on what to and what not to review.

Film and Music editor Michael Hann came up with this gem:

Other albums that “have to be reviewed” are the ones that are achingly hip, or from artists one would expect to see reviewed in the Guardian – the likes of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, for example.

This drew a wonderful spleen-filled response one noted metal fan, to which Hann responded.

And features are actually a better way of contextualising minority interest musics than reviews are, especially when accompanied – as our features usually are – by a playlist.

Which ignores the fact that hipster-indie is as much a minority interest music as metal. Except that the groupthinking Guardian writers don’t seem to be able to realise this.

So far, I haven’t had a response to exactly why they “have to review” Bonnie “Prince” Billy, but did not have space to review Opeth’s “Watershed”. A cursory glance at the sorts of tour venues the two artists play suggests both are of similar standing in terms of audience style.  While I know popularity isn’t everthing, I cannot see how the relative merits of progressive death metal vs.lo-fi indie folk are down to anything other than purely subjective taste.

Or is it simply Opeth are further from their comfort zone than hipster-indie?

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5 Responses to Why they review what they review.

  1. jonanamary says:

    “This drew a wonderful spleen-filled response one noted metal fan, to which Hann responded.”

    :)

    I provided the spleen, he replied with the somewhat less than idéal maunderings of a small-minded man.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    What annoys me about Michael Hann is his patronising attitude towards anyone whose taste in music diverges from the collective groupthink of Guardian writers, and his refusal to acknowledge the extent of that groupthink.

    Still, I’d rather have him than Tim Jonze. I’ll never forget time time just after I’d written an angry rant of blog post that basically ripped Jonze a new arsehole, when I went to a gig and member of the band came up to me and told me how much he agreed with what I’d written.

  3. beth says:

    I know several Guardian readers who like Opeth and, as RR shows there are music fans of many kinds who read it, but generally, I don’t expect balanced music coverage from the paper, I buy other publications for that. Still an interesting insight, as you say.

  4. Guardian: “Other albums that “have to be reviewed” are the ones that are achingly hip, or from artists one would expect to see reviewed in the Guardian – the likes of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, for example.”

    Tim: “Or is it simply Opeth are further from their comfort zone than hipster-indie?”

    I actually agree with the Guardian here. They HAVE to review “artists one would expect to see reviewed in the Guardian”. Otherwise they wouldn’t be artists one expects to see in the Guradian :D

    Any publication has a bias to a certain type of artist — yes, a comfort zone — and will employ reviewers who understand how to review those artists. The punter pays his money for that publication in full knowledge of what that publication’s comfort zone is. If he doesn’t like it, there are alternative publications that will cater to his tastes.

    To look at it another way, if you saw a letter in Classic Rock magazine complaining that they aren’t reviewing the latest Dizzy Rascal album, what would be your immediate thought about that letter writer?

  5. Tim Hall says:

    David,

    I think you’re missing my point – The Guardian, unlike Classic Rock, doesn’t claim to specialise in one genre, but pretends to have a more general coverage. But it emphasises lo-fi hipster-indie, which is every bit as much a minority taste as prog-metal.

    In another thread, Hann admits that one reason they’re so narrow is that budget cuts prevent the use of freelance reviewers, so they’re stick with the staff writers, who groupthink terrible.