Music critics are never a group I've admired, but certainly a group I respect as they are fellow music lovers. I don't think their opinion matters more than anyone else's as we have such personal connections to music that ultimately it is as simple as either the songs speak to you or they don't. Critics have hated many a group that the general public has embraced and the public has ignored many a critical darling. I think the same theory can be applied to any type of entertainment medium....film and television critics for example. Remember when Robocop came out and all the critics panned it as being a terrible movie, but yet there is a whole generation of people (myself included) that thinks Robocop totally kicks ass? Or about how HBO's The Wire? Largely applauded by critics, but (criminally) ignored by the public at large. Ultimately it boils down to the old saying "opinions are like assholes...we all got one." But I'm getting off track here...
Allmusic.com is one of my favorite resources on the web when I am doing research on bands I'm unfamiliar with. What happens is my curiosity will have been piqued enough that I want to hear one of their albums and if none of my friends are huge fans of the band, then I turn to Allmusic.com for some guidance on where to start. I'll also use it for research on bands I already know and like and want to see if there are any essentials from their catalog that I might be missing. Allmusic has a biography on the band (usually...some bands apparently don't warrant the effort) and their discography listed with each album being reviewed and rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Albums with a check mark next to them indicate that that album is considered their best (or one of their best) and/or "essential" by the Allmusic critics. Since I've been using the site for such a long time I've come to trust the opinion of a few of the critics (Eduardo Rivadavia, Greg Prato and Vincent Jeffries come to mind off the top of my head), but for the most part I take what they say with a grain of salt because albums I consider to be beyond horrendous have been given 5 stars and albums I consider brilliant have been called beyond horrendous. Again, it's all ultimately a matter of personal opinion.
Anyway, yesterday I received Allmusic's weekly new release newsletter and saw that there was a listing for a new Editors albums. I dug the Editors first album and thought the second one, while not as good as the first, certainly wasn't bad, so I decided to see what Allmusic had to say about their recently released third album. It received a respectable 3 1/2 star rating which was a good start, but then I read the review and was instantly turned off by the following line:
"If you open your mind up wide enough, you can draw a parallel to Van Halen's 1984 — the sound of a guitar band getting its synth on but retaining its musical identity."
For those unfamiliar with the Editors music, think Joy Division/Interpol/New Order. I realize the critic, J. Allen, prefaces his statement by asking the reader to open their minds wide enough, but comparing a dark, serious, brooding, melancholy English band to a fun loving, guitar shreddin', anthemic party band from California is just silly. C'mon buddy, think about your audience here and make the more sensible comparison to the last Yeah Yeah Yeahs album where they ditched guitars for more synths (and with fantastic results I might add). I can just picture this guy (or gal) sitting in their Williamsburg apartment thinking how witty they are by dropping a Van Halen reference in an indie rock review. To be fair, this person could have a VH tattoo covering their entire back and just love dropping VH references in every review they write, but something tells me they are not an informed metalhead. Either way, in my opinion (there's that word again) it's a terrible comparison and reminds me of when multiple music critics were saying The Killers' Sam's Town sounded like Bruce Springsteen (?!?!?!?).
Hmmmm, maybe I should try to get a job as a music critic. Anyone know how to make a good fake writer's portfolio?