Interview with Deron Miller of CKY

May 13, 2009 at 8:59 pm (Essays, Interviews) (, , , , )

Carver City

Carver City

What do a tide-soaked corpse, a roller rink, a rat-infested infirmary and a shipwrecked crew have in common? They’re all a part of the story of Carver City, a resort-town-turned-hellhole that has its very own soundtrack from CKY. But it’s not a concept album, said guitarist and singer Deron Miller in a recent phone interview.

“I guess it was an accidental thing,” Miller said, “(The album) gave us the same vibe even though the songs were completely different. It wasn’t something that we preconceived, it kind of happened after the fact.”

There are songs that seem lyrically related (perhaps the girl who disappears in “…And She Never Returned,” resurfaces as “The Boardwalk Body,”) but Miller wouldn’t explicitly state any connections. “It was our idea to leave it open to interpretation, rather than put it in your face,” Miller said, “We wanted to make it vague—not so vague that it was pretentious—but vague, so that it fits together but it’s all up to your own imagination and how you view it.”

One difference that fans are sure to notice is the album’s production. Mixed and produced by lead guitarist Chad Ginsburg and Miller, it is more uniform track-to-track than earlier works like “Volume 1” or “I.D.R.” And For a CKY album, the drum sound in particular is remarkably consistent.

“What people are recognizing as a similar drum sound is that the drums are sound-replaced. All rock and metal records are done that way now,” Miller said. “‘Woe Is Me’ had a really cool organic drum sound that we didn’t want to replace. This is our first record where we went for a little more, we used technology a little more to our advantage and got a thicker, fatter sound.”

Deron Miller

Deron Miller

The thick sound comes from layer upon layer of tracks. How many guitar and vocal tracks does it take to make a CKY song? “You lose track. . . .” he said, “We like to build vocals. Some are really low, some are in the background. We definitely don’t limit ourselves and say ok enough is enough.” This leads to a cascade of harmonies piled upon harmonies, which is closer to CKY’s earlier albums than riff orienteed 2005 release “An Answer Can Be Found.”

“Some people might say in their heads ‘This is overproduced,’” Miller said. “I think music could use more overproduction, actually. Two guitars, bass and drums is dull. I think 99% of bands could be doing more with their songs on their albums, aside from getting basic tracks down. We like to hear more creativity. We enjoy layering, we enjoy putting sounds on, I guess, ‘overproducing’”.

The thickly layered and harmonized vocal harmonies are at odds with garage-rock minimalist conventions, but that’s not the only remarkable thing about Miller’s singing. Even more striking is the seeming change in his vocal range in comparison with CKY’s older albums. “These sessions for vocals were probably my first sober vocal sessions,” explained Miller, “I never used to go into the vocal booth without some kind of buzz on. It was nerves, I wanted to loosen up. On AACBF the vocals were so straight and so aimed at perfection that I think they, not to take anything away from that record cause I love that album, but they came out a little too straight and too perfected. They lacked personality. There wasn’t that many dynamics to it. These vocals have a lot of dynamics.”

CKY are going on tour this summer in support of “Carver City,” and with an ever-expanding list of fan-favorites to pick from, they could easily settle in to a setlist that remains the same from night to night. But CKY isn’t a band to fall into a rut. “We never stick with a setlist,” Miller said, “We’re happy to have more songs to pick from. There isn’t a song that I wouldn’t want to try. I love all the songs I think they’re all amazing, I think they’re all equal. I wouldn’t even mind playing instrumentals. But it’s up to us as a band to decide.”

Asked if he was nervous about trying to recreate the density of the album live, Miller said “I think the bands that have any substance and try to recreate their record live, it’s boring.” But he added, “We were talking about hiring a synth player. . .We wont know until we start rehearsing.”

It’s no secret that people have already heard “Carver City.” Message boards have been alight with discussion and analysis of pirated digital copies of the album. “All bands can do is sit helplessly,” lamented Miller. “(Fans) have been listening to the record, probably a lot. It’s very valuable to them, and us, that they go out and they get a physical copy.”

So on May 19 head out to a record store and show Roadrunner how badly music fans are craving original—and “overproduced”—rock.

Take a trip to Carver City.

Just don’t look under the boardwalk.


CKY Myspace

CKY Official Website

Roadrunner Records Homepage


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On Modern Japanese Literature

January 14, 2009 at 3:13 pm (Essays, Reviews)

Just what the internet needs. Another American writing about Japanese culture, right? Well, I can tell you that my interest in anime doesn’t go beyond Shinchan, and while I enjoy Pocky, I’m just as content to eat Reese’s cups. My interest in Japan lies outside the realm of sweets and manga . . . and I have zero interest in the next cosplay convention! Some people may assume these stigmatized nerdy interests are all that Japan has to offer but they’d be neglecting decades of fantastic literature that has, via a batch of brilliant bilingual academics, become available to English speakers around the world.

My stack of books

My stack of books

The Dancing Sheep on the Shore, Wearing Clogs of Norwegian Wood, Gazing at Sputnik, Which is West of the Sun After Dark

To start, I’ll say that the very nature of something being foreign allows it more leeway in my mind. I’d guess that I’m not alone in “forgiving the foreign”: sometimes I’m less skeptical of the parts that build a story from a different culture—plot, dialogue, setting, and so on—partly because I’ve been raised in a culture that bends backwards to be tolerant. That may be why my first taste of Japanese literature with bizarre and fanciful Haruki Murakami’s novel Kafka on the Shore I found the absurd plot points, including talking cats, a homocidal Johnny Walker, and a pimp Colonel Sanders, less of a sticking point. I expected something “out there” from a popular modern Japanese author. But there was more to it than a patronizing tolerance given to the product of a culture (not to mention language) that I’d never really grasp. I was also touched by the characters, how they rang true despite their insane surroundings. Plausibility and resolution be damned, my love for Murakami sparked an interest in modern Japanese literature. The fantastic surrealism of Murakami never failed to delight me as I worked through his oeuvre. Well, except for the time I picked up Ryu Murakami’s seedy murder novel In the Miso Soup by accident. That served as an excellent (and gristly!) reminder to always check first names when getting a book at the library.

Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami

After reading many more Haruki Murakami novels (and subsequently failing to impress some well-read friends, who seemed to place Murakami a few rungs above cell phone novels) I branched out. An Oxford book of short stories, along with a class in Modern Japanese literature, enabled me to find those authors who had been canonized and translated. My next deep foray into Japanese literature came from Nobel prize recipient Kenzaburo Oe (pronounced OH-ay).

Oh, Oe

Kenzaburo Oe

Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids has been described as a Japanese Lord of the Flies by reviewers. Abandoned reformatory school children battle a plague and malicious adults while finding brief respite in the utopia they create. The novel is set in a rural area, and is as allegorical as you might expect from someone who feels he is a member of the most important group of writers in Japan’s history (the post-war). His work was later reshaped around a less political theme after the birth of his mentally handicapped son Hikari, though he would still consider his work to be focused on the post-war generation. Regardless of the author’s intention, the novel A Personal Matter seems to me a study of personal relationships and parental responsibility that spans generational and cultural limitations. The incredibly brave manner with which Oe examines parental duty strikes the casual reader harder than the politically-charged post-war listless malaise that surrounds the narrator. The novel’s setting in Japan following the end of WWII shapes the novel, but the question that invades the reader’s mind is larger than any political matter: What would I do if I had a mentally handicapped child? A Personal Matter is a powerfully honest book that will leave you ruminating on a dark topic despite the story’s rushed “happy ending.”

I’ve had difficulty reading other works by Oe. The rest of the prose that I have read from him (written post-Hikari) seems to be exceptionally wordy and focuses on descriptive detail as much as plot itself. This can result in painfully slow going. The first time I’ve stopped reading a novel in years was on account of the wordy, obtuse writing of The Silent Cry. These are the opening sentences of the novel that I stopped reading after 75 pages :

Awakening in the predawn darkness, I grope among the anguished remnants of dreams that linger in my consciousness, in search of some ardent sense of expectation. Seeking in the tremulous hope of finding eager expectancy reviving in the innermost recesses of my being—unequivocally, with the impact of whisky setting one’s guts afire as it goes down—still I find an endless nothing. (1)

Painful. I’d like to know if the fault lies in translation or the original text is just as overly complex.

The first of four stories in Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness is even harder to follow on account of a Faulknerian stream of conscious narration. The short stories anthologized are still much easier going than The Silent Cry. The third and fourth pieces in the collection were the ones I enjoyed most. The short story called Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness is my favorite piece of Oe’s work. Predictably, it deals with a father and his mentally-handicapped son. The two share a daily ritual that involves biking to a Chinese restaurant for “pork noodles and Pepsi cola.” The lunch ritual is deeply moving in its honorable, yet futile goal: the father has tried desperately to escape his impending hereditary insanity by grasping at a bond with his son as a life preserver.

It is uncommon for a novel’s characters to wear the many masks that a society requires. Many characters in literature are mere sprites that serve a plot function. And yet here, in a 48 page short story, Oe has created a protagonist that must engage with the cruelly indifferent world as a father, son, husband, and as a member of society. He copes with each interaction in a correspondingly different way, though his meek manner and fierce, unrealistic love of his son remains the same. To summarize the crushing conclusions reached by the father at the story’s end would weaken the efficacy of Oe’s piece. I can’t recommend this short story strongly enough!

Difficulties in Translation

It is important to note in any discussion of foreign literature the importance of translation. Japanese is very different structurally than English. A translator’s duty then is not simply word substitution, but also preserving an author’s voice, diction, as well as altering idioms and cultural references in to not hinder a story’s flow. Hundreds of footnotes in a Shakespeare play are welcome, but in modern fiction they would serve as a distraction. The difficulties of translating Japanese are compounded on these universal translation problems. Japanese lacks definite and indefinite articles – “the” and “a.” There are also indicators in address and speech about who is speaking and in what manner which have no direct English equivalent. A prime example is Natsume Soseki’s novel I am a Cat. The Japanese title “Wagahai wa neko de aru” uses an exceptionally formal tone of reference for comic effect that is lost in the English translation. But a great translator is able to work around the honorifics in Japanese and create a text using English to express the nuances. For these reasons, translators deserve far more credit than they receive for their work.

Mishima’s incredible life and death

Yukio Mishima

Yukio Mishima

In the modern times of education many authors work directly with their English translators. Both Kenzaburo Oe and Yukio Mishima worked with Professor Johnathan Nathan. Mishima was a jack-of-all-trades. A body builder, playwright, short story author, novelist, movie actor, militarist, and more. But, his legendary death precedes his life. After a failed military rally Mishima committed ritualized suicide and cemented his position as staunchly conservative right-winger.

He is undeniably important as one of the first literary superstars to emerge from Japan via his consistent output and translation-friendly work. Personally, his work doesn’t hold my attention as much as other authors. I respect his obvious passion in learning, however, and his submersion in the topics he was writing about showed a commendable love of knowledge. His first novel Confessions of a Mask deals with a narrator who struggles against his homosexuality. While it was not meant to be an autobiography, the novel is an undeniably believable tour through the difficult realizations that come with sexual identity in Japan. It is no stretch to see the vicious circles of denial and desperation as autobiographical because of the detail and realism with which Mishima wrote. A biography by Professor John Nathan, Mishima’s translator, would be the first place I would turn if I wanted to read more on the life of Mishima.

Kowabun-, I mean, Kawabata, dude!

Yasunari Kawabata

Yasunari Kawabata

The only Japanese author to receive a Nobel prize besides Oe was Kawabata Yasunari. The introduction of Snow Country praises his delicate use of haiku-like contrasts. In fact, I challenge you to find a review of Kawabata’s work that doesn’t contain the words “delicate,” “elegant,” or one that doesn’t call him “quintessentially Japanese.” I enjoyed Snow Country, particularly when I slowed down enough to focus on the oft-mentioned contrasts in descriptive passages. Truly majestic writing (or translation, perhaps) would draw my attention without conscience effort. But sometimes I don’t mind working for pleasure, and this form of disciplined, conscious reading seems appropriate for the personal dramas that Kawabata wrote.

My largest complaint with Kawabata’s work is something I’ve never encountered before. I noticed that there are very rarely declarations of “he said” or “the geisha quipped,” or any sort of reference to who is saying what dialogue, nor must there be in the Japanese. I frequently found myself re-reading mundane dialogue in an effort to find who was speaking. Assigning characters via even and odd lines to a section of dialogue certainly hurt the overall effect of his writing. Perhaps someone with a background reading plays would have an easier go of Kawabata. For my own part, I didn’t dislike the books and they were brief enough to be read and ticked off my ever-growing “should read” list with pleasure. He is possibly most known for his semi-autobiographical short story “The Izu Dancer,” though of all his short stories I most enjoyed “Silence” which can be found in First Snow on Fuji. His life and work certainly merit your time.

What have I missed? A lot.

There are authors I haven’t mentioned and authors that I’ve never even read. To think that I could ever “complete” my readings in this area is foolhardy. Nevertheless, I hope to continue exploring with further reading by Kobo Abe, Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, Shusaku Endo, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Natsume Soseki, Osamu Dazai, and more. If you have any suggestions I would be delighted to hear recommendations for or against any authors or translators. I am currently reading, and enjoying, Masuji Ibuse’s Black Rain

Naturally enough, my interest in the Japanese language has been sparked by all of this reading. Due to a full schedule and the huge learning curve, however, I have only recently begun to learn the kana and have no great plans to read any of these works in the original. If you have any recommendations about learning Japanese, please, let me know!


I have written this expository piece with the voice of a scholar who has been immersed in the texts for years. In actuality, I’ve been reading Japanese literature for less than a year, and always in English. I owe a great deal of my information, along with little tidbits that I’ve peppered in, to a very informative class that I’ve taken. I hope to encourage others to explore into this great, but manageable, field of reading. I hope that if I have made any factual errors or unfair representations that a reader will correct me. Please leave a comment with any kind of suggestions regarding things I should read, or comments on my writing style. I would love to add to this piece as I continue to devour Japanese lit.

Note also that I have put the surname second and “first” name first, as you will find these authors in American libraries and book stores. I have also omitted long vowel notations, such as Ōe, as this will not impede any understanding in English.

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Farewell, Last.FM! Farewell, Weekly Charts! Farewell, Addiction!

October 9, 2008 at 1:26 pm (Essays) (, , , , )

Good? Evil? A neutral computer program?

Good? Evil? A neutral computer program?

I’ve deleted my Last.FM page. Permanently. Wiped it cleand. Deleted all of the plays. Every single song out of my 70,000+ profile. More than three years of my listening at the computer.

Every Sunday Last.FM updated my page with my “Most Played” songs and “Most Played” artists for the week. The new software release even allowed me to scrobble plays from my iPod. No longer was I bound to the computer, I could share what I listened to at work and more!

So why did I erase my profile? The very reason I frequented the site and even logged into my account while using friend’s computers. I was obsessed. Completely. In writing this article I wanted to do two things: put into writing how music became joyless as a reminder to myself, and to seek some companionship in the form of a support group.

Yes, it’s that bad. Yes, it’s also that silly. And probably very hard to understand if you aren’t a Last.FM user yourself. But I honestly want to know if there are people out there like me! I can’t have been the only person to have descended into a kind of dark obsession, creating a myriad of rules and regulations for my favorite pastime.

What are the symptoms of Last.FM addiction? There may be more. I am breaking ground here, and I fully expect to be cited in the next DSM. All I can do is provide my own symptoms, as they gradually set in over years of use.

Avoidance of long songs in favor of short ones. The more scrobbled, the merrier, right? Except grind bands with 30 second songs are cheating. That doesn’t count. So it looks something like this: Malevolent Creation > Opeth as well as Nasum.

Only listen to full albums! Too many scattered songs and your Last.FM weekly roll call will be a mess of 4 or 5 play-count bands.

Once you get on a roll with a band, you start to play that band’s music more often simply to boost their stats for the week, not because you want to hear them more.

Competing against yourself. Watching your top bands struggle for the top spot.

Competing against others. Don’t let their total number of plays beat yours!

Avoiding listening to music when it won’t be scrobbled.

All of these were stupid rules that very slowly grasped the love of my life and throttled the fun out of it, until it was a stiff act that was done for something other than myself. In my mind, music is a personal thing. Last.FM embodies the polar opposite of that. There may be some of you who can listen to what you want, when you want, consequences-be-damned. But if my extensive music collection says anything, it’s that I have a tendency to become obsessed.

Deleting Last.FM may be a wise legal move as well. For those of you with illegal mp3s, scrobbling them probably isn’t a great idea. Last.FM is owned by CBS, after all. So after you download that new album leak from a torrent, think twice about scrobbling it. What a convenient way for a label to find people who obtained an illegal leak of an album. You could file this under paranoia if you want, but keep in mind a mother was recently ordered a more than $200,00 fine for making 16 Opeth songs available for download. Yes, it was on Limewire, but don’t think that the RIAA is unaware of “mp3 blogs” and Last.FM.

So, RIP Last.FM. I’m already thinking about making another one, but I am also enjoying my new found freedom. Leave a comment if you’ve experienced the addiction or if you think I’m an oddball. Or both.

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Matti Johannes Koivu

September 14, 2008 at 8:31 pm (Essays, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Helsinki, photo by me

Helsinki, photo by me

It was a frigid February night in Helsinki when I first heard Matti Johannes Koivu. I was traveling with my brother and staying with Helsinki natives, one of whom recommended we go to Tavastia to see a show that evening. I don’t remember much about the walk, because it’s hard to focus when it’s so cold your jeans harden in a matter of minutes. After the opener, a DJ for Radio Helsinki, did his part, Matti and his band took the stage to perform. I was thrilled to have literally stumbled (hey, it’s icy in Helsinki…) into such a great show. You might chalk it up to the fun of travelling and maybe the Karhu, but the impression Matti left on me has remained more than a year and a half later.

At the time of the gig Matti was playing songs off of Kovat Piipussa and Puuhastellen. I didn’t buy the CDs there, but the song “Kiitokset” made such an impression that I remembered it weeks later when I found Matti’s myspace. I’ve since had a kind Finn buy and mail me Kovat Piipussa, though for those who are impatient or don’t want to pay 30 dollars for a cd, his albums are available on iTunes.

Photo from the gig I saw, taken by me

Photo from the gig, taken by me

What does Matti Johannes Koivu sound like? Well, the unifying theme for his music is a man’s voice and acoustic guitar. The backing is sometimes lively, reminiscent of old American country. Sometimes there aren’t be any drums at all. Matti sings with a soft, medium-range voice, occasionally in duet with a soft woman’s voice. He sounds as at ease as most people do speaking, but if you try and sing along to a song like “Autopihaltaa Kohoaa” you’ll find he actually has a good deal of sustain in his voice. The guitar parts are often capo’d, plucky acoustic chords while a glassy slide guitar plays another melody on top. His most recent album, Irwin Goodmanin Lauluja, is almost all acoustic guitar and singing. Irwin Goodman is a well-known Finnish folk singer, though I much prefer Matti’s earnest and gentle voice to the harsh nasal tone of Irwin Goodman’s originals.

You may at first consider it a hindrance that the songs are always in Finnish. In fact, I have never seen Matti use English, not even on his website. But Finnish is a beautiful language with uniquely trilled R’s and unbelievably multi-syllabic words. You don’t have to be a linguist to appreciate the language, though, and the mystique that the songs have in an unintelligible language is wonderful. The melancholy of songs like “Esineet ja Aikataulut” (“Things and Schedules,”) or “Se Oli Eilen” (“It Was Yesterday,”) is only helped by the language. How better to hear emotion in music than through only the tone? Besides, I guarantee you’ll be singing along after a few listens regardless.

Don’t expect a world tour from Matti Johannes Koivu. While some Finnish-only bands can break through to a multinational market, I have a feeling that Matti will remain a well-kept secret within Finland. Nevermind, though, because between Youtube, iTunes, Myspace and Last.Fm you can stay abreast of most anything. It’s hard to recommend an album in particular, though I would suggest Kovat Piipussa for the incredibly powerful “Kiitokset” and the playful title track. It’s his most varied work containing Americana style folk as well as ballads, so if you’re in the mood for consistency get his first album Puuhastellen instead. None of the albums will disappoint, however. His songs show the universal nature of music, which is perhaps why I have suggested him to anyone who will listen. If talent like Matti Johannes Koivu and his band are playing in small Helsinki bars unbeknownst to most, music in this over-saturated and jaded market is a long way from dead. There’s hope yet. Paljon Kiitoksia, Matti.


Official Myspace with song samples

Official website (In Finnish, Google translation here)

Youtube live clips (pro-shot):


Isän Vanhassa Talossa

A personal note:If you’re into his music, whether you’re a Finn or not, please leave a comment and let me know what you think and how you found out about him. If any of the translations here are off, it’s entirely my fault, as most of the translations are recalled from memory.

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What are drum triggers, and are they for cheaters?

July 4, 2008 at 10:48 am (Essays) (, , , )

Drum triggers have received an unfair beating (pardon the pun) in reviews and discussion forums. I’ve seen countless reviews attributing magical powers to triggers, often claiming triggers make drummers faster. This is unfair and ignorant. There are instances when using triggers can either hurt or help a drummer, but they aren’t inherently cheating devices.

Microphones or drum triggers can be used in live or studio situations. There is usually be a blend of the two techniques in either situation. The original approach to drum amplification or recording is with microphones. Usually, this involves dedicated microphones for the bass drum(s), toms, some cymbals, and an overhead microphone. The signal can then be recorded analog or digital, though purely analog recordings are becoming more and more sparse.

Drum triggers are small transducers that are placed on the drum, each one dedicated to its own drum. The trigger sends a digital signal to a drum module, which can then export the digital information to a P.A. system or recording software. A sample for each drum is selected. Simply put, “digital” means something is either off or on. So a trigger is either “firing” and producing a signal, or not.

Therein lies the complaint with trigger systems. A drummer can lightly tap a snare, or smack it with a 2 foot wind-up, but the module will report the same signal. High quality microphones will pick up a light tap or strong hit with greater fidelity, producing a nuanced and dynamic signal. This is the only place the “cheating” accusations truly belong: a drummer can merely feather-tap the double bass pedals and the module will produce an optimized and consistent signal. So there is no auditory reward for a powerful drummer with stamina who uses triggers.

Triggers are still a double-edged sword. The inconsistencies in timing will become much more apparent. With microphones, a flurry of double bass can become blurry and the drummer can sometimes scoot by on less than perfect playing. Triggers expose flubs and off tempo hits more clearly than microphones.

It should be noted that in metal, most drummers trigger the bass drums for live performances. A mic’ed bass drum is very difficult to mix, and will more often than not sound like a muddy thud. Triggers in a live mix can be tricky, but they provide much greater clarity and a great bass drum sample can make the whole band sound better. Another note: I can think of no recording or performance I’ve heard that has utilized triggers for cymbals. Metal cymbals don’t work well with triggers.

A third option in the studio is sound replacement. After recording digitally, each drum hit can be replaced with an optimized recording of that specific drum. For example, if a drummer hits a snare weakly, the bad snare hits can be replaced with strong sounding samples. The end result can sound identical to triggered drums. For an example of this, check Necrophagist’s Epitaph.

After reading all of this, you may want some examples of triggered and mic’ed drums on different albums.

Triggered (entire drum kit):

Decapitated – Nihility

Behemoth – Zos Kia Cultus

Not Triggered (entire drum kit):

Dismember – Dismember (entire recording was done analog)

Suffocation – Human Waste

Immolation – Dawn of Possession

Bass drum triggered, Snare mic’ed:

Brutus – Slachtbeest

Inveracity – Extermination of Millions

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A Defense of Reviewing

June 25, 2008 at 10:03 pm (Essays) (, )

Wherever there is art, there are reviews. Positive or negative, reviews are a topic of constant contention. The Internet has paradoxically made reviewing more anonymous and personal at the same time: a harsh review can quickly contain, or result in, a personal attack. When faced with a differing opinion, many write the entire concept of reviewing off as a foolish exercise for “would-be” artists.

Most artists who have had their art harshly critiqued at some point have thought “Who are they to review my work?” or “Why should anyone care what they think?” It’s generally easier to write a harsh review than a beaming one, particularly if one of your goals is to maintain an audience. No one wants to read positive review after positive review. Too many “four stars” and “two thumbs up” cause the reader to question a reviewer’s judgment. Besides, admit it, chances are a scathing review is going to be more entertaining than a gushy, positive one.

So the reviewer walks a fine line. Too many positive reviews and the reader will lose faith in his judgment. Too many negatives and he’ll become a hack reviewer, arrogantly striking down art. The Internet is littered with biased reviews, joke reviewers, and inflammatory opinions. Still, the best kind of review is one written from an informed standpoint, yet without a bias.

Why should anyone in the world care about someone else’s opinion? Reviews are important. No one person can hear every album ever written, view every painting, or see every movie. A good review is both a good preview and a good summary. Hopefully a review will help you know what to expect, and afterwards, help you verbalize the art you’ve already digested.

Someone else’s viewpoint can drastically alter your own perception. Just as no one person can consume every work of art, no one person can consume every detail in just one piece of art. Music lends itself greatly to discussion and review. Music is created with layers, all of which are heard differently by each listener. Some people are incapable of hearing anything but the whole product, so the guitars, vocals, and drums form one large amalgam of sound. Others focus on just one instrument. Intricacies of production are lost in highly compressed mp3s and poor speakers. A good review brings all of these delicate aspects under a lens, magnifying both the good and the bad.

In response to a negative review, it’s common to see “that reviewer probably doesn’t have a band” or “at least this band is making music and not just writing about it!” This argument doesn’t hold much water, though, because followed to its logical conclusion, it would mean no one could criticize anything unless they themselves were a master. The truth is, non-musicians know what sounds good just as well as a non-chef knows flies don’t belong in soup. Almost all music, like almost all food, is meant for consumption by many different demographics.

In the end, one review is just one review. It won’t radically change your mind or change the value of art. But it can help you express what you like and don’t like about a piece. If you’re unfamiliar with an artist, a good review can give you reference points for you to make some speedy judgments. Reviews can be easily ignored, or used to filter through the ever-expanding sea of art.

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