Not that that says a great deal: I always find it a really cheap idea when someone says that causing a reaction means a piece of writing or a piece of art is a success. Afterall, if you wrote a vile racist rant you’d get plenty of reaction too.
The truth is that people don’t respond to positive reviews much. Just as the writer finds it more difficult to say why they love a record (and I believe this is true for all writers), the person commenting finds it difficult to simply agree with a review. Sure you get a handful of responses to a good review, but nowhere near as many as a bad one. Instead, there’s this circle of negativity on the net, at least on RA. Someone gives a bad review, and other people criticise that review.
The language of invective and criticism just seems to carry more weight, and slides off the tongue more easily. If everyone had to think of why they agreed with a glowing review, there wouldn’t be any messageboards because nobody would bother. You don’t have to think too hard to criticise, nobody does. Mind you, the more thought that goes in the more reaction you might get.
In the case of the Fabrice Lig review, I picked the release, as I always do with RA stuff, because I heard sound samples and thought I’d like it. When I actually listened to the full thing, as I said on the thread, I realised I’d be lying if I said I liked it. So I gave it a bad review and tried to express why I didn’t like it. I guess the only reason I did so was because I had signed up to review it. I’m not apologising for my opinion, not at all, but I don’t revel in criticising a record.
I can remember when I first wanted to be a music critic, aged about 15. Back then I actually thought the pinnacle of human existence was 80 words eviscerating some terrible record. I made it my goal to be one of those critics who pans things endlessly in the sharpest manner possible. Then I got into house and techno and music became such a bigger part of my life that I actually thought I cared about it too much to be that kind of writer.
For a while I was evangelical about dance music, wanting everyone everywhere to like it, and I suppose that trait never fully dies in a dance writer. But eventually, in the last few years, I just stopped caring. What interests me now is writing about music I like, pointing a spotlight on music I like, and hopefully recommending some records to people that make the day at work go quicker, or that they have a great night out with.
That probably sounds quite facile and simple, maybe even anti-intellectual to some. But that’s because they don’t realise that the language of criticism and negativity is stronger than the language of praise! That was a piece of advice I got in college and it’s become fundamental to my feelings on music writing.
These days I think negativity is a crutch for writers. If you’ve got nothing specific to say, just fire off a rant or a world-weary thinkpiece! “This new scene is a load of rubbish”, “Will this kill off music forever?”, “I’m having an existential crisis about today’s records” etc etc etc. People will always react to negativity.
But it’s not just in music writing. People use the power of negativity in every paper, in every magazine. The world is constantly in decline, barbarians are always at the gates, and culture is always just about to be thrown in the dustbin. Except the truth is the world probably began its endless teetering on the edge of doom the first time somebody picked up a pen and wrote an article. Same goes for the music scene.
Anyway, just wanted to dispel any sense that I would slate a record for kicks.