Commenting isn't democracy but it might be history

Reviews, even favourable ones, don’t always make you want to read, see, hear, visit or otherwise experience the work of art being reviewed. Sometimes that’s because the review makes it plain that it’s suitable for fans of a certain genre, but more often I think it’s because the reviewer clearly doesn’t engage with the art in the way you would want to engage with it. The reviewer hits the wrong note somehow—too erudite, too instinctive, too plain-thinking, too fanboi, too engaged, not engaged enough—and it’s clear that the review hasn’t told you much that you didn’t already know or that you actively wanted to find out.

editor reckons that Chuck Klosterman’s review of Chinese Democracy, while not turning him into a GnR fan, has certainly made him more likely to listen to the album. Personally I’m not so sure about that, but it’s definitely a great review: in the sense of striking the right note. It engages both with the art and with the wider cultural ballyhoo surrounding it. Ultimately it’s a musicological review rather than a music review, but then I think he probably thought that a lot of other people were going to do the latter.

The comment thread, though…. K. warns me to never read comment threads, especially on high-volume websites and doubly especially on YouTube. But while so many threads consist of annoying, teenage anarchy, there’s frequently something wonderfully breezy and rumbunctious about the—admittedly often quite samey—back and forth:

RE: wow, by Pimples McGee

His Esquire articles are often over-worked. In this respect, he has much in common with Mr. Rose.

He is slightly better than the people on VH1’s “Best Week Ever” or “Remembering 198_”

And yes, he is a hipster. The evidence is the Sun Records shirt, Elvis Costello glasses and ironic facial hair.

RE: wow, by Backwards Man

I like Klosterman but sometimes I get the feeling that he clings to his opinions—i.e. Kiss is great—just to make some hipster point.

RE: wow, by petro1

What is a hipster point? Is that like a geometric point?

RE: wow, by P

How, exactly, is facial hair ironic?

RE: wow by Jacob Schock

How can facial hair be ironic? Maybe he just doesn’t like shaving.

RE: wow, by grappa rappa

Dude is fugly–facial hair or no.

Not exactly the funniest comments in the world—not even the funniest ones in that thread—but, oh, I don’t know. Perhaps as with the diaries of Victorian servants future generations will be able to say something clever and insightful about the otherwise voiceless in modern society, solely by consulting the enormous corpus made up by the content that we think of as utterly throwaway, marginalia, frankly rubbish. “Perhaps Axl will have a follow-up album out by then.”

This entry was posted in art, artists, commenting, humanities, media, music, nu-media, opinion, review, understanding. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Commenting isn't democracy but it might be history

  1. K says:

    The trouble with reviews is that the person reading the review shouldn’t notice the review – they should be thinking about the thing being reviewed. A good review usually won’t give rise to any comments about the review itself.


    1. You’ve done something clever with the review and the people reading the review are exceptionally self-referential, over-analytical arty types: “Love the way the first letter of each paragraph spells out a word!”.
    2. The people reading the review are involved with the thing being reviewed: “Your review completely fails to mention the name of the triangle-player on our 1986 ska single (unreleased)”.

  2. Writing reviews is difficult. A review is, after all, a subjective piece of writing, an opinion. I write reviews professionally. No recording artist has yet taken serious issue with anything I’ve written and I try and always make sure that even the truly shite get a bone of some kind. But my castrating review of a Japanese Christian rock band did get me a few unfavourable feedback emails.

  3. sbalb says:

    I’ve tried and failed to Google for that, Brennig: although there’s a single hit for ‘“christian rock” “brennig jones”‘, it’s not quite there.

    Hello, by the way. I thought you’d been quiet, but actually you’d been de-fed: will your new feed be at the same place as the old one?

  4. That’s disappointing. I’d put great store in that quote and you’re telling me it isn’t so. My evening has been ruined 😦

    Feeds should be unchanged. Google Reader switched itself over within a couple of hours, Bloglines took some hours longer.

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