Let Harp Blurt, Again


May 26, 2008 by A.C. Rhodes

This mention comes from the co-editor of the now past Harp Magazine. It’s been announced today that the late mag will return soon as Blurt Magazine.
They say that while the much beloved former is gone, the victim of market vicissitudes, the esteemed erstwhile editors are en route with the brand new, reorganized Blurt Magazine and Blurt-online. com.
They suggest that readers check back to the Harp MySpace page for details very soon, including how to become a Blurt Friend. Or you could just hang around here for the second-hand word.

14 thoughts on “Let Harp Blurt, Again

  1. Fred Mills says:

    Yup. It’s to be a digital magazine + companion website w/multimedia and interactive. We’d like to have virtual blow up dolls with holographic genitalia too, but for now we just wanna get through the launch, hopefully within two weeks. Mr. Mojo risin, baby. Let it blurt.

  2. ted cogswell says:

    Another music magazine with short little consumer guide-style reviews, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………..

  3. A.C. Rhodes says:

    Right, because The Cyber Boxing Zone is such a panic.

  4. ted cogswell says:


  5. ted cogswell says:

    Excuse me for hoping that someone might start running substantial record reviews again… sorry if I hurt your feelings there pal.

  6. A.C. Rhodes says:

    Eah, it’s okay. We just disagree. And I was only f#cking with you anyway.

  7. ted cogswell says:

    Fair enough, but really, I wish there was a magazine that had a review section with some real personality, something more structured than a blog rant but more interesting than what passes for record reviews today.

  8. A.C. Rhodes says:

    Do any from the past spring to mind, whether they be former publications or writers?

  9. ted cogswell says:

    In the 70’s through the early 80’s, it seems to me that record reviews were given more space, and you more frequently got some sense of the writer’s personality, obviously in Creem, and Crawdaddy, as well as Rolling Stone for a long time. I’m not trying to rag on Blurt specifically, but they are just pumping out more of the same in terms of their review section. Most of the reviews in there are competent and fairly well-informed and well-meaning, but they’re just kind of bland, and really don’t feel like there was much more time put into writing them than it takes to read ’em. Fred Mills’ lead review of the new Spiritualized album is just crying out for exposition, he makes some good observations, but doesn’t deliver any background or explanation as to what brought him to those conclusions.

    I know that short little capsule reviews are the way magazines do it these days, but that’s all the more reason someone needs to try and break the rules a little bit. And while we all know what a trainwreck in can be when aspiring reviewers try to hard to be Lester Bangs or R. Meltzer, they can still be THEMSELVES, and give us some glimpse into their music-lovin’ mind. A great record review reads like a note from a kindred soul who have just GOTTA tell you about something they’ve discovered. I get that feeling reading some blogs, but haven’t come across it in a mainstream (or even fringe-mainstream) magazine in as long as I can remember anymore.

  10. Fred Mills says:

    Er, since I’m singled out here, let me plead guilty with an explanation, Judge Ted. I would estimate that half of the reviews currently appearing in Blurt both online and in the digital magazine are holdovers from what would have been in the May issue of Harp (which got killed by the money men). In Harp, we generally had a 150-word limit for reviews, with a 400-500 limit for the lead review — this was the decision of the publisher and editor in chief in order to maximize the number we could reasonably fit in to any given issue (we usually squoze in 100 reviews per). While I, personally, balk at that sort of length, as an employee of Harp I accepted the way things were set up when I came on board.

    In assigning additional material for Blurt, I had to scramble in order to meet a launch deadline. The plug was pulled on is in mid March; we started brainstorming Blurt by the end of March; we wanted to go live before Bonnaroo.

    So I quickly polled the writers, asked who was willing to contribute, and simply said — go for it, same rules apply as did for Harp. So naturally more 150 word reviews started coming in. The Spiritualized review of mine was the lead one, but we only had space for 400 words. (I could have easily written tons more, and jettisoned a lot from my rough draft, but that’s not a defense per se of Ted’s criticism of the review, just a side observation; if it is lacking in exposition, that is indeed my own shortcoming, not the magazine’s.)

    Maybe a couple of weeks before launch I determined that I was going to have, easily, three times the number of reviews than could be published in the digi-mag (which due to its “physical” digital layout, also operated under space constraints), and that we’d have a wealth of exclusive content for the companion website portion of Blurt.

    Duh: no space restrictions for website content. So I’ve already notified the writers of exactly that, and sure enough, we’re gradually getting in longer reviews. I have a 300 word Patti Smith/Kevin Shields review we’re about to publish, and the writer is considering adding more text if he has time. Funnily enough, one writer told me that she had gotten “so used to doing the 150 word Harp reviews that she’d gotten into the habit…” So I fully anticipate longer reviews in Blurt, not always, but as a writer deems appropriate. I’ll certainly encourage them to dig deep, but I won’t presume to tell them how they “should” or “should not” do a review. I’ll just trust them to say what they feel needs to be said, and if they want to go long, real long, that would make me very happy.

    Bottom line: I’m no fan of capsule reviews. The clowns who write for USA Today should all be drawn and quartered because they have helped foster a climate of McReviews. I blame Blender and even Mojo too for the capsule syndrome. (What, are they even topping the 75 word mark these days except in their lead/showcase reviews?) Admittedly, Blurt will be “mainstream” to the extent that it will not exist for very long if we can’t attract advertisers, so I understand that when I single out mainstram pubs like Mojo and Blender, Blurt is also going to be part of the “problem” and not automatically the “solution,” so to speak. But if I can perhaps encourage my writers to “break the rules” some, as Ted puts it, I will. Hells bells, we’re only 10 days old and still working out a zillion website gremlins, so there’s a lot that needs to be accomplished. I’m already aware of addressing content issues, trust me.

    BTW, back in the day when I scribbled for music zine The Bob, I was the guy who was regularly filing 500-1000 word record reviews. Don’t make me angry, kids, I have the press clips and I’ll use ’em, har har. (Nowadays, in my monthly S&S column I often turn it over to a single 1100 word review.) Hell, when doing my own zine in the early ’80s, sometimes the reviews would stretch over 3-4 pages. Admittedly, they probably lacked finesse. Coherence, even. But I did it because the editors were cool with it, wanted to fill the mag with content that was written with passion, and it was a great feeling of freedom for all of us. The hard fact is that in print magazines nowadays, that freedom doesn’t exist anymore.

    With that in thought… viva la web reviews.

  11. Ted Cogswell says:

    Thanks for the response Fred. Actually, reading through the review section of Blurt, yours are some of my favorites. There are some other good ones, however, I think a few kind of come off as painting by the numbers (I’m not going to name names, I only pointed out your Spiritualized review because it was good yet I thought it had potential to go deeper).
    I get the business considerations and do feel kind of bad for laying this trip on you, but as a lifelong consumer of rock criticism, I have gotten sick of the trend in the last decade or so towards shorter and shorter blurbs replacing what used to be a great platform for real criticism. I look forward to the online content that Blurt will be providing.

    All in all, it looks like a good, solid mag and I’ll be reading it, so don’t take my curmudgeonly nitpicking all that seriously, I get cranky sometimes.

  12. Fred Mills says:

    Oh man, let me tell you about “cranky sometimes.”😉

    Me too, Ted. It probably infects those who, not to get all Almost Famous on anyone’s ass here, but — care too much about music. I’ve thrown more than my share of rock mags across the room when I’ve concluded I just wasted an hour or more of my time on a superficial or otherwise inadequate read.

    Anyhow, there are actually a lot more intriguing levels to all this that might be worth exploring.

    Here’s a potential question of the week, A.C. (hopefully it hasn’t been asked overtly yet): Do capsule reviews serve anyone other than the rock critics who are trying to stay on the promo gravy train?

    (Relatedly 1: What do you get from a longform album review versus a short consumer guide style review?)

    (Relatedly 2: Is USA Today responsible for the McNuggetization of rock criticism, and should its critics be hung on high for that crime?)

  13. ted cogswell says:

    “Do capsule reviews serve anyone other than the rock critics who are trying to stay on the promo gravy train?”

    I suppose it also serves the record companies themselves, and perhaps very casual music consumers who don’t care to do all that much research about what’s out there,… though do ANY reviews influence consumers like that? I don’t think those kinds of music fans really pay much attention at all to reviews.

    “What do you get from a longform album review versus a short consumer guide style review?”

    Well, first and foremost for me, the longform review provides me with something more substantial to read. Also, it allows you to really get to know what makes a particular critic tick. And of course it fosters more significant discussion about music in general.

    “Is USA Today responsible for the McNuggetization of rock criticism, and should its critics be hung on high for that crime”

    I don’t know if you can just single out USA Today, this has been an industry-wide trend for a long time. The “critics” themselves pumping out these blurbs are just making a living. There’s a whole lot of marketing people I’d like to see hung on high before I’d ever get around to the McCritics.

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