New Blogs of Note: Freedberg and Williams

Recently updated the blog roll on the right hand side with two folks I’m happy to see with an updated online presence:

  • the pioneering disco/dance critic Michael (a.k.a. D.D.) Freedberg is reprinting a bunch of his reviews from the (now defunct) Boston Phoenix, among other things, including politics
  • the pioneering, Roxy-discovering British critic, Richard Williams, is blogging at length about music at The Blue Moment

Freedberg and Williams were both previously featured in rockcritics (those interviews will eventually make their way onto this server as well).


Dead Critics

I once resisted the urge — partly as an attempt at black humour, partly as meta-commentary on what seems to comprise 75% of the posted content here, partly as a self-examination of why I even bother continuing to do this — to change the title of this website, just for a day, to “Dead” Well, I’ve been superseded in my aims. Dead Critics is an excellent looking new blog by Lisa Levy about “dead critics, a few live critics, and the nature of critical inquiry.” With current entries on Bangs (which I enjoyed) and Dwight MacDonald.

Watching The Blogs

There’s a slew of blogs filed under B to take care of this week. The first of which is Ben Fong-Torres’s blog. The former Stone editor, author and scribe has chosen The Red Room site to host his blog where one can read his musings, catch audio and video clips and have access to related links, including ones to his published works.
Recent entries include musings on how one of his supposedly limited edition autographed books (with Ray Manzarek) from a smaller book shop in the Bay Area wound up at a Barnes & Noble bargain bin. And his ventures into karaoke, one which led him to the Dick Clark produced, “Your Big Break” in 2000, where contestants dressed as the song’s originators. Take that, Zimmy.
Up next is BerlinBites, expatriate and NPR correspondant, Ed Ward’s blog, which has since switched to City on a Hill (Ward in France) his “Blog From Montpellier, France. Food, Wine, Travel, and, Unavoidably, the French”, upon his move to Montpelier earlier this spring. B2 is kept on our sidebar since its terribly interesting and leads the reader right to the latest City on a Hill entry.
Of his move, Ed candidly writes, “Berlin, it seems, is a place which doesn’t seem to hold people: even a large percentage of the Germans I’ve known over the years have moved on, unable to achieve what they wanted to do in the negative atmosphere the place exudes. Berlin is broke. Berlin is huge. Berlin is ugly. Individuals can try to spend a part of their energy in resisting that, or they can move on. I made my choice.”
Hmm… not the panacea of marzipan and cross-dressing that Lou Reed painted. But what didn’t kill either of them sent one to South France where he writes so descriptively of the place that the reader feels as if they are there. The vivid visuals don’t hurt, either. Sacre bleu, Ed.
And lastly, but certainly not leastly, budscorner lets you, the reader, in on the mind of music writer and former A&R man, Bud Scoppa. Here you can read selections of his mid-year playlist to his thoughts on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Scoppa even treats you to some exclusive interviews, like he did earlier this spring with guitar empresario, M. Ward.

These veteran music writers have definitely evolved and branched out in terms of music and subjects, so visiting them is always worthwhile.

Blogwatch: 10 Things Zine


The most logical way to kick off Blogwatch is to take it from the top, and who is to be found there, but Dan Halligan of 10_Things_Zine, which is a good thing considering that he is one of the e-zine and blog pioneers. To say Halligan has been a pretty active guy around Seattle would be an understatement. Starting in the ’80s by contributing to Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll he went on to publish 10 Things Jesus Wants You to Know (est. 1991 going to the net in ’95), and then on to edit Tablet, Seattle’s late, award-winning arts magazine.

As of late, aside from blogging, he still occasionally freelances and is a University library manager in Seattle – not such a far cry from maintaning ‘zine collections, which he does at alt.zines. Halligan has also conducting readings from an upcoming book about, you guessed it, ‘zining in the ’90s, to favorable audience response.

Recent blog entries have included an exhaustive roundup of businesses who have downsized and layed workers off Year-to-date-job-layoffs and how the net is overtaking the printed word in news In-2008-internet-overtook-newspapers, to his near-catastrophic ‘zine cleaning: zinewiki-returns, his Danny on the spot street art watch, seattle-street-art, and wishes for the new year an entertaining read as well, spotlighting a sharp wit,

Chuck blogs

Added a couple new blogs to the sidebar, both courtesy of Hall of Fame inductee, Chuck Eddy:

  • Next Little Things is hosted by Idolator, and is described thusly: “Each week, dozens of songs and albums from up-and-coming (or just plain unknown) bands debut on the world’s music charts. Some of these bands will never be heard from again; some may become the next little thing. That’s why every two weeks Chuck Eddy will be exploring the world beyond the Billboard 200, where he’ll look for diamonds in the MySpace rough.”
  • Chuck It All In, housed at Rhapsody, has Chuck discussing the other three hundred records he listens to every month which he doesn’t have space to discuss at the other blog… or something! Appears to be more of a list-y/retrospective sort of thing. In a recent entry, he posted a snazzy list of Bo Diddley-soundalikes, “a wide-ranging, five-decade-spanning selection of landmark musical moments that his beat made possible.”

(Rumour also has it that Chuck’s currently compiling an anthology of his best writing to be published in book form. But don’t tell anyone you heard it here first.)

The End of Criticism?

Steven Rubio has an interesting post up about the Rhapsody music service, its association with Robert Christgau, and the venom (four pages of it) spewed by Rhapsody-subscribing assholes readers about Christgau, and about music criticism in general.

“As you read through the messages, it becomes clear that it’s not just Xgau that the writers hate. They hate the very idea of criticism. Note the problem described above: what gets the writer’s ire is that Christgau dares to give bad reviews to albums the writer liked. Apparently, the sole function of a music writer should be to list the tracks on the album and then get out of the way.

“I think this relates to the growth of artificial intelligence software that predicts our taste preferences. These programs don’t exist to help you appreciate art … they exist to help you find the stuff that already agrees with your tastes. They assume that the listener doesn’t want to be challenged. The rhetoric suggests otherwise, of course … they always claim that their method is the best way to discover ‘new’ music. But by ‘new’ they mean ‘things that are like all the other stuff you already like, only you haven’t heard it yet.'”

I think there’s some truth to all that, but my question is, has it ever really worked differently? Are we talking about a fundamental difference in the reasons people choose to listen to the music they do, or are we simply talking about the means by which they do so? Hasn’t radio been courting like-minded listeners for eons? (And haven’t listeners, in turn, long gravitated to the stations which filled their particular niche?) Ditto music magazines? Ditto live circuits and “scenes”? Have there been more than a handful–if that–of music magazines over the years which have seriously ever challenged their audience’s core assumptions and tastes? I don’t mean these as rhetorical questions–not entirely.

Blog Ketchup

A few blogs have been on my radar lately:

  • Bart Bull has a blog, entitled Bart Bull, with lots of reprints of his stuff from Spin and Details. Two interesting notes on his sidebar: 1) he claims to have “founded first American xeroxpunk fanzine, Browbeat, in 1977″ (is this true? was it really the first?); and 2) he generously quotes an unnamed Creem writer who once called him, “The only great rock writer to emerge in the ’80s.” 
  • Luc Sante has a blog called Pinakothek, “A blog about pictures. All kinds of pictures.” (“I won’t pretend to specialize or present myself as an expert in anything. Subjectivity is my middle name, a trick memory is my pack mule, and self-contradiction is my trusty old jackknife.”) Also, read this interview with Sante, about his recent (brilliant) collection of essays, Kill All Your Darlings.
  • Speaking of pictures, I can never say too many good things about what may be my favourite blog on the planet, the improbably named, if charlie parker was a gunslinger, there’d be a whole lot of dead copycats. Generally speaking, I’m a word guy, but the photos they unearth here always make me feel like I’ve entered the Land of the Lost, and I say that approvingly. Three recent examples of their excellent-ness (all NY-related): Patti Smith & Leonard Bernstein; Nixon in New York (1963); Valerie Solanis.

Blog Alert: Cover Stories

Meant to mention this last week: On the website/blog Cover Stories, Mike Goldstein takes an album cover, and writes about it at length–extraordinary length–including (in some cases) Q&As with the photographers behind those covers. Not all the LPs covered thus far have been to my taste, but it’s a pretty cool idea for a site.

The link comes courtesty of the always invaluable Music Press Report, which also features an interview with Goldstein about this particular venture.

Blogger Interview Follow-ups

Some good thoughts on last wk’s blogger piece:

  • Tom Ewing in Freaky Trigger wonders if social networking distractions like MySpace and Facebook haven’t sapped music bloggers of some of their energy.
  • And new-to-me (which makes us new to each other) blog, Pretty Goes with Pretty wisely notes the irony of the non-interactive e-mail format “since the nature of many of the questions had to do with the potential for music blogs to create a real dialogue.” (Lots more thoughts from PGWP here as well.)

Rockcritics Music Blogger Symposium

Blabbin’ the Night Away: The Music Blogger Symposium

By Scott Woods

The idea to bring a few music critics together–virtually speaking, that is–to answer some questions about blogging was borne less out of unbridled enthusiasm for the medium than it was out of a mild but growing disenchantment. If it seems a bit premature to declare music blogs dead-in-the-water, it has nonetheless felt in the last couple years like the initial flurry of excitement across the you-know-what-o-sphere has diminished somewhat. Not to suggest that interesting arguments and lively discussions don’t still erupt every now and again. Or that the obsessive-esoteric pursuits of certain bloggers aren’t sometimes fascinating in and of themselves. Or that there is a single newsstand music ‘zine today even half as engaging as the most inane online chatter. But something, and I don’t know what exactly, has shifted on the ground–and not, in my opinion, in the best possible direction. Hence this symposium.

Perhaps it was inevitable that music blogs, after the initial buzz and howl phase (look ma, no word count!) would settle into a deeper, less noisy groove, but too often the settling in has felt like a retreat into the corner. (From a guy who’s abandoned more blogs than he has fingers, trust me, this is not an admonishment so much as a lament.) Like I said, good, interesting things still happen in those corners, even if it does kinda resemble a high school dance, with participants in the various corners of the room doing little more than nodding at (if not altogether avoiding) one another. Or as David Moore from Cure for Bedbugs puts it, “For some reason a kind of individualist mindset has really taken hold in music blogs, like we’re just here to watch the madmen and women raving from a polite distance.”

Continue reading “Rockcritics Music Blogger Symposium”