Is this what “elegantly wasted” actually looks like?
My god, I fucking LOVE Stool Pigeon. Amid a sea of mediocre freebie music press in the UK, Stool Pigeon stands out for being wildly opinionated (like the classic music press of yore, where debates about class, politics, gender and sexuality would routinely erupt) and steadfastly NOT subservient to PR companies and their demands. And make no mistake, PR companies do have a lot of sway in the world of street press.
I have seen friends’ reviews in free music publications changed and upgraded, as a bad review would put the mag in a promo company’s bad books, and risk removal from any future mailing list or free concert opportunities. In effect, opinions have had to be brought in line with a PR company’s wishes, and any real self-expression or valid counter-opinion has had to be neutered. Not only does this smack of the worst kind of corporate whorism—which, granted, exists in many media spheres—it seems illogical to me that a publication that doesn’t rely on a paying consumer audience to survive could treat its readers (and the artists it covers) with such ridiculous condescension.
Once upon a time music journalism was a necessity, a valuable tool for keeping up to date with your favorite acts, and for finding out about emerging talent. For gig listings, for records and concert reviews, for keeping in touch with other fans, for bitching out people and music you really hate. But the Internet has made the printed music press irrelevant, another out-moded business model within the music industry, yet another middleman whose role is not necessary any more. So why is everyone playing it so safe? Well-written and researched debate and opinion pieces should be a free paper’s USP, no?
Which brings me back to Stool Pigeon. It seems to give its writers free reign to write whatever they want, without sacrificing non-mainstream opinion at the altar of “edginess.” It’s not desperate to seem “relevant” or “on it” like so many publications, and it doesn’t try to be so alternative-to-the-alternative that it ends up being square. No, it’s simple really. It’s just written by people who are passionate and really care about music and its reportage.
In fact, so good are they on calling out crap, Stool Pigeon has put together a handy A-Z Guide To Music Journalism Bullshit. You know, tired old cliches that make your eyes bleed. This kind of thing:
Which translates as:
English lit polytechnic graduate, now based in Warrington, seriously wishes he was Tom Waits
Here are some more of my favorites, all beginning with “S”:
“Set the blogosphere alight” — Well done! Your innovative blend of Fleetwood Mac, nineties R&B and Sade — a singer you’d never even heard of before The xx started banging on about her — has “set the blogosphere alight” with your brand new track, featuring artfully NSFW video. That Pitchfork BNM’d is surely in the post.
Sixth-form poetry — Snarky put-down reserved for artists whose literary aspirations are perceived to be shallow or juvenile. Which might almost be fair enough, if ‘music critic’ wasn’t a job that could only be considered cool by people under the age of about 15.
Songstress — As opposed to what, ‘songster’? Reading between the lines, this faintly kinky usage is a subliminal reflection of male music hacks’ rampant castration fear. See also: chanteuse.
Sophomore — Ridiculous, US collegiate term used as a stand-in for “second” when describing albums, e.g. “The Stone Roses’ second album The Sophomore Coming was a let-down for many.”
It’s about time somebody did this, and with your help it could well become the definitive list, as Stool Pigeon are asking readers to submit their own worst music journalism cliches. I would like to add these two:
“Number 1 in an alternate universe” - made irrelevant by the theory that there are infinite alternate universes, hence any song ever recorded is number one in an alternate universe somewhere.
“Year Zero” - as applied to any and every genre from punk rock to acid house to dubstep, but surely the correct term should be “Year One”?
If you have any music journalism bullshit to add to the list (and I know you do!) you can write it on the Stool Pigeon Facebook wall, or leave it in a comment here.
You never know, you might set the blogosphere alight.