When I turned thirteen, and consequently started smelling like shit, my mom decided to break it to me in an interesting way. Rather than confront me with the mind-bending horrors of puberty, she gently told me that although she wasn’t bothered by the stench of rotting bacteria corpses in my armpits, the other kids in my class might be, and there’s this invention called deodorant, which may or may not prevent from me turning into a hideous antisocial freak no woman could love.
Icelandic musicians have a habit of ignoring their own stink a lot of the time (in fact, a few of them seem to positively revel in it), but when their hot, sexy date with music criticism ends with a slap in the face and cheap wine all over their best shirt rather than the handjob-in-front-of-a-mirror they were hoping for, they tend to get pissy for some reason.
I’ve gotten negative feedback in some way for every goddamn album review I’ve ever written that didn’t include the word ‘awesome’ and, quite frankly, if it isn’t because of bad paragraph construction or clumsy use of similes, I couldn’t give a shit, and I wish they wouldn’t give a shit either. If you make music you’re happy with, why are you so insecure about the fact that one guy didn’t care all that much for your album?
What puzzles me most is when every single other media outlet gives a band a glowing, five-star review, using the Icelandic equivalents of words like ‘masterpiece’ and ‘seminal’, and the Grapevine alone calls them ‘talentless’ and ‘asscocks’, and you still go around bitching about it. If my opinion alone states that you suck, and everyone else says you rule, which opinion do you think carries more weight? I’m not afraid to admit I’m wrong, and there are probably times when I should have listened more carefully to a record before forming an opinion.
And besides, don’t all you Icelandic musicians always yammer on about being so unique, individualistic and different and totally independent of fashion and other people’s opinions? I thought you guys prided yourselves on being misunderstood and lonely and five years ahead of your time. Show some pride; wear your bad review on your sleeve. It shows you’re too awesome to be criticised and you just don’t give a fuck.
Which brings me back to the I-don’t-think-you-stink-but-others-might thing. I’m not saying your suckiness bothers me, but I’m holding Icelandic bands to the same standards I hold bands from all over the world to. I’m not going to sink to the disgusting low of congratulating a band for being ‘good, considering the fact that they’re Icelandic’. That’s like intentionally losing to a child at a board game to spare its feelings, or having pity sex with someone because they’re related to you. If I think a band sucks, I couldn’t care less if they’re Icelandic, American, Japanese or from motherfucking Mozambique. If they suck, they suck, period.
It can be hard to tune it all out, to forget who you’re writing about and just listen to the music for what it is and not who’s making it, but that’s what I think music deserves. I care deeply about music, and I have infinite respect for its ability to plug emotions directly into a person’s brain without the clunky filter of words or language, but let’s face it: it’s not often any music truly achieves this, never mind the likelihood of it happening on a regular basis on an Island of 320.000 people.
I’m not immune to the we-Icelanders-gotta-stick-together phenomenon either. I’ve been sorely tempted to give glowing reviews to bands when I know who they are and I think they deserve a pat on the back for their effort, but when I take a step back and objectively judge the quality of the music, it’s crap. It’s hard to see past your own nose and give a review contrary to your own taste (and it works both ways; I’ve given good reviews to albums I myself would never listen to, but I can tell they’re good), but as a music critic, I regard it as my responsibility.
So next time you get a shitty review, keep this in mind: at least it means the critic respects you enough to hold you to a standard, and who knows, he might even personally like your music, but is exercising a cold judgement call and condemning it based on its own qualities, rather than his opinion of it. In other words, I don’t mind the fact that you suck, but that doesn’t mean you don’t suck.
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