The curse of the blogger

Hello, my name is Nico Franks, and, for fans of irony, this blog post, intended as a first-foray into music criticism, puts to you that the thousands of internet blogs devoted to finding new music (like this one) are killing music criticism. The days of paying the seasoned rock critic for their opinion are over, because all we need do now is enter the blogosphere to find out what anyone thinks about a new band, gig or album. Is this tidal wave of free-criticism shining a light on the cream of the crop, helping us choose only the best and most worthy bands to listen to, or is it creating a whirlwind of undeserved hype around new bands?

The thing is, in this post-Arctic Monkeys world in which we now live, we expect any band getting a lot of attention on the internet to replicate what few bands can do, which is release a definitive and trend-setting debut album, like the Arctic Monkey’s debut. And the blame for this lies with the blogger. With everyone so keen to find the ‘best new band’ and to be the one that found them first, a blogger will tell us that this band is the ‘new’ whatever and the music journos follow suit. Unfair predictions of grandeur and comparisons with previous successes risk the destruction of a band at the first hurdle.

Look at The Twang, once hailed as the new-Stone Roses by the NME and looking likely heirs to Oasis’ throne at the top of the lad-rock kingdom in 2007, now damp-squibs at the bottom of a tired and tedious scene, releasing a second album last year that went by unnoticed. Some bands, however, do deserve the hype that they get, and this shows largely in the reviews. The XX, Wild Beasts and These New Puritans have all been hyped to high heaven, but justify it with distinctive and forward-thinking albums.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to rubbish a band that clearly doesn’t warrant the hype that engulfs them. But it’s not really the band’s fault that they’re a blogger’s wet dream, is it? Look at new internet-darlings The Drums, dubbed by NME as ‘New York’s official Coolest New Band… the most contagiously energetic NYC band of the past 10 years’… ridiculous hyperbole certainly gains attention, but how can a band be expected to live up to that kind of introduction?

There’s no doubt that the internet means bands can get their music out faster and to more people than ever before, and we’re the ones that benefit from this. And maybe the hype being spread through the blogosphere is helping great bands get noticed and exposing the shit bands for the pretenders that they really are. But we should start taking the blog-hyperbole with a nice handful of salt and, in the words of someone who has survived the blogger’s curse, Alex Turner, make sure, whatever happens, we ‘Don’t believe the hype’. Oh, and don’t stop reading this blog.


3 thoughts on “The curse of the blogger

  1. avatarPatrick Selection Box

    Nico – welcome to the blog, I feel that you should be greeted with some reasoned response. Sadly you’ve got me instead.

    Your theory is interesting, but I’m not sure I’m wholly in agreement. There seems to be more music magazines around than ever these days, and I’ll always look around the usual suspects to see what the overall impression of a walbum is. I’m also still keen to see what the really top rate music writers have to say about a record – David Hepworth, Stuart Maconie, Paul Morley, David Quantick, Andrew Collins, Mark Ellen etc – largely just to enjoy their writing as much as get a feel of the walbum.

    Conversely, if you’re going to base your record collection purely on the opinions of others, then you need to grow a backbone and some opinions, by jingo. I’m sure every music lover has declared something to be the most brilliant thing they’ve heard since forever, then a little later realised that actually, it wasn’t all that. I probably do this several times a year. The long-suffering Mrs Selection Box would probably tell you I do it every week.

    Finally, there’s a list as long as a gibbon’s arm of artists whose post-debut output never matches their glorious first. Better-the-The-Twang* noiseniks The Stone Roses spring to mind here, as do recent artists such as The Coral, Franz Ferdinand, Interpol and even the much-maligned Coldplay, whose first album actually contains much to admire. I would argue that the greatest debut album of all time is Television’s Marquee Moon, and they never again did quite reach the dizzy heights of that magnificent LP. Bands like The Sex Pistols only produced one proper album, as did my beloved Modern Lovers (Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers are a separate act as far as I’m concerned).

    What’s the summary to all of this? Dunno. Just that I’ll keep falling in love with records, occasional laud the lousy and blogging away, and bands will rise and fall with haste just as they always have. It’s ruddy great fun, int it.

    * I assume. I can’t bring a single Twang tune to mind.

  2. avatarNico Post author

    I guess the overall thing I was saying in the blog is that there’s a lot more hype around nowadays, because of all the different kinds of platforms for opinion that have come about, including the blog and more and more music magazines. This might not be a bad thing, and obviously the big daddy’s of rock-criticism that you mentioned will still remain. But all the hype and expectation placed on a bands first album might stop the band developing in the same way that, say, Blur or Radiohead were able to develop after their first not-very-good albums. There must be loads of other examples of bands only hitting their stride after a couple of albums too.

    You’re right though, hype only matters to a point and a lot of it is pointless. After all, it’s us, the people who actually try find new music, buy it and go to the gigs that make or break bands, not a casual bit of hype.

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