A little break from usual format, I’m going to have a bitch at the Evening Standard this time. Mostly because I’m currently writing this while sat in King’s Cross while a train company that will go unnamed (but its easy to figure out which one) decide whether or not they can be arsed to get me home this evening and how much to raise my fares by with absolutely no indication of there being fewer delays. Seriously guys, I have one message to you on the 4% increase news…admittedly none of its printable but anyway.
So yeah, this is what the Evening Standard’s album review section looked like on Friday:
Noticed something? I have and its a problem loads of newspapers and magazines covering “reviews of stuff” have. Everything has four stars. You might call this coincidence, you might say quite a lot of good albums came out but I call it “having no standards” and when your paper’s name is “the evening standard” that’s a problem. If everything’s awesome, what’s so awesome about being awesome? Why should I care its come out? The reviewers seem to just throw out four stars to anything just to get it over with. Its especially obvious here since those first two album reviews, Yoko Ono then Elton John, are both four stars BUT the Yoko Ono one when you actually read it is overall positive in language and tone, however when you read the Elton John one it says “there are no obvious hits here” and “the lyrics are rubbish” and there are about five positive words towards the end…yet they still both have four stars. Why?
This is the entire reason why people have stopped trusting reviewers. When its this obvious the tone of a piece is being tampered with so we don’t upset the record labels by saying something mean about a big name artist and we end up giving it a really high score, it feels less like a review and more like an advert.
I tend to buy Metal Hammer on a regular basis (God knows why) and they do this shit too. 20-30 releases a month and bar a couple, every single one has a score of between 7 and 9. How is that a helpful indicator of anything? I don’t understand, are the record companies paying you to do it so we’ll think “yay” and buy it? Your review and score have to tally or I don’t have any choice but to think this has happened as a consumer. When Metal Hammer reviewed the last Van Halen Album “A Different Kind of Truth” they gave it 6/10, but when I actually read the review, there was not a single compliment, absolutely nothing positive whatsoever. So what choice do I have but to think the record label pay off the media to give good reviews to any old shit their bands pump out?
Giving something a star rating or a mark out of ten is baasically shorthand for your general opinion on a release. A way of indicating to the reader a simple yay or nay so they can skim-read your dreary remarks of “yeah, sokay I guess, I’ve really seen or heard too many of these in my career and now everything’s just a general sludgy mush of mediocrity so…whatever four stars”.
People read reviews because they want an indication of whether a movie, album, book or video game that looks interesting is any good. We all have limited disposable income here and if a publication polishes its tiaras and its turds to make them look the same…well why are you bothering publishing reviews? Why not advertise dishwashing liquid? Sell stocks, stack shelves in Sainsburys, anything else. If everything smells of roses to you then there is no way in hell you should take up reviewing. Grow a set of standards.
…So yeah, this blog was undernourished and not very well thought out. Two stars.