don't get reviewers. I realize I qualify as one myself due to my humble
presence on this site, but I shun any association with them as a culture.
And there is a culture that accompanies the life of a reviewer,
a culture that shares the collective unconscious and vice of the Press
Month after month, I receive these packets in the mail and am told what
to think about a record or book. Comparisons, influences, and even other
reviews are included in your average packet, mixed in with a couple
of headshots of the artist. All material is favorable in a press packet
since labels obviously have a vested interest in promoting the sale
of their products.
Usually about 2 weeks after receiving these packets, I begin seeing
reviews scattered in the Village Voice, Time-Out, and
other such media. I suppose I should come to expect it by now, but it
never ceases to amaze me when I see a press packet being regurgitated
by some asinine reviewer. And this seems to happen more often than not.
I can't count the number of times I have seen the contents of a press
packet (all praise of course) reiterated in a review almost verbatim.
I'm not cynical enough to blame this on payoffs, though they surely
do occur on occasion. I think the main problem is laziness. It isn't
always easy to find something to say about a recording and reviewers
sometimes find it easier to merely regurgitate what the labels have
to say about an artist.
Another equally appalling trend I see is the pack mentality of reviewers.
An album gets a positive review in the first publication in which it
appears and all succeeding reviewers feel inclined to follow in suit.
There is a graveyard of music out there sacrificed to reviewers too
lazy to listen and discern for themselves. And likewise, an A list of
records that should have never made it copper, much less gold. I suppose
its too much to ask that the reviewers actually listen to the damn music
and decide for themselves.
And I bring this all up, because of all the uninspired reviews I have
read lately of the new Tim Easton record, The Truth About Us.
I heard about this CD first in Time-out (yes I am guilty of flipping
through their reviews on occasion) and noticed that his new disk featured
Wilco (sans Jeff Tweedy) on all tracks. Normally, the Wilco-factor would
be a big enough sell for me to immediately run out and buy the record.
But the reviewer made the record seem like such a drag, essentially
saying the music was depressing and uninspired, that I decided to instead
give it a spin (click?) by downloading from Napster.
Needless to say since I have been leading up to this for 10 minutes
now, this is a really good record. It is not depressing (though it is
mellow) or uninspired (Wilco is on it goddammit) and it definitely should
not be left behind in the reviewer's graveyard. The music sounds like
Wilco with John Prine as a front man and is a must-have for fans of
alt-country and indie-folk. The Truth About Us is one of those
disks that you can leave in your player on repeat and listen to 3 times
in a row without tiring of it.
Disk highs include "I Would Have Married You," with its reflective
lyrics and melody, "Get Some Lonesome" which sounds eerily
like Palace, and "Downtown Lights," the album's closest thing
to pop. Wilco is at their mellow best with fluttering piano licks and
their usual understated guitars. American Music Club's Bruce Kaphane
is also featured on pedal steel on songs such as the redemptive "Carry
Me." But overall, I suppose the nicest thing about this collection
is its sheer honesty. It transcends the connotations that "indie"
and "alt" carry with simple and unpretentious songwriting.
After reading a couple more unfavorable reviews, I shared the MP3's
with several of my friends and they all agreed; the music is good and
should be given a chance. So its not just me. The truth about The
Truth About Us is it is one of the year's best recordings thus far.
Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry
Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
| April 2001 | Issue 13