AN ARGUMENT WITH AN IDIOT: REVIEWING THE REVIEWS
Updated: Apr 6, 2021
Okay we've probably seen about as many reviews as we're going to for our 2nd album which came out about 6 weeks ago.
Bob Dylan, in his Chronicles, said something like "I got great reviews, but reviews don't sell records". This is probably true, but all the money this album has raised so far (for a charity TBD) will be as much by word of mouth as by random indie music enthusiasts of the world stumbling across reviews of us, so that's something. We are not doing this band for money anyway because that would be the very definition of a stupid business venture. In any case, on the ultra-underground-DIY-grassroots-super-duper-indie end of the music media, reviews are actually good - not just because we (bafflingly) haven't received a bad one (yet), but because those who have reviewed us seem far more interested in spreading the word about things they like than they are interested in managing their reputation as a Very Smart and Hip Cool Person, which most career critics in the world frankly are (e.g. Robert Christgau, Nick Kent, Lester Bangs, and other such pretentious, big-noting tools). I'm especially amazed because we chose a 6 minute "love it or hate it" diatribe, Freud's Shit Nephew, as the lead single. (Part of me regrets not promoting the more obviously commercial "Other People" instead, but whatevs.)
I'm gonna discuss what media we've had for our 2nd album and reflect on what they said and why they might have said it. Enough about what reviewers think of music - let's talk about what musicians think of reviews (specifically, the musician writing this).
My apologies to those of you not interested in our reviews, which is probably everyone reading this, because the one demographic who shouldn't need to see reviews is the people who are already visiting/subscribing to our website and are presumably 'sold' on us. Ordinarily you stop pitching your product to people once they've bought it (unless you're Apple, of course). Bands tend to use press coverage as a kind of 'victory lap' when they make an album and this is no exception. Soz.
- Great review (the best we've had) in American Pancake for Freud's Shit Nephew - one of those reviews where the reviewer Alyssa Holland really "gets it", calling it "garage psych punk raw beauty with soaring reverb and heavy instrumentation. A culmination of psych and grunge alternative, this track bleeds post punk with its frantic and feverish mood, [they] manage to pack a lot of power into their raw sound. The song energetically opens up their recently released second album. It is clear that these two have an eclectic taste and their wide range of influences subconsciously come through in their own compositions. Punk, grunge, glam, power pop, garage, psych, they know what’s good and therefore know how to really make the goods. The music has heart with intellect and humor graciously peppered in." (Abridged version there) Honestly that song was trying to be the Buzzcock's "I Believe" if it were on Sonic Youth's "Goo" album and featured J Mascis doing fourteen overdubs of random guitar wailing. Still, the accuracy of this review is remarkable.
- Nice review from Ton Spion in Germany: "Nice scruffy little lo-fi hit between models like Pavement, Dinosaur Jr and Blur. Their song "Doesn't Matter No One Cares" has become a charming catchy tune between jangle pop and dream pop." (via Google Translate). I'm still confused why people keep calling it jangle pop or dream pop, but at least they got the influences more or less right (NB Blur are overrated as hell - British indie usually is - but they are at least very good).
- Austin Town Hall's Nathan Lankford gave us their 2nd Farewell Horizontal review for "Doesn't Matter No One Cares", "Pat and Lauren just keep churning out these little treats of guitar pop that will likely spin on repeat for the entirety of your day. This is a perfect example; bobbing with hints of churning guitars, pulled under by the melodic undertow of the warm vocal delivery. It's like this clash of the perfect musical titans, power-pop from Europe battling with the classic Oceanic guitar sound." This guy has a way with words, and also, gets it (although the overt Americanness of our influences never seems to get picked up on).
- Add To Wantlist said "a diverse record musically, full of wry humour lyrically. Doesn't Matter No One Cares is an instant favourite, but this record feels like a grower." I'm glad people pick up on our humour, but I'll need to look up "wry" in a dictionary because I keep forgetting what it means. Are we wry? My computer's thesaurus says "ironic, sardonic, satirical, mocking, scoffing, sneering, derisive, scornful, sarcastic, double-edged, dry, droll, witty, humourous". Well, I don't remember the last time I scoffed but yeah they're more or less on the money there. Satire sux though, it's usually just smug people congratulating themselves on their own views while pretending to crack a joke. I would like to think I don't do that in my lyrics (although my lyrics do often take the form of a straw-man argument, e.g. "C+", which isn't really a good thing of me to do)
- Radio Adelaide's feature album of the week, and a special segment where we went through the album track-by-track and talked about each song. This was a lot of fun and it was nice to be chosen. We had a lot of laughs, as attempting to explain the lyrics usually makes me realise how totally ridiculous they are. We also made it to #13 on Radio Adelaide's most played artists, in some great company (probably only because they played the whole album, but whatevs, it's a win in my book)
- Melbourne's PBS's "Top Tracks We're Loving" included our song "Doesn't Matter No One Cares" which ended up being the most well-received song on the album (even though I seriously considered not releasing it) among such great artists as Time For Dreams, Empat Lima and others. This was an awesome email to receive!
- Feature in White Light White Heat's weekly "shoegaze/dreampop/psychedelic/indie tips" for our song "Freud's Shit Nephew"... I always tout our sound as carrying on 90s indie rock/alternative rock, but very often the reviewers beg to differ. Who's right? I dunno. I guess I do use a lot of reverb.
- The Doesn't Suck included us in their Top 10 albums of January, certifying us with the prestige of not sucking, which is what we aim to not do.
Was also nice to see that not only are people writing, they are listening too. Not just locally, but worldwide. We have had dozens of subscriptions to our website blog, so hopefully these posts of mine don't make them (you?) unsubscribe. Our plays across Bandcamp, Spotify and Soundcloud are well into the thousands now, which is great considering we'd sort of assumed there'd be less than a hundred. (Now to climb out of the "<1000" hole on Spotify!) Our friend Sarah Blaby did promo for us once again and really got the word out which is great. For a band that barely exists outside of the home studio it's nice we're being well received. It was also nice to do an interview with Claire Stuchbery on PBS's great show "Firewater"; stories were told and laughs were had.
The Bandcamp takings are well on their way to raising a couple of hundred dollars for some charity TBD later, which is good. By the way, the reason all the money that comes in goes out again is not just because we're such wonderful eco/social justice paragons of virtue - it's also to remove any of that creeping, crap sense of obligation to listeners, as if they're shareholders in your future artistic direction. I want to make sure Farewell Horizontal is never poisoned by any sense of catering to others. We will be weird and hit-and-miss forever, with our weaknesses worn on our sleeve - forever, if we can psychologically manage that level of bravery.
I'll get back to my usual hobby horse-riding Blog Roll posts about arcane rock history trivia when I next get the chance. Until then, thanks for reading and listening, from Pat and Lauren.