Opinion – 4 out of 5 Ain’t Bad…

I woke up this morning with a fuzzy head and a neck that felt like a metal pole had been inserted into it, all thanks to Bossk‘s last show at the Underworld last night. But nevermind that for now, my article today deals with The Observer’s music magazine, the imaginatively titled Observer Music Monthly. For those not from these shores, it’s essentially a monthly supplement that tries it’s hardest to nail what is ‘cool’ and ‘happening’ in its month of publish. Usually it gets it completely and utterly wrong, and most of the writing is so anaemic that it almost feels as if it’s being written by the Neutrals of the Futurama universe.

Thom Yorke is in the supplement EVERY month.
Thom Yorke is in the supplement EVERY month.

This month’s issue has Grace Jones on the cover, which is about as interesting to me as white paint, so it was a matter of flicking straight to the reviews of all that’s to come in the next few weeks. There are thirty-four albums reviewed this month, including Snow Patrol, Kaiser Chiefs and AC/DC. But it would seem it doesn’t matter what kind of music your band record, as the only number OMM staff are allowed to give reviews is four. Of the thirty-four reviews on offer here, twenty-eight are given the score four out of five. They’ve even given Tony fucking Christie four for his new album, a man whose biggest hit couldn’t even save the lives of millions of Africans…or something.

Now I’ll be mildly honest – I haven’t heard all this music so it’s impossible for me to judge whether all these scores are fair, but my experience and common sense screams that the writers of OMM seem to have an innante fear of causing any controversy. I mean come on – is it really likely that the new Kaiser Chiefs album, produced by that disease-ridden virus of music Mark Ronson, is not just average, but a mere mark from perfection? Yeah, thought so.

Four out of Five
Four out of Five

So, what’s the problem here? Is it the press’ fear of angering labels and PR companies at the hands of honest, low scoring? Is it the writers getting too wrapped up in an album’s freshness to take a step back and realise that there is little special about it at all? Is it that marking things out of five is ridiculously pointless and futile, some might say impossible? I struggle to mark things out of six for Sonic Dice, and personally find it a reviewing method that makes it too easy to gloss over the writing and supplement it for a big, colourful score that any dipshit can read.

You know what annoyed me the most about this month’s OMM? Hidden within it’s pages is a far too brief section on John Peel. Now, I’ve never fallen for the Peel hype in the past. I think the man set the template for a lot of these younger music presenters who throw themselves at every hyped band in existence, hoping that when they do make it big then their name will be credited with finding them. But my opinion of him has been vastly changed today after reading his brilliant critic writing, assaulting such “legends” as Madonna and Michael Jackson in a brutally honest and readable fashion. A style that took no press release bullshit from anyone and stated things as they were, not afraid to upset or deter anyone. It’s a shame then that the editor’s of OMM don’t seem particularly keen on finding the talent and balls to reproduce such shrewd and vital journalism.

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4 thoughts on “Opinion – 4 out of 5 Ain’t Bad…”

  1. I imagine some people find the scoring system (out of 5, out of 6, out of 10 etc) gives a useful and immediate impression of what the author thinks of the album/ep/single etc; it could also be said that it is these readers who like to read a brief or very brief review. On the other hand, some people like to read a bit more and find out why the album has been given the score. Giving the reader a choice is essential. Yes, a scoring system can be restrictive, but if one is more interested in writing then one shouldn’t dwell too much on the score.

  2. I know where you’re coming from Rich, and I appreciate how important an overall score might be to those who don’t want to sit and read through a whole review…especially if they’re one of my lengthier exploits!

    I just think a score out of five is ridiculously limiting, and almost makes any marks given completely nonsensical and meaningless. Especially in the case of this months OMM, where the majority of the music seemed to be (according to the reviewers) not too bad, but not perfect. It’s too easy to score an album in such a fashion.

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