Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Brief Rant

One of the monthly music magazines this month opens its review of the latest Bad Plus album by claiming: "For all those who thought that jazz was a group of dusty old men pootling through Night and Day in the pub snug, the success of this US trio playing jazz with indie-rock attitude will have been a gust of fresh air". Just who does think this exactly? Anyone reading this unfathomably patronising review might be forgiven for thinking that The Bad Plus were the first jazz group not to include standards in their repertoire! Naturally, the review proceeds to emphasise the group's goofy pop covers over their own originals, despite the increasing quality of the latter (as emphasised on this blog more than once). The originals, the writer states, 'will probably work best live'. Funny that, given that even The Bad Plus' jazz-with-rock-dynamics is essentially a live art form, based as it is on the qualities of group improvisation! All this kind of writing achieves is to present a group purely in terms of the marketing spin applied to them, rather than producing any kind of original critical thinking.

Even up to last month, this same publication had a dedicated jazz column in its reviews section but unless I'm going completely mad (or there are no jazz releases in the whole of August), this now appears to have been edited out. Why this complete lack of regard for the versatile tastes and informed views of a large part of its readership? Mercifully, the reviews of recent reissues from greats including Andrew Hill and Joe Harriott make for more comfortable reading, which makes for some recompense for the lack of critical judgment on the new.

Two of the main competing monthly publications are increasingly driving me insane with their constant battling to cover the same ground. On one hand, we have yet another Rolling Stones cover and on another, we have Weller picking his 'Modfather classics'... again! What is the interest in either of these features at this point in time? The Stones are of course on perpetual tour, but they hardly need to sell more tickets! One of the two publications has a thorough, lengthy overview of Prince's recording career, surely a more aposite cover feature given the controversy over the distribution of his new album, and his imminent 21-night stand in London? I appreciate that these magazines both have international audiences for whom they need to cater, and that the big figures in the rock canon sell copies, but it would be satisfying if we could go through a year without an obligatory Stones, Beatles or Dylan cover. It seems the only contemporary act currently worthy of a cover feature would be Arctic Monkeys. It is increasingly interesting to observe how Word magazine is occupying the clear gap in the market by giving more prominence to current acts (Amy Winehouse, Rufus Wainwright etc - none of them particularly avant garde, but at least offering some sort of variety).

Both major 'classic rock' monthlies have proved extremely valuable mouthpieces for a diverse range of artists both current and established (The Hold Steady, Rilo Kiley, Warren Zevon, Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Sly and The Family Stone, Scott Walker etc), yet none of these artists have even come close to gracing the front cover (with the possible exception of Sly Stone who I think once featured several years ago). Surely it's time for a change?

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