There was something about that combination of iconoclasism and thoroughness that appealed to the rebel and nerd in me simultaneously. Rolling Stone had already begun to seem very politically correct by then. And I was usually disappointed with the records they recommended. It was as though they wanted you to like what you should like instead of what was really good or bad.
Sometimes I have an issue with Pazz and Jop (although last year’s winner - tUnE-yarDs - was right on) but I’m not sold on Metacritic as a replacement yet.
Of course, the deeper and yet more obvious question is Jaybee why do you care what other people think? Can’t you just make your selections based on what you hear?
Well, no. And here’s why:
- I really don’t hear much that I like on the radio, unless it’s genre stuff, like old jazz or blues.
- I’ve been burned too often by loving a single song only to find the album wanting.
- I’ve also been turned around - as I’ve said before - too often by records that sounded strange or outright bad the first time I heard them, but then came to love. Notice the contradiction here with number one. Maybe I don’t hear good stuff because I need more time, so it’s not you, radio, it’s me.
- There are just too many records out there, and I have a limited amount of time and money. I need a buffer, a filter. Okay, a Fuffer.
To this day I have to remind myself that there is no officially sanctioned good music. (George Bernard Shaw had no use for Shakespeare. I have no use for Rush. Yeah, I said it.) The closest things we have to it is popular opinion - critical consensus runs a very distant second, and I’m sorry to tell you that it’s much more reliable. But I’m not sorry to say that I prefer a thinking person who gets it wrong sometimes, to a dope who occasionally gets it right.
What if I didn’t have that critical recommendation to encourage me to give a questionable record a chance? I’d just be tossing aside records that would otherwise open new worlds for me.
So I work a little at it. So what? It’s been worth it.