Practical Criticism

I wonder sometimes if music criticism shouldn’t be more practical. I suppose I’m thinking of the music criticism you pay for in magazines. The ‘music press’, with a handful of sterling exceptions (you know who you are!), has pretty much abandoned the idea that criticism should be beautiful or thought-provoking or take longer than a minute to read, but it hasn’t replaced this with anything more than pretensions to actual usefulness. I’m not talking about star ratings which are handy as a summary but lose their lustre when there’s little worthwhile opinion to summarise.

Practical information that might be useful would include: the approximate size of the record when converted to 192 kbps stereo MP3 files; a guesstimate of the marketing budget allocated to the record; BPM (Record Mirror used to do this, good for it). Softer, more subjective info would not be neglected, though. The reviewer could indicate which tracks were most effective on a first listen, and could provide examples of how the record might be used – in which situations and contexts (physical, social, emotional) it works best. A guess as to the listening lifespan of the record might also be useful, for readers who care about such things.

Seriously, focussing on how to use a record would be a refreshing alternative to the standard-issue half-background half-snark approach of the current monthlies. And useless records? Don’t review them.