The Pentagrammarian
Where’s the Fresh Content, Dude?

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Thank you!

— Ferris

Rappin’ About Metal & Music Writin’

Journalism and criticism about music generally suck and are stupid.

A couple weeks ago, some internet pals and I had a good Twitter chat about the vagaries of the genre. The honorable Gary Suarez (online at @noyokono) made some quality comments, and I started running my virtual mouth. Others joined in with questions, comments and opinions.

Following is a re-presentation of the conversation. I’ve reformatted the dialogue and lightly edited for clarity. I missed a couple tweets; sorry if one was yours. A few might not be in their original sequence; we were droppin’ science left & right, and it wuz hard 2 keep up. And it wasn’t exactly a linear conversation.

To minimize all the @s flying around, I used real names and colons to identify who said what. I preserved the @Twitter names so’s you can tell whom we’re typing to.

The cast & crew:

- Gary Suarez, Twitter handle @noyokono, resident master killer at Metal Sucks, vocalist of   [Edit: He’s not affiliated with music blog Stuff You Will Hate. To quote Kurt Angle, “As they say on the streets, that was ‘my bad.’ “]

- D.X. Ferris, Twitter handle @dxferris, writer who used to revere music writing before the inmates took over the asylum, proprietor of @Pentagrammarian, author of Slayer book 33 1/3: Reign In  Blood & webcomic Suburban Metal Dad.


- Enrique H, @rick_revolution, dude with opinions who chimed in with a question

- Kyle Antivenin, @kyleantivenin, writer at Invisible Oranges and Hellbound

- Christopher, @C4rdin4lF4ng, musician and metal dude

- Dan Marsicano, @heavytothebone2, author of @aboutheavymetal column Retro Recommendation


And here’s the conversation:

Suarez:
Most of today’s music writing is either unreadable or boring. And we’re all guilty of it.

Suarez:
The problem is that so many music writers aren’t actually writers. It’s a fundamental issue that has to be addressed.

Ferris: 
@noyokono A general problem in entertainment writing: Editors encourage writers to have an angle, so writers oversell/overhype

Suarez:
@dxferris yes, that’s absolutely a problem. We’re not encouraged to say something is “just okay” if that’s all it is.

Suarez:
Spin moving all their new reviews to a Twitter account just reminds me that Spin hasn’t gone under yet. Yet.

Suarez:
The problem with music reviewing today isn’t about people’s access to music. It’s about a glut of horrible writers with opinions.

Suarez:
Let’s get more specific and look at the metal scene. Most metal writers today are one small step above Internet commenters.

Suarez:
I was writing music reviews when most of you were watching Teletubbies.

Ferris:
@noyokono: In this day & age, espec. with ability to link, sometimes — sometimes — it’s more useful to say WHAT something is than give opinion.

Ferris:
…especially if you’re a know-nothing hack who can’t put anything in a useful context.

Ferris:
Like I said [before], how many Radiohead reviews said “It sounds so DIFFERENT on car stereo, earbuds, computer!”? What this translates to: “This amazing new album is JUST LIKE EVERY LP EVER?! BUT I’M PAYING ATTENTION FOR ONCE, SO SOMETHING I NOTICED IS REMARKABLE!”

Ferris:
If yr average music writer wrote about baseball,he’d say,”This guy strikes out seven out of ten at bats—[he’s] clearly a shitty player!”

Suarez:
The OTHER problem with music writing today is the need to FEED THE BEAST. Content is king, and people want it updated constantly.

Suarez:
So what you get are a bunch of people who aren’t writers falling over themselves to bring you content—ANY CONTENT—faster.

Suarez:
I’d rather read a blog updated once a week with an articulate story or editorial or thesis than 20 reformatted press releases per day.

Ferris:
@noyokono Also endemic: Music writers—not to mention yr common mofo on the internet—expect everything should make their nipples hard.

Ferris:
@noyokono An esoteric example, but Pitchfork review of Spongebob movie soundtrack blasted the Wilco track as a weak one. Whaddaya EXPECT?

Suarez:
@dxferris oh don’t get me started on Pitchfork. Big words and a decimal point does not a tastemaker make.

rick_revolution:
@noyokono I know constantly updated content is king, but I prefer curated content. Quality over quantity.

Suarez:
And again, we’re all guilty of this. I’d be lying if I said everything I’ve ever written for @metalsucks was gripping, essential prose.

Suarez:
Sometimes, I’m just reporting the news, sharing useful information. Like in this post that just published: http://www.metalsucks.net/2012/01/12/listen-to-this-nailsskin-like-iron-split/

Suarez:
But if I’m publishing an opinion piece or a review, I want that bit of writing to be worth reading. That’s on me, and writers: that’s on you

Suarez:
Before you post “news” on your blog/site, is it actually news or did you just copy and paste a press release? Because someone else did too.

Suarez:
All day long, press releases hit my inbox, followed minutes later by hack metal websites hurried copy-paste jobs. Why should anyone care?

Suarez:
Publicists pitch me stuff all the time, and I’m grateful for them, but I don’t rely on them for all of my content.

Suarez:
My advice to aspiring and/or shitty music journalists: read Lester Bangs and Robert Christgau. Then decide if you have what it takes.

Suarez:
Want to be a music writer? Find two writers whose style engages you. Read as much of their stuff as you can. Don’t emulate; get inspired.

Antivenin:
Suarez: So what’s the solution? Always court controversy? Only write about shit you hate?

Suarez:
You don’t have to write something profound/provocative. Here’s a solid one @axl_rosenberg did today on Alice In Chains http://www.metalsucks.net/2012/01/12/alice-in-chains-next-big-challenge-following-up-their-comeback/

Suarez:
Writing takes work. Finding a voice takes time. Constantly questioning your material takes guts.

Antivenin:
@noyokono @dxferris Question- how do you approach/what’s your strategy for writing about music you are absolutely indifferent to?

Ferris:
@kyleantivenin When I’m negative/indifferent to an album, I listen to it more than I would for a positive review, because…

Ferris:
@kyleantivenin …I feel obligated to understand what’s happening on an album before I give it negative marks.

Antivenin:
@noyokono I’m mostly in the same boat, but want to challenge myself by writing about something I could care less about.

Antivenin:
@noyokono it’s easy to write when you’re passionate, bad or good, but to pull off indifference well is something I’d like to try.

Suarez:
@dxferris If a “writer” has nothing to say, he might as well just report the fucking news. Yup.

Suarez:
I’m in a unique position; I decide what I write about, so if I don’t have an opinion or if there’s no “story” then I pass.

Ferris:
@noyokono @kyleantivenin When I’m totally indifferent to something, I let it play in background,see what (eventually) catches my ear.Then start there.

Suarez:
@kyleantivenin @dxferris indifference is a crutch. Human being have opinions! Ask yourself: are you mistaking indifference for boredom?

Suarez:
@kyleantivenin my advice to you is to look beyond the music. Is there a story there; something curious or interesting? If so, pursue.

Antivenin:
@dxferris @noyokono but isn’t the experience of music (criticism) objective? Doesn’t opinion -even indfferent- give the writer their voice?

Ferris:
@kyleantivenin @noyokono Voice, I think offhand, is less about your opinion, more about how you express it. Clever, vicious, snarky, etc.

Ferris:
@kyleantivenin @noyokono If you only write about stuff you like, you won’t write as much. One reason my # of music bylines has dropped.

Ferris:
@kyleantivenin @noyokono Too many critics — sheee-it, too many people — take the general approach of “I don’t get it, so it’s not good.”

Antivenin
@noyokono @dxferris okay, boredom then. I can write about shit I LIKE/HATE, but I’d like to get better at writing about shit that bores me.

Dan Marsicano:
@noyokono I am NEVER satisfied with anything I write. I don’t want to be content. I always strive to push myself harder.

Suarez:
@heavytothebone2 I’m never satisfied with anything you write either. #srsly

Suarez:
@dxferris @C4rdin4lF4ng DRAFT, BABY, DRAFT.

Suarez:
@kyleantivenin @Thatshowkidsdie also, it shows you have range, aren’t just some monkey that only knows extremes.

Ferris:
@kyleantivenin @noyokono Good criticism should have some objective elements: genre, bio, lineup background, some facts [arts/entertainment editors hate facts]

@C4rdin4lF4ng Christopher:
@dxferris @noyokono Too bad poor writers aren’t booed like poor musicians. Beer bottles thrown at them too! So is a critic same as a writer?

Ferris:
@C4rdin4lF4ng @noyokono Real writers revise,fact-check&evaluate their opinion to see whether it’s accurate.They don’t just type up & send out.

Christopher:
@dxferris @noyokono I’m curious what constitutes a writer to you. Surely you’re not suggesting some kind of lyric writing education/training

Ferris:
@C4rdin4lF4ng @noyokono No lyrix education necessary;if you need quantitative rules for art, you don’t get it & probably shouldn’t be writing.

Ferris:
@C4rdin4lF4ng @noyokono In fact, the commonplace liberal-arts education is one key factor than makes modern criticism such shit…

Ferris:
@C4rdin4lF4ng @noyokono …all these would-be critics think, “Well, I took Screenwriting 101 or World Lit 102, so I know a thing or two!”

Ferris:
@C4rdin4lF4ng @noyokono Saying “I studied art, so I know how it’s done” is like saying “I studied MMA, so I know how the fight [will] go.”

Ferris:
@C4rdin4lF4ng @noyokono …Sometimes a move is technically weak, but it works in the context of the moment. Same w/ fighting or art.

Ferris:
Hack critics are eggheads sitting on the bench saying “Look at this minor variation in his execution;it violates a guideline,so he’ll lose.”

Ferris:
@C4rdin4lF4ng At the risk of sounding flip, this day & age, everybody’s a critic.

— 30 —
— 16 —

I’ll House You

Your house style is stupid if it’s not 100% consistent.

If you use accent marks sometimes and don’t use them other times, your house style is stupid. Do you know why you don’t use them in the first place? The answer is not, “Because it looks weird.”

Your house style is stupid if it’s 100% consistent.

Grammarical (sic) styles are guidelines. If you need an inviolable rule to help you understand writing, you should get out of the game. Make room for somebody who gets it. Just because you “have a passion for writing and always thought it was fun” doesn’t mean you have to be working with it. Go start the most grammatically correct blog the Internet has ever seen.

Your house style is stupid because you make it stupid.

ps. If you said, “But that’s how we do it, and…” you may be stupid.

Welcöme.

Welcome to the Pentagrammarian, the world’s first heavy metal grammar site.

Despite the occultish title, I don’t subscribe to the superstitious bullsh*t that passes for grammar & usage in most strata of publishing.

Maybe I’ll weigh in on song lyrics from time to time. Like, technically, “Awaiting the hour of reprisal, your time slips away” is wrong, though the misplaced modifer in no way diminishes the lyric’s awesomeness.

But mostly, we’re here to talk about full-contact grammar & usage.

If you believe writers aren’t allowed to use adverbs—especially because you learned it in college—you can f*k off now.

Thank you for reading!

xoxo

dxf