“You mean you’ve got a hold full of frozen hairdressers?” he said.
“Oh yes,” said the Captain, “Millions of them. Hairdressers, tired TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, public relations executives, management consultants, you name them. We’re going to colonize another planet…”
“..Yes, so anyway,” he resumed, “the idea was that into the first ship, the ‘A’ ship, would go all the brilliant leaders, the scientists, the great artists, you know, all the achievers; and into the third, or ‘C’ ship, would go all the people who did the actual work, who made things and did things, and then into the `B’ ship – that’s us – would go everyone else, the middlemen you see.”
You find me listening to the new Steven Wilson record, which I like a great deal. There will be other people who like it, too. And others who don’t.
There can’t be many these days who don’t listen to an album, in whole or in part, before they hand over their hard-earned cash. And I’m talking about listening to it legally, on any one of a host of download and/or streaming platforms.
When I first started buying albums reviews were all you had – primarily for me in ‘Sounds’ and ‘NME’, and later in ‘Kerrang’. Some bands I would invest in regardless, mind. Many Blue Oyster Cult, Rush, Yes, Genesis, Marillion, and other albums were purchased unheard. But in the digital age now if I want to decide whether I’ll like a record I just head on over to Bandcamp, YouTube, SoundCloud or the band’s website.
Growing up things seemed so much easier in hindsight. I made up my own mind, formed my own opinions. Fashioned my own world view. Now, thanks to social media I am assailed by the opinions of others, many of whom I have never met. Constantly. Incessantly. On everything from music, politics, art, food, religion, television and film. Back in the day I would have conversations with close friends and would find out their views on such subjects occasionally. I might not agree with them but I would respect their right to hold them. But now it is everywhere. Everyone, it seems, is a critic. Merely by virtue of them possessing opposable thumbs.
So in the era of streaming and downloads I have to wonder as to the point of a review. As I have mentioned, I like the new Steven Wilson album, Hand.Cannot.Erase. A dear friend, who I love dearly, does not. Now even if I wrote a thousand words extolling my perceived virtues of the piece he would not buy it, having already had a listen. I can absolutely see his point and he is equally valid in his opinion as I am in mine. Writing about this record after it is released seems to be, I think, a futile exercise at best as most folks who are that way inclined will already own it. And those who aren’t won’t. Nor will they ever.
As I’ve mentioned there have been, and are still, bands whose work I would buy without an advance listen. This year I have invested in records by Grand Tour, Neal Morse Band, Steve Hackett and Beardfish as well as the Steven Wilson to name but a few without needing to listen ahead of time and without anyone else advising me to do so. But in the digital age I find myself utilising the advance listen facility frequently, without reading a word and I have discovered some enjoyable albums this way. I am particularly taken with the Animals album by Bend Sinister. And have just purchased Ampledeed’s 2013 debut ‘A is for Ampledeed’ having first listened to a few streaming tracks.
Cliff Pearson has, for example, played material by Bryan Scary and Snarky Puppy amongst others on his radio show and both have been added to cart based on these initial listens.
I once read a press release for a band whose CD I had been sent to review for a well-respected bona fide website that said ‘the album sounds as good as anything you’ll hear this year’. Now this wasn’t quoting a review or any other objective source but was just a throw away line by some PR person, or friend of the band, who had written the press release. It went on to tell me the music was ‘exhilarating’ and ‘delightfully original’. This annoyed me somewhat. Suffice to say I thought the album was dreadful. And went on to say this in the review. I did, though, suggest people go and have a listen and make their own minds up.
So much new music is released nowadays. Some of it as good if not better I think than that made by the ‘classic’ bands. I shall, for example, be buying the new albums by echolyn, Izz and Glass Hammer without having heard a note. And I have just this second pledged to buy the new Bryan Scary record ‘Birds’. I most certainly do not need to read what anyone else thinks to assist me with these purchasing decisions. For I am all grown up now.
But I cannot remember in recent memory having read a ‘bad’, i.e. critical amateur review. Of course many had a pop at the new Yes album but distance from the band and its organisation insulated the writers from any comeback. Much of what passed for informed comment was akin to trolling if I’m being brutally frank and I am starting to see a little bit of that with the new Steven Wilson album.
Oh, and by the way, I quite liked the new Yes album. Not that you should be bothered in the slightest what I think. Go and have a listen to it, and make up your own mind. If you haven’t already. But whatever you do, and in the name of all that is holy, please don’t write a review.