I'm a judgmental S.O.B.

Earlier this year, I picked up a bag of mail from the place I was living at a couple years ago. Along with discovering that I’d somehow been subscribed to New York magazine, I found that a few publicists didn’t get my forwarding address and a few promo CDs were waiting.

One of the first posts I ever wrote here was about using context clues to determine whether a band sucks or not, specifically the name. (Note: the following pertains only to how I determine whether I personally will enjoy a band’s album NOT whether the album has a certain artistic merit. You can only learn that by actually listening to it, though some professional music reviewers seem to disagree.)

In any case, “The” bands automatically start off ahead of the game, IMHO. No matter what follows the “The” you’re pretty much guaranteed a band that is trying to move you in that classic three-chords-and-an-attitude way, rather than trying so hard to prove its artistic worth that it gets swallowed up by artifice. Oddly enough, the exception to this rule is The The.

I’ll also confess that album art plays heavily into my pre-listen consideration. That sounds horrid, I know, but somehow I’ve developed a finely-developed sense for this as most bands attempt a visual reflection of what their albums sound like.

Cases in point were two CDs from the aforementioned pile that I set aside without even giving either a listen, based solely on the album art. I won’t mention the artists because I realize it’s patently unfair to slag a band this way without listening to its music. (Again, even though I have full confidence in using this system to judge music I like, it’s not a guarantee that the music won’t be enjoyed by someone else. Plus, there’s a big difference between music I like, and music that has artistic merit otherwise.)

This isn’t an argument against ugliness, it’s an argument against artifice. But just to be certain, I just grabbed both out of the circular file and did a little research. In looking each band up online, I’ve discovered the artist whose cover is an arty photo illustration of his face has a MySpace page whose most recent blog entry is titled “Competition to win Sony Video Walkman” while the other – whose cover is a hummingbird with peacock feathers floating in an invisible cube over a Dali-esque ocean – has a bio that begins “Born in Seattle in 1998 at the tender age of intent…”

I feel pretty confident that I am not missing anything here.

1 comment for “I'm a judgmental S.O.B.

  1. Kerry
    June 10, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    I get quite a few CDs to listen to at the radio station where I volunteer, so I can sort of sympathize. You’re not shallow, you’re just discerning. Judging an album by its cover is the equivalent of selecting a potential mate in a crowded field by how well their wardrobe matches or how their hair looks. Does it make us shallow? Maybe. But every expenditure of time is an investment, and often times the superficial details are the only signfiers of quality we have.Put another way, is a dude who can’t match his socks going to be worthwhile husband or father candidate? Probably not. So don’t head the bar without double-checking. Likewise, if you’re album art looks shoddy or amateurish, it doesn’t make you look “DIY” or cool. It just makes you look like you need to make some friends with rudimentary graphic design skills.

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