Steve Wiley is Up on the Sun's resident Record Store Geek. Biweekly, he shares stories of great music and wacky characters from his continuing 27 years in Valley record stores and the always-zany music biz.
Generally when I tell people that I write about music, they assume I write reviews for new music. However, those of you that may have read my past ramblings may have noticed that I never write about new music.
Since I don't get to talk to many of you deranged characters, my assumption is that most of you just figure it is because I'm some middle-aged cat whose music-finding drive got stuck in his early 30s.
I am a middle-aged guy, but that's not the reason I don't review new music. You'd think it would be, considering I've got Five Reasons I Don't Write About New Music.
5. Today's Music Sucks
I'm kidding. I don't really think that. It was a bait-and-switch header. There's always great music coming out.
But over the years in the record stores, I've have heard plenty of guys my age say that . . . plenty of women too.
It's not their fault. New music is just harder to search out, and listen to, when you get older. It takes work. I rambled in detail about this is in a little blog called Finding New Music is Easy; Listening to it is Hard, so I won't expand.
In addition, it's harder for today's artists to break new ground and really blow me away.
It's not their fault either, it's just a matter of time, experience, and brain space.
On a grand scale, there's not nearly as much ground to break. On a personal scale, I'm still surrounded by CDs and LPs I've positively sampled that I'm still vowing to get to know better. On both scales, it's harder for new music to get through to me, let alone impress me.
4. I'm Not a Critic
I'm a fan. Big difference.
I can help you build a wicked music library. I can write top 10 album lists in my sleep. I believe that I could do music for a movie (except for securing rights and that sort of thing). I can do a lot with music.
But I can't make music. It's not something I've ever learned to do.
However, I am a creator. Writing, video, painting, drawing . . . I've put myself and my "works" out there in front of people for as long as I can remember, and I know how much of a mind fuck it is to do.
So the thought of dogging somebody else's album, their piece of art, in public, isn't very palatable.
And I'd have to dog it if I didn't like it. What sort of writer, or human, would I be if I didn't offer up the truth?
So I try to stick to the "if you've got nothing good to say" theory and write about stuff that I can recommend thoroughly. There's plenty of established classics you still haven't heard.
3. The World Has Too Many Hipster Critics Already
All the hippest critics review new music. And Lord knows there's plenty of it to review.
In fact, that's one of the paradoxes of today's music: It's all at your fingertips, just sitting there on Spotify and YouTube, waiting to be sampled, but most of us don't know where to start.
It's enough to make your head explode. Who do you trust?
If you've been a music fan -- been in this industry -- as long as I have, than you know that most of it is just hype, hype, hype. You send me some free stuff, and I'll write some nice shit about your band.
So who can blame a fan if he or she doesn't know who to trust, and just goes right back into their old collection and jams an album that's tried and true?
Not me. So I stay out of that game.
I can't offer up a whole lot of hipness anyway, so but I can sure as hell help you find some "new" tried and true.
2. Critics Are Full of Shit
Yep. It's true.
When it comes to deciding which music is good and which music is bad, I'm full of shit, too.
Let's face it, this is music. An ART form.
That's means there are no rights and wrongs. It's truly all in the eye, or in this case ear, of the beholder.
Critics, and rambling Record Store Geeks, are just slightly more, er, opinionated listeners. Listeners that don't mind climbing on a soapbox and telling the world what they think is good (or often times what some other critic, or some label geek, told them was good).
But it's only an opinion. Nothing more.
I try to keep my opinionated musings are pure as I can -- and in actuality many of the real critics surely do the same -- but are all just making it up as we go.
1. New Music Hasn't Stood the Test of Time
After that point, you might be saying, "Steve, whether you want to admit it or not, you are a critic."
Okay, I can't deny that my writing isn't entirely filled with sunny goodness. I'm a little critical from time to time.
But I try to keep my less-than-positive comments more about "I don't like it" than "it's not good."
In those cases, I'm usually just a fan comparing the lesser work of an artist to the better stuff within their catalog (Ten RRHOF's Who Never Topped Their 1st Album), or I'm talking about songs I've heard too much (Nine Rock Classic You Love That I Never Want to Hear Again), or something along those lines.
In other words, I'm talking about music that has had a chance to get out there and be exposed to some of the ravages of time, like you and I.
Standing up to time means everything in the art world.
There's plenty of albums that I would have given a positive review when I first heard them and that I wouldn't tell you about now.
Only the best stuff holds up.
And that, my fellow music lover, is the ultimate test. I know it sounded sorta fresh when you first heard it, and maybe it was, but that doesn't mean shit if it elicits a snicker a decade later.
I'd rather use my nearly half-century of being a music fan (more than half of which has been spent in the music biz) telling you about the stuff that still holds up.
Hey, It's All New to You Anyway
That's what I consider to be my job on this blog (among other things, it's a pretty loose job description).
That's why I don't review the new stuff.
Of course the important thing, in my opinion, as that we all continue to find excellent music.
So behind the scenes here in Wileysworld, I'll be listening to new music.
And old music.
And new old music.
And I'll be telling you about the music I really believe in.
And who knows, if something new is really, really great, maybe I'll tell you about it.
Hopefully, you'll find some music that you haven't heard that you will really love as well.
Thanks for reading.
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