“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” “Writing about music is as illogical as singing about economics.” There are lots of articles on the internet trying to ascertain the authorship of these two statements. Obviously, having spent the last three months writing about music, I wonder about the truth of these statements or at least the sentiments behind them. Is writing about music doomed to failure?
I first started reading about music in my sister’s “Fabulous 208” in the mid 60s followed by “Melody Maker” in about 1968. Later there was “New Musical Express”, “Zigzag”, “Sounds”, “Rolling Stone”, “Let It Rock”, “Select”, “Q”, “MOJO”, “UNCUT” and many others that have slipped from my memory. I even used to read the “pop” section in my Dad’s “Gramophone”.
I have read a huge amount about music although by now I’ve forgotten most of it. Has this been time well spent? Has it been a worthwhile ‘hobby’? Has it introduced me to some amazing music? Obviously I hope the answers are “yes”, “yes” and “yes”.
But how can you write about music? I think what most people do is compare the music you are writing about to other pieces of music. Let’s take the excellent new Rolling Blackouts Coastal fever record. The review in “Rolling Stone” mentions the following bands: Felt, The Go-Betweens, REM, The Feelies and Belle And Sebastian. “The Times” compares them to The Smiths and The Stone Roses. The “UNCUT” review mentions Grant McLennan, Tom Verlaine, Real Estate and The Byrds. “MOJO” talk about REM, The Go Betweens, Orange Juice, Johnny Marr and Stephen Malkmus. It seems the most common way to tell an audience what some music sounds like is to compare it something that has gone before. Obviously if, like me, you have no idea who Real Estate are, this doesn’t mean a lot. It may be that some of these obscure references are just examples of the writer showing off how much they know. Obviously this is nothing that I would ever do. Hang on! Oh!
So what can I say about “Sideways To New Italy”. It’s the second record by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever who are from Melbourne, Australia. They have a jangly guitar sound which appeals to Roo. There are five of them in the band and three of them take it in turns to sing lead vocals. A recent article in UNCUT describes the record as “an infectious whip-smart examination of the meaning of home and the beauty of fleeting moments.” The same article describes how over the past two years their song writing has been informed by “abandoned outback towns, competitive table tennis, Americans with lizard eyes and the perfect Italian shade of blue”. I think that describes the music just as well as comparing them to The Byrds.
4 thoughts on “Sideways To New Italy by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever”
I read and write A TON about music, so believe it can be done, done well, and adds understanding and value to the experience. Having worked in the museum field, I deeply appreciate the value of object/artifact “interpretation,” which is language written and shared to help museum guests understand what they are seeing. You can enjoy looking at a Picasso without knowing anything about it, but I do believe your experience is enhanced if it can be placed in a context, and perhaps framed with questions for your own answers and opinions. There’s a direct correlation between the very best curated exhibitions and the very best interpretation to my mind. Writing about music is just another valuable form of interpretation: helping listeners understand what they are hearing. I wrote a piece some years ago about how to approach that task that might be of interest: https://jericsmith.com/2011/05/11/how-to-write-a-record-review/
I loved RBCF’s last album, so off to get this one now, on the strength of your dance about architecture!
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Thanks. That’s very interesting and thought provoking. What you’ve said about interpretation sounds spot on. Cheers.
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