Thursday, September 23, 2010

generic album review

Album

While cleaning out a box that had been buried in the depths of my bedroom closet, I found several clippings from the year I was arts editor at the Ontarion. The piece above, printed in the fall semester's edition of the Contrarion (joke issue), was a poke at one of my least favourite duties: editing album reviews.

While there were many reviewers who did a good job of assessing the pros and cons of a given album, others made me believe they had no opinion at all. These reviews either pulled out the cliches listed above or, worse, simply listing the tracks without any indication of whether they liked the disc. I knew there were people just wanted the CD and had to go through the formality of writing something...but still. Even "song two had a nice tambourine solo" would have shown some thought.

Sometimes the pieces were so bad we couldn't run them out of embarrassment for both the writer and the quality of the paper. Only once did this cause anyone to get riled up. One guy came in desperately wanting to write about a Genesis album, despite the disc being several years old (and not a reissue). I tried to explain why it wasn't suitable to be among the three or four discs we had room for each week, due to both its non-currency and the poor writing sample. Seeing him look disheartened, I gave him one more chance. The second version was as bad as the first, so I didn't run it. He wrote back wondering why we didn't give him a fair shake, implying we should have printed everything we received.

One phrase several writers used that soon became a running joke: "do yourself a favour and buy this CD." One friend caught wind of this and added the line to his reviews for comedic effect (I'd have to flip through my bound volume of the paper to see if, for fun, I ever left it in).

Typically the Contrarion took up a full issue at the end of each semester. That wasn't the case in 1998/99 - the edition this piece appeared in (Dec 8/98) was split between regular and joke content. By the time the end of winter semester rolled around in April, the staff was too divided and exhausted to come up with a steam-blowing issue that wouldn't have resulted in libel suits, so that edition was limited to four pages.

The dog at the bottom? My friend Dayna's pet Herbie, taken in the basement lounge at Arts House. The picture was used for another mock review on the same page.

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