At “Maxim,” Music Writing Is So Easy It Can Be Done Without Actually Hearing The Music In Question

Feb 22nd, 2008 // 16 Comments

AP05052104626.jpgIf you’ve picked up the new issue of Maxim, you may have flipped past a review of the Black Crowes’ forthcoming album Warpaint. In the 75 or so words allotted to him writer David Peisner spends half his time talking about the Crowes’ 1990 debut album before passing his final judgment, writing off the record as being “boozy, competent, and in slavish tribute to the Stones, the Allmans, and the Faces.” The graphical representation of Peisner’s review: Two and a half filled circles out of five. Which wouldn’t be so bad except for one thing: Peisner never heard the album because the Black Crowes’ label, Megaforce, didn’t release advances of it to critics. Someone at the label got in touch with Maxim, and the person there in charge of editing the mag’s music coverage said that the writeup, stars and all, was actually an “educated-guess preview” and hey, wasn’t it better than no coverage at all?

Of course, we always prefer to hearing music, but sometimes there are big albums that we don’t want to ignore that aren’t available to hear, which is what happened with the Crowes. It’s either an educated guess preview or no coverage at all, so in this case we chose the former.

Sigh. Of course, the Crowes are not happy about this little breach of record-reviewing ethics, and it’s probably my cynicism about music, writing, and music writing–stripped-down wordcounts, the increasingly pain-in-the-assish process of procuring promos, and the ever-looming question “do these reviews even matter?”–that made me wonder if the only reason Maxim got caught in this case is that other general-interest publications’ “not necessarily reviews of music” are generally chirpy in tone, and therefore not subject to irritated bands’ and labels’ press-release-writing wrath. If the review had been four or five filled-in circles, would the objections be so loud? I’m going to guess that they wouldn’t.

Honestly, what troubles me more than anything is that the e-mail reprinted above is from someone who has the word “editor” in his/her job title. Think about that.

MAXIM MAGAZINE REVIEWS ALBUM WITHOUT HEARING IT [blackcrowes.com]
[Photo: AP]

* How did we have two posts about Maxim in a day? Jeez.

idolator

  1. Chris Molanphy

    Back in college, I wrote the first two grafs of a Cure review for our music rag about a week before the CD came out. But I was 20. And I think I ended up modifying the lede when I actually heard the record.

    And, again, I was 20 and in college. Sheez.

  2. natepatrin

    Of course, we always prefer to hearing music

    Either there’s one word too many in that phrase, or one word missing. (I’m banking on the latter, with the word in question being “drinking”.)

  3. edgyspice

    I’d be mad about this, but it’s the Black Crowes, so who cares?

  4. jt.ramsay

    The best part about promo procurement is when they can’t be ripped to a computer at all. At this point this pretty much guarantees that I won’t be able to listen to it. But hey, I can imagine what Accelerate sounds like!

  5. metalkate

    it always cracks me up when people try to pull the “journalistic integrity” line about music journalism.

  6. baconfat

    @jordan_s: I really dug that Mendoza Line record, too. So this guy’s alright with me.

  7. Lucas Jensen

    Actually, Maxim is notorious for this in their video game coverage, too. They’ll review something giving it an “educated guess” and then–and this happens a lot with video games–the game in question will get pushed back for a few months or even a year. It’d be like reviewing Chinese Democracy over and over again. It’s pretty shameful that they would do this when there are plenty of, you know, ACTUALLY released records and video games for them to review.

  8. sicksteanein

    Is the review accurate?

  9. ens3000

    > and the ever-looming question “do these reviews even matter?”

    No….

  10. Cos

    Maxim isn’t actually a paragon of journalism, you know.

  11. Chris N.

    Reading Maxim for the album reviews is like reading No Depression for the T&A.

  12. Anonymous

    @Chris N.: Well, you won’t be able to do that anymore: it’s ceasing publication with its 75th issue.

  13. Rabi

    As long as they put Heidi Montag’s tits on the cover, who cares what they do or don’t listen to.

  14. Josh Mock

    If you find a particular publication reviews music in a way that you tend to agree with and it follows your tastes well, or they review music that help you discover new music you like on a regular basis, I’d say reviews matter.

  15. Anonymous

    Shameful, yes. Surprising? not really.

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