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

noah | February 22, 2008 5:20 am

If 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.


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