Every Record I Own - Day 321: Dillinger Four Civil War
Dillinger Four’s latest album came out a decade ago, the same year I started freelance writing for The Stranger. I hadn’t been someone that was interested in reading about music online back in early 2008; I was still more likely to get info on new bands and records via word-of-mouth. But when I began doing music news updates for The Stranger’s blog, I started a daily ritual of browsing through all the major music outlets.
I got a copy of Civil War before reading what people thought of the album. In my opinion, it was classic D4 bolstered by some sharper hooks (that chorus in “Parishiltonisametaphor” gets me every time) and a broader sense of dynamics (see “The Classical Arrangement”). But some fans didn’t like Civil War. They thought it was too glossy. Or they thought it was too much of the same. Whatever their reason, they’d waited six years for a new D4 album and it wasn’t the record they wanted.
Reading negative takes on Civil War did not diminish my enjoyment of it. And why should it? But if our enjoyment of something isn’t meant to be swayed by the adverse opinions of critics, then what’s the point of music criticism? Positive write-ups can provide context, highlight nuances, draw parallels. Negative write-ups tend to focus on how something fails to live up to an individual’s personal tastes. Consequently, I’m less interested in a Consumer Reports-style take on new releases and more interested in writing that feels like that teacher you had in high school that made Shakespeare actually feel alive, relevant, and entertaining. If I’m trying to crack the code on a new artist or I’m struggling to wring any enjoyment out of a recent purchase, I’m more likely to look up positive reviews on Amazon than go to Pitchfork. The Amazon reviewer figured out how to enjoy something, while the critic is getting paid by the word to formulate an opinion on something they probably only gave a couple of cursory listens.
Write about shit you like. If you don’t like it, don’t write about it.