I've never understood quite where this idea comes from that we should support New Zealand music just because it comes from New Zealand.
Don't get me wrong - I'm a big supporter of New Zealand music. Or rather, of some music that comes from New Zealand. I've said many times that we have writers and performers here that can match up to their international counterparts. Some of my favourite music - some of the best I've ever heard - comes from this part of the world. But, and there's some irony here too, many of those writers and performers are not even known in New Zealand - or they're all too quickly forgotten, overlooked.
But this attitude that we should be supportive and nurturing of a scene just for the sake of it - no. Not for me. Never has been, never will be. That's a shortcut to thinking and engaging with music - that's just supporting your mates. Now, that might be a nice thing to do but it's not my job, not my role. And all this talk of fostering a scene - that's really not my job. My job is to write about music - to give you my honest opinion. I've had plenty of people tell me what a review should be and how I should go about writing this blog. My eyes tend to glaze over at this. I am completely uninterested in being told how to write my reviews. I'm then told when someone doesn't agree with the viewpoint that "it's just an opinion". Of course it is. So why would you want to tell me how I should write it? That makes no sense. That would just be your opinion. I can't write down your opinion for you. Unless of course, as might happen from time to time, you agree with me.
I write this stuff for Stuff - in this forum, a blog - so that we can discuss it. I pose the question/s you give me your answers. I get the feeling that some people expect any slightly contentious statement to end with in my opinion. Take it as read - as implied, always - this is my opinion.
I write this blog to explore some of the things I like and loathe about music. I find both responses equally valid; absolutely hating something, being baffled as to why something exists is a valid reaction - I would argue that it's a lot more pertinent than "it's just good music to chill out too, don't think too much about it". Or, more puzzlingly, "ROOTS MUSIC WHAT WHAT!"
I took those comments directly from a post earlier in the year.
But those comments don't really inform this particular missive because this idea of not being mean to New Zealand music and supporting the scene has been a hot topic for me since I started reviewing music about a decade ago. And certainly across the past four years of writing Blog on the Tracks as a daily self-inflicted pleasure and punishment (equal measures).
People often tell me that it's my duty to support the scene. I also get told - often by complete strangers, often as a proclamation (no introductions necessary, they've recognised me, I write a blog they've read, they know enough about me as it is, civility can go f**k itself) - that I "need to stop being so negative all the time".
That's become very boring. There are over 1200 posts here. They can't all be negative - even if that's what I was aiming for. A damn pesky ray of sunshine sneaks in from time to time.
Don't get me wrong - your comments are definitely part of the point of this exercise. And just to be clear, yet again, I do not moderate them. I am happy for you to write whatever you want about me or my writing. But it needs to pass through a filter of common decency. A Stuff moderator might choose to flag a comment for being inappropriate or offensive.
You can do the same with these posts - you find them offensive or outlandish or inappropriate, don't read them. Someone said that I "forced" my opinion on them. Don't read this blog if you don't want my opinion.
Anyway, that's all beside the point. How did we become a nation of people unprepared to sound off about the things they don't like; only prepared to rave about the things we love? And that weird, petty, patronising attitude that success = talent. This is the thing that has baffled and irked me the most since writing Blog on the Tracks.
I have lost count of the number of times I've been told some variant of "if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all". This is, in itself, a negative comment. This is quashing free speech; this is being dismissive in attempts to not offend. It's a lazy version of I've-got-nothing-to-say.
Get involved. Speak up about what you love and what you hate.
And for those concerned about me - genuinely concerned that I am full of anger and that I need to "chill out" - let me just share that at night I sleep like a baby (and I am not implying that I wake crying every two hours or three hours demanding to be fed, even if you look at the blog picture and figure that particular leap wasn't so hard to make). I enjoy my life listening to music, being frustrated by acts that could do better, that must try harder, that are phoning it in, milking it. And I enjoy pointing that out.
And of course that's only my opinion - and of course you are entitled to yours. You even get the space below to say your piece.
But how much fun would a blog be where each day I wrote something along the lines of: This is the new album by [insert band name here] it is called [insert title here]. You might quite like it. I did not? I could maybe alternate that sort of post with: This is the new album by [insert band name here] it is called [insert title here]. I really liked it. But I am not sure whether you will.
This is not that sort of blog.
Have a look at my review of Fleet Foxes. And have a look at another review of Fleet Foxes also posted on this site. Pick what you want to read, read both, or neither.
But don't come to the conversation with nothing to add beyond "don't be a hater", "stop being mean" or "if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all". These statements find you lacking. They show you up - you're the hack, not me.
Post a comment