Showing posts with label the band perry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the band perry. Show all posts

Friday, April 5, 2013

album review: 'pioneer' by the band perry

It's hard talking about acts that can be considered 'good'.

And I know that's the sort of comment you only ever hear from critics, but as someone who has reached their fiftieth review on this blog, it's kind of true. But the reason you typically only hear the criticism from critics is because we experience so much material that our frame of reference becomes a bit too expansive. It's a bit of a strange conundrum, but it's always a little odd when I realize that I'll probably listen to around a hundred different albums this year and ten times that many songs. I'm going to hear things I'll both like and despise - but for the average consumer who gets maybe two to five albums a year and listens to the radio, they aren't going to have that frame of reference. They'll hear something that's good and like it without question - and while I'd really prefer that more people seek out the great, there's nothing wrong with liking things, particularly when those things arguably succeed in what they set out to do. 

However, speaking as a critic, the hardest reviews to write and articulate are of the albums that are just 'good'. Everyone can go on for hours at length about something that's bad - there's a whole swarm of internet critics that have made their fame on that premise alone. And those reviews are easy to write too (the difficult part is often experiencing the awful). It takes a lot more courage of convictions to say something is great, because there will always be people who'll challenge it. I know there are people who probably find my love of Avril Lavigne and Panic At The Disco and the Backstreet Boys and Ke$ha completely baffling, but if you're a good critic, you should be able to stand by what you like.

Now most professional critics typically say that the hardest things to criticize are those in the middle: the mediocre, the 3/5, the passing grade. And that particularly becomes a problem with reviewing albums, because you tend to find filler tracks that aren't precisely bad, but they aren't going to stand out. To say something meaningful about them often requires deeper analysis, but sometimes there just isn't anything there, nothing to say.

But when I dug a little deeper, I realized that those songs can be criticized or discussed, simply by pinpointing the purpose of what those songs are intending to do and seeing whether or not they complete those goals. More often than not, mediocrity comes with more failures than weak successes. In fact, I'd argue the hardest songs to discuss and criticize aren't the ones that are mediocre or middle-of-the-road, but the ones that are good, but not great. Just above album filler in that they accomplish what they set out to do, but otherwise provide nothing interesting to talk about. Nothing that blows your mind, the average consumer will be fine with it, but it's not going to set their worlds on fire either. And speaking as someone who has spent far too much time poring over Billboard charts, there is a lot of this material.

In fact, the more I've delved into the country charts, the more I've found a significant heap of this material performing well on the charts. Sure, there's plenty of mediocre and more bad and awful than I'd like, but there's a lot of good stuff there too, music that won't ever change someone's life or be emotionally evocative or a big smash hit, but passes the time in a way that won't frustrate or disappoint anyone. 

And I remember reading a discussion regarding criticisms of Pitchfork a while ago, which made the claim that critics tend to like the imperfect and incomplete, often raising them above that of the competent and good. And while that is a problem with Pitchfork (among another things), it's not just a problem with that site. Hell, I'd argue that as a critic, I fall into the exact same trap far too often - most of the time because the flawed and incomplete often present a more complete picture of what the artist is like, providing more nuance between the lines. Critics find that more interesting and ultimately more compelling that the works of artists that are good, but nothing all that incredible or special.

But I'm not one to shy away from a challenge, so with that, let's talk about The Band Perry.