The Magazine's review of blogs
By Alan Connor
Music blogs might be breaking new bands, but they have been accused of writing in a new language - Bloglish - that no-one can understand. So how can you read about music online without being bamboozled?
Arctic Monkeys, poster boys for online music communities
"I've found myself scratching my head at some of the words and phrases used by bloggers to describe things that once would simply have been described as either 'good' or 'bad'."
So says The Observer's Lynsey Hanley about music blogs. Her complaint is reminiscent of the old line about how "writing about music is like dancing about architecture".
And while nobody seems sure whether the "architecture" quip originated in the 1980s or in ancient Greece, gobbledygook has been used to describe the pleasures of listening to music as long as there has been music. The first time a caveman banged a rock in anything approaching a rhythm, he or she probably got a response like "ug", which wouldn't have meant much at the time.
So in today's world, where you've only got about twelve hours to read about a band like the Arctic Monkeys between their first gig and their becoming old hat, how can you do this without going encountering what might, unfortunately, be termed "bloggledygook"?
Weblog Watch is the BBC News Magazine's weekly review of blogs
Everybody talk about... pop music
The key is that there are plenty of sites talking about genres that you will have heard of.
One reason why some music blogs have to make up whacked-out words is that they're the first to talk about some entirely new scene. Musicians themselves tend just to get on with hitting and plucking things - it's music critics who decide what to call the noises they make.
And since mainstream music magazines are loath to give space to anything that hasn't had its own 'Best [insert genre here] In The World... ...Ever!' compilation, it's bloggers who end up having to coin terms for what they're hearing.
But that's not to say that jazz, rock and pop don't get a look-in. In fact, if your tastes extend to the fun and likeable end of music, you might be surprised how well you're catered for.
Partly in response to po-faced boys with guitars getting all the respect, there's a lively part of the British blogosphere dedicated to defending and celebrating pop. It's a form the UK's always done well, and, argue the "popists", nothing to be ashamed of.
Popjustice masks its seriousness
In the middle of it all is the staggering Popjustice, which uses very few words you won't understand, preferring games, mischief and many, many pictures - and most blogs have far too few of the last.
Received wisdom expects any intelligent writing online to be covering U2 and Coldplay rather than Girls Aloud and Rachel Stevens. But there's a tradition of music writing, epitomised by the Smash Hits of the 1980s, that masks its seriousness by piling on the jokes and the irreverence. It hasn't gone away, and it's a lot more fun to read than the "Bloglish" blogs that The Observer complains of.
So, also writing about pop in a way that's not rehashing press releases for pre-pubescent girls are Into The Groove, New York London Paris Munich and Poptext ("because life is too short to listen to Snow Patrol").
Likewise, music news is pretty much dominated by the "verbal dance" of No Rock & Roll Fun, which covers almost anything that happens in music. The blog was described by the editor of Q magazine as being "by somebody who doesn't get out of the house much". Since Weblog Watch started, we've generally taken a sceptical line about the bloggers' mantra that "mainstream media are running scared of the blogs". But since No Rock & Roll Fun has a turnover of news and gags that would make any professional journalist blush, all while holding down a day job, it might be justified in this case.
So what can we learn here, other than the obvious - that blogs about specialist music will use specialist language?
Well, it's a timely reminder that, with tens of millions of the things, it no longer makes sense to talk about "the blogs". We read a lot about how the Arctic Monkeys got to Number One because of "the bloggers", but pioneering audioblogger Said The Gramophone is in the majority for having missed out on this:
"The other thing that's interested me re the Monkeys is the way the 'internet buzz' has been talked-about, when the audioblogs I read or glance at have had almost nary a peep. (At least not until very very recently.) It illustrates how there are really distinct communities online."
There are more music blogs than you'll ever have time to read here.
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