I was going to quit, you know.
It was very stressful living up to certain expectations I had set for myself in the year I had done this site. I felt like if I waswn't writing 900-1000 words I wasn't doing it right. That if I truly loved an album I could probably bash out at least that much about it that fully encompassed all the greatness living within it.
I had a mini-breakdown around the time I did my write-up on Big Star's #1 Record. It exposed to me something that I've known all along, but tried to forget: That I have absolutely no business calling myself an authority. That being able to sense when music is good does not mean I have the complete mastery over it or a natural gift for explaining why, exactly, that is. That was one of the hardest write-ups I've ever had to do and I think it's probably one of the best articles I've written and I still think I failed to do that album justice. I had this drive to be somehow definitive. Which is silly, in a way, because part of what I love about music is that so much of it eludes me. I'm not a musician or a composer so as I tell my musician friends, I have an entirely different sense of what is in a song than they do. When I like something, I really just want to stand in awe of it.
So I took the summer off and I wasn't sure when or if I was going to come back, but I had all this stuff backed up that I could review if I wanted to. As you may recall I spent the summer largely thinking about Aerosmith and not trying to tell people that I was talking about Aerosmith because I didn't want to have to defend it or discuss it -- I just wanted to appreciate this band that I have liked on a primal level for a really long time. What I hoped to accomplish from that, and maybe it worked, is to get back to first principles and a more basic, in some ways more relevant mode of musical enjoyment.
Then finally in September I came back with a better attitude, a resolve to be easier on myself. Since then I've been making less of an effort to be grandiose and total in my review and am feeling comfortable honing in on one or two things I truly love about an album. And sometimes, as when I write about the Beatles, that leads to a write-up topping 1000 words, and sometimes it leads to something closer to 500 words like my write-ups of Death From Above 1979 or Pretty Girls Make Graves, both of which I absolutely love.
I'm still learning. I don't think I'll ever be happy with my writing style but somehow I'll get to a point where I think it's worth sharing and you'll get to read it. I'll always be working on it in some way or another, or else I'll finally just tap out on doing it. I keep questioning the value of what I do here, but ultimately I keep coming back because this is not the last word in objective quality criticism, this is a personal blog masking itself as criticism. It's me doing something that I feel like I still need to do after two years, which is find more awesome music for me to listen to. And if I get to be the one to tell you about it first, so much the better.
The truth, though, is this. I'm typing this at the tail end of three months of intense productivity on this site. I don't see it sustaining itself much longer. I feel very good about what I've been doing lately, and how I've learned it, and that if I could walk away for a while in the new year - if just for a while, again, that's what I choose - I could feel pretty all right with it. It's not like review writing is some act of great creativity, anyway. They don't hand out awards for making pointed observations and trying to influence consumer habits.
My own observations are often, by my own standards, mundane and pedestrian, but I think they sometimes speak more to what draws people to whatever kind of music. A little while ago I happened upon this interview with the Ramones on YouTube, where they pointedly stated that rock and roll music is supposed to be fun. And there are many great writers and essayists who can take that material and write out fascinating, significant essays about it, but as much as I enjoy and am envious of what they do, I will never be them. At least not when that's what I'm trying to be. I want this to be as fun as I find listening to and discovering (and talking about!) music, and if it's not, I don't know why I would keep doing it.
Keep on rockin'