My review of Busby’s review of Schroeder’s review of the new Metal Feathers record

Okay, not really.

I have been struck, however, by how much attention Chris Busby’s critique of Nicholas Schroeder‘s review [and peripherally an interview with the band by Aimsel Ponti] of Metal Feathers new album received. It has undoubtedly earned the most attention I have seen a local music-related article/post capture in just under 24 hours.

Here’s what happened: In his piece, Busby posits that Metal Feathers is one of his favorite bands; he details the circumstances that led to the sound of the new record; he suggests that the new record isn’t very good without actually reviewing it; he looks at Nicholas Schroeder’s positive review in the Portland Phoenix and deduces from this particular instance that perhaps local music criticism doesn’t matter anymore.

Busby begins to do something interesting when he suggests:

Unfortunately, this baseless hyperbole is typical of the alt-weekly’s music coverage. It’s a critical framework in which bad music is good, mediocre music is good, and great music is merely good. The teens, college kids and hipsters the Phoenix strives to reach become jaded and apathetic about local music, which undermines the whole scene.

But he doesn’t carry through. He uses Schroeder’s review as an indication of something bigger, though he never really carries through illustrating what that something bigger is.

I should be clear that while I don’t always see eye-to-eye with Busby, I have long appreciated his role as instigator, curmudgeon, and devil’s advocate. In this case, though, I think he dropped the ball. In the end, Busby’s piece didn’t really work because it relied on a lot of flexibility of logic, it paid attention to a piece that wasn’t criticism in the first place, and it deduced [in its hyperbolic title] that because Schroder didn’t agree with him, the state of all music criticism is in shambles, not because he was critiquing a review.

While most people I have seen share the post in their social media channels of choice, it feels like there is some confusion about what is most irksome about Busby’s critique. There exists a good deal of suggestive commentary about whether or not what was written is credible because it is a critique of a critique. Of course this format is credible, as this serves as a common lay-form of media criticism. Despite its messy implementation, I am glad this is out there. In 2011, I criticized Kevin Steeves (who I like and whose writing I generally appreciate) for what I thought was a sloppy review of Sunset Hearts’ debut album [though it is worth noting I did so in the comments section of the piece and not in a separate article or post].

That said, this sort of discourse is common-place in the day-to-day lives of most consumers of popular culture, local or otherwise. Think about how often we criticize criticism in casual conversation. I have heard people shit on Pitchfork, Sam Pfeifle, newspaper restaurant reviews and nearly any other local and/or national source of criticism hundreds of times in the past couple of years, occasionally for good reason.

UPDATE [March 9, 2013]: In my original post, I had suggested that Busby was a blogger for the BDN, and thusly clarified the distinction between those who blog for the paper and other BDN journalists / staffers. Apparently even I am sometimes confused by who does what, as Busby has since clarified: “I am a Bangor Daily News columnist. My weekly column for the BDN is subject to editing by BDN staff. It appears online every Thursday and in the print edition, on the opinion page, every Friday. I am compensated for my work. The BDN puts the column in a blog format online. I have never had a blog of my own.”] Here is more information about the BDN’s partnership with Busby’s The Bollard.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.