When the MS Herald of Free Enterprise started to sink in 1987, it was carrying 50 semi-trucks, with drivers. Its hold filled with water and the compression made it impossible for the drivers to open their cab doors. Some of them survived by smashing through their windscreens with their bare hands and swimming to safety. Most of them just drowned. As someone who worked as a music critic for five years, I can relate to the surviving truck drivers. I understand what it's like to leave a place of despair as everyone around you flops about, failing to realize they're screaming into the abyss.
It used to be that music journalists all had pot bellies and expenses accounts. The king of music journalism was whichever white guy wrote the last piece about how white guys playing the guitar were racist. Nowadays it's the domain of painfully single 28 to 34-year-olds who write like they're 14, perpetually caught between the pious (POP MUSIC IS JUST GOOD FUN!) and the hilarious (Beady Eye's debut album sounds more like Missy Elliot than The Beatles.... NOT!). The exceptions are the dubstep fanboys who, after thirty years, are no closer to working out how to write about DJ music in an exciting manner.
The industry needs new blood. It needs to recruit from outside its usual pool of media students with a passing interest in watching bands. It needs to cast its net wider. The source for this new blood has been staring us in the face all along: Set up a fake account on a BDSM website claiming to be a 23-year-old indie girl who will sell herself sexually as a slave to anyone who can write coherently about music.
I created just such a girl based this on a string of dull sexual encounters I endured with a string of equally hopeless women during my mid-20s, all of whom had poor relationships with their father, Labyrinth on DVD, and a string of tales about taking drugs at festivals. Armed with the photo on top, I hit up CollarMe.com and dropped the following bombshell [sic it all BTW]:
"i've been loosely active in the scene for a while now, thanks to some... strong-willed ex boyfriends of mine, but that's mainly been as a submissive, and i think that the time has possibly come for me to move into the world of actual slavery.
"What do i like? i like the feel of a leather glove against my throat, the crack of a paddle against my bare behind, the taste of my own blood, the sensation of gagging, the times that words of abuse are as welcome and magical as those of praise.
"i'm more than just three holes and associated curves though. i'm educated, i'm cultured. i'm a massive music fan, in fact it's one of the ways i relate to people most. if you're not musically learn'ed, then i doubt it'll work between us. if you're going to message me seriously, rather than just demand nudes or a camshow off the bat: please include, with your opening message/spiel, some words about music. A short review of your favourite album, favourite band, favourite song... anything really. Impress me slightly, and i will do my best to pay you back tenfold in future..."
As far as humanity goes, the results weren't encouraging. Firstly, the level of response was ridiculous with 300 messages coming in little under a month. There's were so many subjects to choose from: The 29-year-old Irishman with "a very varied mixed taste of indie and modern rock," who will only take me to the Kings of Leon concert if I travel in a straitjacket. The organiser of a few UK-based Bob Dylan fan meets who believes his 80s albums are vastly underrated (he recommends Infidels) and promises a permanent "strong hand"). Then there was the couple that wanted a live-in slave and thought "Muse put on a great live show".
One of the bigger trends in music crit scene from the past year or so has been the emergence of dudes like @discographies and @1000TimesYes writing 140-character album reviews on Twitter. So I can see possible careers for the dudes who wrote shit like:
"Can you handle the darkness of classical music"
"£1000 a month allowance as we fuck to Guns N' Roses"
"As a woman who suffers from autism, I often find A Perfect Circle are able to express my emotions when I can't"
But then you start to learn people's stories. You get a paraplegic relating the tale of how he crippled himself while waiting to go to a Radiohead concert in Florence. Or the quasi-life story of the man who moved to Bulgaria for work and "can't say if U2 are big in Bulgaria, but they have a substantial following. Every album from U2 is just excellent music. My bitch is of African origin."
300 messages, all from the dregs of society. An ex-roadie who manages to spell Phil Lynott's name wrong in three different ways in one message. A guy whose display photo was a selection of drill-powered dildos who wrote a two-paragraph paean to Blitzen Trapper. A trumpeter with the Canadian military. A man who was into Lacuna Coil and invited me to a "SUBS VS DOMS paintball evening". Two completely different people who made the "I like Flogging Molly... and I also like flogging women!" gag. Fans of faux-Irish ska punk bands. Battered, broken down individuals.
What was really weird was the sheer number of cats who wrote legitimate longform.org pieces. A Swedish man blessed me with:
"My wife is the music fanatic of the family. To me... to me, music is moments. I don't know care or know much about it. Music to me is that feeling I got when I was leaning against the fence a few feet in front of the speakers when Rammstein played. I could... feel the crowd. The energy. The unreleased pleasure within. The same thing happened many years earlier, on an island in the Caribbean when I was a child. The homemade speaker stacks pumped out the rhythmical tones of whatever record was the local hit at the time.
I heard it one day at a wedding, where the grandmothers were sitting behind the shed butchering the goats for the party. And the next day by the water when the local Catholic priest was blessing the fisherman for another year. If you want to chat about music, I'll direct you to the wife, but if you have anything else you'd like to say feel free to stop by. And don't stop dancing on my account."
"Don't stop dancing on my account" should replace "This message was sent from my iPhone", imho.
Then there's a guy who felt the need to rhapsodise on "musical cities" like Calvino with an eMusic account. "Manhattan – the swagger of clarinet, glissando at sunrise over tall buildings; the wah-wah-wah of brass in daytime, the piano ambulating in Central Park in the late afternoon; lyrical strings at evening; and once night has fallen, the tempo picks up and there is the emphatic piano, expressive and arrogant like the City – this is fifteen minutes of Gershwin." He also assigns Chicago "Robinson's dolorous trombone" and hears in Rome "the ornaments of Sonata sopra Sancta Maria, the Magnificat... rising like the great dome of the Basilica." This from a man whose profile says he wants to "fuck little girls to absolution", (which is ironic, because when your boy Bellamy hits those high notes in Absolution he does kinda sound like a toddler being molested).
Another guy actually sent a Yardbirds review he'd stolen off allmusic.com as his chat-up line. Let's just reup that: a man thought he had a chance of fucking a 22-year-old in the ass with a knife, so he goes to allmusic.com, copies and pastes a review of an album by the Yardbirds, and then congratulates himself on a job well done.
Weirdly enough, there was only one professional musician who messaged me; the lead singer of a London-based alt-country band who looks a lot like comedian Tim Key. So, you know, keep 'em peeled at the Luminaire because someone might be looking to choke you with your own bra.