Still Hated After All These Years

Usually, a record is released and, via reviews, press and blogs, all the lovers and haters reveal themselves. It is part of the album cycle: and while it is a grossly stressful period for a musician to live through, it usually coincides with a tour – playing shows and getting drunk – and therefore the band misses a lot of what the press is saying about them. (Un-)Luckily, we have Metacritic to catalogue and remind us of what everyone thought, granting a review the same timelessness previously only attributable the album itself.

After the passing of about six months, the novelty of a release has been exhausted and, aside from reviewing live shows and reporting on other menial/tragic events of a musician’s life, people generally stop talking about it. This is true especially for the haters, who usually can’t wait to stop talking about something they hate: “Oh, Lord. My editor/girlfriend/brother made me listen to this. Thank You that I never have to hear that again.”

Especially perplexing, however, is when the haters keep talking about the object of their aversion. A recent poke at The Dears, randomly included at the end of a review for the new (and incidentally mesmerizing) Pas Chic Chic album, reminded me of this phenomenon:

“In doing so, they achieve what lesser bands like The Dears fail to do: deliver menace, mystery and melody in equal doses.”Guelph Mercury.

Weird. That was out of the blue…right? No. Mysteriously, this seemingly innocent remark comes as part of a persistent stream of a single journalists’ undying anti-Dears sentiment:

“…leave the sloganeering to the Dears’ Murray Lightburn…”Exclaim, Dec 2003, in an article about BSS.

“Those that left earlier have returned after facing the prospect of enduring The Dears.”Radio Free Canuckistan, remembering the Hillside Festival 2007.

“Dears: I’ve always found this band hot and cold, but even this skeptic thought No Cities Left was a grand achievement. This, on the other hand, had me pressing ‘skip’ halfway through every plodding track. I’m glad Mr. Lightburn claims to be feeling more optimistic these days, but you’d never guess that from the tepid music found here.”Radio Free Canuckistan, Polais predictions.

“What a terrible record. I really wish I could have heard what Aaron Brophy was saying in his introduction, because I desperately want someone to articulate to me what’s actually good about that record.”Radio Free Canuckistan, on Gang of Losers at the 2007 Polaris Prize.

The writer in question is Canadian music journalist Michael Barclay, and Radio Free Canuckistan is his own blog, so some license should be granted there. We are each entitled to our opinion, and while I would hope to please as many people as possible with The Dears, I can understand that there will always be just as many that won’t like us. Perhaps Mr. Barclay is simply a disgruntled fan: he says he reluctantly liked No Cities Left but thought Gang of Losers was rubbish. And that’s totally a valid opinion. Sometimes I feel the same way, but in slightly less harsh terms.

I am trying to understand Mr. Barclay’s prolonged hatred for us. I mean, it used sting, then really hurt but now it’s kind of comical. As if it is his duty in the musical sphere to represent those in the world that don’t like our music: our own anti-delegate, or personal antagonist.

So my open letter to Mr. Barclay: Dear Sir, I propose a blog discussion. Something civil: a real-life music debate where we could discuss the issues. Like Hillary and Barack. But I don’t want to be Hillary, and if you don’t want to be Hillary either then you can choose from: McCain, Harper or Charest. Or we could just call ourselves “Barack A”and “Barack B.” You decide.

The End.

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8 thoughts on “Still Hated After All These Years

  1. Read what he says about other albums though…
    He puts everything down. How can you love an album when your to busy looking for its flaws… take it for what it is and enjoy the ride.
    He sounds like your arms crossed eyebrow up kinda guy at gigs lol.

  2. If Murray is to be considered the brain of The Dears, you would most certainly be its heart, judging by how much emotional investment you pay to critics, among others.

    Responding to negative critiques is as fruitful as crying in front of a bully in order to garner sympathy. Via ‘civil blog discussion’ or not, why engage a bully?

    Aside from the comic relief, I can’t help wondering why you bother providing a forum for them? And then there’s your allowing them to use the name of Barack in vain…

  3. Sounds like he’s got a right vendetta against you. I’d love to know what kind of music he does like!

  4. critics are critics. there’s hardly a hint of positiveness in the word ‘critic’, even.
    i believe in this age, listeners are becoming way more intelligent in judging music that the role of critics are well extinct (or probably they’re just there to fill the void of a conservative position in an industry, perhaps?).
    so, worry not. your listeners loves your music, nevertheless. and no, we don’t need the critics’ help to tell us what to listen and what not to.
    cheers!

  5. oh yea, see how reality shows are even judged mostly by listeners, by public, through sms. power is in the hands of the people. you sing for the people, not the 3 judges.

  6. I happened to be reading Carl Wilson’s blog Zoilus recently, and noticed a skirmish between him and Barclay, during which Barclay wrote: “[…]I have lost interest in most other rock as well […]”

    Good thing he’s a pop music critic!

    If you’re interested:
    http://www.zoilus.com/documents/general/2008/001213.php#more

    I can’t really recommend it, though. Wilson is intermittently interesting, and seems smart enough, but in general these dudes think their deep thoughts are waaaay more interesting than they actually are.

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