Critical fun, of course! Listening to music is fun as well, but when I look back at my listening history, I realize a pattern; Upon finding a great record, I would read about it. As a budding youth, I was more than happy to digest Rolling Stone's offerings, as Rob Sheffield and others introduced me to Built to Spill, Pavement, and Yo La Tengo.
Most of the reviews seemed fair to me at the time. They held records up to the following standards:
1. How it sounds in its contemporary setting
2. How the band's influences shaped the sound of the record
3. Who the band is targeting with the release
4. Whether or not the band accomplished its mission, according to the reviewer
Mix it up with a little artist history, fun facts and personal taste and you have a reviewed record! Congratulations!
Stephen Thomas It used to be that easy, I assure you. People would read what they wanted, draw their own conclusions and buy whatever suited their ears. But unless you swore by Robert Christgau, ignored Charles Shaar Murray or were baptized in the prolific blood sweat and tears of AllMusicGuide's Steven Thomas Erlewine, you could take your opinion straight to the record store, influenced only by your friend's opinions.
This is my point: Anyone can stop you on the street and recommend music. Music critics are not your friends, they are people who are usually paid to give you some expert advise. I'm not saying you need a degree in music to write this stuff, but a level of accountability is necessary.
All this shit is boring, but you get the picture. We on this blog demand that those who review music don't just poop on their keyboard and expect us to swallow it. People read their reviews, and they take them as cardinal law. Little Johnny shouldn't grow up hating Red Hot Chili Peppers just because Mr. Musical Vendetta hates Chad Smith's backwards hats and basketball jerseys. Just because a jaded 29-year-old guy with male pattern baldness hates something doesn't mean an impressionable 15-year-old won't love it. Leave a little room for the listener's opinion!
If you don't, we'll find your reviews, roast them on a spit and display them in a public matter to cause embarrassment. That is all, now onto the skewering.