Without sounding like a miserable, pedantic old soul, who maybe expects too much from a newspaper...does anyone else feel a continual sense of dismay with the quality of music journalism in the Guardian and Observer? This isn't in relation to a conflict in musical tastes on my part, but more to frequent factual errors and clumsy journalism which undermine any attempt by both newspapers to give coverage to good music, and bands and musicians outside of the mainstream.
A case in point is Sophie Heawood's review of Thom Yorke's collaboration with Flea at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles last week. Heawood, for instance, writes in reference to Yorke's song 'Harrowdown Hill that "who knew that what it really needed was a funky Chili Peppers bassline wriggling through it? Yet somehow Flea managed to take this most haunting and most English of songs and make it his own". Now anyone who has their musical wits about them (or has even paid scant attention to the song) would immediately recognise that 'Harrowdown Hill' is in fact defined throughout by a throbbing, 'funky' bassline, which Flea merely replicated, if somewhat exaggeratedly, in the live performance. This blatant factual error reeks of laziness, or a failure to grasp the most basic musical elements within a song - both of which undermine the credibility of the author as a music critic. Likewise, though tongue-in-cheek, Tim Jonze's comment when talking about Yorke and Flea's collaboration that "anyone who has ever heard Yorke's solo material and thought, "Interesting stuff Thom … but this abstract bleepy wailing could really do with some funky slap bass", it really is your lucky day.", overlooks the fact that The Eraser is in fact replete with such funk (just listen to 'The Clock' and 'Black Swan').
Yorke and co are not the only victims of such shortcomings. Similar examples are rife, for example in Alex Petridis's clutching of the wrong end of a very long stick when reviewing Wild Beasts' second offering. Petridis fails to understand the whimsical, ironic nature of the Beasts' flamboyance and lyrical vulgarity, suggesting that the "po" faced band are not aware of both the "hilarity" and coarseness of such a demeanor. Surely any music fan who made a genuine attempt to understand what the band are about (which surely a music critic should) would not make such an inaccurate supposition, regardless of whether you like them..
Anyway, not to drag the point out too far, but this sort of thing ultimately get me a little disgruntled, despite the fact that they are both just newspapers. The Guardian and Observer embrace brilliant music, yet not with the critical rigor that such music undoubtedly commands. If reviewing material by the likes of Keane or Lilly Allen, such flaws and lazy genre-pigeonholing can be excused on the grounds that the majority of such stuff is generally shite, and lacking in any sort of innovation anyway, and therefore does not merit a great deal of in-depth, critical analysis. Yet, when discussing a band of the ilk of Wild Beasts, an intelligent and rigorous view (whether tongue-in-cheek or not) is imperative - to not do so defies the point of covering such artists in the first place, as it is surely what the audience of music like this demands.