Back in the day, when I wrote music reviews

I used to write music reviews. It was a dope gig. I was able to write whatever I wanted about whatever bands I wanted. I made connections in these wonderful music and writing communities. 

The drawback? Why did I stop? It didn’t pay. Seldom freedom like that does. 

Life moved forward, my day job became more demanding, I stopped writing my poetry, I started to look at writing the reviews as an obligation that I had to fit into my already hectic day. I had started to get jaded. I started to feel a distance from the music. I stopped listening to music as a fan, but as an evaluator. I picked it apart, I tried to analyze and articulate why I liked it instead of just enjoying it and telling everyone about it. When I went to shows I was stressed, I needed to get up front so that I would have at least one really good photo to run with the review, I would take notes the whole time, I would be watching the audience as much as the band. And instead of being entrenched in the passion and visceral reactions that make us all go to these shows in the first place, I was focusing on just how I was going to tell you what you missed or what you might see if that band hadn’t been to your city yet. 

I made the decision, I needed to say goodbye. That farewell was one of the hardest things I had to write, writing about music (for a living) was always a dream. So I said goodbye to that as a real option. I said goodbye to the readers, the bands, the label owners, the PR agents that I had developed friendships with. But it was what I needed to do. I needed to fall in love with music again.

Over the years, I get inspired to go back, look through those reviews, look at my portfolio, and I miss it all. I miss the new music, the shows, the connection with people over three cords. So, I suppose that I have succeeded in falling in love with music again.

Now, in the pandemic, I have gotten emails from a few of the bands who I had reviewed in the past, I found excerpts of my reviews on Spotify profiles, found my name mentioned in interviews and I must admit, it stings a bit. There is that awesome twinge of nostalgia and that prideful feeling that people that I respected actually cared and respected what I was doing, that I was doing my small part for the punk community that I love so deeply. But there is also the sting that I couldn’t make it work, that I gave it up, that comes in sharp.

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Confessions of a Music Journalist

I want to preface this post with the fact that I do not write about music full time. Writing about music does not pay my bills. I work in an office, doing a job I’m not particular passionate about in exchange for money, health insurance, and a 401k. I write about music because I love it. Would I like to make a living off of it? Sure, but as it stands now, it is my way of finding new bands and keeping connected with those that I already love. Even now, as an adult, I am not ready to let go of my punk rock roots, and when it comes down to it, it is still the music that I love, the music that gets me moving, the music that puts me in a good mood, the music that defines me.

All that being said, I do work full time, in an office setting, and by the end of the day, my inbox is over flowing, and I spend hours listening to each and every thing that is sent to me. The thing is, I want to hear the music first. Back in the day, when I was still sent cds/albums/tapes, I would put them on without knowing anything about the band, all I had was the cover art. And that is how I still prefer to do it, which brings me to my first confession, I don’t care about your album announcement if you don’t give me a link to your music. I am not google searching you or sourcing your facebook page in hopes of a song.

Confession number two is directly related, if you do give me a link to your music, but it is buried in a busy press release, I am not digging for it. While I love the “here is a link to XYZ” with the link following, I totally understand the design decision to place it within a paragraph, but if you do that, make it bold and ensure that the links are the only fancy colors in the release. I want to be able to immediately click on it and hear what you sound like.

Three, as I said before, going through my inbox takes me hours a day. Please listen to the music I write about, do you fit in with it? Yes? Great. No? Then explain to me why you are sending it to me. I am totally open to getting my mind blown by a genre that I don’t usually listen to, but let me know you have taken the time to know who you are sending your stuff to. If you do blow me away and I don’t feel capable to writing about your stuff, I will try to find someone who can.

Four, I clearly have a taste. Which I think is a positive thing for a reviewer. I turn away a lot of solid bands that I just don’t know how to write about. I can recognize that an indie or rock bank is awesome, yet have no frame of reference or vocabulary to talk about them. To those bands I apologize, but I would love to bring people on board to cover other genres. Interested? Let me know.

Five, I only write about bands that I love. I review one album a week (sometimes two) because it is all my schedule will allow, and because that guarantees me that I only have to write about the albums that I am super psyched on. Nothing wishy-washy nothing that I feel pressured into review, just things that I will legit add to my personal collection.

Six, again, back to the huge inbox. Best way to get your music heard, send it to me in the mail, album or cd or cassette tape. Reach out to me via email, I’ll send you my address, we’ll start a conversation, we may become best friends. Not only will it set you apart from the masses of email. But I grew up in a time when listening to music was an event in itself, not just something playing through computer speakers. Packaging and design matter to me, it is part of the experience, so I am always a fan of something that I can hold in my hands. Next best is download. I will never review a stream. Sorry. I like to listen to music though devices that were meant to play music, not through shitty computer or phone speakers.

Seven, I will not subscribe to some new service in order to listen to your music and please, do not assume that I have an iTunes account. I don’t. I never will.

Eight, I am fine with impersonal press releases, but know that I will not email you back unless I am moving forward. If you take time to write to me directly, I will respond personally, though it may take a week or two. And yes, I do have an email form that I tweak to everyone, but I promise you that I have listened to it, at least once.

Nine, I want to love your music.

Sorry if you all think that I am a dick, but since this is a labor of love, it is how I keep myself motivated to keep on writing, and it is how I ensure that I only have to write about bands that I really fucking dig.

Versus the World :: Homesick/Roadsick :: Kung Fu Records

Versus the World :: Homesick/Roadsick :: Kung Fu Records
Versus the World has members of both Lagwagon and The Ataris but somehow has an Ignite meets early A New Found Glory sound. Homesick/Roadsick has an upbeat sound that is perfect for summer. This is a record to listen to on a road trip, this is a record to listen while hanging out with friends when it is almost too hot outside, it is a record to shake away the winter chill.

Homesick/Roadsick opens with The Santa Margarita, a super fun song with awesome hooks that will have you humming along and anxiously waiting to hear what the rest of the album sounds like. The Black Oceanis a bit heavier, yet still upbeat, A Storm Like Me has a 90s feeling to it, Seven. Thirty One offers up the nostalgia factor, “all we could do is raise a glass / and remember all the good nights we had / the best we could do / is sing along / the very least we could do is sing along”.

A Brooklyn Rooftop builds on that nostalgia, “We’re not as fucked up as we used to be” and A Sight For Sore Eyes goes deeper into those nostalgic memories of ideals vs realities. It kicks off with:

to all the would be stars / who are stuck in karaoke bars

to all the would be lovers / that always seem to dream alone

to all the second guessers / and assistant managers

to all the second born

to those who broke their mothers’ hearts / with their tattoos and their drinking problems

we’re beautiful / like a rock in a cops face

I unexpectedly got sucked into this emotional conundrum that I wasn’t ready for. The song ends with the repetition of the desperate cry, “Don’t let the bastards drag you down” to punctuate it all.  The title track,Homesick/Roadsick is a passionate, catchy song, but maybe comes too late in the album. The album steadily progresses towards an ending, that is neatly provided by Our Song, a slow brooding track that just dissipates into the air.