The Dullsvillain

Slinging mud at the media of Dullsville (aka Perth, Western Australia)

Music journalism on rye

with 35 comments

For a while, I contributed the occasional CD review to Australia’s worst music web site: The Dwarf.

dwarf

Run by a couple of unambitious indie kids “normal people doing a job they enjoy who don’t appreciate psuedo-journalistic tosspots taking jibes at their livelihood” [ed: see comments below] out of a labyrinthine office upstairs from McDonald’s in the Melbourne CBD, The Dwarf relies on anonymous, unqualified hacks like me for its content.  The hacks are paid only in kind, with a free CD or concert ticket for the review.  It’s a recipe for some of the shittiest writing ever published, a high school compendium of half-arsed reviews of the school musical. I mean, here’s the opening paragraph of the first random Dwarf CD review I clicked just now:

Raised in South Florida and now a New York native, Roberto Carlos Lange under the moniker of Helado Negro has assembled an intimately sculpted debut album, Awe Owe is not hacked from quarry-fresh hard stone; but lovingly chiseled from handmade soap.

Soap! Also note the intimately sculpted, lovingly chiseled, affectionately carved use of Word thesaurus.

Having stuck my toe into the tepid, lukewarm bath of music “journalism”, I feel marginally qualified to comment on X-Press magazine, Perth’s ubiquitous street newspaper.  X-Press claims to be Australia’s largest free weekly publication.  Not sure if “largest” refers to circulation, physical size, or both.  But whatevs.  In my experience X-Press has the most categorical gig guide of any street newspaper in Australia, which is pretty convenient for Perth music-goers.

But everything else in X-Press, especially the music journalism, is polony.

x-press = polony

Take Mike Wafer, who has dominated X-Press’ music journalism for at least 6 years.  Here’s the first paragraph of his review of The Mars Volta’s latest album, from last Thursday’s X-Press:

The Mars Volta’s debut, De-Loused In The Comatorium, was a worldwide breakthrough – both fans and critics alike praising the band’s creative wingspan, adding the album to many ‘best of…’ lists. Follow-up albums were increasingly more technically intricate, but increasingly more fatiguing as a result. As a significant change in course, Octahedron sees The Mars Volta playing around with simplicity more than technicality, making it the most unique of their albums since the first one.

This isn’t like the writing you can find on The Dwarf (where you can read opening sentences like “In the niche genre of Christian-Metalcore, these guys are definitely up there with the best of them.”) but ugh.  This is as dry and passive as a beached starfish.  It’s a worry that after half a decade of music writing, Wafer still comes out with clunkers like “creative wingspan”.  And what’s with the unfailing use of the present tense (“praising”, “adding”, “fatiguing”, “playing”, “making”) and the monotonous, tautological “increasingly more”?  Both are there in the second paragraph, too:

In a world where post-rock has become utterly commonplace and derivative, it’s a smart move for The Mars Volta to distance themselves from the increasingly-more-boring style and its bands, and get back to surprising people.

At first I thought “increasingly-more-boring style” was meaningless, but actually, it sums it up Wafer’s writing.  The more you read Wafer, the increasingly-more his style is boring.

Here’s the first paragraph translated into English:

The Mars Volta’s debut, De-Loused In The Comatorium, was a worldwide breakthrough.  But follow-up albums were more technical and intricate, to the point of fatigue.  By taking a simpler approach with Octahedron, The Mars Volta have changed direction and produced their most unique album since De-Loused.

Yep, still “increasingly more fatiguing”.  But at least when you dump the scientist vernacular, you can see this for what it is: filler.  Fair enough, I guess – you can’t fill 48 pages with gig guides.  But I do worry about Wafer, who I’ve read intermittently since I was a teenager.  Who is he, and why is he so sad?

I mean, the only thing sadder than writing a soporific review of The Mars Volta’s latest wank for an obscure, free street press is slinging mud at that review on the interweb.

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Written by Dick

August 3, 2009 at 11:16 pm

35 Responses

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  1. hahaha – hats off for yer closing comment, Inspector Dick.

    Have to agree with you on Xpress. I got so irritated with the hackery therein – especially the reviews – I stopped reading it (or did something click over when I busted outta the demographic like a fat arse outta Bali boardies from 3 hols ago?).

    Rolan Stein

    August 4, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    • Rolan, safe to say it wasn’t you, it was them. The mag is half arsed like busted Bali boardies.

      Dick

      August 4, 2009 at 9:52 pm

  2. The linked CD review doesn’t correspond to the review in the article.

    lisa

    August 5, 2009 at 9:17 am

    • My bad. Corrected.

      Dwarf editor Lisa, by any chance…?

      Dick

      August 5, 2009 at 4:57 pm

  3. Man, the only times i read Xpress these days is when a copy has been left next to me on the Fremantle line.

    stuff the articles, doesn’t everybody turn to the centrefold?

    Uncle Mac

    August 5, 2009 at 5:14 pm

  4. Yes, actually. And I have the balls to use a real name. Lisa Dib, lisa@thedwarf.com.au. Also, neither of us are “unambitious indie kids”…were you wronged by The Dwarf in some way?

    lisa

    August 6, 2009 at 8:29 am

    • Of course! That’s the only reason I’d call the writing at The Dwarf “shitty”. Also, I was personally wronged by X-Press, Patti Chong, Karl O’Callaghan, The Sunday Times, Kevin Rudd, tasers…

      Is it the “unambitious” or the “indie kids” that you object to? Because, admittedly, that was conjecture. I’ll cheerfully change it to, say, “ambitious emo kids” if that’s more accurate.

      Dick

      August 6, 2009 at 7:30 pm

  5. Did you receive a bad CD or something trivial like that?

    More accurate would be, “normal people doing a job they enjoy who don’t appreciate psuedo-journalistic tosspots taking jibes at their livelihood”

    lisa

    August 7, 2009 at 6:56 am

    • well Lisa if that not the pseudo-journalist calling the kettle a tosspot!

      Simon

      August 7, 2009 at 9:35 am

    • Duly changed. I appreciate both of your corrections to this article – you seem to have a gift for editing.

      Dick

      August 7, 2009 at 6:21 pm

  6. Hello Simon, are you joining this forum of shitting on people who’ve done nothing to you, too?

    lisa

    August 7, 2009 at 9:39 am

    • how do you know you have done nothing to me?

      Simon

      August 7, 2009 at 9:54 am

  7. Well, I’ve never killed anyone, and I try to avoid seriously offending people, so I can’t imagine what warranted such heinous words…refresh me?

    lisa

    August 7, 2009 at 9:56 am

    • As a person of small stature due to a genetic disorder I find the name of your website “The Dwarf” offensive! Perhaps you could start other sites named after physical disabilities, how about “The Cripple” or “The Retard” or “The Stupid, Tasteless Moron”?

      Simon

      August 7, 2009 at 10:01 am

  8. I have always found that people who have genetic disorders simply want to be treated like everyone else, no? To have equality, fair treatment, etc? So, would our site name still be offensive if it were The Tall Man, or The Moderately Overweight Lady? It’s just a name, why would we use a music website for a vehicle of prejudice?

    lisa

    August 7, 2009 at 10:07 am

    • oh yes im sure your an absolute expert on all us poor unfortunates. Thanks for your patronising attitude

      “So, would our site name still be offensive if it were The Tall Man, or The Moderately Overweight Lady?” i dont know, try asking a tall man or a moderately overweight lady that. I can only say that I find dwarf offensive.

      “its just a name”? is that it the best excuse you have for using an offensive outdated slur?

      “why would we use a music website for a vehicle of prejudice?” thats the question im asking you, are you going to answer it?

      Simon

      August 7, 2009 at 10:18 am

  9. “You’re”

    I didn’t make up the name, so I’ve no concise answer for you. What I can say is that some comment thread is no place to speak of it. My email address is above if you’d like to email me personally, rather than airing dirty laundry.

    lisa

    August 7, 2009 at 10:22 am

    • No of course lets not speak of this in a place where other people can see your attitude towards those not quite as perfect as yourself, better to ignore me and my kind eh?
      I fully intend to forward this thread to as many advocacy and support groups and media outlets as possible to expose your “dirty laundry” hopefully you will get explain to the Australia why you choose to denigrate and ridicule people with physical disabilities.

      http://www.agsa-geneticsupport.org.au/

      http://www.sspa.org.au/

      Simon

      August 7, 2009 at 10:33 am

  10. The Dwarf provides a forum for new writers and bands to enter the scene. While the quality of journalism is sometimes a little green, its strengths lie in the fact that it is varied and not focused solely on forwarding the careers of already established acts. Anyone can contribute and any act can at least have a chance at being reviewed. This should be celebrated, not pissed upon. And those who run it are fuelled by a genuine love of music, not money or ego, believe me. Sure, have a crack at poor writing, but going beyond that and attacking the site/people who run it is shameful in my opinion.

    tom

    August 7, 2009 at 10:41 am

  11. Yes, shameful. In fact, this whole blog is shameful.

    How dare you throw stones at dwarves when you yourself are dissing our city with the name of your blog! Perth is the best city in the world. Everyone says that, and many of them without even leaving the place. I mean, why wood you? If you already live in God’s Own, everyfing else is going to be a letdown.

    Also, now that the topic of bigotry has been opened up, what about dull people? They can’t help it. You’re making fun of them with your blog name, as well as dissing the Best City In The World. Yore hardly in a position to throw mud at dwarves when your shitting in your own nest – have ewe thought of that?

    Disgusted.

    Rolan Stein

    August 7, 2009 at 10:49 am

  12. When a website’s editor comes out with beauties like “an amazing rendition of the honky-tonk Honey Pie, complete with 20s-era moves the likes of which I have been known to fall in love with” and “To cover music that many, many people hold so dear could surely have been a cultural death sentence but in the hands of, not only four very capable frontmen, a slew of brilliant musicians, well, it came out all White…” you know they’re not traveling too well.

    larry troutfire

    August 7, 2009 at 3:35 pm

  13. Same could be said for Dick’s latest headline. Heath Ledger endores “scientific” human slaughter. Try using spellcheck in that glass house of yours.

    tom

    August 7, 2009 at 3:52 pm

  14. Seems like Dick has a chip on his shoulder… Jealousy perhaps? Perhaps the Dwarf treated you, poor little Dick, badly in the past. Perhaps you thrive so much on the negativity that you create, that you haven’t been able to move on from such a horrendous wrong doing. Perhaps mummy hugged you too much? Perhaps that’s why you feel the urge to bag people out via the internet. Perhaps, (and I can safely say that this point has been proven thanks to your online rant), that you are nothing but a sociopath who struggles to deal with your own miserable existance, the only way to fix the internal anguish that you feel is to attempt to bring pain onto others… to break it down – You’re a loser! Visit http://www.thedwarf.com, have a look at their online gig guide, organise a fun filled night out and get a life! You clearly need one.

    Sophie

    August 7, 2009 at 4:45 pm

  15. Woh. Our first flame war! I love it. You know, because I’m a sociopath because mummy hugged me too much.

    Thanks for linking us from your facebook, Lisa. : )

    Dick

    August 7, 2009 at 6:13 pm

  16. Holy moly, what crawled up your snatch and died, Sophie?

    Dick is calling The Dwarf for what it is, terribleness.
    When you pay peanuts Lisa you’re gonna get monkeys. That’s been established. And not the type of monkeys that wrote the Nancy Drew novels either.

    For the record, Dick was beaten with phonebooks until the age of 13. That may explain his benevolent side.

    Uncle Mac

    August 7, 2009 at 7:06 pm

  17. TheDwarf’s editor is one of the worst writers on the website. Terrible, terrible taste in music too. It’s the same situation with Triple J; the person in charge has shocking taste in music and it’s dragging the organisation down. There a few good contributors (who by and large move on to bitter and better things with little real help from TheDwarf) but on the whole it’s terrible.

    I love how they try and sell the fact that you’re getting exposure and experience, and then foist a bunch of awkward interview “opportunities” and shitty cd’s on you as if you should be grateful.

    There’s simply no way a music website can be credible if the majority of it’s reviews are so poorly written. The editor’s job should be to either screen contributors so that there are only good ones or EDIT THE WORK SUBMITTED so that it is of publishable quality.

    larry troutfire

    August 12, 2009 at 11:04 pm

  18. I write for The Dwarf and completely agree with tom – it provides a forum for budding writers to cut their teeth, often away from their day jobs. Fair enough – criticise the journalistic ethics of the writers for the Daily Telegraph, the spell-checking efficacy of the Sydney Morning Herald website, but when you’re not getting paid to write, when you’re doing it for the love of writing, for the opportunity to hone your skills, when it’s a hobby, it certainly isn’t going to be the world’s greatest writing contribution – but you have the option, the wonderful, democratic, free-world option of not having to read the site.

    Frankly, Dick, to poke fun at the Dwarf is the equivalent of a wannabe sports manager poking fun at kids at Little Athletics. It’s a poor attempt at getting a raise, and though you appear to have been successful on this front, you should feel ashamed that you’re picking on kids who are just having a go.

    Now, go on, search my name, read my reviews, criticise and critique them and point out all my spelling mistakes, my foibles, my penchant for synonyms. But when you’ve done that, look at the big picture. I’m a solicitor by day, I do this in my spare time because I love music, and I want to improve my writing skills. I’ve also been pursued by compilers of other such websites who like what I have to offer and want me to work for them, also mostly for peanuts, but there have been paying offers too. The kindness I’ve been shown by The Dwarf will ensure my loyalty while I still have a day job, but don’t for a second think that your hatred of this site and the writers that contribute is shared by all.

    Felicity Rennie

    August 13, 2009 at 9:51 am

  19. Hi Guys,

    This post really puzzles me. It’s one thing to denigrate average journalism in mainstream publications of supposed quality like Rolling Stone or Q.But honestly what are your realistic expectations of a free music website that creates community for music enthusiasts?

    It’s like saying “Can you believe that this shirt I bought at the op-shop has buttons missing – I demand a refund!” or “this free sausage in bread someone gave me is the poorest hot dog I’ve ever eaten, I can’t beleive it I’m lodging a complaint.”

    More to the point, what exactly is your problem with volunteer music journalism? Is simply that you feel you’re self-assessed ability commands more reward than free concert tickets and CD’s but deep down you’re just sore that no one is willing to front you some cash for your brand of self-indulgent editorial jism?

    Sites such as the Dwarf serve an invaluable within the music community and wider music industry, even at the highest level.

    a) They provide self-styled journalists like yourself with a legitimate audience to publish their work hone their craft. (A more legitimate audience than your blog for example.)

    b) Due to the nature of their contributor based reviews they cover a much wider range of music than the mainstream media could ever hope to, due to the inherent constraints of hegemony and advertising dollars, which allows Dwarf to cover emerging acts that wouldn’t be featured elsewhere.

    c) They provide a more accurate “person on the street” if you will, insight for even for some of the most successful artists in the world, honest appraisal of their work as opposed to the fluff mainstream media churns out.

    Music is completely subjective. It’s ludicrous to target Lisa Dib or Richard Kingsmill for their personal taste in music and the influence that may or may not have over the organizations they head.

    What would you like to do Dick, do away with all of these sites and publications? Good luck getting work as a writer one day, cause no one’s hiring volunteer music journalism police right now.

    Zac

    August 13, 2009 at 10:30 am

  20. You guys are stirring the pot nicely aren’t you.

    Its probably a good idea to not pull apart a paragraph of a review and rewrite it without checking it first (Mars Volta review). Pretty hopeless and grammatically incorrect starting a sentence with ‘But’.

    I’m a contributor to The Dwarf (and many other sites) and have found them to be great to deal with. They don’t strike me as having a particular ‘taste in music’. I’ve reviewed everything from Jimmy Sommerville to King Khan to Fleet Foxes; I think they cover as much music as possible via interviews, reviews and gig listings.

    As for dissing the name of the site, pull your head in Simon… Start a crusade against bands like Tall Dwarfs, The Dwarves, The Tallest Man On Earth, Disney if you have a problem with it. With international audiences they would surely be doing more damage to vertically affected people than an Australian music website.

    doubtfulsounds

    August 13, 2009 at 10:52 am

    • Nice try. But you’re wrong.

      Dick

      August 13, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    • oh thats cool then! Other people do it! No worries mate great excuse!! ill use it myself from now on cant wait to start my new site “The Ignorant Cunt” which will feature all your reviews, dont worry though mate everyone thinks your a cunt, even some blokes from overseas think your a cunt so I guess me calling you a cunt doesnt matter at all does it cunt?

      I love the fact that everyone admits that the writing on the site is shit and of a crappy standard but that’s ok cause your all enthusiastic amateurs with giant hearts full of gold and love for everyone except people with physical deformities.

      Simon

      August 17, 2009 at 11:02 am

  21. Dick, you’re about as mature as the five year old I look after every day. He finds your name hilarious. I find it highly suitable.

    Nice try DICK, but YOU’RE wrong. I could write something nasty like some bitchy pre-menstral woman but that would just be stooping to your level. Actually, why not! You’re just a coward who writes these blogs behind the protection of anonymity. It makes you feel like you’ve got a bigger dick somehow, it makes you more of a man or something. No doubt you don’t have girlfriend. You certainly would have the time to write this meaningless crap if you did. Now go write something angry about me if it makes you feel better.

    Ali

    August 14, 2009 at 9:29 am

    • “Dick, you’re about as mature as the five year old I look after every day. He finds your name hilarious. I find it highly suitable.I could write something nasty like some bitchy pre-menstral woman but that would just be stooping to your level.”

      you just did write something nasty so you stooped to his level, you also tried a sly way of not saying it by starting with “I could write…” so your either just plain stupid like your 5 year old whos obsessed with dicks or your some just some bitchy pre-menstral woman.

      “You’re just a coward who writes these blogs behind the protection of anonymity”

      will you be providing your full contact details with your anonymous comment?

      “No doubt you don’t have girlfriend. You certainly would have the time to write this meaningless crap if you did”

      apparantly you have a 5 year old to look after and still manage to type loads of meaningless crap

      Simon

      August 17, 2009 at 11:10 am

  22. Oh, win

    Jim the Expat

    September 7, 2009 at 11:00 pm

  23. I totally wrote that Helado Negro review you quoted. Right on!

    I use Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus (third edition) for the Iphone, by the way.

    Grant

    May 12, 2010 at 10:23 am


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