What's up with the Village Voice and metal lately?
I've published a few (okay, five) favorable reviews of metal albums in their music section over the last two years or so, but it's been months since I've gotten them to take anything. It seems like they've always got space to let George Smith talk shit about the music, though.
Here's the thing: printing Smith's crotchety, pointless urps is a waste of space (and the Voice music section is prime real estate in rockgeekland, and believe me, the editor knows it) and a waste of the reader's time. The guy barely addresses the music, as the above review indicates - he prefers to talk about cover art, or criticize press release copy or other zines' takes on metal, or whatever. And when he does actually render a judgment, he's dead wrong. Two of the best metal releases of the last 12-18 months, High On Fire's Blessed Black Wings and Pig Destroyer's Terrifyer, have borne the full fury of Smith scorn. (The PD review is semi-favorable, but in typically Voice-y smarmy fashion.)
Now, it could be averred that this is welcome contrarianism, counteracting the excessive praise these records have received in other venues. But that argument would be bullshit (and not just because the PD disc barely got written up anywhere). Good is good, and saying something sucks just to be different is the mark of an asshole, not an iconoclast. (Granted, Smith may actually not think these are good records. In that case, he's just cloth-eared, and should give up writing about music - apparently, he's also big into information technology or something, so maybe he should stick to writing about that, in similarly snarky and off-topic manner, and see how far it gets him.)
What's interesting about this trend at the Voice is that it comes at the same time that The Wire, for which I also write, far more frequently, is taking a much more pro-metal attitude. In their February issue, they published Edwin Pouncey's "Subterranean Metal Primer," which, while heavy on Southern Lord and related titles, was still an impressive effort, and in the March issue, the same Pouncey reviews High On Fire's album, understanding it far better than George Smith ever could. And I've got a major metal-related piece coming up in the April issue.
Of course, the presence of Smith is not the only thing wrong with the Voice music section. Its recent two weeks of team coverage of the hilariously (and depressingly, at the same time) overrated M.I.A. is another case in point. They're just way too besotted with themselves, and their presence in the rock-geek blogosphere/critics-talking-to-critics/critics-writing-for-critics community to ever emerge from their own asses. I guess I'll stick to writing for venues that allow for positive metal coverage that actually (shock!) engages the music on its own terms, and leave the Voice to George Smith.