LivingArts: Hey dude, nice set.


DIALOGUE.  It’s my favourite word to use when I want people to take me seriously.  It turns a regular ol’ conversation into something with gravity (another word that I use when I want people to take me seriously). 

In an age of Facebook and Twitter, we are constantly engaged in a billion tiny dialogues every day.  Our conversational chops are at their peak.  We have spent more collective hours talking about the Jian scandal than it took to build the pyramids…

What’s even more amazing is the musical dialogue – a thousand words on how the guitar parts are incendiary on the latest Still Water record.  Most of my friends can’t stand that stuff, citing unnecessarily flowery language and a tendency for writers to love their own writing too much.  

Haters gonna hate, but in my opinion, those pieces are too few and too far between.

Here’s the thing: criticism makes music better.  For me personally, sometimes it comes from my wife, or even a friend, but ideally it’s coming from an arm’s length third party who doesn’t know me. 

A Montreal review of my last record made a statement along the lines of “it’s breezy with lots of hooks, but didn’t have the staying power of a record that you want to listen to over and over again”.   It was too fluffy…

Once I stepped back from the ledge, I thought about what the writer said and now I’m strangely thankful for the criticism.  

Because what is criticism, but an opportunity to learn what people think about you?  Isn’t that what we all want to know?  I’d rather know that you think it’s too fluffy than to endure a series of insincere compliments.  I’d rather the criticism over the flaccid “hey dude, nice set” as I cart my gear off stage.

Yet, for whatever reason, our musical dialogue tends to lean away from criticism.  You can read countless preview stories in the Spec, CBC Hamilton, or View Magazine, and those stories play a certain role.  But no one else is following up after the concert, or after the record is released to tell us how it was.   

Maybe it’s because nobody is making money in the business anymore and they feel bad trash-talking the 40-year old doing the Scott Weiland impression…

Maybe it’s because we live in a city that’s just small enough that if you did criticize somebody, you’d run into them at Fortino’s the next day and have to face the fallout of your comments immediately. 

Whatever the case, the musical dialogue is shaping the music that is made in this city for better or worse. 

[You can come tell Steve McKay to his face exactly what you think about him as he fronts Dwayne Gretzky this Thursday night at Club Absinthe]