Wimps, Posers, Hipsters and Haters – leave the hall!

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My very excellent friend Leticia runs a blog where she muses on metal, writing and life in general. Occasionally she has guest posters and yesterday she featured a post from Tom Valcanis, an Australian freelance journalist. I have the utmost respect for Tom – he’s a fantastic writer and obviously a very smart guy – but this time, I think he’s got it all wrong.

The article in question is "Wimps, Posers and Hipsters – leave the hall!". Before I get too much further, click through to Tish’s blog and have a read of the article.

The crux of Tom’s argument is that in this mad, mad, internet-driven world, where web sites battle to the death for every eyeball and precious advertising dollar, certain high profile publications are taking the approach of deliberately baiting their audience, and of writing with contempt, to the detriment of metal in general. According to Tom, these writers are "hipsters armed with BFAs, copies of Bukowski and Joy Division t-shirts, and they’re laughing at you."

Now, I hate hipsters as much as the next metalhead. But the two publications Tom holds up as examples of this trend are, I believe, being unfairly categorised.

Firstly, US print and online magazine Decibel. Decibel is reasonably new, having started in 2004 – certainly it doesn’t have the decades-long pedigree of Kerrang or Metal Hammer. But to my mind, Decibel is the only intelligent print publication for metal that’s around today. It does not stoop to damaging and stupid gimmicks like "10 hottest chicks in metal" to sell copies. It features intelligent and interesting articles – not just reviews and interviews . The vinyl "flexi-disc" offer to subscribers – each issue containing tracks that are unique, previously unreleased, and not available anywhere else – is a great example of adding actual value to the physical magazine in an age where print is struggling to stay relevant. And yes, Decibel has some fun columns.

The column highlighted as particularly troublesome is a relatively new one called "Disposable Heroes", where a guest writer will discuss why, in their opinion, an album universally hailed as a classic is actually a turd. Tom says "you’re paying $10 or more to be laughed at by the metal equivalent of your schoolyard tormentors." What he doesn’t point out is that this column is a complement to the longer-running "Justify your shitty taste" column, where a guest writer defends an album that was universally panned. No one’s laughing at you, Tom – these kinds of columns show that metal is diverse, and opinions are indeed like the oft-quoted arseholes. They say to readers "hey – If you hated the Blue Record or actually liked St Anger, maybe you’re not the only one".

The second publication under fire for allegedly harbouring hipster tendencies is the metal blog, MetalSucks. Tom goes all out on the offensive, positioning the site and founders "at the vanguard of the hipster metal journalist revolution, soaking in all the pompous art school posturing they could muster from their $20,000 a year degrees in fine arts that their parents most likely paid for". Ouch. I don’t think who allegedly paid for anyone’s alleged education has any bearing on how good a writer they are.

I’ve been reading MetalSucks for a couple of years now, from when it was a much smaller operation than it is today, and watching it grow has been an exercise in watching someone mostly get things right. Rather than a metal news site in the vein of MetalUnderground.com or MetalAsFuck.net – sites that post news and play it mostly straight – MetalSucks is a metal blog. Blogs, whether they remain personal blogs or grow to 16 regular contributors (as MetalSucks has), are where writers can feel free to post whatever they want and vent opinions in a much less formal manner than a traditional magazine, on a more rapid timeline, with the ability to respond to audience interaction, and usually without the editorial overhead. Sure, some magazines may be becoming more blog-like and some blogs are taking on roles traditionally belonging to formal publications – but the fact remains that a blog operates under a different set of rules.

MetalSucks embodies the blog by having a diverse stable of contributors that give their (often wildly differing) opinions. As a regular reader, I think I’m qualified to defend MetalSucks against the charge "they figured in order to cut through to a seemingly vapid and punch-drunk metal crowd […] you have to actively and almost passionately loathe the genre you cover". Follow the blog for a week and it’s easy to see that all of the contributors truly love metal – different kinds of metal. It’s not uncommon for one writer to bag one particular band or release only to have it defended by another writer in a subsequent post. They’re not shy about unbiased heapings of praise and vitriol, and the immense success that MetalSucks has enjoyed – both in attracting regular, loyal readership and advertising – indicates there is a large and eager audience for that style of writing.

Tom has torn down two very different metal publications because of one thing they have in common: doing something different. In both cases it’s something different that is helping them succeed where countless others are failing. The world is moving on and yearning for the "good old days" doesn’t do anyone any good. We should be looking to these kinds of publications as examples of what IS capturing eyeballs and attention.

And we don’t need to worry about metal – it’s survived a long time all by itself. Metalheads are more intelligent than they’re being given credit for.

~ by goatlady on July 8, 2011.

2 Responses to “Wimps, Posers, Hipsters and Haters – leave the hall!”

  1. I have also been enjoying Decibel and Metal Sucks for years – but I do believe that a baiting trend is creeping into MetalSucks. In particular I find that Sergeant D definitely tries to incite anger to increase site traffic and comments. It seems a cheap tactic – especially when his targets include humiliating 12-year old kids…

    Also Metal Sucks used to attack bloated targets in metal that were worthy of venom – now i am unsure if they think about the effects of merciless vitriol that they heap on some small band that are slogging their guts out just to survive. If its not your thing, just say its not your thing. Why waste your time slagging a tiny band that hardly anyone has heard of…

    Still, I think MS is a good site overall – but I believe that the two main editors should maybe curb these trends a little.

    Glad to see you posting regularly, and I hope that the Goat Lady is enjoying Poland!

    • Heh, I agree that Sergeant D can be a bit much at times. I used to follow Metal Inquisition which was JUST his ranting and raving. It can be funny but you need to be in the mood for that kind of humour.

      As for posting regularly, I’m thinking that will probably happen now that I’ve managed to get my runaway life a little bit more under control. Guess we’ll see.

      Thanks for commenting – I love Noise Road, by the way – it’s nice to know someone is reading 🙂

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