Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Disappointed With The All Music Guide

You know how Wikipedia has that problem with vandalism, where people create accounts to cover articles with the web equivalent of graffiti? I'm starting to wonder if the All Music Guide has the same problem.

I am, for better or worse, a loyal user of the All Music Guide. I started using them back in college, when my limited research skills uncovered a harrowing truth: there weren't many resources on the history of progressive metal. I was writing a research paper on progressive metal, so I had to take what limited information I had available - much of it courtesy of the All Music Guide - and make up the rest. It was fun, in a revisionist history sort of way and I have no doubt that I could take up a career as a post-revolution historian without trouble. In any case, the AMG was there to give me some answers then and they've been there - despite the iffy site design, frequently out-of-date information, and the horrid servers with their wretched connection issues that give me PTSD flashbacks to the days of dialup - to give me album reviews and discography starting points ever since.

Lately, though, I've grown concerned: either the editorial staff has given up entirely, or they've been subcontracted out to a group of sugar-hyped 15-year-olds with chips on their shoulders, because the writing has gone into the shitter. I first noticed it on Stephen Thomas Erlewine's review of Black Ice: his thoughts were spot on, but run-on sentences abounded in a very non-Stephen Thomas Erlewine sort of way (let it be noted here for the record that I generally love reading Stephen Thomas Erlewine's work about as much as I love saying his full name, which is to say a great deal), as if someone had taken a complete, edited review and joined together a few clauses that should have been separated by God and periods.

The Black Ice review was disturbing, but today I found something much worse: the review of Wither Blister Burn + Peel. On their discography page, the All Music Guide gives Stabbing Westward's second album 4.5 stars and an Album Pick, which generally guarantees a good experience to the open minded. However, either the editors didn't consult reviewer Alan Esher before designating a rating, or Esher completely disagreed, because he pans Wither Blister Burn + Peel with a surprising amount of vitriol. Even worse, his review is so poorly written - and so poorly written (how does a sentence like "Seriously though, its an OK album as long as you're not expecting too much from it." end up on a site devoted to professional music writing?) - that I have to wonder what the hell happened. It's really hackers, right? Not piss-poor work? Don't make me give up on you, AMG. I can only put up with your self-defeating shenanigans for so long.

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