Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Disastrous Rocktimists UK Pop Critics Poll 2008 Introduction

Yes, Rocktimists has organised it's own poll this year. And, like the title sez, it's a fucking disaster, so we’re only gonna spin it out over about a week and not a whole year like we would have done.

The original idea was to put together a poll that would be a UK equivalent to the Village Voice’s 35 year-old, appallingly named Pazz & Jop poll. Maybe you haven't heard of it—I hadn't until I became an internet music aspie—but it was started in the early seventies by America's oldest living music critic Robert “The Dean” Christgau and since then has polled as many music writers as possible on their top ten albums and tracks of the year. There's usually between 500 and 1000 respondents a year, leading to a good view of critical consensus and, more interestingly to me at least, a view of the rising and falling tides on the margins. Plus it's mean fun to look back at what corny bullshit did well in the past—Arrested Development's Three Years, 5 Months & Two Days in the Life of... came first in 1992. which isn't to pick on rap, the list is always clogged with whatever is mystifyingly popular with crits that year, and that's what's good about it.

Which leads to what is disastrous about our poll. As the emails trickled in, I never quite decided what number of replies we needed to get above to make this thing worthwhile. Greater than fifty would mean that we didn't have to be embarrassed, but it still wouldn't be enough to show what UK music writers were thinking in the oh-eight. Anywhere over 100 would be getting there. However, after constantly hustling ballots to every mag I could think of—from Terrorizer to P/i/X to NME to Disappear Here—and every Anglo blogger of note (about eight) we got forty-one replies. Face red etc. That's probably not a great enough number to have made it worthwhile getting a warning from Facebook saying that they were considering deleting my account for being a spammer (which to be fair I was—sending out invites to any writer I could think of with an unusual enough name that there was only one of 'em on Facebook.)

As for the reasons why we couldn't scare up enough voters, I suspect a toxic combo of no-one giving a shit about what a no-name blog is up to, the fact that between them the writers here have pissed off a lot of people (a slight paraphrase from one response in order to conceal identity: “you'll forgive me if I don't participate: the idea of offering any sort of assistance to Rocktimists rather sticks in my craw”), and over-zealous spam filters (a particular fuck you to fRoots mag on that one). There's also the fact that UK pop crits are a cowardly, superstitious breed of loners and proud of it. The guy who started the US version might call himself the “Dean of American Rock Critics”—and get others to do so too!—but not even Simon Frith would call himself “the Headmaster”, and he is one.

Fuck all that though. Here's what we ended up with, and there is some good stuff, especially some of the individual ballots. Next year, maybe someone with some cred can pick up the baton, coz—and I’m really not trying to be a dick here—it'd sure be more interesting than this.

(And I know that ranking using equal places doesn't work how I've done it. I got lazy and it’s late.)


Sick Mouthy said...

I spent New Year's Eve with an ex-Terrorizer writer, btw. He's now a psychology researcher.

Simon said...


Actually, there might be something in that theory about shy British writers - for my own poll, which has been going for four years and was limited to the you'd think more open world of active UK bloggers, I had less than half the just over 100 requests sent out replied to. And, apart from someone who runs an anti-folk forum and someone who took umbrage at something I'd written about The Streets two years ago, I can't think of anyone I've directly pissed off.

Raw Patrick said...

Errr. soz for forgetting to send the Rocktimists ballot into yr poll, Simon. Blame it on the Xmas --> NY haze. And me being an idiot.