Adrian Fitz-Simon, 'Five Stars'
Info: Being a music reviewer can be a strange business, personally, while very grateful, it doesn't sit easy with me being thanked by bands or musicians for writing a good review of their music, after all, they're the ones that wrote it, they're the ones that did all of the hard work, and I'm just describing it. 90% of the time I only write about music I like, because I'm passionate about music, and if it doesn't tickle my fancy, I can't motivate myself to write something positive about something I don't feel positively about. That's been said to me a couple of times, 'Why aren't you more critical about the music you review, you only ever write positive reviews'. There's a couple of reasons, firstly, as I've already said, I don't have the motivation, if I don't like it I'm not going to review it, secondly, I don't see the point in ripping a band starting out, or any band for that matter, apart and sharing it with people, it's not my cup of tea, fair enough, it will be someone else's.
That said. I do at times review music I'm not completely crazy about, or unsure if it sits with the general theme of the blog, but I did learn a very important lesson earlier this year from a band who I told I wouldn't be reviewing their new single because I thought they were already well on their way to success and didn't need me writing kind words to help them along, I also didn't think it was a good fit for the blog and I said that too. I got a short but passionate response saying that every band, particularly in Ireland, irrespective of where they sat on the 'success spectrum' were struggling to make it in some way or another, and all of them were fighting the same battle to get recognition. Truth be told I quite liked their video and the song was good, but I felt uneasy about it, but that short email gave me some perspective, you also should write about music you think other people might like because at the end of the day you're sharing something people might not have the opportunity to hear through the normal channels, and you shouldn't over-think about these things.
Anyway, enough of that, here's an artist whose album, The Band That Wasn't There, I did really enjoy, and reviewed in January, Adrian Fitz-Simons, who took on a unique approach to coming up against many silent walls when it came to trying to get his album out into the ether. It was something we discussed when I had the pleasure of meeting him outside HMV (rock n'roll) on Grafton Street earlier this year to pick up a vinyl copy of his album, a must for my collection both for the music and the amazing cover sleeve (above). I was initially filled with a sense of 'Good man Adrian' when I finally saw the album getting rave reviews in The Irish Times and NME, and then thinking 'Wow, that happened quickly' when he made it into Rolling Stone, or did he?! Fitz-Simons posted stellar reviews of The Band That Wasn't There on social media, and they were all written so well, I must point out at this stage that some reviews were actually genuine, such as this one from GoldenPlec and another in The Sunday Times, but I should have spotted the ruse when he threw in rave reviews from The Tokyo Journal and The Kerryman. Either way I doff my cap to him, the whole process was the inspiration for the above song and video, 'Five Stars', using another talent to highlight his frustrations, which I shall now pass over to the man himself, do check out what The Sydney Morning Herald had to say below also.....;
5 Stars in Rolling Stone, where do you go from here?
The words are coming out all weird....
'The idea was born from frustration at the low hit-rate after a massive effort soliciting for reviews. Hundreds of emails, letters, digital and physical copies sent out. This is the norm of course, though I had neither a PR company working for me, nor a profile to pique interest. I was merely one of thousands hoping for the best. And your review was one of just four that were eventually published - just one press review in the Sunday Times and three Irish blog reviews. It felt like the project was coming to a rather downbeat end and obviously I wasn't happy with that after three years of writing, recording, mixing, mastering, designing artwork, making videos, doing the whole crowd funding thing, distributing the music, putting a huge effort into the live show... and it just wasn't fun anymore.'
Adrian Fitz-Simon, Album Preview
'So I decided to have fun again and write my own reviews. I wrote a four star for the Irish Independent and a 2/10 for Hot Press, art directed them as though they'd been published in those titles and posted them on Facebook.
People were very happy for me (in the case of the Indo) and very angry for me (Hot Press). So I kept going. Most of the reviews were good with a few negative points thrown in. And really they were all aspects of how I felt about the record. In my own mind it is a good album but it has its flaws! So it was quite a cathartic process being so objective about it all.
I was nervous people would check the sources, but thankfully, everyone was convinced enough not to do so. Obviously fake blog reviews wouldn't have been as easy to achieve!
The song 'Five Stars' and the video came about as I thought I had to both reveal the truth in an interesting way, and also reward those who'd been duped for the eight weeks of the hoax. The Nixon idea seemed like a natural fit - my own private Watergate!
That's it really. Frustratingly, it's been equally hard getting noticed for this as it was for the album itself, the papers and blogs have been ignoring it so far, but I believe Today FM are going to put it on their website... we'll see.'
If anything, the lesson is this, for both reviewers and musicians, don't take yourself too seriously, because you're just another cat on a keyboard, the only difference is, some of us tap it, and some us play it.
Here are some choice quotes from the music bourgeoisie on The Band That Wasn't There ;
'The art of song has not been forgotten' - 'NME'
'As carefully crafted at vomit-inducing 70's carpet, this album is as pretentious as the hyphen in his surname.' - 'Hot Press'
'It's a pity someone else didn't sing these songs' - 'The Sydney Morning Herald
'Beguiling and majestic debut that refuses to be pinned down' - 'Rolling Stone'
'A suspect Queen obsession lingers like an unwelcome guest' - 'The Music'
'In Adrian Fitz-Simon's world the music died in 1979. And we're not talking about the demise of punk.' - 'The Irish Independent'
'Not quite hip enough for the Fumbally' - 'The Irish Times'
'私たちを愛していることは、非常にクールなレコード' - 'The Tokyo Journal'