I received notification the other day that someone had PMed on a forum I’d forgotten I belonged to. It was from Basenotes, the original online gathering place for niche perfumery enthusiasts. I’d written a few reviews there, not more than ten, and assumed, as with everything else I’ve ever written, that no one cared. Wrong. I’d received an e-mail from someone writing just to say they’d really been enjoying my fragrance reviews and were sorry that they’d stopped. I think that this is possibly the nicest thing anyone has ever said about my writing.
This is my Basenotes review of Lithium [3Li] by Nu_Be. I did not like it.
"A pointless exercise for me--I hate what people inevitably refer to as "jammy" roses—and it serves me right for letting IndieScents choose me some samples. This scent, man, it's Boogie Nights, it's 70s hustlers and gold chains and porn scenes in L.A. by the pool, coke on silver trays, El Caminos in the driveway, the guitar solo from "More Than a Feeling" in the air, even it no match for the power of Nu Lithium's polyester rose like the smog over the city itself, strong enough to choke out the sun."
Sure, it was for reviews of cologne. I know, right? But still: If I’m to have any posterity at all, describing things my nose likes to smell is really all that’s left on offer, so I’ll take it. Besides, Basenotes is loaded with good reviewers; there’s all sorts of bizarrely readable, existential mini-essays masquerading as fragrance reviews. Basenotes remains a wild frontier. Attempting to apply aesthetics to olfactory sensation, the lack of convention in doing so, is itself its own reward for the reader. It seems odd, but probably not really.
There is not necessarily any correlation between, on the one hand, the aesthetic merits of the object under consideration, and, on the other, the literary merits of the promotional dispositif that emerges to evaluate it. The writing at Basenotes is occasionally bad. Godawful really. But, even at their worst, the people who voluntarily review perfume for fun almost never write as inanely as the people paid to write promotional copy for independent record labels. Indie music is great. The writing about indie music is the worst.
This is from Saddle Creek, in promotion of Montreal band Land of Talk’s 2017 release Life After Youth. Careful! One more adjective and the levee breaks.
The worst. The worst writing on the internet is often in praise of the best music being released. The convention of indie-rock promotion is, evidently, that the more adjectives you use to describe something, the better that thing is. I don’t know why indie rock criticism wants to pretend to sound so erudite. I can’t remember who started this thing. But it should stop. Back to Basenotes, is what I’d say. Pretend no one’s tried to describe sound before, and think how fun it is that you get to be one of the first.