Hatchet jobs are strange things, really. The sort of thing you lap up with relish if it's done on someone or something you've got a personal dislike of, it's also exactly the perfect way to bait fan boys on the Internet for – well, whatever it is when we get the urge to bait fan boys on the Internet. We've all been there, so that's that. But in spite of the first example I gave, I've got to admit that I find hatchet jobs utterly infuriating when they're on a subject you're completely neutral towards – or worse still, towards a subject you haven't even had chance to form an opinion about.
So, ignoring all I've written, I'm going to attempt a hatchet job on a hatchet job – well, that's not strictly true, but I'm going to lament a hatchet job. This hatchet job, an interview with Florence of Florence and the Machine fame. Firstly, I'll come clean – I didn't have an opinion on Florence and the Machine before reading Laura Snapes' piece, I came out of it desperate to find one. Since then, I've discovered that a) her album is actually very good, b) she's rather attractive. Those are my two main thoughts. And it's going to look like I'm picking on Laura Snapes, but I know people who know her (albeit through rather...weak connections), and from what I can tell she's a perfectly nice person. The truth is that her piece is merely an example of the way pieces of this sort piss me off; she's far from the only one. In fact, as a mark of respect (and partially so should she ever vanity-google/should a potential suitor or interview subject of hers google her), I'm going to refer to her as “the interviewer”, so that when googling, with any luck this piece won't be near the top. Not that it would be on a blog this seldom read, mind. But sod that, it's time to deconstruct.
Florence Welch - hatcheted good and proper
First of all, it's fair to say the interviewer doesn't warm to Florence. Fair enough, there's a pleasing level of honesty in this article, no-one can be left in doubt from even the introductory, pre-article paragraph that there's some hostility here. We then get a rather snooty “Florence listens to music through a Walkman. Well of course she bloody does.”, and then on the subject of her troubles with using an iPod, “how stupid do you have to be to not be able to work an iPod?” The first of those comments is merely meant as an insult, but on the second of those, well, I get a bit in knots with the touch-sensitivity of iPods; it's why I've always used other mp3 players (that and that I hate Apple). How stupid do you have to be? Me stupid, I guess. And insert some kind of primal Tarzan noise from me too.
Later on, we get quotes from Florence with lots of pauses in: “Um . . . I don't know. I mean, I think . . . It's definitely like . . . It's just hard isn't it, it's like, I mean, I completely understand...” Come on, interviewer. Firstly, this is a question on a topic you've admitted is weighty – the troubles with illegal downloading, surely you must have expected she wouldn't have hadanyanswers, let alone all of them. Hell, I don't, but then again I guess I must be Florence Stupid. The fact is, those are the sort of pauses you'll get in any interview. Musicians are a notoriously incoherent bunch, possibly due to a life eschewing monotonous watercooler conversations in favour of determinedly experimenting with lots of rather ineffectual guitar tunings. Pauses happen. Most of the time, they're not printed. Why would you print this here, interviewer? Oh yes, you've already said Florence is stupid, you're just ramming home the point. She's me stupid, yes?
It's a long interview, and I could deconstruct this for as much time as I've got (a lot: currently, the end of the financial year a week and a half ago also rang the death knell for my last period of employment), but it hardly seems worth it. You can see the article for yourself, and you may as well give it a read, it's had a heck of a lot of hits already and the twenty or thirty extra that come through this blog aren't going to make any difference to anyone. But have a look, and see if it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
It all just seems a tad unnecessary, as if the interviewer is not only trying to turn us off Florence and the Machine's music – and at this point I might add that surely this is a reviewer's responsibility; an interviewer generally is meant to give insight onto the person and to try to be unclouded and impartial, at least with groups they're not massive fans on. And of those who like – or discover that they like – Florence and the Machine's music: are we supposed to feel guilty? I like a wide range of things, from Salif Keita to Saul Williams, Múm to My Morning Jacket, Field Music to – yes, Florence and the Machine. I've never gotten the impression she's possessed of a Forrest Gump-level IQ (in fact, being the daughter of someone educated at Harvard might, in line with general theories of genetics, suggest that she probably isn't thick as two short planks), and from what I've read doesn't seem to have a particularly spoilt, stable childhood – although as in all these things there will be many who have had worse. It just makes me despair a little.
Actually, this article's had another effect on me, in that it's made me feeling guilty for lapping up another infamous hatchet job with relish. When Alexis Petridis gave a rather unfavourable interview with Cardiff band Los Campesinos!, he singled out for particular backhanded scorn singer Gareth Paisey. I enjoyed this because as much as I was not a fan of the band, my (albeit limited) experiences of the person had been somewhat negative. But looking back, my glee at that is part of the problem, isn't it? If we go round whooping and hollering at nasty snide comments and relentless negativity – especially when it's as disguised and catty as Petridis' – where will that leave us?
I'm sorry I revelled in your being hatcheted, Los Campesinos.
We're in a world where a good put-down and an arrogant demeanour are increasingly sought-after in people to hang on to, where the “rant” is actually becoming an art form (and as a fan of people like Ben Croshaw and Charlie Brooker, again I'm as much to blame as anyone). What good does all this perpetuation do? And can we stop it? Can I? Can you?