Like all writers worthy of the name (!), I do enjoy surfing a deadline. As a music reviewer for Leftlion magazine, my workload is around 300 words a month in the form of two short album reviews for most issues. Not exactly strenuous, you might assume, especially when you consider that I usually have a good couple of weeks between receiving the music and needing to submit my copy. But as any writer will tell you: that's not really how deadlines work, is it?
I like to think I'm reasonably diligent: all of the music I review is by local bands, and much of it has been self-funded and produced by people who create music for the pleasure of it and from the desire to create something. I shouldn't think that many of them harbour delusions that they are going to be the next big thing and are making music simply because they get a kick out of it and hope a few other people do too somewhere along the way. As an amateur critic in a free local cultural magazine, it's definitely not my job to put the boot into them. If I don't like something, I don't review it at all. It's simple. Once I have the MP3s, I like to give them a fair listen before putting my thoughts down in a review. Ideally, I will have done absolutely no googling of the bands (everyone has a Facebook page, most detailing their influences) and I try to form my own opinion.
This takes time. It might take no time at all to write 150 words, but to be in a place where I can make those words count, I need to put in the hard yards with my headphones on. This is where deadline surfing can be a bit problematic. I remember one month where we had been away somewhere all week, and I came back to the house on the night my reviews needed to be in, put on my headphones and discovered that the album I was reviewing was full-on, grunting death metal and wasn't quite the relaxing mood music I was hoping for to gear me up for the week ahead.
I've been pretty good this month: my deadline is Saturday, but because I know I'll be out at the cricket tomorrow night, I've taken advantage of arriving home early this evening from a team away day at work to listen to this month's reviews. As ever, I'm surprised by the quality of the material. I seem to be the de-facto reviewer of most of Nottingham's punk and metal bands, and this month is no exception. Blind Thieves sound a bit like a heavier version of Wolfsbane (I mean this as a compliment, by the way...). Their singer definitely sounds a bit like Blaze Bayley, anyway, but they're better musicians, and their three-track EP is really pretty good. Dark Mother are a darker, murkier proposition altogether, ploughing a slower, heavier Black Sabbath-esque furrow with some heavy, chugging riffing. The quality of the recording isn't of the same quality as that of Blind Thieves, but somehow that suits their style. Very different, but also good.
After a good listen today, I'll let my thoughts settle overnight and then give them a quick google for a few details before tapping up my reviews on Saturday afternoon and mailing them off... right on deadline.