Folks who’ve been reading Opus since the early days, back when it was running on a homebrew PHP/MySQL content management system, might remember that I used to assign genres to all of my reviews. For whatever reason, genres didn’t survive through to the site’s more recent incarnations. However, I’ve spent the last few weeks fixing that and re-genre-izing all of my reviews, as well as updating and enhancing them with new artwork and media embeds wherever possible. (Which explains why there hasn’t been a lot of new posts lately.)
Genres are funny things. On the one hand, they can be helpful if you want to, say, read all my “shoegaze,” “synth-pop,” or “martial arts” reviews. On the other hand, they can be frustratingly obtuse and if you’re not careful, lead you down a path of pointless pedantry.
For instance, should “downtempo” and “ambient” albums also be filed under “electronic,” or will that make “electronic” — which is already a pretty broad genre — so broad as to be meaningless? And what of genres like “alternative” and “indie rock”? Both refer to music that exists somewhere outside the mainstream, but when I think of “alternative,” I think of The Cure, Depeche Mode, R.E.M., They Might Be Giants, Tori Amos, and other artists that would’ve frequented MTV’s 120 Minutes back in the day — and I would never consider any of those bands “indie,” which, to my mind, connotes smaller than small labels and even smaller fanbases.
Furthermore, genres are infinitely reducible. You could apply “shoegaze” to Slowdive, Cloakroom, lovesliescrushing, and Ceremony and not be wrong — but you would also have to admit that, despite being “shoegaze” bands, they all have some pretty significant stylistic differences as well. Does that mean shoegaze goes the route of metal, with all of its well-recognized subgenres (e.g., thrash, speed metal, death metal, black metal, doom metal, power metal)? Or is that just silly, leading to instances where each band potentially exists within its own singular genre — a situation that feels pretentious, unnecessarily specific, and not at all useful?
There are folks who’ve spent a lot more time and energy than I sussing this stuff out, so I relied a lot on the genre categorizations used on both Discogs and IMDb for my music and movie/TV reviews (along with the occasional Bandcamp tag). But even then, I’ve deviated from their listings on occasion. (Wayne Everett’s KingsQueens may be a decent indie pop album, but contra Discogs, I don’t consider it shoegaze.) I’ve also deviated on occasion from a genre’s commonly held definition. Technically, “darkwave” refers to an offshoot of new wave and post-punk that was more downbeat and synth-heavy, but I’ve always associated the term with the lush, darkly atmospheric music released by labels like Projekt and Hyperium.
So yeah, none of this is the slightest bit objective or scientific, much like my star ratings in the Cultural Diet. But hopefully, Opus’ genre listings will provide some further insight into how I approach my reviews. And if nothing else, the added Bandcamp embeds will make it even easier for you to preview and purchase an album if my review piques your curiosity.