Strange Boutique (September)

The topic of September’s column is something I’ve been becoming more and more intolerant of as time goes by. It’s something I come across a lot with my label and event work, where bands have particular ways they insist on their name being written, and while I find this annoying, I think in the context of a CD jacket or flyer, it’s basically legitimate as a simple factor of design. That is to say, the conflict there is between competing design concepts (I prefer the elegance and uniformity of correct syntax whereas bands often want to play about with it) and in the end, it’s the band’s choice and I’m usually happy to accommodate it.

The problem comes when that crosses over into journalism. I talked a bit in August’s column about the sense of entitlement that comes with being treated as an “honoured customer” by venues all the time, and there may be something similar in journalism given that a lot of music press in Japan is bought and paid for by labels and therefore treated as nothing more than PR and brand awareness raising. It seems like a small point, and it is in a way (I enjoy playing the role of the grammar Nazi but I’m not as strict as I pretend to be), but it’s important to realise that punctuation and syntax do actually have meaning attached to them in English (in a way that many marks don’t in Japanese). Capitalisation is one area that bugs me because it breaks up the flow of text if used improperly. In fact, I’m more or less OK with bands who insert capitals in odd places, for example the Supercar spinoff group aM, since it’s obviously a design choice. However in a block of text, AM looks like shouting and is just plain ugly, while am looks like a mistake and can interrupt your reading flow as you do a double-take to make sure you understood it correctly.

Anyway, I wasn’t being entirely serious, but I am serious that bands and labels should leave journalists alone to write band names according to their own publications’ style guides and not hop up and down like spoiled children if they get it “wrong”.

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