I'm writing to thank you for your brief, honest assessment of our band's performance and constitution (see "Bands Come, Go, and Get Bashed," by Christopher Gray, June 5).

I must say, I value intelligent criticism so much more than the reflexive and lukewarm praise that so often passes for criticism. We need gadflies in our midst, to keep us on our toes. I've been happy to see Portland confronting its lack of serious criticism — it does such a disservice to our community to have our critics and reporters err on the side of caution and hometown boostering. In asking the question, "how does one write a negative review," you've gotten the ball rolling and I look forward to reading and hearing more.

I did want to clarify the point of our "seeming obliviousness" to our warring selves (singer vs. band) and I hope a quick primer on isobell's epistemology can help locate the "seeming" in its proper field of constant inquiry and concern. Our band is and has been in a near-constant struggle to figure out who we are and how we can sound our best. We began over five years ago, with Hannah and me writing spare songs in the vein of Cat Power and PJ Harvey, and all the songs on Maproom are from this period (three to five years old, which is to say ... old).

However now, IMHO, we're writing our best songs, giving Hannah space to sing and letting us play our hearts out where appropriate. You will see that the music is more assured and breathes easier. So we saw the CD-release show as much a ceremonial burial as a new beginning and we're excited about our future, no matter how much we've stumbled.

And so, a rather frank calling-out by someone we respect, while momentarily disconcerting, is, in the end, wonderfully focusing and helpful. I wish others had the commitment and honesty that you're showing. Even the snarky, somewhat bitchy review of the Honey Clouds in the Portland Point has its place. All in the service of helping artists and art-eaters help themselves and each other.

Chris McKneally

member, Isobell


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