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A Brief History of EvilSponge

  by PostLibyan  

In April of 2000, the various future Minions of EvilSponge were just average office workers. People with normal jobs who went to work, listened to a lot of music, held long rambling email discussions about music, and went to concerts on the weekends.

Tracers' company was offered a free website by an ISP that had screwed up a proposal, and we debated what to do with this suddenly Internet Real Estate we had come into.

"Why," asked Mrs. Malimus, "Don't you post all of these music arguments you have on the Internet?"

And thus EvilSponge was born. We take our name from a commercial that ran on Cartoon Network in the late 1990s. It featured Zan of The Wonder Twins claiming that "I could be beaten by a sponge, and it wouldn't even have to be an evil sponge." The commercial showed a sponge with fangs in an evil grim peeking out from behind Lex Luthor of The Legion of Doom and glaring at Zan. It was silly, and we liked it.

So, with an idea to have a place to talk about music, and a theme, we set about creating this site. At the time, i worked at IBM building multimedia courseware, and in the office we had some research that said that white text on a black background was easier on the eyes when projected from a monitor. This gave us our color scheme.

It took us a few months to come up with the full layout, which is the layout we still use to this day, a rough shell in which reviews are placed in a simple format. We do not use Flash or any other multimedia. In fact, believe it or not, EvilSponge runs on pure HTML. There over 1600 individually coded HTML pages that make up EvilSponge. This might seem primitive in a time of SQL driven, dynamically generated web content, but it has served us well over the years. Our emphasis has always been more on in-depth reviewing and writing than on the formatting.

By this i mean that we like to spend our time with releases. I read other review sites, and sometimes i get the impression that a critic/reviewer spent a few hours listening to a record, and then wrote down some words based on that first impression. But there is a lot to music than cannot be captured in just a few listens. I think that everyone on the planet has some favorite record that has grown in fondness over the years. Layers of meaning and beauty are revealed through listening in different situations, and in different emotional states. A record that may sound awesome on first listen might become boring after 10 listens, and trite after 20. Alternately, a record that might seem only slightly intriguing after just a few listens might still be rewarding after 100 listens, as layers of depth and personal meaning attach added weight to the sounds.

We try to capture that in our writing, and i hope that we succeed more often than we fail. As a result of this, you will notice that EvilSponge rarely posts reviews "on time", meaning that most of our reviews happen after an album has been out for a few months. We do this on purpose, preferring to take the time to really listen. We think that an in-depth review is more valuable than just posting some first impression.

Another aspect of our review process is that we are of the firm opinion that there is an audience for anything. We know what we like, but if an album does not appeal to us we try and imagine the type of person that the album would appeal to, and then we try to write to that audience. This is rather hard to do at times, which is why EvilSponge does not review a lot of hip-hop, country, or singer-songwriter material.

Attentive readers will notice that EvilSponge also does not publish a lot of negative reviews. It is not that we do not like insulting people and their trite melodies and derivative lyrics where we can, but rather that we do not think there is much point to it. Do we dislike the music in question because the target audience is far outside of our realm of experience, or is it really bad? That distinction is often hard to make. Also, who wants read about bad stuff? We read album reviews in order to see whether or not we would like a given record and should spend our hard-earned money on it. If the reviewer does not like a record, it is unlikely that they are going to be able to tell me why i should buy it.

You will also notice that EvilSponge does not run advertisements. This is not a money-making venture for us. PostLibyan and Tracers have paid the cost of web hosting for these ten years, and we make no money in return for our efforts.

We do this because we love it. There is no joy greater than hearing some new and interesting sound for the first time. We believe in the healing power of music, in its ability to transport the listener away from the mundanities of everyday life and to a different, more beautiful world. Music is about communicating emotional ideals, about relaying details of the human experience in a way that resonates with other humans. And of course, it has to have a good beat while doing so.

So it has been ten long years that we have been doing this. A quick search shows that so far we have posted:

  • 978 album reviews (And a couple of those have involved multiple records in one review.)
  • 407 concert reviews (These usually involve multiple acts. Reviews such as our marathon SxSW reviews can feature 20 bands on one review, so this adds up to quite a lot of acts.)
  • 43 movie reviews
  • 11 television reviews

That is a lot of stuff, but there is still plenty more to write about. After we had been doing this for a few years, artists and labels started giving us free review copies. At first there were only a few (and, in fact, the very first promo CD we ever received was never reviewed because the band broke up while we were trying to write about it!). Eventually, the flow of promos grew into a steady stream. During the middle part of the decade we were receiving 2 or 3 CDs per month. Most of them were never reviewed (see what i said earlier about not reviewing things we do not enjoy), but we were also introduced to many bands we now love. Recently, however, the promo stream has swollen into a flood! As music becomes more of a purely digital phenomenon, labels have found that giving away a review copy is essentially free. It cost money to mail a CD, but it costs nothing to have some marketing intern email a link to a reviewer, and it costs no more money to have them email that link to a thousand reviewers. At present we receive about 10 download links per week. That is over 500 albums per year, which is honestly more than we can listen to. We need more writers…

But i have always said that. If you have read this far and think that i have made some valid points, and you are interested in writing some reviews, please email me. It is not as easy as it looks. In fact, most of the people who have written for EvilSponge over the years have only done a few reviews before finding it too difficult, or getting bored with it…

So, it's been ten years, and over a thousand bands have been discussed. We hope that what we are doing has been beneficial to you. We would like to think that people read our reviews, then go to Amazon to hear some samples, and then purchase the things that appeal to them, thus making their lives a little brighter.

Thanks for reading.

Related Links:
  Other links relating to EvilSponge's Tenth Anniversary:
Statistics on EvilSponge's web presence.
The danger of being a music reviewer.
The EvilSponge Family Photo.
PostLibyan's essay on the nature of EvilSponge.
Malimus's essay on the first decade of EvilSponge.
Indoor Miner's list of the 25 best records of the decade.
Indoor Miner's list of the 100 best songs of the decade.
Meta commentary.
Best quotes from our first 10 years.
Various Minions list Records that Stay Near the Stereo.
Various Minions collect anecdotes about the music biz.

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