Sometimes it seems that everyone who works in music in Seattle would be happier if we only wrote nice things about bands, even when they suck. But then we'd be Rolling Stone, not The Stranger.

We actually got a phone call from a musician who was angry that one of our writers confessed, in a positive blurb, to have previously written something negative about the artist. The writer only mentioned that old criticism in order to reverse it. Yet the musician used strong language to explain to me that the writer obviously had a personal vendetta against him, since his recollection of the aforementioned negative review was "not that mean." The artist was therefore upset that our writer would have used the paper to dredge up this history. The artist said, "I just think if you don't have anything nice to say, you shouldn't say anything at all."

I assured him that if he really felt that way we'd never cover any of his shows or albums ever again, because to say only nice things isn't really music criticism, now is it?

In a similar situation, I wrote a negative preview of a band, and their manager sent me this e-mail: "Insulting bands whose music you don't understand didn't help hide the ignorance of the last two music editors at The Stranger, and it won't help hide yours either. Please either make sure you have the facts straight or do not write about the bands you don't know anything about."

There's a brilliant semantic sleight of hand in his tantrum: Who can spot it? He says I don't "understand" their music. But don't they sing in English? English is my native language! And my hearing is very good, so what is there not to understand? Or maybe it's not that I don't "understand"; maybe he's just mad 'cause I don't like the band. Crybaby.

The Stranger has been entrusted by the city to act as a culture broker, and it's a responsibility we take seriously. If people didn't care about our opinions, they wouldn't read the paper. Music writers exist to inspire thought, not to be the final word on music. It's the readers we work for -- whether they agree with us or hate our guts -- and every letter we get proves we've done our job. At the end of the day, we answer to the people who read our paper to find out what's going on, what's great, and what's awful.