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October 05, 2009


Pitchfork has long been infamous for its awful, awful writing (David Cross probably had the best take on it, ironically published on Pitchfork's own site) but it's hard not to admit that the site is too useful for music fans to ignore. The "best new music" is a great guide to new albums, and the year-end best-of lists are surprisingly satisfying.

Pitchfork was an important gateway for me when I was first getting into rock-based music outside of FM radio fare, but I quickly came to dislike it for a number of reasons (self-indulgent writing, fairly safe and unadventurous taste once you figure out their aesthetic boundaries). http://addictivethoughts.com/2009/04/14/for-posteritys-sake-the-infamous-ryan-sjohn-coltrane-pitchfork-review/>This is maybe the single worst record review ever written and an encapsulation of some of the site's worst tendencies (written by PF's owner and founder, Ryan).

These days I discover stuff mainly from listening to a lot of online radio (http://www.wfmu.org/>WFMU is the absolute best). I also really like http://www.aquariusrecords.org/>this site of a tiny record store in San Francisco-- not because I particularly like their reviews, but they've got a great hit rate in terms of me liking stuff that they recommend.

Are you guys alleging that this is coherent English?

Ugh. That excerpt reads as if the author had committed the collected works of Robert Christgau to memory.

In other news, Built to Spill may have finally found their stride again.

Whoa...dude, that's downright eerie. I just found myself listening to "Perfect From Now On" this morning on the way to work, for the first time in ages, for no particular reason...it just seemed right...

The 90s was so drenched with irony, everything was ironic....so much so, it meant....irony no longer existed.

4 the memories:

Air - All I Need (Music Only)

La Femme D'Argent

Air - All I Need

Just Cuz:

Zero 7 - Destiny

Reading the comments above... so Pitchfork are infamously awful, except that they have good taste, and they write good lists, and the most salient example of their bad writing comes from Ryan Schreiber, who (not by coincidence) has been kept far away from writing reviews for several years?

I dunno, folks. I read sites written by politics junkies and lawyers despite the likelihood that there will be terms I don't understand and sentences I find awkward-- I agree the paragraph quoted above is cramped, but I don't see how it's hilariously bad. Anyone want to break it down for me?

Pitchfork is notorious for the kind of review parodied in the David Cross item linked above, but the passage cited in the OP wasn't really obscure to me (perhaps my passing familiarity with Air's oeuvre helps, though surely publius has heard them too?).

To be sure, I have almost no idea what "Balearic/glo-fi/'lude-house" refers to, but the rest was neither obscure nor obviously unreasonable (haven't heard the latest Air, so can't say for sure on last point).


(Trying to close tags.)

One more try.

wow, someone needs a hug.

Oh for Christ's sake can SOMEONE do something about this damned troll? That's not Brett Bellmore at 10:40 AM, I know it even without rolling the mouse over the link.

Jesurgislac, how did you get rid of the bold and can you do the same for the italic?


Glo-Fi, and I think lude-house is a play off of "lude" for quaaludes and the hyphenated-house combos: "Trance-House", "Acid-House", "Deep-House"

..try again to deitalicise...

Balearic beat

I'm familiar with the aesthetic, but not the term.

I think it means "We're sick of Air's shit." Maybe we just need a Pitchfork-to-normal-person translator.

Jesurgislac, how did you get rid of the bold and can you do the same for the italic?

I don't know why the de-italicising didn't work. I got rid of the bold using close tags and close paragraph tags.

"We're sick of Air's shit" ... or that

Wow, what a great joke: bestiality, incest, homosexuality AND racism. Nice one. Now go away, troll.

Jes, obviously this isn't you. Could the mods just ban this idiot?

I was excited to read a post about how bad the writing is at Pitchfork, as I've long felt the same way. But instead, I get this:

Did you hear Barack Obama got AIDS from a monkey? It was Michelle Obama's brother.

How could anyone actually think this "joke" is in any way funny. I'm pretty sure it violates the posting policy.

Cavity Lee asked for a breakdown of the review's badness. I'll give it a shot.

It begins by obsessing over whether Air is ironic. The band produces "an unapologetically frothy sort of cheese-pop" -- I'm not sure how one apologizes for that sort of thing, or how cheesy pop crosses the line into frothiness -- "without letting it get dominated by snorting insincerity or self-conscious hokeyness." Because there's no way to prove, or really even back up, these sorts of statements, one just has to take them on faith. That's not a review; it's a kind of pose. Then the reviewer announces that "You could still hear the kitsch" -- again, what does that mean? -- "but it wasn't the driving force." We're only in the first paragraph and already the review is redundant and incoherent. In the second paragraph, the writer declares that the new album "is a dopey little slice of not-much that feels like a noodly rendering of yacht-pop weightlessness." Why the author expects a band called Air to be weighty is beyond me, but that description seems to describe the review more than anything else.

It's the third paragraph, though, where the writing really gets ugly.

"This song is the album's longest, worst, and most emblematic of Love 2's problems, nearly seven minutes of malaise that bookends a preciously chipper, tin whistle-punctuated slab of Playskool krautrock with two movements of plastic surgeon's waiting-office Muzak. It's laughably oily when its Econolodge-noir sax oozes in crotch first, and even more uncomfortable in its second half when Dunckel's pitched-up voice chirps, 'Woman / Make me feel ... warm inside.' God, it's awkward."

Is the song the longest and worst of Love 2's songs, or is it the longest and worst of Love 2's problems? The sentence is unclear.

What exactly are the bookends here? To bookend something is to appear on either side of it, presumably to hold it up, to give it some heft or perhaps meaning. So does the seven-minute song occur twice? Or is it bookended by two other songs, rather than the other way around?

I can see how a tin whistle might punctuate something, but would it punctuate a slab? And how does Playskool krautrock come in slabs, even metaphorically? (Leaving aside the question of what Playskool krautrock is or what it is supposed to mean.)

Why "plastic surgeon's waiting-office Muzak"? It's an image that almost works, so long as you don't think too hard. Is the plastic surgeon's office supposed to be a really hip and ironic environment? If so, are you saying that Air is hip and ironic, too? And is that bad? Is that different from what the band is trying to be? I feel like they should be judged on whether what they're trying to do works -- not on what they're trying to do. And if it doesn't work, just come out and say so, and say why. Otherwise, I'll suspect that you don't actually know what you're talking about.

How is something "laughably oily"? So oily it's funny? Now, here comes a metaphor that for once isn't mixed: the reviewer says that the oily music "oozes in." That makes sense. Except that we've transferred from the plastic surgeon's office to the Econolodge. Why? To what effect? And why noir? And most of all, how on earth does "oily music" ooze in "crotch first"?

Again, the reviewer provides the perfect self-review: "God, it's awkward."

People actually read Pitchfork's reviews? I thought they just checked the scores on the front page and torrent everything over a 7.5.

i never really read much Pitchfork, but here the last bit I did read (and this was 3 years ago):

    Kanye once said Dilla’s drums “can’t ever be topped.” There’s nothing like tragedy when it comes to legitimizing hyperbole, huh? These kick drums sound like John Goodman farting on the Challenger while it blows up. The heartbeat of Q-Tip’s floptastic solo jernt, which was produced almost entirely by the man in question, has got three different samples looped up, weaving and sneezing on each other. Each one– the frisky guitar, the Vibrettes drums, and ESG’s “UFO” skylight swerve– has an identity of its own, but is also syncopated deep into the track. The multiple samples are appropriate, considering the jam is about riding around in your whip knocking your favorite music out the woofers. I guess the Abstract’s lothario shtick ain’t so bad in retrospect, but really, no one’s listening for that racket. It works because it’s complicated and sloppy. Nobody knows how to intentionally fuck up a track anymore.


after reading that i had to complain. then i stopped reading PF.

Cleek, that was funny.

Reading over those Pitchfork articles, it appears there are references within references, within inside jokes, within a whole lot of hipster-geek-out, mind-masturbations. Not that there anything wrong with that, (don’t knock my hobbies!) but it can be a bit….geeky…some geek-out differently than others. (Comic books can make me obnoxious and pretentious, for sure)

That *was* funny, cleek. 12 year olds (of whatever chronological-age) tend to be a mixture of hilarious/witty and insufferable, and that little snip is both!

A big problem with music journalism - all of it - aside from the inherent ridiculousness of writing extensively about particular music, is the unfortunate idea that putting something into a genre-box (Balearic/glo-fi/'lude-house) actually describes anything important about the quality of the material - is it any good or not? Most major genres have bad and good examples - good country, bad country; good rock, bad rock; good fusion celtic, and bad, etc. That so many supposed-sub-genres (e.g. Balearic/glo-fi/'lude-house) are actually sui generis reinforces the point: they are defined by what genre-hybrid they are - they're defined by words, IOW.

So, music is just an extension of your 'lifestyle', rather than something which inspires a fresh look at things. I think this is why so many 'indy' bands' (i.e. white, vaguely anglo/american pop/rock) stuff is so overwhelmingly *word* oriented. It's always the same three chords, same meter, same guitars, same instruments, same sounds - the words are the only things which change.

It might be fun, but it doesn't really have that much to do with music.

I just want to know if Publius saw Clutch at Austin City Limits, since we're talking music.

People actually read Pitchfork's reviews? I thought they just checked the scores on the front page and torrent everything over a 7.5.


Er, I mean, that's stealing. And stealing is, um, really bad. Cough.

(Just saw Clutch play a couple weeks ago -- mind = still blown. Hope you got the chance to see 'em rock ACL, pub.)

Simple fix for the Pitchforkers: stop attempting to re-animate the rotting bones of Lester Bangs; write as if you knew what you were talking about, and write as if you're trying to communicate.

Boy Howdy!

I can't totally hate this kind of writing, because it provided an excuse for one of my favorite parodies ever: Veronica Geng's impersonation of Robert Christgau reviewing the Watergate tapes, in which you can't tell whether or not the reviewer (a) liked them and (b) understood that they weren't music. It's in Love Trouble, which all nerds should read.

I'll second the recommendation of Aquarius Records made above. Also, Tiny Mix Tapes (which can also be a bit obtuse, but they seem aware of it and are actually quite funny), Gorilla vs Bear, and NPR music (I have listened to their podcast of the Sunny Day Real Estate show from last week at least 6 times so far).

(Just saw Clutch play a couple weeks ago -- mind = still blown. Hope you got the chance to see 'em rock ACL, pub.)

Me, too. Electric Factory in Philadelphia. I've seen them a number of times, and that last was the best. They just get better and better. Where'd you see them, Matttbastard?

The Music Hall in London, Ontario, Canada. First time I've seen 'em live in 15 years. Sold out gig, totally pumped crowd -- lots of energy both on stage and in the audience.

My liver is still AWOL.

My liver got off pretty easy. I spent a lot of time on the floor, where there was no alcohol, so my drinking was very sporadic.

I don't know if you know Down at all, but they were playing the same venue the next night and hadn't sold very well. They were giving away tickets for Down at the Clutch show. We got 8 and found enough people to use all of them the next night. I put a bit more strain on the liver at that show, where I spent much more time in the bar areas. Even with the free tickets, they got plenty of cash out of me. That Electric Factory has some good economists.

Yeah, I know of Down quite well -- am a big LA sludge fan. (Phil Anselmo? Not so much, but wevs lol).

Am going to see Converge + High on Fire @ the same venue on the 22nd. That one should be nuts -- Converge has a big following in London.

I think I saw Converge open for someone or other, maybe Mastodon, but I wasn't paying much attention. I have heard some stuff of theirs that I liked since. I'd love to see High on Fire live. Very heavy, I would think. I'll have to check the tour dates and see if I can hit that one.

Down was pretty damned intense, btw. Two awesome but different shows that weekend. Good times.

Hey, now (speaking of Mastodon):

Mastodon: 11/01/2009 Electric Factory - Philadelphia, PA with Dethklok, Converge, & High On Fire

Thanks for the tip, matttbastard.

the thing most people don't understand is that most of these reviewers are undergrad english majors with limited musical knowledge. that and they get paid something like $20 an article and you get what you pay for.

I'm not a big fan of PItchfork. And I greatly prefer U2 to Pink Floyd.

But Animals IS better than Boy. And maybe better than The Final Cut (a greatly underrated album). And just because they rated it a 10 (which, by the by, it's not) doesn't mean Wish You Were Here can't be too. (Although it's not a 10 either.)

Whoops. Posted on the wrong thread. Damn...

Have you read Chuck Klosterman's hilarious review of the Beatles re issue? Reviewed as if he never heard of them

"Like most people, I was initially confused by EMI’s decision to release remastered versions of all 13 albums by the Liverpool pop group Beatles, a 1960s band so obscure that their music is not even available on iTunes"


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