Pitchfork: A Defense
February 16, 2010 1:25 AM   Subscribe

The Village Voice recently released their 2009 Pazz and Jop poll. Several critics on the I Love Music message boards noticed its similarity to Pitchfork's 2009 poll. Pitchfork's Editor-in-Chief Scott Plagenhoef steps in and over the course of fifty posts defends the apparent "Pitchforkification of music."
posted by minifigs (157 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Pitchfork is a cancer on good music. There, I said it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:31 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Merriweather was damn good. I've been following those guys for 10 years now, and I'm consistently impressed by their inconsistency. It's always something different, but you can always tell who it is...
posted by mr_roboto at 1:51 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have no problem at all with Pitchfork. I do have a problem with anyone who reads a single source of music reviews and then complains that there's not enough diversity in music criticism.

For a lot of people, music is not something to get too serious about; it's just one more type of entertainment, something to listen to on the way to work or while you're cooking dinner. Those people could do worse than listen to a few new bands based on Pitchfork reviews. At least it's not the bloody NME.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:12 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


So the editor of Pitchfork is a self-important blowhard? who woulda thunk it eh
posted by dydecker at 2:50 AM on February 16, 2010


Ha yeah that editor is exactly what I expected, sadly. I don't know why I still visit the site daily, it's been so long since I saw a record review that spurred me to check something new out. My problem with the site will always be that their writing mostly focuses on the cultural context of the particular album or song in question, as in its "hype" standing and what the blog world thinks and so on, rather than, I don't know, discussing the music itself? I think it's funny that editor considers Pitchfork as writing seriously about music. Maybe the marketing of music, but it hardly seems like an environment for people who love music to deconstruct that love. Which is what I'd like in a music website.
posted by palidor at 2:58 AM on February 16, 2010


Perhaps there's a gap in the market for a music review site with a policy of "no Pitchfork music"? I.e., as soon as something has the whiff of indie about it, or it's slightly twee or self-consciously ironic or calculatedly faux-naïve, or if the band members wear cardigans or rustic-looking beards or look like characters from a Wes Anderson movie, it's banned by editorial policy.
posted by acb at 3:26 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


saw this card which was attached to a gift subscription to the wire magazine:
posted by Stuartsjaw at 3:29 AM on February 16, 2010


Wait a minute - who the hell is the guy in the huge, useless picture in the 'fifty posts' link? Is that Scott? Why?

Good lord, folks. Yes, the internet lets you put pictures of people on it. Doesn't mean you always have to.
posted by koeselitz at 3:46 AM on February 16, 2010


People still release "albums"?
posted by telstar at 3:50 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did he really suggest that in the olden days music critics wasted our time with their opinions of what was good? And now, a music site can track what readers look at and give them more of that?

That's kind of horrifying. On the other hand, it makes me feel less bad that I had bought perhaps 3 of Pitchforks top 500 CDs of the last decade. My taste isn't shaped by reader polls.
posted by acrasis at 4:00 AM on February 16, 2010


Anyway, there is one band that I think represents everything evil, vile, meaningless, crude, hateful, and shit-inflected about music today - one band that makes the most sappy, seamy, stupid indie-twee trash that is simultaneously accepted by nearly everyone simply because it's kinda catchy in that cool way that every unthinking dolt who likes rock-as-background-music loves. There is a band whose every lyric mixes the perfect concoction of meaninglessness and breezy self-aware catchiness, a steady stream of heady arrogance that perpetually just grooves without know how or why it's grooving. That band is invariably loved by critics, because that band would smear itself in shit and forcefeed rotten barley to swans if they knew the foie gras would bring cash on the open market.

That band - that vile, useless, disgustingly stupid band - is Spoon. Fucking Spoon. I cannot describe how much I despise those pointlessly catchy and stupidly danceable beats. Invariably I find that when people like Spoon, it is because people enjoy turning their brains off for two and a half minutes at a time. And Spoon is emblematic of everything that is wrong with modern music - because Spoon epitomizes all the things that are wrong with the Strokes, with the White Stripes, with every other cool fucking nonsense group that's hit it big in the last ten goddamned years. The only thing that's good about them, the only thing that people like about them, is what they're not: they're not uncool, they're not unhip, they don't get too funky or crazy or wild, they don't say anything remotely offensive, and yet they have the good sense not to commit any fashion faux paseses or anything like that. They would never throw in a socialist screed, or a polka beat, or a jam-band cover of the Grateful Dead; they would never do anything so 'risky.' They merely continue to avoid making any mistakes, continue to indulge bombastically in this era's conceptions of cool and chic, and for that they are adored.

They are my generation's Led Zeppelin.
posted by koeselitz at 4:00 AM on February 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


Grab the pitchforks! Oh, wait.

Yeah, I hate Pitchfork. I find their reviews mean-spirited. For Regina Spector's last album (admittedly not her best) the writer opened with a mention of her age, and said she was too old to be making dolphin sounds in her music. According to Pitchfork, once you pass a certain age, you are not allowed to be zany, experimental, or what have you.

Pitchfork. Smug, ageist bastards.
posted by mmmbacon at 4:03 AM on February 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


As far as Pitchfork goes, they're all about acting smug and superior. True music fans are open-hearted and open-minded, but I see nothing, absolutely nothing, of the spirit of John Peel in Pitchfork's music journalism. Seriously, good music journalism should have more heart. I wish them the best, but this is why they fall for trash like fucking Spoon (and fucking dubstep, for that matter) - because they're not focused on the heart of the tunes.
posted by koeselitz at 4:09 AM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


it is because people enjoy turning their brains off for two and a half minutes at a time.

Isn't that precisely why a lot of people listen to popular music? Anyway, Led Zeppelin wasn't all that mainstream back when they were their generation's Led Zeppelin. I would venture that Spoon is more like the Disco of that time.
posted by telstar at 4:30 AM on February 16, 2010


They are my generation's Led Zeppelin.

*Gasps, clutches pearls*
posted by sallybrown at 4:41 AM on February 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Quoting Merlin Mann on the topic of Pitchfork: "Too bad you can't permanently alter the career of a Pitchfork reviewer by picking a number and hitting "Post." Because that'd perk 'em up."

Also: "I love music, have cool friends, and really enjoy life. So, I'd be useless as a music critic."
posted by lifeless at 4:46 AM on February 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I bet that somewhere amongst all of this there is a guy with a beard, thick-framed glasses, and wearing a tea cosy on his head. He has a guitar and records his music straight to tape lo-fi style with traffic noise and clearing his throat and everything and the tracks are interspersed with little snippets of conversation with his girlfriend about ostensibly-interesting-but-actually-mundane things that are happening in their lives. His music is described by three hangers-on as "bizarre poetry":

Green grew the sky
Her toes lined up like little diamonds
On an expanse
Oh! Oh! Oh!
An expanse of boils and plasticmemory
Bottles rolled to the corner of the room like sheep
Shorn of their purpose
I stood there looking down
Oh! Oh! Oh!
Looking down and willing myself to say goodbye
She was talking with her fingers on her iPhone
To a guy named Chad.

posted by turgid dahlia at 4:58 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I cannot describe how much I despise those pointlessly catchy and stupidly danceable beats.
posted by koeselitz at 4:00 AM on February 16


I'll have what he isn't having.

Ahhh, music crit threads on Mefi, such a joy as always.
posted by rory at 5:00 AM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Pitchfork's desperate attempts to be cool, cutting edge, and confontational is why I only read Sugarape. They're total fuckin' Mexico.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:08 AM on February 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I find that when people like Spoon, it is because people enjoy turning their brains off for two and a half minutes at a time. And Spoon is emblematic of everything that is wrong with modern music

I would venture that Spoon is more like the Disco of that time.


I don't love this path. There was amazing, brain-melting disco as well as faddish cash-in bullshit like The Ethel Merman Disco Album. Even ye olde exalted Smart One read a book and declared it OK to turn off your mind, relax and float downstream. I don't think we have to plant our flags so quickly and pick either Rush or "Splish Splash" and live with the consequences of that decision, y'know? Art is every inch as personal as religion and can serve just as many purposes. Dancing is awesome.
posted by mintcake! at 5:09 AM on February 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


The ILX site linked on the "50 of Scott's posts" page is....interesting. Seems like something I should have run into before now.
posted by nevercalm at 5:10 AM on February 16, 2010


Also, your favorite musical criticism organ sucks.
posted by nevercalm at 5:16 AM on February 16, 2010


telstar: “Anyway, Led Zeppelin wasn't all that mainstream back when they were their generation's Led Zeppelin. I would venture that Spoon is more like the Disco of that time.”

You have it sort of backwards, my friend. Hardly anybody was actually into disco, apart from watching it in John Travolta movies; maybe a tiny 0.01% of the music-buying public was actually going to disco clubs at any given time. Whereas Led Zeppelin were fantastically huge among nearly every cohort. They were the rock stars, getting gold records and selling out stadiums. The only people who dissed on Zepp were a few rock critics - many of whom were just waiting for ELO, since all they really wanted was a new Beatles. Among them, however, was Lester Bangs:
What we need are more rock "stars" willing to make fools of themselves, absolutely jump off the deep end and make the audience embarrassed for them if necessary, so long as they have not one shred of dignity or mythic corona left. Because then the whole damn pompous edifice of this supremely ridiculous rock ‘n’ roll industry, set up to grab by conning youth and encouraging fantasies of a puissant "youth culture," would collapse, and with it would collapse the careers of the hyped talentless nonentities who breed off of it. Can you imagine Led Zeppelin without Robert Plant conning the audience: "I’m gonna give you every inch of my love"—he really gives them nothing, not even a good-natured grinful "Howdy-do"—Or Jimmy Page’s arch scowl of super-musician ennui?
Spoon really are my generation's version of this stuff - schlocky acceptance of the norm, absolutely no joi de vivre or fuck-it-upness or even contrarianism, nothing but a groovy beat and that's all. Led Zepp were bad because they romanticized and glorified unthinkingly a silly, stupid idea of what rock could do - a sort of Wagner-Crowley mess of fantastica and sex. That's fun, but it's so much less than what rock can do. It's the same with Spoon - it is good party music, good for the background of a hip underground flick or for downtown driving or what have you, but it has no life to it. What are they trying to do? Who are they trying to fuck up? What are they trying to destroy? What are they trying to build? Most importantly, what are they trying to say? Nothing. That's fine, but rock can do fucking more. And it should.

rory: “Ahhh, music crit threads on Mefi, such a joy as always.”

If there's no joy, make some joy for yourself. Music is about love. I have read hundreds upon hundreds of Pitchfork's reviews. I remember right after they started, when Ryan Schrieber, the founder, printed his review of the Pet Sounds reissue that gave it a 4.0 and said it "hasn't aged well." From those early days up to now, in all that time, I've read about four reviews that actually communicated any real love or excitement about music and what it could do. I think that kind of sucks.

I don't know - what do you think? That's what it's all about, really. It's nothing to be ashamed of, even if people will disagree with you - say what you think.
posted by koeselitz at 5:18 AM on February 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


As far as Pitchfork goes, they're all about acting smug and superior.

I find this criticism is mostly leveled by people who don't read the site and it is not true of the majority of what Pitchfork publishes. They put out a lot of content, including five album reviews every day, 5,000-word feature articles on the histories of niche genres, and hours and hours of video. People single out the snarky album reviews that are sometimes published because they are easy to hate. Most of the reviews, however, are relatively thoughtful and well written. On the whole Pitchfork is pretty quaint when compared to a lot of sites that have sprung up since its inception that traffic in smugness and superiority. I think Scott Plagenhoef nailed it when he said Pitchfork gets a lot of flak for the things people hate about it but not a lot of credit for the things it does well.

Re: Spoon

At the risk of sounding insufferable, their first two albums (Telephono, Series of Sneaks) were pretty good. But I agree they have gone downhill.
posted by ekroh at 5:25 AM on February 16, 2010


I downloaded a bunch of Spoon once. I'll be damned if I can remember a single song.

Led Zepp were bad because they romanticized and glorified unthinkingly a silly, stupid idea of what rock could do - a sort of Wagner-Crowley mess of fantastica and sex. That's fun, but it's so much less than what rock can do.

Don't invite this guy to the next orgy.
posted by fleetmouse at 5:37 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


If there's no joy, make some joy for yourself.

Indeed. It's pretty gross that people's derision of Pitchfork is a version of the same thing they claim to hate about Pitchfork and basically boils down to "they suck, I'm better." The complaints people have about the site are endemic to criticism in general and not Pitchfork in particular, and I think people just can't stand Pitchfork because it's been so successful.
posted by ekroh at 5:38 AM on February 16, 2010


ekroh: “I find this criticism is mostly leveled by people who don't read the site and it is not true of the majority of what Pitchfork publishes. They put out a lot of content, including five album reviews every day, 5,000-word feature articles on the histories of niche genres, and hours and hours of video. People single out the snarky album reviews that are sometimes published because they are easy to hate. Most of the reviews, however, are relatively thoughtful and well written. On the whole Pitchfork is pretty quaint when compared to a lot of sites that have sprung up since its inception that traffic in smugness and superiority. I think Scott Plagenhoef nailed it when he said Pitchfork gets a lot of flak for the things people hate about it but not a lot of credit for the things it does well.”

I know that's sort of a cliche about them, and I was kind of riffing there - I think I expressed a little better in my later comment what I really dislike about them. But I really mean it. There's something joyless, something loveless, about Pitchfork's reviews, and it constantly irks me. And I say this as someone who's been reading the site since Ryan Schrieber was just posting his own reviews every few days, since back when they posted stuff not daily but just 'every few days, maybe.' I know that they've tried, and I know that they've put in an effort. And I know that they know their stuff.

That's what I mean, really, when I say that they're about acting smug or superior. They're not really directly smug, and I don't blame them for being total jerks - I know they're not. But they insist, for example, on trying to review everything as if that were in the purview of the critics they have, although they have a good number - the fact that they're only superficially covering electronica, for example, makes me wonder why they try so hard to cover it at all. Seriously, they pay lip service to an electronica album every year or so, giving it rave reviews, but it's clear (to me at least) that they're really only going to get into it so much and not any more, and they'll only give it that tiny coverage because they want to present an image of doing everything. Scott perpetuates this stuff in that thread, pointing out that they've got 'metal' journos and 'hip-hop' journos - which I question, I really do. Most of the electro reviews I read are by the standard rock journos they hire, and they sound precisely like what they are - reviews by guys who knew and cared little to nothing about the album they're reviewing until they sat there with Google for a few hours. That's fine, but it's not really vivid and important writing.

The whole dubstep thing is another example of this, I believe. I think dubstep was vastly overrated by Pitchfork, who went out of their way to review a bunch of dubstep discs. I get the feeling they were only doing this because 'this is what they're into over in England right now.' That's sort of lame to me. I don't really dig dubstep, and I'm not down on anybody that does, but I got the same vibe from the P-fork reviews of dubstep that I get from all their other writing - lots of good research, lots of up-front info, very little love or meaning or life.

I know they print a lot of well-researched stuff every day, but honestly that means very little to me in this day and age. I can get most of the info I get out of any Pitchfork review from Google in the time it takes me to read the thing, so why bother? There's sort of a higher standard here in rock writing, and they're not anywhere near it; people say that they do certain things very well, but more and more it seems to me that what they're trying to do well is doing stuff well. Reading their reviews, I always get the feeling that the writer has just done a bunch of googling and maybe reviewed an album he'd otherwise never listen to simply in order to try to impress me with his breadth. They try to do everything, apparently to prove something, and that kills it for me.

Like I said, I've read hundreds of their reviews, but I've only ever read three or four that really crackled. I wish they had some ideas about where music should go, or what it should do, or what's bad or what's good or... anything, really. Mostly, it seems like they're just rushing to keep up.
posted by koeselitz at 5:52 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I make my joy in the comments threads over here, linked on MeFi only a few days ago. Which represents no more than a fraction of the music that makes me happy, given its particular focus, and covers plenty of music that doesn't, but there's something about the joyous nature of the project (good word!) that has made me gravitate there rather than here when I want to get my music crit on. I agree with your comments about wanting to communicate real love or excitement about music - that's what was so discouraging to me about your trashing of Spoon. Regardless of the merits or otherwise of your critique, you did exactly what you dislike Pitchfork for doing.

As it happens, sure, I like Spoon; for a few months in 2006 I listened to them a lot. Not because of some Pitchfork review (I usually only see those when MeFi links to them), but because I visited a fellow Mefite in NYC and he gave me a copy of Gimme Fiction, which led to one of those bursts of buying-the-back-catalogue listening that comes out of falling in love with a band. Falling in love involves the heart, wouldn't you agree? It had nothing to do with them or me being cool or uncool: I had never heard of them before he handed me the disc, and all I really knew was that they were a fairly obscure band (in early 2006, from a UK perspective) who made music that I enjoyed. I've never analyzed the lyrics that closely; I try not to.

Perhaps what got to me about the idea that Spoon admirers are all hipster doofuses or whatever is that it implies that all we do is sit around listening to Spoon and awaiting their next release. My warm feelings toward Girls Can Tell and Kill the Moonlight stem from one month of listening four years ago, basically, not some lifestyle choice sealed in blood. I listen to all sorts of stuff; some of my pleasures may well be yours. If I enjoy enjoy turning my brains off for two and a half minutes at a time, what does that suggest about the stuff that we both like, and therefore about you?

To be fair, to some extent I do enjoy turning part of my brain off when I listen to music: the part that looks for meaning in lyrics, socialist or otherwise. Otherwise it has a habit of shouting down the part that connects to the music itself.
posted by rory at 5:55 AM on February 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


"That's fine, but rock can do fucking more. And it should."

Riiiight. I'll take Spoon over the re-hash of "We Are the World" any day.

Although the new album hasn't stuck with me yet. Loved the two before it though.

Now Lil Wayne making straight-up rock album? That's my kind of crazy. In theory at least because I have no interest in hearing it, but I enjoyed reading about it.

Also I'm in my 30's now. I don't have time to keep up with every new release and I know there's lots of good stuff I'm missing. So be it. PFM does a pretty good job of pointing me towards things I like. Not always, but enough. And I like playing through videos from PF TV while I'm at work to pass the time. There are some real gems once in a while.

I guess I find it funny for the n-th time how many people think of PFM as the terrorist cabal who snuck into their house and forced them to listen to Animal Collective. I mean, they're critics. Tell them to go fuck themselves but stop acting so butt-hurt that they've actually risen to prominence, of a sort.

Would you prefer the heady days of getting to choose between music review in either Rolling Stone or Spin?
posted by bardic at 5:55 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think they're earnest, but impossibly overextended and mesmerized with news and the tectonics of crowds and trends.

They're fairly good at crosshairing commercial music into so many parenthetical zones of alt-this and that-core, and laying out the genres in a mostly complete manner (I think Doom Metal even got its moment), and then giving a quick sort of stock-feed of each one. Metal? No, not now. Electro? Yes. Disco Italo? Coming back, check again soon. Kanye? Still an ass.

Flirting with rap, slumming with techno, delving an inch deep into noise. This results in a crazy shuffle skewed towards loud novelty and kitsch, instant musical analysis with all the depth of a one-hour tan, and a top-100 that comes sprinkled with party anthems and tokenized get-its. The message of Pitchfork is perfect for the medium of flash memory, and rapid, disposable culture, and for the many iPods which, every December, in observance of The List, quietly whirl into a little Stalinesque purge. And it's perfect if you're just in the mood to web-surf and tread the water of right this minute, or treat music like a twitchy stock index, and day-trade on some ballooning trend.

But all of the above is not music criticism. It's news, as in cable-, as in -corp. The endeavor to stay current is almost the whole apparatus. And so whenever they fail to stay current (techno and rap tend to outmaneuver them, metal and jazz to escape them utterly) they appear desperate and empty-handed. See, we included a dumb Jay-Z song! And then we referenced in-jokey, teutonically-named novelty acts like Die Antwoord and DAS RACIST. That covers both kinds of hip hop, right? What a hedge. We have such a missile-lock on the underground, homes. Are people still saying homes?
posted by kid ichorous at 5:59 AM on February 16, 2010 [12 favorites]


"Metal? No, not now."

Really? They have a recurring column on metal and to be honest it's one of the areas where I think they sprout hipster boners just for the sake of it.

Either that or I don't think Mastodon is awesome enough.
posted by bardic at 6:03 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


rory: “To be fair, to some extent I do enjoy turning part of my brain off when I listen to music: the part that looks for meaning in lyrics, socialist or otherwise. Otherwise it has a habit of shouting down the part that connects to the music itself.”

I happen to like music with lots of shouting.

Sorry if I was insulting above; you can like what you like. And I won't try to tear you down for it. I don't accuse Pitchfork of being acerbic; much to the contrary, I'd find them more interesting if they were more polemical.

What do you like about Spoon?

me: “That's fine, but rock can do fucking more. And it should.”

bardic: “Riiiight. I'll take Spoon over the re-hash of "We Are the World" any day.”

That's very much not what I mean. I mean that while there are people in the world still releasing stuff like this... what else could be possible?
posted by koeselitz at 6:08 AM on February 16, 2010


Ha! I didn't notice that, but the site still comes off to me like an urgent stock ticker.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:08 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apparently there are still some people on the internet who think that other people give the slightest shit about what bands they like.
posted by unSane at 6:08 AM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, I kinda like Spoon
posted by unSane at 6:09 AM on February 16, 2010


unSane: “Apparently there are still some people on the internet who think that other people give the slightest shit about what bands they like.”

It's not that I believe everybody cares what I think. It's that I care about what everybody else thinks. And if I didn't care about what any of you thought, it would mean that I didn't care about any of you at all.
posted by koeselitz at 6:13 AM on February 16, 2010


"I mean that while there are people in the world still releasing stuff like this... what else could be possible?"

I've got every Spoon album on my hard drive along with, well, a lot of Mark E. Smith.

Thus I refute koeselitz, etc. They're definitely different bands but I don't see the need to pick on one band when you've got, like, those screamo white belt-squatting like a constipated gorilla bands to mock.
posted by bardic at 6:15 AM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


That's fun, but it's so much less than what rock can do

So is any band objectionable if they do "so much less than what rock can do"? Even if what they do is fun? Because music, including rock, can do all sorts of different things, on many different spectrums. Any band is going to be "so much less" by some standard or other.

I like Spoon for their spare instrumentation and sense of rhythm; they fit my imagined idea of Austin, which rested on little more than a viewing of Slacker and occasional blog mentions of SXSW. That's it. I've never expected them to do everything that rock can do. "Everything that rock can do" can only be done by every rock thing.
posted by rory at 6:21 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


(I know that you were talking specifically about Led Zep, by the way - just trying to unpick the wider implications.)
posted by rory at 6:24 AM on February 16, 2010


I liked this comment at I Love Music, where one Pazz/Jop critic compares his all-Latin best of 2009 with the official list.

V/A - Si, Para Usted: The Funky Beats Of Revolutionary Cuba Vol. 2 - #654 (two votes)

Jesus. Wasn't there a time that kind of thing would have been praised to high heaven in Pazz and Jop? Maybe I'm remembering through rose-colored glasses.

Anyway, I'm in a local used CD store the other day, nosing around for bargains (the manager's going totally ipod or something so he's been dumping all this amazing classic jazz which they're selling for like $6 (discovered very cool folks like Leroy Vinnegar and filled in my small-group Ella nicely, love her voice but prefer to hear it with just a few instruments instead of that strings and orchestra stuff)) and the nice clerk who lives just up the block and always plays oddball, interesting stuff had on some odd, fractured indie that completely caught my browsing ear but I couldn't place. It was really getting to me though - catchy, angular, fractured pop that grooved and grooved, like Wire in a happy mood. So I ask the nice used record store clerk what it was and I'll be damned. It was this album.

By Spoon.
posted by mediareport at 6:30 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


At the risk of sounding like an indie caricature (and really, I am lame and old and not hip to what the kids are listening to these days), I fell head over hells in love with Spoon when I heard Don't Buy the Realistic on the What's Up Matador compilation. And A Series of Sneaks kicked my ass with its awesomeness. They write great pop songs. I've been to a handful of Spoon shows, the early days ones were brilliant and full of energy and a great time. I don't see what's wrong with making catchy rock music, and I get the feeling that the guys in Spoon really enjoy what they do. That said, I haven't really enjoyed their more recent albums as much because it does seem like a spark is gone. But it's hard to begrudge them their OC-ified audience, and if people who don't care much about music really take a shine to Spoon, well, at least they're better than something that's auto-tuned to death. The band I just don't get no matter how I try? Freaking Animal Collective. I am bored to tears by them, and they are a large part of why I don't trust Pitchfork's reviews to get me new music I'd enjoy. So I rarely find new music these days.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:35 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


i'd like to point out the aspect of the pazz n jop that makes it superior in every way to pitchfork: the entire list of 1,934 bands that made the list and who voted for it. this is a triumph of hypertext utility that pitchfolk made a decision NOT to employ when putting their top 50 together in order to create a perception of editorial consensus.

the nice thing is, i just learned something new in this roundabout way...

i liked KYLESA's record a lot. i clicked on it to see who liked it. just out of curiosity i looked up pitchfork's review of KYLESA... 8.2 written by cosmo lee. i went back to pazz n jop and discovered that pitchfork's cosmo lee submitted a ballot to pazz n' jop.

small world.

when i clicked on PISSED JEANS to see who voted for, i confirmed that at least one of the judges for the pazz n jop has been a soulseek buddy of mine for years.

it's a small world after all.
posted by Hammond Rye at 6:37 AM on February 16, 2010


I once saw UNSANE and SPOON on the very same night at a Matador CMJ showcase at Irving Plaza.

i'm guessing '93

it's a small small world
posted by Hammond Rye at 6:44 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heh. I just inadvertently turned this into a derail about how awesome Spoon is. Just goes to show...
posted by koeselitz at 6:45 AM on February 16, 2010


okay, i take that back, spoon didn't sign to matador until 1995 so sharing the stage with unsane would have been unlikely. i guess i don't know who i went to see when i was subjected to spoon.
posted by Hammond Rye at 6:51 AM on February 16, 2010


Koeselitz:.... the White Stripes, with every other cool fucking nonsense group that's hit it big in the last ten goddamned years. The only thing that's good about them, the only thing that people like about them, is what they're not: they're not uncool, they're not unhip, they don't get too funky or crazy or wild, they don't say anything remotely offensive, and yet they have the good sense not to commit any fashion faux paseses or anything like that. They would never throw in a socialist screed, or a polka beat, or a jam-band cover of the Grateful Dead; they would never do anything so 'risky.' They merely continue to avoid making any mistakes, continue to indulge bombastically in this era's conceptions of cool and chic, and for that they are adored.

This obviously comes from someone who hasn't actually listened to the White Stripes. (I mean christ, Jack White wrote Appalachian music for Cold Mountain) And frankly, I am thankful for any band that I go to see live that doesn't perform a jam band cover of the Grateful Dead. There are some really good jam bands out there, but the Grateful Dead live just bore me to tears.
posted by cyphill at 6:59 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Led Zepp were bad because they romanticized and glorified unthinkingly a silly, stupid idea of what rock could do - a sort of Wagner-Crowley mess of fantastica and sex.

"What rock could do?" What does that even mean? Rock wasn't supposed to do anything. It was supposed to merely be.

Rock died so long ago that people don't even remember what it was. At somepoint it became something the drama club became involved with. I stopped trying to find rock music when people started calling them "rock shows" instead of "rock concerts."

Your comments are based on a misconception that rock is about the theater it has become - the costumes, the pretenses to art, etc. Rock is about the music. Rock music was a hole in culture you could climb through to come up for air. I want to agree with your comments because Spoon is reprehensibly bad, but I have to say your reasons for hating them, and therefore likening them to Zeppelin are all wrong.

Led Zeppelin wasn't awesome because they were trendy. Zeppelin was awesome because when you played it sounded like they were coming out of some dark void in the center of your stereo. They existed separately from culture. Zeppelin didn't sound like the blues, or like British hard rock, or like anything anyone had ever heard. It sounded like some completely new idea that was fully realized upon first encounter, but with each album the idea kept changing.

And they were inaccessible. They didn't put out singles, they weren't on every asinine TV show. To hear them you had to listen to album rock radio, or buy the records, and the artwork was so fucked up who had no idea who these guys were. Jesus Christ, man, to this day nobody knows for sure what the hell the fourth album is titled, and it was released 35 years ago. Is that cool?

"Cool and chic"??? Robert Plant looked like a flower child tool, and Jimmy Page looked like a D&D dork? Forget their hits. Listen to "Tangerine" or "No Quarter" and tell me if you even remember what a spoon is.

Maybe they ripped off Willie Dixon. Maybe they ripped off Spirit. But they did it gloriously. Listening to Led Zeppelin is like watching a flawlessly executed bank heist. You have to admire the bravado, the execution, the one-step-aheadedness of it all. Sitting there dissecting their couture or their lyrics is liking criticizing the choice of tires on the getaway car.

The lyrics don't make sense? Try playing them backwards.

Rock music today is shit - it's indistinguishable from pop. It all sounds like the band played four bars into a sequencer and let the computer arrange the rest of the song. For that reason everything about the music has to be superficial and literal. The meaning of the lyrics has to be immeditately clear and free from ambiguity. And everyone focuses on the "show". What the fuck is a rock show? It sounds a place I would go to see Liberace do an uptempo cover of "Riders on the Storm."

Rock shows. Fuck rock shows. Your Panic at the Discos, your Vampire Weekends, and your Dandy Tweeds in their fancy finery. We went to rock concerts. You know what a rock concert is? It's 75,000 people packed into a football stadium to catch a glimpse of fat Ozzy stumbling through "Paranoid" over speakers so loud the sound hits you like a truck. A rock concert is where dangerous things are set to dangerous music. It's a Who concert that was louder than a plane crash.

A rock concert is something you gleaned from omens not from a facebook page. One day your Dad came back from work asking why there was an inflatable pink pig floating over the city that afternoon. A rock concert is something you heard about from a friend in class who whispered "Dude, Sabbath". And went to see fat Ozzy in white pants because you knew that whatever they played that night would make tomorrow different from every yesterday.

Rock is not art. Art is something else. There is a time and place for art, and there is a time and place for the gnashing of teeth and the rending of clothes. Rock is the latter.

P.S. Zeppelin rules!
posted by Pastabagel at 7:13 AM on February 16, 2010 [24 favorites]


I had a friend who started an online music magazine here in Minneapolis. For a while, they were considering using the following as their slogan: Like Pitchfork, but about music.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:21 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Did koeselitz just throw out the entirety of Led Zeppelin and the White Stripes in one thread? Ballsy. I mean, if you diss one you sort of have to diss the other too, but still. Totally indefensible, other than from an "I don't like this music" perspective. But ballsy.
posted by rusty at 7:22 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ok, in all fairness to Koeselitz, I think we are looking for different things out of our music. I think you are looking for some social commentary. I'm looking for something that is more on the periphery of that society, music that stands for what and who is left out. Different strokes, etc.

Zeppelin still rules
posted by Pastabagel at 7:23 AM on February 16, 2010


I run a record store and if there's one thing I've noticed is pretty consistent, it's that Pitchfork's ratings don't affect record sales at my shop.

We'll get in a record that looks terrible, put it out for sale, not sell a single one, and then the PFM review comes out and it gets an 8 or whatever... and the fucking thing still doesn't sell.

But an anticipated album will come out (say, Yeasayer's new one, or Midlake) and PFM will give it a low number like 6 (or 3.5 for Midlake) or whatever... still fuckin' sells.

Admittedly, my store is not your average store but, honestly, given all the hype the site gets and gives itself, it's surprisingly ineffective.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 7:24 AM on February 16, 2010


#109, Wussy, for their self-titled album Wussy. Spread the word - my favorite band rules!
posted by tizzie at 7:27 AM on February 16, 2010


I'd comment, but i'm saving my snark and hatred for the next Ayn Rand thread.
posted by TrialByMedia at 7:28 AM on February 16, 2010


I haven't read Pitchfork for a few years, so this may no longer be relevant, but I stopped reading because it seemed like every review compared the album to either A) an impromptu set performed by Wayne Coyne, Jeff Mangum, and Warren Zevon at a hostel in Amsterdam in 1991 that was attended by exactly fifty-three people, with constant reference to the 'whispered static of ineffably transcendent alt-noise ska-inflected leather' or B) some sort of bizarre simile that has nothing to do with music, or experience, or anything else, like 'an album that feels like nothing so much as the vibrations from a dying rabbit's vintage motorcycle sailing off an impossibly high cliff into a chasm of lemon hummus.'

Thanks Pitchfork now I know if I will like this record.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:29 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pastabagel, thank you for coming to this thread and offering such a spirited and eloquent defense of Led Zeppelin. You saved me (and in turn my employer) at least 20 minutes of time which I would have had to use writing my own post.

Popism is just as unpleasant as rockism.
posted by pziemba at 7:31 AM on February 16, 2010


I stopped trying to find rock music when people started calling them "rock shows" instead of "rock concerts."

1975?
posted by rory at 7:33 AM on February 16, 2010


I read Pitchfork for a while back around 2002/2003. The reviews themselves were never that great, but back then it was harder to find coverage of bands on independent labels. I stopped reading their reviews the day they gave Elliott Smith's posthumous final album (which I had already heard at that point) a worse score than William Shatner's album.

There were definitely some reviews I disagreed with (I never understood why they liked And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead so much), but in general the bands that they gave very high reviews to were good bands. For a while I had access to a lot of random new releases from all sorts of independent bands, and a lot of the ones that picked out of the pile were also highly praised by Pitchfork and similar sites in their end of the year best lists.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:34 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Led Zepp were bad because they romanticized and glorified unthinkingly a silly, stupid idea of what rock could do - a sort of Wagner-Crowley mess of fantastica and sex. That's fun, but it's so much less than what rock can do.

Biographers once upon a time tried to figure out what Beethoven "was trying to say" with the famous bars of the 5th symphony ("da-da-da-DUM"). Schindler, always the opportunist when it came to self-aggrandizement-by-proxy, declared it was "fate knocking on the door." While Beethoven's collaborator and solo performer, reported it was simply the cry of the yellowhammer bird.

Personally, my love for The Cramps is built around their premise that it is, in the end, all about sex, leading to a whole act based around Lux Interior humping speakers, deep-throating microphones, and leering at his wife, who wears a pin-up bunny costume and glares at everyone with utter contempt. Rock and Roll was built on titillation and appropriation. It sometimes manages to hit cultural commentary and relevance on the side, but the notion that music could, or should do something more than entertain is a romanticized and glorified idea.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:39 AM on February 16, 2010


I still miss Option - best music magazine ever.
posted by twsf at 7:45 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ah, Pastabagel. That was a reply, my friend.

“Rock shows. Fuck rock shows. Your Panic at the Discos, your Vampire Weekends, and your Dandy Tweeds in their fancy finery. We went to rock concerts. You know what a rock concert is? It's 75,000 people packed into a football stadium to catch a glimpse of fat Ozzy stumbling through "Paranoid" over speakers so loud the sound hits you like a truck. A rock concert is where dangerous things are set to dangerous music. It's a Who concert that was louder than a plane crash.”

A rock concert is something you gleaned from omens not from a facebook page. One day your Dad came back from work asking why there was an inflatable pink pig floating over the city that afternoon. A rock concert is something you heard about from a friend in class who whispered "Dude, Sabbath". And went to see fat Ozzy in white pants because you knew that whatever they played that night would make tomorrow different from every yesterday.”


What should live rock be like? I dunno - I got nothing.

“Rock is not art. Art is something else. There is a time and place for art, and there is a time and place for the gnashing of teeth and the rending of clothes. Rock is the latter.”

But that's just it - Led Zeppelin always seemed so very staid to me! What was the craziest thing they ever did? Did they ever play a biker bar, have bottles thrown at them, and still get up the nerve to tell the crowd, "hey, who out there hates us? [shouts of hate] Well, we don't hate you, we don't even care" - and then to turn to the big angry biker guys in the front row and say, "I bet you wish you weren't so fat" - ? Yeah, I've read 'Hammer Of The Gods.' Boring.
posted by koeselitz at 7:47 AM on February 16, 2010


Pasta: It's been about the show since Cab Calloway strutted in front of his orchestra in a suit and massive hat. Then, he got thousands dancing to songs about weed, booze, gambling, and syphilis.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:51 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


1. Music doesn't have to make any kind of statement
2. Music doesn't have to confront you with anything
3. Music can just be music
4. (dances a jig)
posted by naju at 8:33 AM on February 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Rock shows. Fuck rock shows. Your Panic at the Discos, your Vampire Weekends, and your Dandy Tweeds in their fancy finery. We went to rock concerts. You know what a rock concert is?

Pudgy Brummies with poodle perms pulling vinegar-stroke faces to interminable guitar solos before stumbling off stage and conferring with their accountants over tax planning?
posted by reynir at 8:41 AM on February 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


OK, I really don't give a shit about either Pitchfork or the VV "Pazz and Jop" (a stupid joke the first time it was used) poll. I just have to get something off my chest about Lester Bangs: I'm not sick of him so much as I am of people evoking him as some sort of hipster martyr, a la Bill Hicks or Lenny Bruce, that is meant to trump the conversation. When he was on, he was really on, but when he wasn't he thrashed around a lot.

Take the piece that koeselitz links to above: there is a lot to chew through before he gets to the point that he's kind of sick of arty-farty music and just wants to rock out, and that's why he likes Iggy and the Stooges better than Led Zeppelin, at least at that point in time. At one point, he talks about Alice Cooper "exposing his hormone-plasticized torso"--WTF? It doesn't matter whether you're talking about testosterone or estrogen, neither one is possible since Alice Cooper has never had a chest of either sort to speak of. In fact, Bangs spends more time talking about Cooper or Led Zep than he seems to spend talking about Iggy's album, the ostensible subject of the piece.

Oh, and I'd rather listen to Alice Cooper's greatest hits, or any random Led Zep album, than anything of Iggy Pop's, frankly.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:42 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I stopped reading their reviews the day they gave Elliott Smith's posthumous final album (which I had already heard at that point) a worse score than William Shatner's album.

Ugh, yeah. They also called him the patron saint of hobbyists. As if Big Nothing were something that you tapped two swamps to summon.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:47 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing about Pitchfork: The reviews are indeed very wankily verbose, yes, but more often than not they are also right. They're like the anti-Ebert in that, whereas Ebert is usually perfectly astute in his written film reviews, his star ratings are often WTF-worthy; Pitchfork can perfectly nail down a number damn near every time (but that's just, like, my my opinion, man), but their writing, well, you know.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:51 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]




oh gosh i'm such a puny little wimp, won't you protect me from the unforgiving majesty of your ROCK CONCERT
posted by setanor at 9:12 AM on February 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


You have to admire the bravado, the execution, the one-step-aheadedness of it all. Sitting there dissecting their couture or their lyrics is liking criticizing the choice of tires on the getaway car.

You do?
posted by setanor at 9:14 AM on February 16, 2010


Liking music because it's Pitchfork Approved is equally as asinine as liking it because it's some sort of Anti-Pitchfork music.
posted by setanor at 9:14 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do any of you scads of Anti-Pitchforkers have a good music site to recommend? Cuz I'd love nothing more to chew on today than a good music site while it snows outside and I'm out of work.
posted by nevercalm at 9:23 AM on February 16, 2010


Hardly anybody was actually into disco, apart from watching it in John Travolta movies; maybe a tiny 0.01% of the music-buying public was actually going to disco clubs at any given time. Whereas Led Zeppelin were fantastically huge among nearly every cohort.

A lot of people who dance NEVER buy music. Ever. Which proves exactly nothing.

In the late 1970s, pretty much every bowling alley and failed restaurant in the U.S. was converted into a disco. (5 years later they all became comedy clubs.) It was a huge, huge fad. Rock was never more than teens and 20s people buying albums and attending a concert when a big band came to town. That was maybe 20,000 for one night when Zep or whoever toured; disco was several thousand people dancing every night of the year.

Zep was huge in every cohort? Oh, sure. Parents, nuns, social workers, old biddies, Pakistani immigrants, they all hoisted their lighters for the 40 minutes encore!
posted by msalt at 9:26 AM on February 16, 2010


I think their review of Midlake's new album is pretty spot on. I ignore the scores. Assigning a numerical value to the aesthetic worth of an album seems pretty silly to me. But his criticisms of how little variety and ambition there is in Courage of Others is accurate.

And I think the question people here are ignoring is: does Pitchfork establish trends, or do they merely report on what's gaining mindshare among fans? I think Scott offers some convincing arguments that it's the latter. Despite their snobbery (or perhaps because of it) I find it really hard to imagine that they would give an album a positive review just because it's popular in the indie community, or because they want to attract more readers/subscribers. I don't really begrudge them for focusing on things that people who buy music and read critics like. They've made token efforts at reviewing metal, classical and jazz, but those just don't get the same number of readers as a new Spoon album. If they're paying for reviews, it makes business sense to review stuff people will actually read.

Pitchfork are succeeding in a hostile environment yet still maintaining credibility. I'd say that's impressive and deserving of praise.
posted by rq at 9:33 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is no Spoon.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:51 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


ha ha ha. HA HA ha. HA! Oh you kids.
posted by freebird at 9:53 AM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


"If you don't think Chris Gaines is literally the best thing that ever happened to rock and roll I will personally come to your house and kill you." - Ronald Wilson Reagan
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:00 AM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


rq: They've made token efforts at reviewing ... classical

And if they'd had the sense to call it "Pre-Rock" their readership might have found it.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:06 AM on February 16, 2010


Yes a lot of the reviewers are pretentious, but Pitchfork is pretty great at spotting the most innovative new music out there. I mean, when the overwhelming majority of the country is taking their musical cues from American Idol and Clear Channel, how angry can you be at people who feel so strongly about independent music?

If they still rub you the wrong way, other great review sites include Tiny Mix Tapes and Dusted Magazine.
posted by themadjuggler at 10:23 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like Pitchfork because I don't actually read their reviews. I check out what makes their "best new music" lists and download all of it, listen to it, and keep what I like. I've learned about a lot of bands that way.

10 years ago, when I actually knew about these bands before they made it onto Pitchfork, I found their reviews annoying as hell. Now I'm completely over it, I don't care much about the nuances of this review or that review, it's just a convenient resource that helps me find out about new music. I think that's exactly what their editor was kind of trying to say in his posts-- most of their audience now are people like me, and not the die-hards who frequented the site in the early days.

Personally I love Led Zeppelin as much as Minor Threat and as much as Frank Sinatra or Django Reinhardt or Four Tet or Biggie Smalls. I kind of like Beach House, which I downloaded based on the Pitchfork review I read a couple of days ago...
posted by cell divide at 10:29 AM on February 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


nevercalm: “Do any of you scads of Anti-Pitchforkers have a good music site to recommend? Cuz I'd love nothing more to chew on today than a good music site while it snows outside and I'm out of work.”

Resident Advisor is a f'ing awesome electronica review / news / etc site. Labyrinthine, it is, and their reviews are regularly passionate and informative. It's constantly bringing to my attention all sorts of awesome stuff I never would have heard about otherwise, and I should say that their year-end lists are fantastic; heck, you're all on notice that you should probably listen to every single one of their Top 100 Albums of the 00s; I've only heard about a third of 'em so far, but all of them are fantastic.
posted by koeselitz at 10:30 AM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Only problem with Resident Advisor is... well, you can get lost in there, man.
posted by koeselitz at 10:30 AM on February 16, 2010


Only problem with Resident Advisor is how they'll end up taking off 1 or 2 points for "popularity" and how flippant they are with some genres while being so in love with others.
posted by setanor at 10:36 AM on February 16, 2010


Here's the thing about Pitchfork: The reviews are indeed very wankily verbose, yes, but more often than not they are also right. They're like the anti-Ebert in that, whereas Ebert is usually perfectly astute in his written film reviews, his star ratings are often WTF-worthy; Pitchfork can perfectly nail down a number damn near every time (but that's just, like, my my opinion, man), but their writing, well, you know.

I've never read a Pitchfork review that helped me in any way figure out if I'd like it, and a bunch of numbers sure aren't going to be useful for that. I suppose that if I shared the primary tastes of the Pitchfork writers those numbers might be helpful, but I don't, which means they're worse than useless. The fact of the matter is that Pitchfork has, as a whole, a very particular taste in music which I, and a lot of other people, simply don't share. Which would be fine, if their reviews actually articulated their sense of aesthetics. Instead, the reviews are so filled with self-satisfied wankery that I want to hit the authors with a tire iron. The only way to figure out what they're actually trying to describe when they say they like something is to listen to other stuff they've already said they like.

And they're crap at finding or noticing independent artists that don't actually possess one true indie sound aesthetic.
posted by Caduceus at 10:37 AM on February 16, 2010


setanor: “Only problem with Resident Advisor is how they'll end up taking off 1 or 2 points for "popularity" and how flippant they are with some genres while being so in love with others.”

Yeah, but even that, I think, is sort of a byproduct of the Pitchfork effect; they're constantly wandering into electronica and putting their mark on stuff, and RA feels a pretty big pressure, I think, to set the record straight. Though I can't exactly blame Pitchfork for stuff RA does. And RA could very well stop being so fetishistic about certain individual strains, I know.

In any case, it's a pretty useful tool for me at least for getting in touch with a genre I don't have much contact with outside the music itself.
posted by koeselitz at 10:40 AM on February 16, 2010


And they're crap at finding or noticing independent artists that don't actually possess one true indie sound aesthetic.

This isn't really true. Unless you categorize "indie" as "stuff I don't like" I defy you to explain to me how something like this has anything to do with this conception of an indie aesthetic you have in your mind with beards and smugness or whatever it is that makes you want to hit people with tire irons.
posted by setanor at 10:42 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


True enough. They're the best at that sort of thing. Quotes like this, though, really frustrate me.

(Band) is hipster catnip because they've sought out the furthest edge they can possibly go before the whole thing falls onto the wrong side of the cool/uncool divide.

Like, half the dubstep shit you post is like bass-fetish catnip but it doesn't stop you jerking off over it.
posted by setanor at 10:46 AM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ooh, and I meant to mention: my absolute favorite online music site, hands-down, is Perfect Sound Forever. They are the first and last site for music on the web - they've been at it since 1993, and they still accept submissions from the public. Vital interviews, great writing, no bullshit - everything in white on a black background in basic html. Love that shit. And some of the best stuff I've ever read on the internet about music has been on that site. Seriously, please spend time digging through their myriad stuff [archives: interviews | articles | tributes]. They're always publishing old Bangs articles, interesting rock detritus, and other neatness. The put up articles like "Frank Zappa and new music in Cleveland" and "The cult of musical equipment" and "Indian Record Collectors: Scouring for 78s" and "The SST Records Story" and a whole fucking lot more. I am constantly astounded that nobody talks about Perfect Sound Forever; they're miles beyond Pitchfork, and they have been for coming on two decades. I mean it, kids - check them out right now.
posted by koeselitz at 11:03 AM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


What drives me nuts about Pitchfork is how their forays into electronic music seem to distort my Amazon Mp3 recommendations. Yes, London Zoo by The Bug was great, but no, I don't think it is anything like the new Vampire Weekend album....
posted by Hutch at 11:04 AM on February 16, 2010


I defy you to explain to me how something like this has anything to do with this conception of an indie aesthetic

Well, an awful lot of people did first glom on to Autechre after Kid A, and after Thom Yorke mentioned them (and specifically the album LP5) as an aesthetic influence.

Which is fine, that rock and IDM were brought into such conjunction that a few fans of The Bends could hitch into something colder and more clinical but with a common psychedelia, and that I and others who saw rock music as the chosen domain of jocks and their jock dads could, er, politely re-assess the medium and eat our crow.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:04 AM on February 16, 2010


Ugh. Did I really type IDM without a tinge of irony?
posted by kid ichorous at 11:06 AM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I found this quote from the EIC particularly revealing:
On the meaning of Pitchfork
we can basically... 2. expose nominally indie/guitar rock kids to non-indie music
Well, that explains a LOT then! I have to admit, I still browse the Pitchfork album reviews to expose myself to new music that I probably would have heard about if I were still working at the campus radio station, getting dozens of free promo CDs a day. However, I've had to train myself to ignore the numerical rating, since I'm a math rock nerd and they tend to hate almost anything with interesting guitarwork. I thought it was just a tendency among the typical Pitchfork reviewer, but I didn't realize they saw it as kind of a policy to "expose" me to non-guitar-oriented music.

I've got nothing against other music, and some of it is quite good, but it's annoying that other, also good music has points knocked off its review score just because the site has a policy of promoting "poptimism," as he called it. Meanwhile, godawful horseshit like Wavves gets high scores and Best New Music because lo-fi was a big blog trend and the kid who wears silly shorts didn't try to do anything actually interesting with his guitar.

and yeah I know they occasionally make exceptions for noise or black metal bands with interesting guitar parts (usually noise or metal rather than anything like math rock or poppier acts) but it seems like the exception rather than the rule. ALso super double fuck Wavves
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 11:29 AM on February 16, 2010


koeselitz: "I got the same vibe from the P-fork reviews of dubstep that I get from all their other writing - lots of good research, lots of up-front info, very little love or meaning or life."

Of all the writers to say this about, Martin Clark (aka Blackdown, the one that the dubstep column) should be last on your list. He certainly has plenty of love for the music.
posted by Hubajube at 11:41 AM on February 16, 2010


I stopped reading their reviews the day they gave Elliott Smith's posthumous final album (which I had already heard at that point) a worse score than William Shatner's album.

The numerical ratings are an arbitrary thing and are set by the writer of any given review. There is not some editorial board that sits around making sure all the numerical ratings fit some objective scale or anything.

All the above tells you is that the person who reviewed the Smith album didn't like it as much as the person who reviewed the Shatner album liked the Shatner album.

There are many things about Pitchfork one could criticize, but I don't understand this complaint. There's no "they" there. Just the individual review writer.
posted by sparkletone at 11:46 AM on February 16, 2010


I eagerly await Kode9's treatment of The Fame Monster. Boolaka!
posted by everichon at 11:48 AM on February 16, 2010


Unlike writers for, say, The Wire, Pitchfork is not in love with music. It is in love with itself being in love with music. Because of this and because of its undue influence on culture, it is rotten on the inside and as a matter of course it is rotting music culture from the inside.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:00 PM on February 16, 2010


I didn't realize they saw it as kind of a policy to "expose" me to non-guitar-oriented music.

Yeah, and that cuts to the other side of the question rq stated:

does Pitchfork establish trends, or do they merely report on what's gaining mindshare among fans

I'm somewhat more comfortable with the idea that they do establish trends, because that at least is part of a critic's job, to explain and evangelize the strange. But the attachment of numerical ratings (at tenths resolution) to each review, the thousandfold linkbacks and multiplications of every top 100 list, and the mp3 vendors woven into the margins and seams of every page do not bespeak the brave, breakthrough critical voice so much as a pump-and-dump scheme. Right there, right next to the 9.3, is the button that you can click to buy in. Really, I thought Amazon patented that schtick.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:07 PM on February 16, 2010


I like Pitchfork. I don't pay attention to them enough to know about trends in who/what they review, or any of that shit. But when I click on their reviews, they write longwinded things that get really into themselves and obsessive and half the time I don't know what they're talking about but they're so excited about it. Even when they write the most ludicrous things I feel like their heart is more in the right place than the critics who see fit to dismiss a bad thing with a snappy phrase.

Their articles and interviews are comprehensive and marvelous.

If you seriously think rock "died," or that the ideas that were there back in the 60s can't be found anywhere today, then you're just as much an asshole as anybody who's written anything at Pitchfork, and you've probably listened to less music than they have.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:15 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unlike writers for, say, The Wire, Pitchfork is not in love with music. It is in love with itself being in love with music.

You're kidding, right?

If The Wire ever gets around to covering something other than utter sonic tedium, you might have a case. Until then, they are, in my humble opinion, the crème de la crème of pretentious, self-important twaddle.

Also, how can one be in love with one's love of music without first loving music? IT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:17 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Put me in the camp of likes a fair amount what Pitchfork covers, and often agrees with their numerical ratings, but doesn't quite accept the reviews that support those ratings (for the most part).

Their columns, interviews, and overviews can be pretty damn great, though.
posted by defenestration at 12:30 PM on February 16, 2010


I thought I listened to a lot of types of music, but I had to Google "dubstep". At least I learned something from this thread other than that I need to delete Zep, Spoon, and the Strokes from my iPod. Up till now I thought I liked them (r.e. Spoon, when I got Girls Can Tell I didn't know it was popular. It wasn't really, in the grand scheme. Sorta like when I was in college and my indie friends were saying Pavement was overplayed, but I never met anyone outside my circle who had ever even heard of them).

Seriously, I'll go listen to some dubstep when I get home. Any recommendations?

Also I'm not sure it counts as "rock" if you don't do anything interesting with the guitar. Rock without interesting guitars is like bluegrass without banjos or fiddles. Of course, I have a pretty broad view of what's "interesting".
posted by freecellwizard at 12:46 PM on February 16, 2010


All the above tells you is that the person who reviewed the Smith album didn't like it as much as the person who reviewed the Shatner album liked the Shatner album.

There are many things about Pitchfork one could criticize, but I don't understand this complaint. There's no "they" there. Just the individual review writer.


Without going into too much detail, this was a straw that broke the camel's back kind of thing. There was a lot of hype on their blog about the leaked demos from that album being a return to his lo-fi roots and later disappointment when the leaked tracks from the finished album sounded similar to the rest of his later albums. It was a lot more than just one reviewer not liking the album, or even just being about Elliott Smith. Also, I believe this was back when Pitchfork had a relatively small staff of people writing the reviews, rather than the 40+ writers they have listed on their staff list now, so if I strongly disagreed with a few of their staff that was pretty much the same thing as disagreeing with Pitchfork in general.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:10 PM on February 16, 2010


You're kidding, right?

No, not at all. From the perspective of a former music writer, I honestly do not get the sense that Pitchfork writers care about what they are reviewing, in itself, as much as the fact that they enjoy the role of being an arbiter of taste. Whatever can be written up as popular or unpopular will do, which feeds back into this loop.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:15 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


freecellwizard: Seriously, I'll go listen to some dubstep when I get home. Any recommendations?

Yeah, try not to point out that every track on Untrue is literally identical *rimshot*
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 1:16 PM on February 16, 2010


I get the exact opposite impression that a lot of people get about pitchfork. They seem to be really passionate about music, sometimes to the point back in the day where they said really stupid things. They care enough to make an effort to get what an album is about in a review, even if they give it a negative review. Take this review of The Magnetic Fields' Realism, they aren't overly positive about the album but they thought enough about it to get what the album was about. It's the same reason I like The A.V. Club, even when I disagree with what they say I feel like I know more about whatever they are talking about after I read whatever they put out.

So they have a bit of a groupthink within the editing room, and so what if they like a band that sucks or whatever (I hate spoon too). If Pitchfork is acting as an arbiter of taste now that really isn't a bad thing, because at least they are making a world where it's totally cool to think about music really hard.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 1:35 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's things like this that make me feel good about my inability to talk about music. What's so wrong with "Hey dude, I think these guys are pretty good, you should give them a listen" and leaving it at that?
posted by Evilspork at 1:39 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


i used to hate pitchfork too but i think this interview changed my mind about it. they are, as he points out, totally differnt than the pretentious poop I read in 2002-03. They are now an excellent branch of the PR department of various record labels. They provide a valuable service, which has little to do with what we metacritics love about great criticism. They mention most bands than mean anything and are generally unpretentious these days. They're more like All Music than Rolling Stone. Fine. Good luck to them. Now someone point me to sites that write reviews with balls and hearts.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:56 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Balls and hearts should be the suits of some Sinatra-themed tarot. You've just drawn the Crooner, baby. Inverted. Oh yeah.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:24 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


freecellwizard: Burial is, for me, the acme of the genre.

END POSTER LICENSE AGREEMENT: I THE POSTER "EVERICHON" ON THE COMMUNITY WEBLOG "METAFILTER", HEREAFTER "MEFI", CONCEDE THAT MY TASTE IN MUSIC IS JEJUNE AND THAT MOREOVER MY ABOVEMENTIONED PREFERENCE FOR THE ARTIST "BURIAL" INDICATES A FRANKLY SAD LACK OF EXPOSURE TO REAL MUSICS AND FURTHER THAT I SUCK, MY DOG SUCKS, AND THE FLEAS THAT SUCK THE BLOOD OF MY DOG, ALL SUCK.
posted by everichon at 2:54 PM on February 16, 2010


All this tearing out of hair and rending of clothes over fucking Pitchfork? Look, it's a music review site with a fairly obvious and well-known bent. If that bent doesn't generally line up with your tastes, why do you spend so much time reading it then posting about how it sucks? JUST STOP READING IT!

Man, the internet sometimes...

Also, nobody cares whether you like Zep/Spoon/Iggy/Biggie/Whatever. Your favorite band sucks and that band you hate rules.
posted by axiom at 2:57 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Burial is, for me, the acme of the genre.

You mean he keeps sending you apparently cool stuff which, instead of helping you catch dinner inevitably deposits you over the edge of a very high cliff, plummeting to earth in a distant cloud of dust?
posted by Grangousier at 3:14 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


i love spoon.
i hate pitchfork.
i didn't hear about spoon from pitchfork.
i heard about them through that cute little yellow dancing robot.

however, i did see spoon live before i heard their studio stuff, and i was not impressed -at all-. granted, it was at sasquatch 2008 and the wind was blowing the speakers above them around to the point where they were pushed off stage after a few songs.
posted by june made him a gemini at 3:29 PM on February 16, 2010


*back from listening to the song Untrue by Burial*

Well, that was pretty cool. I don't listen to a lot of electronic music, especially that's that minimalistic, so it was, uh, challenging. At first listen it seems like there's a neat sort of lopsided beat and some repeated faraway singing, but then it just goes on and nothing really happens for six minutes. I would listen to more though, if only to figure out if it was "good" challenging or "bad" challenging.

It's so sparse it makes Spoon sound like Phil Spector's stuff ...
posted by freecellwizard at 3:53 PM on February 16, 2010


So they have a bit of a groupthink within the editing room

I wrote for pitchfork very briefly about 10 years ago. I'm sure things have changed (I understand they pay their writers now, for one), but at the time, there was no editing room. I was only on staff for a matter of weeks, but I never communicated with anyone on the site besides Ryan Schrieber. He was, however, wholly unapologetic about "pitchforking up" my writing, sometimes quite heavy-handedly. At the time, it made me see the accusations of groupthink, or of having too monolithic a voice as being a direct result of his editorial hand.
posted by anazgnos at 4:20 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I couldn't read through the whole list, but I'm pissed none of my bands are on it. I just went through and said things like "too big for me to see, saw them, saw them before they were big, kind of know them, wish I knew them, bought their 7" but not the album, etc. etc." General snarky stuff.

I don't think there is such a thing as pitchforkization, more like the world wide web's ability to categorize, catalog and quantify everything under the sun. They are both polls anyway.

That said, Anni Rossi should be on both lists.
posted by nutate at 4:49 PM on February 16, 2010


Context is pretty important in the appreciation of music. For an adolescent male in the early 70's, it seemed like The Zep seemed to appear from out of nowhere with a HEAVY sound that was like a force of nature. Sure, Robert Plant was kinda silly, but the lyrics referenced Vikings and Tolkien, which was appealing to someone like myself in that context. I wouldn't really expect someone born a few decades later to hear it the same way. (for The Floyd, replace HEAVY with SPACEY).

Same with Lester Bangs, first reading Let us Praise Famous Death Dwarves in Creem Magazine was mind boggling. In retrospect, much of Bang's writing has many obvious weaknesses, but at the time he appeared he seemed to blow the entire critical construct away.

I disagree about the appeal of big metal concerts, they reminded my agrarian side of cattle feed-lots. Going to punk shows in little dives in the later 70's was way more fun.
posted by ovvl at 5:08 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


So i spent the afternoon working and listening to most of the top 25 on pitchfork's list, skimming the reviews as i listened, trying to get a sense of their current taste and sensibility and I have to say that IMO they like really lame music. I did the same thing about 4 yrs ago, even went as far as to buy 6 of the top ten to try to listen to them enough to get hooked and only one disc that i bought has stood the test of a mere 4 yrs.
Most of what I heard just seemed to be throw-away crap sung by warbley voiced wimps, or endless, melody-less droning created on non-instruments. So if this is the best they can come up with I'm afraid I'll pass on them being arbiters of my taste in music, thanks.
posted by OHenryPacey at 6:23 PM on February 16, 2010


Without attempting to hold Pitchfork or any other individual outlet above the fray, I do want to observe that there's just something about music criticism that seems to bring out the bloodthirsty streak in a lot of people. Those same people may not think twice about a rank amateur taking time out of their day to post their thoughts on Amazon, but position that same review as honest-to-god ROCK CRIT and hackles aplenty are raised. It's almost as if music, in its rich heritage of populism, is thereby meant to be above such elitist concepts as "articulation" and "expertise".

I don't buy that. I don't contend that musical value is completely objective, no, but even subjective opinions ought to have a methodology and expertise behind them, if they are to have worth to anyone other than their bearers. That said, if the only conceivable value of music criticism for you is steering you toward new bands then you could probably get by on just scanning the numerical/star ratings and forgo the actual write ups altogether.

But as long as we're harping on the actual write ups, Pitchfork's - while not the "gold standard" people often accuse them of attempting to be - don't strike me as near egregious enough to warrant all the bad blood. For one thing, attempting to mold public opinion is a common enough endeavor of the essay form, so when a site that founds itself on music reviews fancies itself a "taste maker" I'm simply befuddled why that's considered self serving or high falutin' when put up against standards in other areas of society at large.

One of the links that branches off the "fifty posts" url in the OP centers entirely on proving Pitchfork irrelevant by listing all the big-selling albums they've neglected to cover the last few years. A lot of this gets into some pretty ridiculous territory. One poster, for instance, seems resolutely determined to get Pitchfork to start covering mainstream Nashville country. Well now, there may well be music fans that give equal time to Kenny Chesney and Animal Collective but I think Scott Plagenhoef is absolutely correct when he surmises that the average AC fan is no more eager to be turned on to some new Kenny Chesney than vice versa. Why cover both, then?

Is that "playing to their audience"? I don't think so, I think they've just found themselves a certain niche and recognize that consistency of coverage is what keeps their readers coming back for more. There's nothing wrong with specialization. But what is their niche exactly? It's mostly indie rock, in whatever broad strokes that can be painted, sure, but when they dabble loosely in outlying genres there's still a common thread... put simply, Pitchfork seems to aim primarily at covering styles of music that encourage intellectual reflection or at least an aesthetic appreciation [at least in practice... I don't know what all that "poptimism" ScottP talks about is supposed to represent, but you don't typically see them cover something catchy unless it also has an artsy veneer on it as well: late Beatles vs early Beatles, basically].

Intellectual reflection is the polar opposite of heated passion, so arguing that their reviews don't have "balls" or don't adequately reflect a "love" of the music is largely beside the point. Besides, I think with the rise of fanboy culture there is a certain line having been drawn in the sand, and from a professional standpoint the tendency is to draw back from effusive praise or gushing to a more measured, remote stance... which is frankly kind of preferable in my book anyway. Unless you really are capable of pulling off something like Lester Bangs' review of "Astral Weeks" without sounding like an inarticulate, pretentious jackass in the process, my opinion is that most writers start to sound like bad PR reps when they get too energetic in their praise.
posted by squeakyfromme at 6:40 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Led Zeppelin always seemed so very staid to me! What was the craziest thing they ever did?

when the levee breaks

that drumbeat is the heart of rock and roll, right there
posted by pyramid termite at 8:33 PM on February 16, 2010


Is this really that staid?
posted by freecellwizard at 8:53 PM on February 16, 2010


Yes.
posted by koeselitz at 11:50 PM on February 16, 2010


Yes.
posted by koeselitz at 11:51 PM on February 16, 2010


Yes.
posted by koeselitz at 11:53 PM on February 16, 2010


Yes.
posted by koeselitz at 11:54 PM on February 16, 2010


Yes.
posted by koeselitz at 11:56 PM on February 16, 2010


No!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:04 AM on February 17, 2010


a propos
posted by koeselitz at 12:14 AM on February 17, 2010


No...
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:20 AM on February 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


NIMO
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:20 AM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nah.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:23 AM on February 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Shhh. Check it!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:32 AM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


i served britt daniel tacos in austin. britt daniel passes cyclists with a good several foot buffer even when not entirely necessary. britt daniel had his girlfriend tell me to play 'rock and roll' when i was playing metal records on sunday nights at ground kontrol. i told her i was. i still like the first two spoon records.

sometimes i look here for reviews.
posted by rainperimeter at 12:38 AM on February 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


exclamation point
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:47 AM on February 17, 2010


If they still rub you the wrong way, other great review sites include Tiny Mix Tapes and Dusted Magazine.

Don't forget Cokemachineglow!
posted by Menomena at 5:41 AM on February 17, 2010


Holy Christ I hate punk. Fast and out of tune with bad production doesn't make it revolutionary, nor does it render Led Zep any more staid. It's just fast and out of tune with bad production.
posted by nevercalm at 6:30 AM on February 17, 2010


Thanks for the link to Left Lane Cruiser. Hadn't heard of them, great slide guitar bluesy rock.
posted by msalt at 11:00 AM on February 17, 2010


It's just fast and out of tune with bad production.

You see, you DO get it after all.
posted by unSane at 11:21 AM on February 17, 2010


It sounds a place I would go to see Liberace do an uptempo cover of "Riders on the Storm."

That would be all kinds of awesome too.
posted by unSane at 11:24 AM on February 17, 2010


Saying you don't get punk is like saying you don't get a guy yelling 'Fuck you' at strangers. Sure you get it. You just don't get it.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:50 AM on February 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


punk rock

There's also the part of FUN and wild and unpretentious. And sometimes it just rocks.
posted by msalt at 2:38 PM on February 17, 2010


I love the series of YES / NO links above. There's really nothing to win by the debate, but you get to learn about what other people like and maybe why. I actually like some of the punk stuff linked, but it doesn't really resonate emotionally for me a lot of time, which is more about me and how and when I grew up than it is about the music. So yeah, compared to Bad Brains, Led Zeppelin is maybe slower, and different, but it's just about a different generation of kids and how much was required to shock or distance oneself from one's parents at the time. Elvis totally shocked my mom's parents, but to later generations a lot of his stuff sounds like super-safe crooner music.

So, uh, music is personal and contextual I guess.
posted by freecellwizard at 2:49 PM on February 17, 2010


You see, you DO get it after all.

Oh, I GET it. And I DESPISE it with a diamond-hard passion.
posted by nevercalm at 3:36 PM on February 17, 2010


It's just fast and out of tune with bad production.

a lot of 'punk' bores me to tears. your definition of punk does not fit mine.
posted by rainperimeter at 3:54 PM on February 17, 2010


Saying you don't get punk is like saying you don't get a guy yelling 'Fuck you' at strangers. Sure you get it. You just don't get it.

i got it in 1977 - i got bored with it about the same time john lydon and the clash did
posted by pyramid termite at 8:42 PM on February 17, 2010


oh, and what do you get when you speed up the sex pistols' god save the queen and play it louder? - guess who?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:59 PM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


nevercalm: “Oh, I GET it. And I DESPISE it with a diamond-hard passion.”

You don't know shit about punk. Sorry. You heard a song or two and turned off to a whole generation of music. Your loss, I guess, but it seems more than a little hasty.

Care to try again? Maybe not, but it never hurts to give it a few minutes. Punk is a lot more diverse than I think you realize. This is what punk sounds like:

[1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5 * 6 * 7 * 8 * 9]

posted by koeselitz at 1:09 AM on February 18, 2010


You don't know shit about punk. Sorry. You heard a song or two and turned off to a whole generation of music.

And you don't know shit about me. Sorry. I've heard tons of it, 90% of what you linked, and far more than I care to think about growing up in and around NYC. It's all most of my friends listened to as I was growing up in the 80s, and I listened to still more when they were all trying to convince me about how great it is. I've heard the all the biggies and obscure shit, and it all pretty much sounds the same to me, and it all pretty much bores me.

That being said, I appreciate the effort you put into trying to open some doors for me, tho.
posted by nevercalm at 2:53 AM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


nevercalm: “That being said, I appreciate the effort you put into trying to open some doors for me, tho.”

Hmm. I'm genuinely surprised, but that's kind of awesome, to be honest. I like musical diversity, and I like to meet somebody who has sizably different opinions than mine.

Tell me something; what do you really like? I mean, I sort of assumed that you dug Led Zeppelin, but I couldn't really tell from your comments in this thread. Are you more of a jazz person? Classical? Baroque? I'm only wondering. It really is hard to get away from punk nowadays, and there's a lot of wretched stuff churning around.
posted by koeselitz at 3:25 AM on February 18, 2010


“ and... well, I was sort of wondering with my question: does rock and roll strike you as obnoxious? Or is it just the amateurishness of punk?

I guess what I'm getting at is that the trouble with saying you don't like punk is that, in a sense, punk is pretty much any music made between 1975 and 1985. People mean very, very different things by the word 'punk.' People in the UK, for example, initially had a reaction to punk that reflected class distinctions; whereas the US tends to draw lines along generational boundaries. So US punk tended to be juvenile and purposefully loud, whereas often UK punk was (in my mind) more diverse and aimed at opening the doors to different classes of musicians.

I mean: when you say you hate 'punk,' do you mean 'I hate churning guitars, higher-pitched yelling, quick, amateurish beats, and general loudness merely for the sake of loudness'? Or do you mean 'I hate the idea of rebelling merely to rebel, and I hate the idea that amateurs should be picking up instruments in general'? Or what? I have a hard time even knowing what you mean.

What I meant by my 'you don't know punk' comment was this: there's punk music that's soft and quiet, there's punk music that displays brilliant and accomplished musicianship, there's deeply spiritual punk music, there's poetic punk music. I have an incredibly hard time knowing how you can write off all that - it really is writing off a whole generation of people that played every type of music and saying 'I don't like all of these.' Unless, of course, you just mean 'I don't like chuggah-chuggah guitars, fast, badly-played drums, and high-pitched, adolescent-sounding vocals.'

I think you must be seeing punk as a style of music - as a certain way of playing instruments. It's not. It was a movement which took as its focus making music accessible to everybody. Is that something you're against?
posted by koeselitz at 3:36 AM on February 18, 2010


I mean, lots of punk music is slow, in tune, and produced beautifully.
posted by koeselitz at 3:37 AM on February 18, 2010


Sure, I like Zeppelin, especially III, the acoustic stuff. I spose I'm like a lot of people, my tastes are all over the place...this morning on the drive to work, I had on: Soul Coughing, the Flying Burrito Brothers, some of an Alan Lomax collection of field recordings of prisoners singing, Animal Collective, Slayer, Massive Attack, Iron & Wine, the Sundays, Hawksley Workman, Bowerbirds, Ice Cube, some Dixieland and some bluegrass (I have an hour+ commute...). I'm learning to like Opera if I'm in the right mood, and have tons of time for Jazz up thru the 50s and early 60s. I'll also cop to checking out the top 20 on Pitchfork every year, just to see if anything's appealing, and there is some stuff there I really do enjoy.

I don't listen to the radio or watch much tv, but I do work in the business and much of the current popular stuff I hear makes me feel like yelling at young people about my lawn. I've worked on shows with a lot of what people self-identify with punk nowadays and it makes me want to break things, only not in the way they want...their instruments, fingers and recording equipment, mostly...whatever it would take to keep them from making any more music.

Many people say they can't do rap or country...I can do some rap and old country, but not punk. I don't know what it is. I really respect the contempt for authority and tradition and I like the fact that much of it is political and directly addresses wrongs and rights....maybe I just wish it was more intellectual and nuanced. The democratizing quality of it is simultaneously appealing and appalling to me, the best and worst part of it. And, of course, the whole "conform to non-comformity" aspect of it - the uniform - grates on me to no end. I don't know....I can't speak to it without stereotyping, which I really don't like doing (despite my previous comments), but so much of it just feels....unappealingly messy somehow, and it turns me off.

Maybe the best I can do is to say that I appreciate some of it, but I don't like most of it. What I've heard, anyway, and I'm comfortable saying that I've heard a pretty wide range in my quest to try to be able to enjoy it with all my friends.
posted by nevercalm at 4:07 AM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've lived for 42 years without ever once looking at a Pitchfork review of anything. I'm told by many that I have the best taste in music of anyone they know. My own collection is a bit sideways, and I'm certain that it's probably too boring and mainstream for many here at MetaFilter. But I love what I listen to, and seem to find new bands to love with good regularity.

I think I'll just stick to my habits and continue to ignore Pitchfork for the next 42 years.
posted by hippybear at 8:02 AM on February 18, 2010


Is this where the Spoon fans line up to feed the troll/derail? ... Spoon is a great fucking band.

to me, "schlocky acceptance of the norm" = Jay-Z, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Lady Gaga (and I like songs from all those artists), not Spoon.

Anyway, there is one band that I think represents everything evil, vile, meaningless, crude, hateful, and shit-inflected about music today - one band that makes the most sappy, seamy, stupid indie-twee trash that is simultaneously accepted by nearly everyone simply because it's kinda catchy in that cool way that every unthinking dolt who likes rock-as-background-music loves.

First off, go fuck yourself with a rusty spoon. That needed to be said. Also, don't use words you don't know the meaning of, like "twee." Look it up.

I've been listening to Spoon since about 1994. I saw them open for the Archers of Loaf at the Toy Tiger in Louisville in ... '95? After the show, there was female mud wrestling. I will take that over a polka beat any day.

I've seen them a few times since, and yeah, they've gotten more mature/AC. Not nearly as bad as a band like U2, no? Why the hate for Spoon?

What do you like about Spoon?

Well duh. The songs/albums, everything from Not Turning Off, All the Negatives Have Been Destroyed, and Metal Detektor to Sister Jack, I Summon You, and The Underdog. (I haven't listened to the new album much yet.)

I like the hooks, the rhythms, the song structures. I dunno. Why do you like any music? It connects with you. You like to sing, hum, or whistle it. You like to listen to it. Just sit and listen. Or dance if you want to.

The lyrics can be a little juvenile at times, but not compared to, say, Michael Jackson, Avril Lavigne, or Green Day (imo). Like any art you enjoy, the music of Spoon makes me "happy;" it makes me think.

I'll take Britt Daniel rehearsing over a "jam-band cover of the Grateful Dead" any day. Yeah, that's my2c, but why is your2c any better?

I don't know why you picked Spoon to go off on your irrational "hey you kids who don't like the same music as me, get off my fucking lawn" rant, but you're way, way off in your rage, in my opinion. You may as well rip Mates of State a new asshole while you're at it.

Honestly (honestly), if you weren't trolling for Spoon fans, please explain the hate further. How is Spoon any different than Guided By Voices, Built to Spill, Pavement, etc? I just don't see it. At all.

Personally, fwiw, schlock rock like Daughtry or recent U2 makes me much queasier than anything I've found via Pitchfork.
some odd, fractured indie that completely caught my browsing ear but I couldn't place. It was really getting to me though - catchy, angular, fractured pop that grooved and grooved, like Wire in a happy mood. So I ask the nice used record store clerk what it was and I'll be damned. It was this album.

By Spoon.
God, I wore that album out. 30 Gallon Tank + Car Radio + Metal Detektor rank up in my best 3 songs in a row ever.

Also, I love Led Zeppelin (especially II, III, and Presence) and I like dubstep. (I also like twee, so go fuck yourself again.) But I like a lot of music. The stuff I don't I try to ignore. There's too much good.

If you don't like Pitchfork, don't read it. There are literally thousands of music blogs out there, tons of downloads, and a huge library available on sites like LaLa, Last.fm, Pandora, etc. If you're looking for the one true source of musical criticism a la Village Voice/Rolling Stone in the 60s/70s, you're out of luck. You have to do a bit more work to follow music these days. Homogenous? Hardly.

Lastly, Britt Daniel and Jim Eno seem like nice guys. Really nice. Like John Vanderslice-nice nice.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:45 AM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now that I've calmed down by listening to some Spoon, I can read the post and the whole thread.

My problem with the site will always be that their writing mostly focuses on the cultural context of the particular album or song in question, as in its "hype" standing and what the blog world thinks and so on, rather than, I don't know, discussing the music itself? I think it's funny that editor considers Pitchfork as writing seriously about music. Maybe the marketing of music, but it hardly seems like an environment for people who love music to deconstruct that love. Which is what I'd like in a music website.

I don't read pitchfork, but it took me 2 seconds to find a new review of Robert Pollard's We All Got Out of the Army:

"... "Silk Rotor" starts the album with an amicable enough guitar chug before exploding into a weighty stomp; after a string of fine LPs with less than stellar first tracks, it feels good to dive right into this one. "Post-Hydrate Update" lopes around into a nice series of hooks, and the thwacky "Your Rate Will Never Go Up" is similarly catchy. "On Top of the Vertigo" is one of Bob's best vocal performances in years, the gnarly track thrashing against an aside-laden tale of "sleeping in a puddle of puke." "How Many Stations" is a true lighters-in-the-air moment, while the manic title track might well inspire a mosh pit should this new studio rat incarnation of Pollard tour again. And "Wild Girl", a stripped-bare piece of melancholia that suggests Syd Barrett doing "Across the Universe", might just be the best tune here.

A fine lot of Pollard songs is one thing, but it's gotta sound right, and right-hand-man Todd Tobias, working from his new studio, lends these numbers just the right amount of flash and grit. Unlike last year's The Crawling Distance, which found Tobias dressing up a drab grab-bag of Pollard tunes in the most utilitarian arrangements imaginable, the music here works against the songs beautifully. It's fuller, brighter, more nuanced, and more natural, closer to the much-loved Isolation Drills than almost anything else that's come since. And Pollard actually straps on a guitar and lets a few solos fly, a show of effort and personal involvement practically unheard of in the period immediately following Guided by Voices' split. Pollard's a loopy guitar player, favoring feel over form, but his personal touch helps to offset Tobias' steady hand.

It wouldn't be a Pollard record without inspiring a raised eyebrow or two. The not quite right "Rice Train" is a little too weird to be wonderful, and "Talking Dogs" feels slight, as befits the set's shortest number. A few tunes, while not exactly sleepwalkers, seem driven by autopilot. Most egregiously, "I Can See" nicks the central riff from Pollard's best and most recognizable song, Bee Thousand's "I Am a Scientist", pretty much wholesale; it'd be a lousy trick if the tune that followed weren't pretty good, although, of course, "Scientist" it ain't. But if we're getting to a point where the worst thing you can say about a Bob Pollard record is that it's got a tune that reminds you of his best work, well, clearly we're getting somewhere. Last year was a good one for Pollard, and with a record like We All Got Out of the Army coming right out of the gate, 2010 is shaping up nicely."


Admittedly, I have not read "hundreds and hundreds" of Pitchfork reviews. I just picked one at random. Sure, it's a little insidey, but you can't say the music is not the focus.

Anyway, I think criticisms of their review style are based more on personal perception than reality.

Admittedly, my store is not your average store but, honestly, given all the hype the site gets and gives itself, it's surprisingly ineffective.

Pitchfork's goal (I think) is not to drive album sales of particular albums. Its goal is to drive page views and ad clicks. I think it's been very effective so far.

From the Scott Plagenhoef comment compilation:

Isn't it possible that, like I said before, a lot of people used to get paid a lot of money to write a lot of words about things that in actual fact nobody wanted to read? And now that we have direct metrics to measure online what is read, and less utilitarian need for critics (from a reader not a cultural POV), that has been found out to a degree? ... I'm far far from celebrating that. It's depressing as hell.

I think that's an interesting insight about a possible generation gap in readers of music reviews. The earlier generation prefers a music critic who loves music and shows you how much he/she loves music. The newer generation just wants to know "what does it sound like?" and "is it any good?" before they spend 10-15 minutes downloading it. Pitchfork is definitely for the newer generation, or as someone above put it, more AMG than Robert Christgau.

We matched 11 of the top 13 LPs, the top four metal LPs, five of the six top h-h LPs, and 31 of the top 34 songs were on our top 100. Again, we didn't do that through some sort of puppetmaster shit, but we are by any metric plugged in to what other critics and listeners want from music right now.

He certainly comes off as arrogant, but he's got a point.

britt daniel passes cyclists with a good several foot buffer even when not entirely necessary.

^^ perhaps my favorite mefi comment ever.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:27 AM on February 18, 2010


The whole "I hate punk" is weird to me because it assumes that there is *a* single, unified "punk" to hate and handily dismiss.

I mean, I generally have no use for bands that are heavily invested in the idea of punk...the Rancids and NOFXs and Social Distortions of the world...To me, it seems easy enough to write them all off for what looks to me like an odd sort of conservativism and orthodoxy. But if you're going to argue that Swell Maps and the Slits and The Fall and Television are all in the same boat as former group, and that you hate them all for the same reason? That doesn't make any sense.
posted by anazgnos at 11:34 AM on February 18, 2010


I find it fascinating when people act like all punk music was made in the 70s and 80s, or is corporate crap (see above comment). It is not so.
posted by streetdreams at 12:34 PM on February 19, 2010


streetdreams: “I find it fascinating when people act like all punk music was made in the 70s and 80s, or is corporate crap (see above comment). It is not so.”

You're right; all punk music wasn't made in the 70s and 80s. But in my mind all interesting punk music was. It seems silly to cling to a style of music that happened twenty years ago. Moreover, it seems totally contrary to the original spirit of the thing.

Of course, it meant a lot of different things to a lot of people. To me, punk meant an opening of minds and souls, and a sudden availability of music to everybody. To some people, it's some kind of social and political movement. I suspect that it's only in the latter sense that punk music still exists.
posted by koeselitz at 12:45 AM on February 20, 2010


Besides, streetdreams: nevercalm wasn't saying that he thinks punk is corporate crap. He was saying he hates punk because he doesn't like pointlessly loud, obnoxious music.
posted by koeselitz at 1:01 AM on February 20, 2010


« Older Debarking in Dallas on 22 November, 1963   |   Sex Squad - man with penises for hands questions... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments