Monday, December 12, 2011

Pitchfork: A Year In Irrelevance

Back in the day as a College Radio MD (2002-2005?), we used to read every day. It was an indelible resource to check while writing a review of a band we knew nothing about, and saved us a lot of time. They were also unabashed "rockists" -- dismissing an epochal stroke of genius like Daft Punk's Discovery with a 6.4, all while giving the insufferable Dad-rock leviathan Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot a perfect 10.0***. Every once in awhile they would 'pan' a substandard record from a sacred cow just to make your head explode. This was OK, we were "rockists" at the time and knew better than to accept their musings as gospel. At the time, people actually dismissed Ryan Schrieber & Co. as "hipsters" that were "too cool for school" without realizing that people who review music by the decimal point (significant figures be damned) were much closer to being the Comic Book Guy than The Fonz.

Speaking of Happy Days, the moment that 'jumped the shark' was the moment they unveiled their "Best New Music" feature.**** No longer was Pitchfork content with 'End of the Year' type lists that served to recap and generate fanboy style debate: Pitchfork desired to become in-the-moment kingmakers. From this point on, Pitchfork became less a site that reviewed independent music, and more a site that peddled hype for middling, crowd-pleasing, "crossover-successes".** Whether it was deserved or not, Pitchfork anointed a new "Best New Music" whenever the "buzz" from the last coronation began to fade. Those without the inclination to develop and nurture a discernible taste in music now had a 'never-ending pasta bowl' of socially-acceptable tunes to fill their iPods with. The soundtrack to our Yuppie existence was being scripted in Chicago. As MDs, if we found ourselves not enjoying something getting a score over 7, it was probably a deficiency in our own stunted tastes and we had best feign a noncommittal sigh of a review and 'add' it anyway.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to project Pitchfork's career trajectory from here on out: they became another Spin/Rolling Stone favorably reviewing whatever Pop music was zeitgeist at the time. Sure, instead of telling us what remastered box set we should pick up at Best Buy they told us what rockist/popist mashup mp3 we should download.* Nowadays, every time we steel ourselves up enough to look at the site again we are greeted with a cluttered, garish, slapstick pastiche of Amy Winehouse/Lady Gaga/Green Day/[insert mainstream act X] references. Leave it to the site that once was a competent and nearly comprehensive review site for independent music to now tell us why we should buy "Watch the Throne". Yawn. Now, no record scores below 7, and every artist leaves with a winners trophy. After many years toiling in windowless labs with walls so thick hype/buzz/new can't penetrate we honestly do not know how much of this is what has already been said. We just had to vent. FTW.

*"Really? Danger Mouse mashed up Arcade Fire and Lil'Wayne, and it sounds completely perfect?!?"

**Thankfully Carles frequently calls them out on it more effectively than we ever could.
***(our opinion, still having never actually listened to it)
****At this time of the year, we are reminded of the joy and anticipation these lists once held for us.


Rob said...


Anonymous said...

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