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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pitchfork Sucks

Pitchfork sucks.
You know what else sucks? Hyperbole. In all honesty,, an "indie" music website, breaks a lot of good music news before anyone, and can be an important resource. Then again, they only have these capabilities because of the institution they have become. You wouldn't think "indie" and "institution" would go together, but Pitchfork has found a way: through the attention they've received from their hyperbolic reviews.
I will give an example of one of their most egregious offenses, but first let me defend my argument by having an imaginary entity question my opinion:
But, Nicsperiment, hyperbole doesn't get anyone any more attention than the truth does!
Sorry, imaginary arguer. You're wrong. An example as evidence:
Harold Camping
Harold Camping recently declared that Christians would be raptured on May 21st of this year. I'm still here. So is Camping. If he had just told the truth as the Bible explains, he could have simply said, "Repent because no one knows when Jesus will come back." Instead, he said, "THE WORLD WILL END RIGHT NOW!"
Which one of these two statements can garner more attention? Millions of religious leaders (or dare I say, all legitimate Christian Ministers) say the former. Only Camping said the latter. Have you heard any other preacher's name in the news lately? Has any other preacher single-handedly raised $18.3 million dollars in the last year?
Hyperbole is one of the greatest ways to achieve mass amounts of undeserved attention. This is where I turn my attention back to Pitchfork.
In 2004, Pitchfork reviewer, Chris Dahlen, awarded Travis Morrison's debut album, Travistan, a zero out of ten. That's a pretty low score. Actually that's the worst score you can get, even on the Kelvin scale. Travis Morrison is the frontman for The Dismemberment Plan, a much heralded rock band whose album, Emergency & I, Pitchfork gave a ten to (when the album was re-released, though they did say it was the sixteenth best album of the 90's). Giving Emergency & I a high rating doesn't exactly draw attention. Who isn't going to give that album a glowing review?
But say the Dismemberment Plan goes on an indefinite hiatus. Say the frontman decides to strike out on his own. Say he sticks his neck out by doing something a little different, something he knows will inevitably be negatively compared to the standout work he has been a part of before. Say this solo-album, while having its moments, does indeed fall short of the work the artist was a part of with his full band--something that has happened with almost every single solo-album ever released (and that is not hyperbole, it's a fact). The fair thing to do would be to give this album a five or six, write about its flaws and strengths and move on. Heck even a three or a four. This may not draw much attention, but it would be honest.
Pitchfork's writer did not do this. He gave the album a zero. That means that nothing could be worse than listening to Travistan, and that is just ridiculous.
Because of the clout Pitchfork suddenly wielded, the album flopped. Don't believe me? EVEN WIKIPEDIA SAYS SO. Don't want to just blindly take Wikipedia's word for it? Well, it's cited (and that guy says most of the stuff I want to say better than I'm saying it). Morrison's career took a hit, and it's not hyperbolic to say that listeners have probably missed out on a lot of music Morrison could have made had this Pitchfork ridiculousness not happened. Heck, look at what his website says now! Thanks a lot, Pitchfork! You helped wound a great musician's career, but I'm glad you got those extra 50,000 hits!
This highlights what I hate about hipsters. When I say "hipster," I mean a very specific thing: I mean someone who cares not about the actual intrinsic value or meaning of anything, but only the quick, meaningless aesthetic "cool" they can take from something before they quickly move on to the next. That is a hipster. If you actually care about things in a non-ironic way for actual reasons that you can thoughtfully articulate from the heart, you are not a hipster. Rambling abstractions do not count. That is all most hipsters are capable of.
The damning hipster characteristic is that they can't make their minds up for themselves. While discerning readers might check out the Pitchfork review for Travistan, realize the reviewer never actually talks about the music found on the album, and decide to check out the album to form their own opinions, the hipster reads the score, skims the first paragraph, and decides not to buy it.
Thanks a lot, hipsters! And again, thanks a lot, Pitchfork. Your consistency at making the world suck is astonishing! I give it a ten out of ten.


S.W. Grey said...

Thank you! I too think that Pitchfork is very pompous. Reading their reviews tends to give me a headache. Their reviews also have a tendency to be quite predictable. For example, they award Fleet Foxes albums with consistently positive reviews. However, both Anathallo albums did rather poor. I understand that it's a matter of opinion, but it still upsets me that Fleet Foxes would receive better reviews than Anathallo.

Nicholas said...

In the 3.5 years since I originally wrote this post, I've read literally one of Pitchfork's reviews (their overblown diss of the latest Gaslight Anthem album). Looks like they haven't changed a bit.
Nice to see someone else feels the same.