One hundred million people can be wrong

Pitchfork Media.

Oh, bless/curse thy name! Pitchfork Media. Only five syllables, yet summoning up enough excitement and anger to last a lifetime. Conflicting emotions. Ruptured identity.

Pitchfork Media. With trembling hands I visit you daily, leaving a scorned lover or a best friend. I wake up with hopes that you'll review my favorite new album. I see the name. Do I read the review? Or do I back away, forget about it, do something else?

History lesson:

Pitchfork Media is an independently run music review site, and in its seven (or so) year lifespan, has become the most successful and influential Internet-based site geared around independent music (whatever that means-- you can't tell these days). I've been a follower since 1999. I guess that makes me want of the crochet old men who yap about "it being better in the old days."

But it wasn't. Pitchfork sucked back then. The reviews made my writing look like Tolsoy; they were two paragraphs or less of shoddy one-liners and indie cred high-fives. Since then, PFM has collected a capable collective of music snobs to fill its ranks, and now the site is a giant billboard for ads. Oh, there's also five reviews a day plus lots of other features.

Here's the problem: I can't put a finger on the fine details of the problem, but Pitchfork's overall approach to the arts drives me up a wall. Instead of trying to broaden peoples' musical horizons, they gather their favorite things under the snob umbrella and don't let the sun in. Oh yeah, they also recently started branching out (reviews of mainstream things) to try to "okay" it for their ilk to listen to Big & Rich or Fantasia.

That's a big one. But oh, the other crimes they commit. As noted by a friend and freelance writer, PFM appears to utilize a plan or map or something. They promote whatever their niche genre-of-the-month happens to be (freak-folk, grime, dance-punk and ambient English techno-sleazy are all recent examples), and in the process they ignore or dismiss anything else. And the albums that don't fit into their plan are kicked out of the indie snob club without even a goodbye or complimentary hat. I can think of how many good albums have been given mediocre (at best) or abysmal (at worst) ratings because they weren't making horse noises or copying Gang of Four or whatever was cool in the Pitchfork offices that month.

And the reviewers. Gah. Talent? By all means! If I could write using the vocabulary of some of those folks I'd have a Ryder truck full of cash waiting for me every city I visited. I don't think they have any "fair" reviewers, though. Well, they do, but they lock them in closets and only bring them out to get someone to write about Superdrag complelations. The Big Guns either praise something to high heavens or make it look like the Worst Album Ever. Look at the year-end polls, man! There's a lot of worthy stuff on there, but the Rapture nabbed the top spot a few years ago. That probably made the band some money, but has anyone cared about them since then? And the Arcade Fire disc is pretty sweet, but they're hailing it like it was the best thing since flush toilets. And they tend to diss bands altogether solely because it's cool to diss them. Yes, I'm talking about Pedro the Lion. First you hate them because they/he made a concept album, then you hated them/him because they/he stopped making concept albums. I just think PFM hates Pedro because of the Christianity thing. Christians aren't allowed under PFM's Cool Umbrella unless your name is Sufjan. I'm sure loyal readers will always remember the teenie-bopping hysterics of Spencer Owens or the oft-hilarious, oft-mind rending Brent DiCrescenzo (whose Tool-review-as-high-school-English-essay was brilliant), but raving psychotics like those two are few and far between.

But I do love the site. As much as I hate it, I LOVE it too. I'm really happy when they actually give something I like a good review. They haven't touched the new Teenage Fanclub CD yet, but if they give it over a 7.0 I'm going to go nuts (in a positive way). Their news section is fantastic as well, and they've sometimes the only place I can get any info about bands I like without wading through Google for hours. And they've also "broken" some artists I love big time: Sufjan Stevens (Daniel Smith admitted that PFM basically made the Suf's career), the Arcade Fire, Dizzee Rascal (at least in the US), the list goes on and on and on. They even solidified the Wrens' fanbase, something the band deserved after all of those years.

I'm going to cut this off before it gets any longer. As it stands, Pitchfork calls the shots. They can say __________'s new CD is the best thing ever, and millions of unwashed hipsters will buy it or BitTorrent it or something. I love Pitchfork for some many aspects, but there needs to be another hub of underground music critique that isn't cliquish and self-important. And I need to create it.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/30/2005 09:29:00 AM,


At 8:46 PM, Blogger Erica said...

If you build it, they will come.


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