When I started working at XPN, I did a lot of research on artists who came in for World Cafe sessions. That included, among other things, finding reviews and interviews from internet music media sites. This was the first time I heard about the notorious site known as Pitchfork.

Where most magazines and websites offer reviews of albums that emphasize the good parts (even if the album itself isn’t all that great), Pitchfork revels in negative reviews. With their scale of 0.0 to 10.0 (and yes, just about every score in that scale has been represented), Pitchfork provides seemingly definitive assessments of the modern indie scene. However, Pitchfork is a victim of its own popularity.

If you take a look through Pitchfork’s archives, you’ll find that they could probably benefit from having a Winston Smith going through and revising the times they were wrong in judgment. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s what they have their army of web interns doing on a daily basis. Most recently, their hyping of the band Black Kids fell flatter than flat when the group’s lame full-length came out. Regarding that “review,” instead of giving an explanation for how that album didn’t quite live up to expectations, they spent all of two seconds on I Can Has Cheezeburger? and came up with that stunning offering. And why not give it a 0.0? If it was better than NYC Ghosts & Flowers (notice how the author says that he had been waiting “for the one album that would warrant a 0.0”), why not say what warranted a 3.3? Maybe you should get so upset that you want to contact the reviewer. Well, too bad.

Pitchfork’s reviewers, whoever they are, aren’t music lovers. They’re writers masquerading as music fans. Even the 10.0 reviews focus more on the reviewer’s writing than on the music they’re writing about. What you’ll also notice is that their “staff” (I say that because, for all I know, every review is written by founder/owner Ryan Schreiber under different names) all have different tastes in music, and aren’t assigned to review things accordingly. When The Breeders released their EP Fate To Fatal earlier this year, the Pitchfork reviewer who handled the EP itself pointed out how the “official” Pitchfork review of the title track was less-than-thrilling. If they’re going to review albums and tracks, why not have a unified opinion on everything?

I won’t go into how they hype bands to a ridiculous degree (though the recent burnout of once-favs Wavves speaks for itself), but it’s sad that more focus is placed on hype and get-it-nownownow than on the music.

As someone who writes reviews, I like to see what other reviewers are saying, if only to confirm my own opinion about a certain album or artist. However, Pitchfork has taken the art of reviewing to an extremely obscene and disgusting place, and aren’t being properly punished for these journalistic atrocities. For starters, don’t take everything they say so seriously. Then, check out other sites that may (and likely do) offer alternative opinions. A great place to find a ton of reviews is MetaCritic. To be fair, Pitchfork’s News section is hardly as opinionated and skewed as their reviews, and I have to say that they offer some great stories and features outside of their reviews. However, if they are setting the example for aspiring music writers, then maybe there is no future.

~ by E. on June 4, 2009.

3 Responses to “Fork’d”

  1. I love the Winston Smith reference.

    If you think the Black Kids review was lazy, go look at what they did for Jet’s sophomore record…

  2. How can you rant about P4K and not even mention the arbitrary manner in which they apply the Best New Music tag??? How can one album get an 8.1 and be deemed BNM yet something gets an 8.5 and recieves nothing???

    That’s my biggest peeve, that and the fact that they totally contradict they number scores they give albums when they rank them at the end of the year. Look no further than last year when Santogold and Hot Chip were back to back in the top 25 after both receiving a 7.0. Not complaining because I liked the albums but still…

  3. Yes, their inconsistency is another thing that rubs me the wrong way about how they run their site.

    Also, here’s the link to the Jet “review” (NSFW?)

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