Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pitchfork brings the snark

Just reporting the news isn't enough anymore, you have to be sure to crack jokes as well.

Since Idolator came on the scene one year ago, it feels as though sites like Pitchfork have stepped up their efforts to deliver more News With Attitude to you, the venerable indie consumer. This may very well be an inaccurate characterization of both Idolator and Pitchfork, because I will readily admit that I haven't always checked them too faithfully (this has recently changed now that I have entered the 21st century and discovered the magic of RSS readers). This "trend" certainly didn't start with those two sites, and maybe it isn't linked to the rise of the Gawker/Deadspin/BoingBoing-type sites (i.e. we're not reporting the news, we're just organizing links to the people who do all the actual work in gathering and reporting the news. Then we're gonna tell you why those people suck, or why the stuff they're reporting sucks) although I certainly feel that it is. Pitchfork overhauled their news section a couple of years ago, putting news, features, and interview coverage on equal footing with their review section, which involved drastically increasing their volume of stories and the word count contained in each item. More content equals more choice, sez I, thereby giving me a new reason to keep up with the site. That doesn't mean that the overall product is any better though. Pitchfork is a utility rather than a source of entertainment. I read and watch CNN but I don't particularly enjoy anything they do, but it is a convenient outlet for news and is better than a lot of alternatives (damning through faint praise, etc.). I don't like most of the writing on Pitchfork, but it's a nice place to stop for keeping up with news and new releases. Sometimes I even want to know what they think about an album, or whether they can keep up their 5-year streak of always giving 7.1/10 to any indie band releasing their fourth album or beyond (regardless of what they once thought of said band).

Idolator is clearly a cut above Pitchfork in the news department, and the reasons why are absurdly simple. 1. They have excellent writers. 2. Their writers are funny. Pitchfork news writers rarely pass up an opportunity to act like assholes if the situation presents itself. Rather than putting the news over, they're trying to get themselves over. Jess Harvell might scoff at the "publicity" over the fake Fergie sex tape, but when I walk away from the computer I'm more likely to think about Fergie than I would have just five minutes earlier. I'm not thinking "wow, Jess really showed them by getting in that awesome zing".

Pitchfork recently showed their mettle in this interview with Jonsi from Sigur Ros. Excerpt:

Pitchfork: Certainly you've seen many beautiful locations all over the world, but you chose to shoot all of Heima in Iceland. Other than the fact that you're from there, is there something about Iceland that ties in with the music that you make?

Birgisson: We have got this question so many times-- it's just one of the questions on the hate list [laughs].Maybe it is. Maybe, I don't know. Of course, like you said, you are from there, you grow up there, you are raised there, so definitely I think in some ways. Maybe it's just more unconsciously than something planned. It's kind of hard to say, but I think definitely we'd make different music probably if we grew up in Jamaica or something [laughs].

Paul Thompson, who conducted the interview, makes sure to intro his piece by painting Jonsi as a snob who dared scoff at some of his questions. Let's see ... the album is called "Home", the music is featured on a DVD that was filmed in intimate locations all over Iceland, hmmm ... could their native land be tied in with the music that the band makes? REALLY, COULD IT BE??? Naturally, the "Jamaica" line was used as the byline, because gay white dudes from Iceland talking about Jamaica is supposed to be funny, I guess. "The interview you thought you'd never hear -- Jonsi namedrops Jamaica, today on Pitchfork!" Plus, newsflash: build a time machine, take band X out of country A and have them grow up in country B instead. Voila, the music sounds different, what a shock. Jonsi had to morph into Captain Obvious to tell Thompson some basic axioms about music that he is apparently too dumb to know about, only for Thompson to turn his line against him in an attempt to pull off a high-larious tagline zing. At least he can take solace in knowing that plenty of other music hacks were stupid enough to ask the same question, leading to that question's one-way trip to Sigur Ros' shitlist.

Even though it appears that the interview ended abruptly due to tight scheduling, I'd like to think that Jonsi had become fed up with the ridiculousness of the interview and finally hung up. "Do you feel much pressure as a band to sort of continue to evolve or change?" Is there anything other than a "yes" answer to that question? Seriously, is anyone going to answer "no, we prefer to do the exact same shit year in and year out" except for possibly KISS? How hard is it to do a tiny bit of research about a band and to think up some non-trivial questions with non-trivial answers? This is the same website that meticulously pieced together sections of the new Radiohead album entirely from youtube links, so we know that they are capable of putting in a couple hours of work on occasion.

They don't deserve Philip Sherburne's columns, they really don't.

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