Pitchfork Cobaggery Watch Update

Still working on this year’s Pitchfork Top 100 songs list, we won’t be done until UC gets back from riding the giant tortoises anyway. What I was struck by while engaging the list was the fact that the increasing frequency and amplitude of waves of recycling and its ever more cynical and surfacey deployment clearly dominates the music scene. Now, I don’t expect this insight to be special, but spending much less time than I guess our readers here would imagine I do interacting with the music press and scene, I was momentarily shocked by the depth of the problem. In comparing this year’s list to just my memories of the last two years, I find we must be beginning the death spiral. In a way, it is the usual style/substance debate, but in this case, the “styles” are born from ever more impeccable and increased recycling. I certainly don’t have a problem with bands being derivative. The extent isn’t so much the issue as how much of a straight-jacket the style is, or how well the content fits the style and whether there is any content there at all. We are now entering the 100 Years of Solitude phase of musical existence (new is the new old).

I enjoy many styles and many retro-retoolings of those styles, but it is always important that the songs be present. not just the sounds. I wanted to share an interesting discussion at MBV. Also, how can we give Marc Hogan any props if his blog is invite only? We only half-truthfully/half-ironically picked on him before, but now he’s not even in the top 100 worst/most wanky P-fork writers. In fact, we’ve been catching him saying smart and interesting things. We called the police to report a musical wanker and they said the musical wanker was inside the house! And it was us, so we pay our respect to MH.

The key comment is here:

Marc: I’m in agreement with Scott 100% about the influences/reference points thing– whose style you borrow to express your content (and how many people actually listened to those bands in the first place) seems to be more important in the blogosphere than what that content is. And you can argue that in some cases the style is inseparable from the content, like the “medium is the message,” but in those cases, I feel like the style had better be distinctive (I’m sorry, no one sounds exactly like Deerhunter; for a band I like on a much less intense/personal level, no one sounded exactly like the Strokes, either, despite their tasteful reference points).

Organic versus synthesized. These themes come up throughout my take on the P-fork Top 100 list. On top of our usual grades of “meh” “ass” or “good” you’ll definitely see the theme developing in real time as I get more and more annoyed at the more and more plastic offerings I force myself to listen to.


More stuff on some related issues- The Dean (Robert Christgau), whom I think I have an eternal fatwa against because he crapped on the Shins first CD, or maybe liked someone terrible, but I love how he’s been linked to the entirety of Wikipedia. Hey it’s tough, this is why I like no one, no one likes me and we live in a world fraught with arms races based on music criticism based grudges, and also, Yelp exists. RC links this piece with two anonymous wanks talking about the life of the online critic. What I am always astounded by is critics that think they love music more than some random shmo because they choose to dedicate more of their lives to it. I wonder if they notice that in our electronic age, there exists an unbelievable amount of content and that regular ol’ dudes kind of have to fight to spend time with a few new albums rather than 15-20 a week. They don’t review for other people because those people don’t even exist to them, they review for themselves, hence the scientifically accurate term of wanker. To wit:

StumpyPete1975: my top ten of the year rarely includes anything I see anywhere else!
Windupbird: me too
StumpyPete1975: and I’m amazed that EVERYBODY seems to agree and says things like “it was a bad year for music”
StumpyPete1975: what a ludicrous statement
StumpyPete1975: so many records released
StumpyPete1975: I’m sure it wasn’t all crappy!
Windupbird: I think some people’s job is to capture the consensus. I pity those people. The consensus is usually awful.


33 Responses to “Pitchfork Cobaggery Watch Update”

  • “riding the giant tortoises” is a euphemism for what, exactly? or maybe we don’t want to know.

  • I was being literal there.

    Although we could come up with some fun euphemsism.

    “Surfing the velveeta melon baller.”

  • Perhaps I need to go buy a red sportscar or something, but I suspect as you get older, you start to realize how little music that comes out is really unique. When you first become musically aware in your teens, everything is a discovery, and most of the music you are exposed to at that time earns a special place in your musical love brain. To wit: the explosion of “classic rock” stations playing enough Journey, Rush, and Led Zeppelin to make any rational human puke.
    The longer you are around, the more you hear the influences of a previous era, the lack of distinction between most of the “new” music, the overall lack of risk displayed in promoting bands and singers, etc. It snapped for me after listening to my 500th “new” Seattle band in the mid 90’s.
    I imagine this process is accelerated with music critics because they are inundated with such a wide variety of stuff (no excuse for their complete muffinrey however). This explains my sympathy for the “here’s an idea, why not just listen to the Spiders From Mars” remark.
    I am now at the point where something has to be really different (Beck, Bowie, Violent Femmes) stopping me in my tracks, or awaken an old love lost (e.g. Rancid helping to eliminate the pain of Combat Rock, or even worse, Big Audio Dynamite) for me to even care.
    This is a long-winded way of saying maybe the music isn’t any worse than it ever was, but you are starting to move over to the grumpy old man side of the table with me…

  • sounds like fish needs to spend more time riding the giant tortoise.

  • No, music is maturing with us. When rock music was only 20 years old, there were new places to go with a limited number of instruments. As the music matures, there are less distances for any band to distinguish themselves from others, where differences may be how they put the pieces together, or their personal voice and vision for the same pieces.

    Trust me- there is a difference in this year’s list with organically incorporating a ton of influences and just playing good songs a la artist X and wearing the costume of a certain era. Even when wearing a costume, you could be wearing a good one with heart, or you could be wearing a great one with no heart. There are a lot of bands this year that picked out great costumes and that is the extent of their talent.

  • Wake me when any rock band writes through-composed contrapuntal polyphony instead of merely this banal homophony crap.

  • As an older person… even older than fish (god, that doesn’t sound right!), I think I’d have to agree with fish. I get the feeling we’re running out of truly new ways to express ourselves, musically, artistically, you name it. It’s like you only get so many notes, so many colors, so many subjects, and the ways in which you can use them, express them, is finite.

    Or maybe it is just age and having taken in a certain amount. A handful of notes put together in a certain way may be new to someone younger, but if you’ve heard them before, you’ll be reminded of the first time you heard the combo.

  • … and when you’re old, you forget to change your sign-in name…

  • sounds like fish needs to spend more time riding the giant tortoise

    Batteries are dead.

  • Sausage 07, if you read fish’s comments and Pinko Punko’s comments, it seems you more agree with Pinko Punko’s comment than fish’s totally wrong comment.

    If the fish does want a Clash-ian-esque feeling from this years P-fork list, he should try the Titus Andronicus. Nothing new there, but lyrically its very good and very dark. I just got it the other day and I like it a lot.

  • You could be correct… but I still agree with fish, just because I like him better :-p and I’m too tired to go back and re-read the whole thing. I was too tired the first time.

    However… that being said, you still get an actual Christmas present from moi and the updated UPS delivery is TOMORROW!!!

  • Regardless of Jennifer and fish feeling pale and defeated and washed out and unexcited by life anymore, I read these lists and realize how disconnected I have become.

    And that is truly disheartening. It’s like the music doesn’t matter anymore….

    Can I blame Pitchfork? How about Casey Kasem?

  • Wasn’t “The Music Doesn’t Matter Anymore” an Allan Carr movie?? Oh wait… that’s right, it was that stellar, “Can’t Stop the Music”…

    ZRM- I’ve always been pale…

  • Pinko is getting some sausage07 in the mail!!!

  • I thought Snag was the sausage aficionado….

  • Pinko is getting some sausage07 in the mail!!!

    In a plain brown wrapper.

    I think Kathleen has been incorporated into the filthbot collective.

  • I think Kathleen has been incorporated into the filthbot collective.


  • Everyone comes in the end.

  • I am revved up enough to bypass the easy joke route…

    I think there is just as much great music coming out now as there was when I was 18 (that’s 20 years ago). What I love about music today is how much easier it is to find that music. I don’t have to rely on MTV or radio or friends or the stoner brothers of friends to find those diamonds among the dung.

    I’ve heard bands in the last few years that are every bit as exciting and creative as many of the legends of rock. The Decemberists, Arcade Fire, Sleater-Kinney, The Wrens, Sigur Ros, The New Pornagrphers are just a few that come to mind. There are others that aren’t as original, like The Hold Steady, that still produce amazing music.

    Rock music has always been about recycling. The early pioneers borrowed from R&B artists, and subsequent generations borrowed from the ones before them. Originality is great, and when you hear a group that’s both talented and presenting a fresh point of view, that often is the pinnacle of being a music fan. Albums like Agaetis Byrjun from Sigur Ros or Endtroducing from DJ Shadow are like that, where even if they are visible influences, they are mixed into something completely original.

    However, that’s not a critical factor for my enjoyment of rock music. Fish mentioned Rancid. They borrow heavily from The Clash, about as much as any band has borrowed from one artist. Yet And Out Come the Wolves is in my humble opinion the best punk album since the old wave of punk. That record is one of the few flawless ones I own. They took what made the Clash great and placed it in a modern context, like using steel to make some new alloy.

    There’s also the tendency to think today’s music sucks on comparison to yesterday’s. It’s easy to think music in the past is awesome because the awesome stuff is usually what we remember (unless it it was awesomely bad). But go back and look at the charts and it’s clear that 90% of music, in any given era, was utterly forgettable. Not necessarily terrible, and maybe even decent, but not memorable. I am not prejudiced against popular artists — I don’t care if five people or 50 million like a band that I like. But most popular music is bad because it gets popular for the wrong reasons, reasons that have nothing to do with the music itself.

    The brilliance of Robert Christgau, and one of the reasons I like him even when he hates something I like, is because he gets all of this. He’s old and has heard it all and yet still gets excited by new music and knows there’s good music still to come. I hope I feel the same way when I’m close to retirement age.

  • Brando, I though you were all about the easy dick jokes.

    who comes to 3B! looking for content?

  • I think music is too loud these days.

  • Brando, it is true that I was hasty in my granpa pants. I looked over last year’s list and it was just as bad. That being said, you and ZRM should get the Titus Andronicus album ASAP. I can’t believe how good at is for what it is. Nice and raw and very very very dark.

    [edited to add: UC is the one holding up the content. He has constipated our content because of his amazing and fun-filled life. I wonder if he can even bring the P-fork darkness we so crave]

    I hope upon hope that you kids will go through the P-fork monstrosity when UC gets in gear. It is my favorite part of the year. We will also do a “Year in Music” so we can get together and remind each other of the good stuff.

  • Must I remind you that my music budget is extremely limited this year?

    So, you know, let’s not drive me crazy by spending multiple posts telling me of the fine fine music that I can’t have….

    Your brainz can be eaten, you know.

  • zrm- did you cancel your e-music? That is the extent of my musico situation. If you did, I think you should retry it. I will recommend you at the e-mail of your choice.

  • No, no, still got the e. Only get 65 a month, though, and currently have 30 albums saved. Can’t keep up. Did treat myself to a cheapo booster pack though.

    Added the Titus. Sounds like my cup of brainz.

  • I think music is too loud these days.

    Can you speak up?

  • They sound like a low fi punk American Twilight Sad, if that makes sense. There is a wall of sound there and they seem pissed off, but while noisy there is something besides noise there. Very good.

  • So, you know, let’s not drive me crazy by spending multiple posts telling me of the fine fine music that I can’t have….


  • how much longer do I have to wait for the tour de force, utterly hilarious, can’t understand any of, takes two hours to read, long ago promised post???! Those tortises must be dead by now.

  • My half was done long ago. UC is trying to turn this into last years baking contest. His life is now filled with more important and environmentally irresponsible giant tortoise riding. As usual, 3B suffers. I shan’t be back.

  • The Uncanny Canadian

    I’m at #82 bitchez. Hold your horses. Or more aptly, hold your hearstses.

  • Those tortises must be dead by now.

    Or at least irate about having their nameses spelled correctly.

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