09 August 2007

8+

"March to the Sea" by Pelican which clocks in at 11:37

That's it: Fire the reviewer. Though it's a problematic if long-standing personal complaint, Pitchfork critics have consistently prevented the Chicago-birthed music site from being as transcendent as they've long been touted. In their review of Pelican's third album, City of Echoes, it's worse than it's ever been, largely because it seems that the excellent and consistently developing oversight of the editors at Pitchfork is better now than it has ever been. The compositions and articles have become more subtle and complex and are occasionally as powerful as those early Pitchfork moments, when a young, passionate band of writers would grind a handful of words into fine, red-hot music journalism v2.0. But Currin, unlike his associates and even founder Ryan Schreiber, hasn't progressed beyond his role of generally beating keys on his keyboard hard and misreading the upswing of a song by botching his interpretation of percussive playing and missing beats, both within the music and in his own writing. In his review of City of Echoes, he misses some of the album's most otherwise-transcendent moments and the review's approach of conveying his own denseness, even to the point of making use of much repetition, seemingly has given him more opportunities for failure than ever before.

This complaint is nothing new. Long before Pitchfork was popularly associated with being the tastemaking music source in the indie world, I used to tell people that the limitless energy of the site, misguidedly sloppy reviewers and all, reminded me favorably of young MTV and RollingStone. Oops. Earlier this year, one writer at Idolator noted Currin seemed to be engaging in nothing more than "an act of finger-wagging showmanship". An honest look at City of Echoes demands a different writer with finesse and a wide toolkit. After all, since I enjoy the band Pelican and would thus actually be reading this particular review, this was Pitchfork's big shot at delivering a more concise and purposeful review that would resonate with me. Here Currin spent all of his time bitching about things, excising prior largesse, and let each percussion part stand out more to us listeners by raising the same point again and again. And again.

Less than two sentences in, half of Grayson Currin is drowning in the sludge of his own obsession while the other is serializing a triumphant, ascending pattern of hate. If something sounds like it's unraveling, it is: as he does with almost all of his transitional movements, Currin falls apart by a hit or two, chopping his sentences and losing his place. The review is awkward, uncommonly rude, and unnatural, detracting from the intended motion entirely. Pitchfork proper has been so good lately, really: they're as aggressive and brimming as they are patient and smart; in the grand scheme, creating an anthem of a site which has been harmed by corrupted technique.

But it's not that Currin simply can't write; he can't place properly in Pitchfork's evolving approach, either. He understeps his pace on a simple turn-around, but even when on point, his big, lumbering thoughts sound cumbersome and stiff. The words snake; he stomps on his keys, occasionally subdiving his voice without any awareness for the rest of the world. By the time the review peaks, Currin stays in place. The "I hate the drummer, drummer sucks, drum bad - me good!" place. And, just when his attention seems to turn to one of the guitars, or finer moments of the album, Currin's sore thumb is still there, negating delicacy. Currin's apparent "drumming on his keyboard" writing style, and complete oblivion to feel, doesn't allow Pitchfork the range to be the exciting, dynamic site that's capable of the structural complexity they've long been interested in.

Ignoring this particular review and its side effects, though, current Pitchfork is the best Pitchfork has been in a while, largely because their reviewers are re-focused, increasingly comfortable as standard bearers of taste. This is not to say that Currin doesn't bring up valid points - much of the drumming (and mixing of the drums) on City of Echoes has been handled rather boorishly. For this reason, though mostly because none of the songs on said album are long enough to be featured in this 8+ column, I've chosen a track from Pelican's album The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw to post here. In "March to the Sea"-- the album's most overtly metal-heavy track-- the guitars charge forward while the drums constantly build through a series of impressive fills, double bass action, and cymbal crashes. It's a special song, pure finesse. Perhaps Currin should give it a listen, though I wouldn't be surprised to find him oblivious to the aural eclipse happening within this song if he did. Having already focused too hard on the drummer's errors on one Pelican album, and thus missing much of the goodness within City of Echoes, he could miss the beauty of this song too. Who knows though... you could email him a link to this post and we could wait and see. Or you could simply continue to demand more from this "[quasi-] important site" called Pitchfork.

Buy The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw HERE on Amazon or HERE on iTunes.

EAR FARM's 8+ is a weekly feature that showcases songs longer than 8 minutes. In the recent past these songs were featured on EF's 8+:
Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, and Tony Rice - "Guitar Space/Summertime"
Boris - "Flood"
Vieux Farka Touré - "Diabaté"
Morrissey - "Southpaw"
Mastodon - "Hearts Alive"
Frog Eyes - "Bushels"
Slint - "Washer"
Martin Eagle Trio - "The Hipster"

To see a full list of every song featured in EAR FARM's 8+ click HERE.

11 comments:

itsroomcleaningtime said...

FUCKING AWESOME POST

Karen A. Mann said...

It sounds like Grayson listened to this CD and got angry, and then started writing, which is always dangerous. I've learned the hard way that if you have such a visceral reaction to something, you really shouldn't attempt to review it before calming down and clearing your mind.

go bears said...

unbelievably on the money. this was like reading a steven colbert response to that horible review. i'm so glad someone gave that punkass pitchfork critic a taste of his own medicine. PELICAN.

matt said...

this is fucking hilarious. i think you should be the president of all blogs.

tim said...

wow. your approach to attacking the review is so lazy, but it must have taken you a long time to do.

so... congrats?

i wonder how many people are going to spooge all over this as a piece of great criticism... when really it's just as annoying as the original, misguided review.

Matt said...

I've gone back and forth as to whether or not to respond to your comment Tim, because I don't at all mind your criticism. I welcome it and appreciate people being able to say anything they want in my comments.

I just want to make sure that we're clear about the difference between criticism and parody.

Thanks for reading.

andimissmyunclecharles said...

Tim,

Here's another point - though, Matt's point about criticism vs parody is an excellent one:

You are wrong.

And then you got owned.

"and then you got owned" said...

i think i'm over music blogs. since for a while.

Anonymous said...

^ amen to that! i think you're all a bunch of babies. pitchfork, blogs, all of it. whiny babies.

prolix. said...

why is this so much wordier and snobbily written than anything else on earfarm?

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