On our Newswire yesterday, my coworker Josh Modell posted an item about Pitchfork's upcoming book, The Pitchfork 500: Our Guide To The Greatest Songs From Punk To The Present. Naturally, a bunch of our dear readers jumped on to leave comments condemning Pitchfork for being pretentious, pretentious, hipster-y, and, um, pretentious.
I can understand that. But here's what I think.
Without Pitchfork, contemporary music journalism would be a lot less pretentious.
It'd also be a lot more boring.
I read Pitchfork because–unlike most music journalism today–it riles me up. It takes chances. Sometimes, as with Brent DiCrescenzo's stuff, it takes big, stupid, ugly, clumsy, desperate chances. But do we really need yet another place on the Internet to get mild, meekly worded, safe as milk, professional music journalism product?
The funny thing is, Pitchfork ISN'T that pretentious: There are tons and tons of straightforward reviews and articles on that site. Just this morning, I popped over there and read David Bevan's solid, sober, even-handed, yet non-boring review of the new Love As Laughter–as excellent and casually penetrating a review of that disc as I'll likely ever read.
Of course, you have to make the distinction between pretentious writing–and the perception that someone is pretentious because they know more about music than you. If someone is raving about a band I've never heard of, I don't dismiss them out of hand as some hipster douchebag. I shut up and listen, hoping I might learn something.
I'll always hate Pitchfork for their asinine Jawbreaker reviews, among many other things they publish that annoy the fuck out of me. But having my own pet opinions and sensibilities coddled and bottle-fed is not why I read journalism–music or otherwise.