Pitch­fork sticks it to bands out of favour

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - REVIEWS CDs - Brian Boyd bboyd@irish­times.ie

THERE’S been one good re­view of the new Pain Fun­nel album. On the new and highly in­flu­en­tial RD web­site, they give the band’s Love is dead and blind and dead an 8.1 rat­ing. Not so lucky were Melon­c­holera, who only got a 2.1 for their Bro­ken Sen­si­tive work.

RD self-mock­ingly de­scribes it­self as “pre­ten­tious, un­read­able crap”. But it’s the only port of call for those with an in­ter­est in such bands as Greyscale, We’re Loud and Sponge Pa­rade. Ob­vi­ously, some you might never have heard of: Aba­cus Horn Pa­rade and Bobby Crosby and the Pump­kins, for ex­am­ple. But such is RD’s stand­ing in cer­tain quar­ters that they are the first to get a copy of the still-un­re­leased new Ra­dio­head album.

It’s not dif­fi­cult to see how they beat off the world’s me­dia for this. They are huge Ra­dio­head fans and they have only ever awarded a max­i­mum 10.0 re­view rat­ing to any­thing by Ra­dio­head. So it’s an­other 10.0 for the new Ra­dio­head re­lease, Col­lec­tio­nan­thro­polopolisol­ogy. Some might find RD’s re­view of the work a bit fawn­ing, but there’s no dis­put­ing the in­ten­sity of their love for the band.

“So how do I re­view such an in­her­ently per­fect, flaw­less record­ing?” they ask. “It would be un­fair of me to sim­ply state, ‘this CD is per­fec­tion in the lit­eral sense of the word’, as that would not give such a mas­ter­piece the suf­fi­cient praise it de­serves. Putting this disc into your stereo and lis­ten­ing to it is like hav­ing the saints pee liq­uid gold into your ears. A beau­ti­ful, flow­ing, melodic wall of sound em­braces you. Track 1, Ale A Ga­tor, opens up with a lush field of melodic vi­bra­phones and marim­bas trum­pet­ing the ar­rival of Thom York’s ge­nius and a glassy string sec­tion en­velops the sound.”

Un­for­tu­nately, you don’t get to hear about any of the other tracks be­cause, as the reviewer puts it, “As for tracks 2-9, I was un­able to lis­ten to them as I was so blown away by Ra­dio­head’s sheer power that I beat my CD player into pieces with a rake so it would never be de­filed by an­other, in­fe­rior com­pact disc.”

RD stands for Rich Dork and is the best Pitch­fork par­ody site go­ing. There is now a grow­ing anti-Pitch­fork sen­ti­ment, sim­ply be­cause the site is seen as not only too in­flu­en­tial, but also too ver­bose in its re­views and too eas­ily dis­mis­sive of bands who don’t fit into a par­tic­u­lar idea of good mu­sic.

A few months ago, Bill Baird from Sound Team (who only got a 3.7 re­view on Pitch­fork) filmed him­self putting a sticker of his band’s name onto a life-size dummy. He then stabbed the dummy with a pitch­fork and set it on fire. He later posted the video and got a huge re­sponse from other dis­grun­tled vic­tims of Pitch­fork’s re­view­ing pol­icy.

To be fair, Pitch­fork does give Rich Dork all the ammo it needs.

Some­times you would be hard pushed to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the “real” re­view from the par­ody. For ex­am­ple, the Pitch­fork re­view of the Daft Punk album Hu­man Af­ter All could also have been a Rich Dork re­view: “Ideally, the physics of record re­view­ing are as el­e­gant as ac­tual physics, with each piece speak­ing to the essence of its sub­ject as de­lib­er­ately and as ap­pro­pri­ately as a real-world force re­act­ing to an ac­tion.”

There are now plenty of rum­blings about the “Pitch­fork ef­fect” – whereby a band, given favourable treat­ment on the site, sud­denly find them­selves el­e­vated out of all pro­por­tion to their abil­ity. Be­sides Rich Dork, there are other par­ody sites out there, as well as in-depth sta­tis­ti­cal stud­ies of Pitch­fork’s re­view his­tory. Even the Sub Pop la­bel has opened a war of words with the site.

Mean­while, over at Rich Dork they have some break­ing news: “Ra­dio­head nom­i­nated ‘Most In­flu­en­tial Any­thing Ever’ by us.” Per­fect.

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