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May 26, 2006

Worst Album Review EVER (Why Pitchfork Sucks)

**THIS** may be the worst record review ever written.

Pitchfork Media's review of "The Dividing Island", a new album by the band Lansing-Dreiden, isn't just an example of bad music criticism. VERY BAD music journalism. It's also an example of why music criticism is teetering on the brink of total obsolescence.

That's right, I said TEETERING!

Back in the day, music criticism served a purpose: it helped music fans decide what records they should buy and which ones they should avoid. This was very helpful... back when people actually purchased music. In case you haven't heard, people don't really do the "spending money on music" thing anymore Why buy the cow when you can download steaks off the internet? (I got a 12oz sirloin off of Bittorrent last week. Delicious!) Even those rare music fans who still buy CDs have abandoned music reviews. They don't need to read other people's opinions about an album, they can just go to the band's myspace page or the iTunes store and listen to most of album before they buy it. At this point, people don't need music criticism to tell them whether they should go and buy and album. If music criticism serves any purpose whatsoever, it is to let consumers know if an album is worth previewing. "Is this band worth the 15 seconds it will take for me to find their music online and decide for myself whether it's any good?"

Considering this, it should be obvious that any review which takes longer than 15 seconds to read is totally useless. However, this fact has clearly eluded the Pitchfork writing staff, particularly Mr. Brian Howe -- the man who authored the Lansing-Dreiden review linked above. Howe needs editing the way Dr. Phil needs a savage beating: REAL, REAL BAD.

If you haven't already, read (or at least gloss over) the first paragraph.

Still with me? Good. Now, read the first sentence of the second paragraph. Here, I'll quote it for you: "These questions [the ones raised in the introductory paragraph] would be worth considering if they had anything to do with [the record being reviewed]". Hey Mr. Reviewer: if you begin the second paragraph by telling us that everything you wrote in the first is irrelevant, that's a pretty good sign that you should have just deleted that first paragraph entirely. While you're at it, you can go ahead and delete the sentence that informed us of the aforementioned irrelevance.

BOOM... we've just shortened a 473 word review by 128 words without even breaking a sweat! But why stop there? Take the next sentence: "Given the group's anonymity and the album's museum-quality-- it has the air of an artifact carefully constructed and hermetically sealed under glass-- The Dividing Island seems to float in a void." Hmm... that sentence doesn't actually mean anything -- so I reckon we can cut it as well. We can also eliminate the rest of the second paragraph, since it merely serves as an excuse for for the reviewer to drop the words "hermetic", "groupthink" and "parsing" into the review.

Paragraph three doesn't even reference the album. Rather, it gushes on about some other article written by a different Pitchfork staffer. Get out the scissors, Mary, cuz that paragraph is getting CUT!

It isn't until the 4th and final paragraph of the review that Brian Howe actually bothers to address the record he was supposed to be reviewing. He lists a few of the more notable tracks on the record and offers some oblique descriptions. Badly written, but at least its on topic! However, Howe quickly derails with a conclusion that includes the following: "You can see the theme of division play out over the song titles, but the only operative division this record explores, tacitly, is between the band's theory and their praxis." Guess what, Brian? I also went to went to college, and I know what it looks like when you're just trying to fill space on a term paper. I'm calling BULLSHIT on this review, both its theory and its praxis practice.

The age of lengthy, overwrought record reviews is OVER. If you really need to know what other people think of new music, check out this site. There's little room for pretension when every review is 75 words or less!

Posted by Joey at May 26, 2006 05:34 AM

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