Early last month, Pitchfork, an online indie music news and reviews website, published a blisteringly negative review of glam-rock album “Rush!” by the Italian band Måneskin. Negative reviews are nothing new for Pitchfork, but this one was particularly biting; its sentiment was neatly summed up in the article’s subhead, in which author Jeremy Larson described the record as “absolutely terrible at every conceivable level.”
You’d think such a record would rate a 0.0 on Pitchfork‘s 10-point scale, but somehow the album garnered a 2.0. A rating that low catches people’s attention, and sure enough, the review received “viral lift” on social media by music fans who celebrated Larson’s butchery of an album they likely never would have listened to otherwise. And isn’t that what rock criticism is all about?
Not to Nick Rahn, guitarist/vocalist of Philadelphia-based indie band Grocer, which is slated to play at Reverb Lounge on March 19. Rahn headed to Twitter, posting from the band’s account: “Hot take alert: We no longer have a need for negative music reviews when you can listen to anything you want for free and form your own opinion.”
Rahn’s rebuttal continued in the threaded tweet. “I get that it feels good to shit on things you don’t like but is it helpful? Does it have a place on a public forum? With so much music out there isn’t it more useful to single out music you like than to single out music you don’t like? Also can we stop saying that music is ‘good’ or ‘bad’? It’s ok to have an opinion. You don’t need to be an authority on the objective quality of something just because it doesn’t register as ‘cool’ for you.”
Rahn’s reaction came a day after a different critical brouhaha boiled over on Twitter, this time featuring legendary post-punk recording engineer Steve Albini lambasting (of all things) ’70s yacht rock supergroup Steely Dan.
Albini, whose contribution to music history includes recording classic albums from grunge icons The Pixies, Nirvana and PJ Harvey, tweeted a bunch of one-liners about the band responsible for such hits as “Peg” and “Deacon Blues,” including: “Christ the amount of human effort wasted to sound like an SNL band warm up,” and “Music made for the sole purpose of letting the wedding band stretch out a little.”
As both a longtime Steely Dan fan and long-time Albini fan, this produced a chuckle. Others were not so amused, as online publications including Pitchfork “amplified” Albini’s rant, resulting in much venting of spleen on social media. Grocer reacted to this on Twitter, too: “If we are going to get upset every time an old guy has an opinion on Steely Dan there is no hope for us to survive in this world.” Huzzah!
Grocer bandmates, drummer/vocalist Cody Nelson and bassist/vocalist Danielle Lovier, said people got pissed about Rahn’s Pitchfork tweets.”They reacted angrily,” Rahn said via a phone interview.
“A lot of people took the comments to say that we don’t want to be criticized,” Nelson said. “When a multimillion-dollar company owned by Conte Nast decides to heat up conversation for a day, it’s going to be lame. The review’s author should have said he hates (the album) on twitter. For Pitchfork, (the review) is being mean for no reason. There was a period of time when a Pitchfork review could stop careers from thriving. These days it doesn’t matter.”
“What is weird,” Lovier added, “is that people will hate-listen to that album now.”
Lovier is right. I listened to the Måneskin album only because of its viral negative review and 2.0 rating. I never would have if Pitchfork rated it between 5.0 and 8.0. And while Rahn is correct that people can find out for themselves if an album is good or bad now that music is so freely available, that availability doesn’t come with the one valuable thing we all need to listen to new music — time.
Instead of hate-listening to the latest Måneskin album, Grocer would prefer you listen to their new album, “Scatter Plot,” released March 3 on Philly label Grind Select. Having listened to both, I can attest your time will be better spent.
And you can bet that, despite the criticism of Pitchfork, Grocer would love the so-called “bible of Indie music” to review their album.
“We would love them to pan us,” Nelson said. “And let’s face it, it’s better for (Pitchfork) to attack a band no one’s heard of than, say, Greta Van Fleet.”
Grocer performs at Reverb Lounge on March 19 with Bad Self Portraits and Estrogen Projection. Showtime is 8 p.m., tickets are $10. For more information, go to onepercentproductions.com.
Over The Edge is a monthly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.