REWIND | Pitchfork Lacks Foresight

A broken pitchfork
Pitchfork is a well-respected online music magazine. The publication was founded by Ryan Schreiber in 1995 and covers a swath of music. Yet even reputable sources of information can lack foresight. Pitchfork’s degrading reviews of Daft Punk’s Discovery in 2001 and Daft Club in 2004 are evidence that Pitchfork dropped their crystal ball, it shattered, and they lost much of their credibility as a tastemaker.

Schreiber’s review of Discovery was well written but tasteless. The editor-in-chief and founder of Pitchfork should display tact and be able to identify musical trends before they became popular, but Schreiber failed both criteria. Schreiber sets an insulting tone from the beginning of his review:

“Maybe I just haven’t taken enough ecstasy and horse tranquilizers to appreciate the tinny, sampled brass ensemble, the too-sincere ‘chill out’ midsection, or the fat drum machine beats that throb in time with my headache.”

Schreiber condescends through the last paragraph:

“Prog and disco have never openly begged for their own hybrid, but the genres’ newborn Frankenbaby is alive, whether we like it or not. Still, this beast, however grotesque, is relatively harmless– rather than running amok in the village and snapping the necks of civilians, it only wants to ‘celebrate and dance so free, one more time.’ Just don’t let it sing.”

Despite Schreiber’s harsh words and 6.4/10 rating, Discovery is remembered as one of the best albums from the 2000s and it has inspired countless electronic acts since its release.

“… Pitchfork dropped their crystal ball, it shattered, and they lost much of their credibility as a tastemaker.”

Pitchfork contributor Nick Sylvester gave Daft Club a 1.4/10 rating in his poorly written review of the release. In the opening sentence, Sylvester writes,

“Though disappointment was my initial reaction, it was quickly superceded by confoundment at what I believe is the malevolent spirit of Daft Club , which collects various remixes of material from Daft Punk’s Discovery : Its contributors– who range in status from the well-knowns (Basement Jaxx, The Neptunes) to, uh, some guy named Cosmo Vitelli– all seem intent upon completely decimating the source material.”

Throughout his review of Daft Club, Sylvester demonstrates how abysmal writing and weak musical judgement can tarnish a magazine’s reputation.

Ryan Schreiber has since atoned for his sin – he said in an interview with the 405 that he was wrong for giving Discovery a poor rating and the album is now “… up there with my favourite albums of the last decade.” But Schreiber’s acknowledgement of being wrong does not erase Pitchfork’s missteps. How can we trust Pitchfork as a tastemaker when Discovery went over their heads? It is unacceptable that Pitchfork favors live music while claiming on their website to be “The Most Trusted Voice in Music.” If Pitchfork wants to regain their credibility, they must lose their live music bias and learn to fairly assess all music.

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