Everett True

Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend and the pernicious influence of Pitchfork

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If there’s a better argument for demanding the immediate shutdown of Pitchfork than the rise and rise of Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire, I’m not sure I want to hear it.

Think. What music has Pitchfork championed to the detriment of virtually all else?

Think. How much influence does Pitchfork have?

Think. David Lee Roth’s famous quote about how most music critics like Elvis Costello because most music critics look like Elvis Costello really comes into play here.

Think. Most ‘new music’ publications in the UK, including the NME and the metal titles, now have a ratio of about 60:40/male: female writers (it’s far more skewed at magazines like Mojo and Uncut, which is what you’d expect). Pitchfork wields far more power and influence than any of those. Pitchfork also – pretty much alone among all ‘new music’ sites/magazines – has a male: female split of about 95: 5.

And you wonder why I still bang on about negative discrimination in music journalism, when all that these male white indie American middle-class Pitchfork writers do is, in the main, write about people identical to them. Sure, it’s not Pitchfork’s fault that everyone else follows suit. But in an age when the Top 10 of the Village Voice‘s traditionally far-ranging Annual Pazz and Jop Critics’ Poll is almost identical to the Top 10 of the Pitchfork critics’ poll, you have to start wondering: is this for the good?

Look also at the shortlist for this year’s ‘prestigious’ Australian Music Prize: white male indie citysville.

That the Internet has made music critics lazier and less likely to search out new sounds for themselves is near undeniable – but the way Pitchfork causes all other forms of music critical writing to focus on indie (and a very narrow strata of indie at that) is near criminal.

So you don’t like Vampire Weekend. And now Arcade Fire have followed in their footsteps as the latest bland catch-all ‘indie’ band to reach the top of the Billboard (and UK) album charts. And you might be wondering who’s to blame…?

I won’t bother reprinting Pitchfork’s words. I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves…

Vampire Weekend, 2008 – 8.8/10.0
Contra , 2010 – 8.6/10.0
The iTunes Session EP, 2010 – 8.0/10.0

Arcade Fire EP, 2003/2005 – 6.8/10.0 (presumably it didn’t sell enough copies to merit a higher rating)
Funeral, 2004 – 9.7/10.0
Neon Bible, 2007 – 8.4/10.0
The Suburbs, 2010 – 8.6/10.0

DISCLAIMER (before anyone else points this out):
Plan B Magazine was the first UK magazine to put Arcade Fire on the cover (back in 2005). It was while they were borrowing heavily from Frog Eyes and Destroyer, and we had a fine writer on the case. I saw them live around this time in Seattle, thought the first song was incredible, the second song was good… and left five songs in. Quite a prescient marker for their career, really.

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