How to respond to a Pitchfork review
Editor’s note: I was tipped off to this on Facebook by one of our contributors:
How to respond to a Pitchfork review 101. In this lesson, Falco from Future Of The Left destroys Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen.
Lucid, informed, motivated … I wish more music critics were like this. The following is reprinted with permission.
TUESDAY, MAY 29, 2012
A pre-script – rebuttals of unfavourable album reviews are lame, self-serving and immature – this one is no different. Cries of bias, confusion and vanilla lack of taste are every day and I care for them not a fuck. But sometimes, one-times, a man may feel compelled to stand up (or sit, in my case) against what he feels is a great injustice and exhibit his right to reply – well, this is my time and I hope it’s not my last because, to be quite honest, I’ve really enjoyed it. Please read whilst accepting the implicit understanding that any forum-based comments of the nature of ‘if you can’t take the criticism then don’t release the record’ are even more passé than this piece itself which is to say – very passé indeed.
Many things occurred to me on reading your review of the new future of the left record ‘the plot against common sense’ and I would like to take this opportunity to debate with you some of the points you raise in the piece, although of course by ‘debate’ I mean ‘shut up and listen to me’.
According to the opening line of your review I am ‘something of a hero to you’. I would almost be flattered by this sentence if it were not for the level of qualification obliquely provided by the use of ‘something’ but will choose to skip over the ham-fisted arse-kissing of your opening and move on to deal with some of the more pertinent matters of the day.
Allow me to efuckidate in an easy-to-understand fuck-by-point manner –
As we approach the bottom of your first paragraph you refer to the ‘corporate slick production on future of the left’s third album’ (*1) – a question, my dear friend – would this be the kind of corporate slickness you get through recording an album in 16 days (using the same methods as ever) over a six month period in studio downtime and friend-financed to the tune of £2,000 (whilst we work in temporary jobs and with credit, when available, to support our habit) or instead the kind of corporate-slickness (since, as tone indicates, we’re using the term pejoratively) a person could get from writing for a site which has run the adverts of a variety of corporations, big and small, for many years? I may not be wearing my eyeglasses at this particular moment, but I can definitely see a lovely shiny one sitting atop your review at this very moment.
Oh … it has moving pictorials and everything – quite lovely!
It must indeed be tough to attempt to write from the perspective of the anti-corporate outsider when you are, apart from the mastering engineer (Sean, who did a really good job) probably (*2) the first person involved in the whole process of making and releasing the album to get paid because of it’s existence. Following your lead, I’m going to let that one ‘sink in’.
Now we’ve summed up, albeit with a tenuous nod to reality, the sound of the album, it’s probably time to move onto the other aesthetic signifiers of the record in order to establish our burgeoning theorem more thoroughly …
‘… what about the cover and the goddamn title of The Plot Against Common Sense? What in god’s name is the author of “Fuck This Band” doing stealing ideas from unpublished John Stossel books?’
I can only assume that ‘John Stossel’ is the kind of peculiarly North American reference that pervades the reviews which sit about websites of this type, acting as smug and impenetrable signifiers of absolutely nothing at all. I, the ‘author’, googled ‘Mr Stossel’ and can find no absolute evidence of a monopoly of commonsense on his part let alone any indication that he and I could agree that the term has any unified or even loosely defined meaning. I do, however, detect the ascribing to us of the safe, conservative values which are exhibited far more freely within your own work and again, applaud you for attempting to deal with your complicity and guilt in such a public forum.
As for the cover, well, there’s a penguin on it you stupid cunt.
In short(ish) – it is of incredible interest to me and, indeed, surprise to find out that ‘polymers are forever’ is about plastic surgery (it isn’t – it’s about the environmental/marine impact of plastic waste, in a customarily indirect way) that ‘anchor’ is in some way an unfair fight visited upon Alcoholics Anonymous (it isn’t, although you got the word ‘alcohol’ right (*3) and that ‘a guide to men’, is ‘another song about pagan orgies’ (wrong again, although I can understand the mere use of the word ‘orgy’ setting off your second grade arousal/memory triggers). Admittedly ‘sorry dad, I was late for the riots’ IS a song about trustafarian rioters, those fucking rotters, and is a pretty bloody funny Half Man Half Biscuit tribute at that, replete with lyrics that apparently haven’t so much gone over your head as clean through it. One out of four correct is a pretty bad return for a writer on a website with so much conscious sway over the opinions of thousands of people – a simple email may have disabused you of some of these assumptions though perhaps would have only led you to other ‘facts’ on which to hang your naked bones.
On ‘robocop 4 – fuck off robocop’ (incidentally, for the cynical and/or interested reader I post a live video recorded at a guitar shop of the song near the end of this response, complete with full lyrics) we will simply have to agree to disagree. However, if it is truly amongst the worst songs of the year then I am a giant bat and Pitchfork a cave into which I will shit golden effigies of your face.
Sorry – too much ginger beer.
In twelve years of releasing records I have only twice felt compelled to respond, privately in those cases, and was reasonably set on a similarly benign course until two bells (figuratively speaking) resonated in the heart of the sodden internet. Firstly, obviously satisfied with the ebb and cod-ebb of your piece you tweeted a link to the review. In fine repose you sat, and introduced ‘I suppose the problem is that most touring funk bands had to get sober’. Well, I see you that and raise you ‘I suppose the problem is that Ian Cohen is effectively reviewing an album from ten years ago by a band that no longer exists. His burning nostalgia for a lost teenage love has been replaced by an uncontrollable hatred for her and her new, happy life even though she went to college (Masters in Ancient History, specialising in the early to mid Roman Republic) and grew into those tits like you wouldn’t believe. In fact, he hates her so hard (yet helplessly) that he once applied for a Visa card in her name, badly, in order to somehow affect her credit rating and thus deny her the home she had dreamed about for so many years’.
Secondly, and rather more importantly, I was browsing a forum I occasionally visit today, a one filled with gen-u-ine music fans, the kind who wouldn’t be easily swayed by invective, praise or otherwise, when I came upon the following quote in a discussion of this review –
‘Still looking forward to the album, but some of those lyrics he quotes are pretty shocking. Pitchfork in well written review shocker.’
Influence laid bare, I think. A comment made in good(ish) faith on the basis of two whole quoted lines and several calamitous misinterpretations, which you’ll remember that we covered in an earlier, simple module. The opposite of the truth – a construct on which to hang a glib hypothesis. I can honestly say that, whatever you think of the music, that the lyrics on ‘the plot against common sense’ are the best I’ve written (and yes – in either band) by a factor of FUCK LOADS(*4). And Ian, I don’t address that last sentence to you, I address it to anybody with the good grace and faith to describe themselves as a ‘fan’ in as much as they trust that we love our band and know exactly what we are doing even when it doesn’t tally exactly with their tastes.
Sadly, (or not as the case may be) I suppose that this group of people does not include you but, hey, we both need to be comfortable with this. I am – are you? It’s like we’ve reached the end of a line, you and I … a line we walked together when I never even knew that you existed. I’m sorry. I hope you find solace in the ten-year anniversary re-release.
ps. In reference to a couple of songs you say that I can ‘barely muster the effort’, implying, I suppose, that my heart really isn’t in the whole enterprise. Let me assure you, in the strongest possible terms, that it is.
pps. Oh, and I’m sorry that you feel so much regret for buying those Bad Religion records – that’s too bad. Still when the relevance of this tragic tale to our new album crops up, give me a shout, yeah?
ppps. Robocop 4 link up. Lyrics follow below notes.
(*1) always in lower case, mrsupernumberonefan.
(*2) I use the word ‘probably’ because I only assume that you are paid for your work, such as it is.
(*3) and who in the name of clunking fuck chooses Alcoholics Annonymous as a target? You really must try harder if you want to set me up as your ‘lunkhead’. Try and write more realistic characters, for a start.
(*4) don’t be scared to embrace the jargon, kids.
robocop 4 – fuck off robocop
or jaws rebooted?
please – let’s take a second to think about a future
brought to you by
of eight year old boys who only crave explosions
they have an excuse –
they are eight!
and giant robots cannot distract them from their fate
middle aged men on a movie date
committed to mortal shame
in fact- they left improved
if Michael Bay wants a bigger house, let’s help him
where you from?
where you been?
he said –
I went to Cannes once and and really did not have much
they talk too much
and all those pages of subtitles kept getting stuck
1 becomes 2, 2 becomes 3
1 becomes 2, 2 becomes 3
pirates of the caribbean 47
johnny depp stars as the robot pirate
who (loses) his wife in a game of poker
and tries to win her back with hilarious consequences
at least Harry Potter has a proper story
in the sense that the characters crave an ending
if (only) to release poor Billy Corgan
from his role as the titular character’s nemesis
robocop 4 is in pre-production
like robocop 3 wasn’t bad enough
and George Lucas won’t be kicking his heels
til he makes some money from Howard the Duck
robocop 4 is in pre-production
like robocop 3 wasn’t bad enough
i hope the projectionist likes his action
motion tracked and medicated
(the first director died)