Pitchfork is widely considered to have the power to make or break a musical career at the mere click of its mouse. With entire websites set up purely with the aim of reviewing the reviews that appear on the site, the power P4k criticism is undeniable and formidable, and with the site turning 15 this week, we’ve taken a look back at their most ground-breaking, hysterical reviews – and yes, this does include that Jet review.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – This review, of Kanye West’s ostentatious 2010 album, goes down in history not only for being the first perfect 10.0 score to be award by Pitchfork in eight years, but also for causing a hilarious tweet-storm of outrage. In response to the review, Gorilla VS Bear tweeted ‘@ryanpitchfork dude, but…what about the rapping’, while 1000TimesYe tweeted, ‘The perfect album: “Put the pussy in a sarcophagus,” “I’m the King of Leon…a Lewis,” “LOOOVE,” “my black balls,” “reupholstered my pussy”’, using Kanye’s own pearls of wisdom to illustrate why the ‘10.0’ decision was just a little bit controversial.
The Soft Bulletin – Just two years later, The Flaming Lips’ 1999 LP The Soft Bulletin was awarded a 10.0. To a casual observer, it would seem that the band’s decision to stick to making albums that could be played on just one CD player at a time really paid off.
Kid A – Although it’s another perfect 10.0, this review is in the list purely for this quote – ‘the experience and emotions tied to listening to Kid A are like witnessing the stillborn birth of a child while simultaneously having the opportunity to see her play in the afterlife on Imax.’
Every Radiohead Review ever – Having given three of Radiohead’s albums a score of 10.0, Pitchfork have made no secret of their hero-worship of the Oxfordshire band. This was acknowledged by the website Something Awful, who created a parody page entitled RichDork.com , which purported to judge music based on its proximity to Radiohead.
Albums to listen to while reading overwrought Pitchfork reviews – Although it isn’t technically a review, this feature written by comedian David Cross criticises Pitchfork reviews as if they were themselves works of art to be reviewed. It doesn’t get much more meta than that.
Da Drought 3 – This review is fantastic because it opens with a prolonged quote from Lil Wayne’s YouTube rant* about the lack of real rappers on the scene at the time (“work, man, work!”). It’s also fantastic because, with its generous 8.5 score, it pre-empted the colossal success that Wayne was on the brink of. In fact, there’s scarcely a thing about this review that isn’t fantastic.
Travistan – While Pitchfork have triumphantly bastioned the careers of some, their influence can prove mercilessly damaging to others. Travis Morrison, who had always received enthusiastic support from the website previously as a member of indie rock group Dismemberment Plan, was in for a shock when the website billed his solo debut as ‘one of the most colossal trainwrecks in indie rock history.’ After receiving a vehement 0.0 rating, Morrison’s career began to fledge as critical reception significantly cooled off.
Slick Dogs – Taking on Louis XIV’s 2008 album, this review once again shows P4k at its most devastating, claiming that the band “try pretty hard to pass as artists” on the record.
Untilted – This review of electronic duo Autechre’s 2005 album was written as a one-act play starring two college students named Achilles and Tortoise. Read it if you don’t believe us.
Airborne Toxic Event – The self-titled debut from LA indie rockers Airborne Toxic Event received a measly 1.6 from Pitchfork at a time when countless other music critics were falling over themselves to praise the band. The band cared so little about what Pitchfork thought that they wrote an open letter to the website to prove it. The letter stated, “we have to admit that we found ourselves oddly flattered by your review. I mean, 1.6? That is not faint praise. That is not a humdrum slagging. That is serious fist-pounding, shoe-stomping anger. Many publications said this was among the best records of the year. You seem to think it’s among the worst. That is so much better than faint praise” and “We love indie rock and we know full well that Pitchfork doesn’t so much critique bands as critique a band’s ability to match a certain indie rock aesthetic. We don’t match it.” They totally didn’t care at all about the review. Totally.
Partie Traumatic – This critque of the debut album from the Black Kids consisted merely of a 3.3 rating and a picture of some sad dogs, captioned ‘sorry :/’.
Music itself A not overly favourable review, according to leading satirical newspaper The Onion.
Shine On – Jet received similar treatment in the ‘review’ of their 2006 album Shine On , which was given no rating, and contained no text. Instead, the article in its entirety consisted of an embedded video of a monkey drinking its own urine.
Relaxation of the Asshole – This review broke new ground with its ambiguous score of (1)0.0. It has since been changed to a 10.0 to clarify matters, but for a while there, we had a bit of a ‘making our own minds up’ crisis on our hands.
Update: Ryan Schreiber has announced he is leaving Pitchfork after 23 years.
I have some personal news to share today. Check out my statement below. pic.twitter.com/ooi0Dt5prN
— Ryan Schreiber (@ryanpitchfork) January 8, 2019