Monday, January 12, 2009
Travis Morrison (Or Why Pitchfork Is The Most Petty Music Site On The Planet)
Of everyone on this blog who bitches about Pitchfork, I probably do it the most. Whether its their tendency to heap musical praise on acts with almost no musical chops but plenty of hipster style (Fuck Buttons), the nonstop bones they throw to third-generation Brian Wilson imitators (Animal Collective/Panda Bear) or puerile desire for attention (making the fucking Knife their #1 album of 2006), I basically can't stand them.
And yet I keep reading to stay abreast of the indie kids' conversations, and because they provide a lot of news. But for actual music criticism, give me the A.V. Club any day.
All this is a long way of saying that they've completely shafted Travis Morrison since he left the Dismemberment Plan and had some bizarro blog war with Pitchfork several years ago. Now Travis Morrison isn't the easiest guy to like. I once went to a Plan concert with a high school friend (Jody, I think some of you know him), and he literally walked out of the concert early because he was offended by Travis's arrogant vibe on stage. (Personally, I wasn't getting that at all, but the point is that some people do.)
Furthermore, the guy's first solo album, Travistan, is merely okay. It has the awful running series of songs called "Get Me Off of This Coin" interspersed throughout the album, and they drag down the legit tracks that are the actual meat and potatoes of the thing. But the album still has some bright spots and is a pleasant listen, if a letdown from Dismemberment Plan's brilliant final record, Change.
Pitchfork, however, famously gave it a 0.0. They wanted to prove that they could sink the guy's career to settle a petty feud, and they more or less did.
Now only about a month ago, I finally got Travis's follow-up from 2007, which is called All Y'all. (The reason I waited so long was based more on money and disappointment w/ Travistan. It was not based on the 0.0 score from Pitchfork.) Well cut to the chase, this album is fantastic. It's catchy, fun, funky, danceable even. The lyrics are back to the level they were on Change. He's totally revitalized.
Here two tracks from it. First is the song Ryan Schreiber should be singing to Travis: "I'm Not Supposed to Like You (But I Do)"
And then a song with an almost identical title, but totally different sounding: "I Do"
Those songs are awesome right? Well guess what the record gets from Pitchfork? A 4.5.
Now there are two issues here. First of all, the reviewer criticizes Morrison for basically trying too many things and getting too funky. This, to me, re-enforces my belief that Pitchfork really values band image and archetypes far more than actual musicality. Secondly, the review does not get petty and personal, like the 0.0 review did, and it even expresses solidarity w/ Morrison going forward. So why, then, a 4.5? My theory is that while the reviewer wrote one thing, Ryan Schreiber and the editorial staff insisted on a ridiculously low numerical score on principle.
So even though I'm admittedly bringing up an 18 month-old review, it's that kind of shit that will render Pitchfork completely worthless in my mind.