The Airborne Toxic Event - an Open Letter to Pitchfork

EDITORS NOTE: This was a long time coming. It's about time that hard-working artists and upstart labels started standing up to the ultra-arrogant Pitchfork... and their uber self-absorbed culture of idiocy. Tonight, we received an open letter addressed to those writers from The Toxic Airborne Event. (The letter is addressed directly to Pitchfork reviewer Ian Cohen.)

For those who might not know, The Toxic Airborne Event are a promising act out of Los Angeles who have - (predictably) been made to inexplicably suffer the slings and arrows of yet another Pitchfork slash and burn piece. It's hard to understand the rationale of why such a quality act would be relegated to a scalding 1.6 grade from Pitchfork while more trashy acts with very little originality have scored much more highly with their writers.

Is the art of "the honest review" lost...? The goal of criticism should not be wrapped up in one's latent nastiness. Reviews should not serve as a platform for the reviewer's regular exposition proving their elitist ego-centrism... Criticism may include those things if it is absolutely required. But negativity and snark need not be the start and ending point of every piece. One is left wondering where it was that Pitchfork lost it's way.

Reviews from America's Worst Music Journalists.
Ripping apart pretty decent projects...
The Airborne Toxic Event - 1.6
Soundteam - 3.7
Cold War Kids - 5.0
Black Kids - 3.3 (no words)
The Dandy Warhols - 3.3
Death From Above 1979 - 0.5
Nada Surf - 3.8
Longwave - 3.7
Belle and Sebastian - 0.8
Har Mar Superstar - 2.0
Ben Folds Five - 3.3
Let me know if I missed any good ones.

published (unedited) in its entirety

West Coast Avengers: The Airborne Toxic Event

Dear Ian,
Thanks for your review of our record. It's clear that you are a good writer and it's clear that you took a lot of time giving us a thorough slagging on the site. We are fans of Pitchfork. And it's fun to slag off bands. It's like a sport -- kind of part of the deal when you decide to be in a rock band. (That review of Jet where the monkey pees in his own mouth was about the funniest piece of band-slagging we've ever seen.)

We decided a long time ago not to take reviews too seriously. For one, they tend to involve a whole lot of projection, generally saying more about the writer than the band. Sort of a musical Rorschach test. And for another, reading them makes you too damned self-conscious, like the world is looking over your shoulder when the truth is you're not a genius or a moron. You're just a person in a band.

Plus, the variation of opinions on our record has bordered on absurd. Most of what's been said has been positive, a few reviews have been on the fence and a few (such as yours) have been aggressively harsh. We tend not to put a lot of stock in this stuff, but the sheer disagreement of opinion makes for fascinating (if not a bit narcissistic) reading.

And anyway 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.

You compare us to a lot of really great bands (Arcade Fire, the National, Bright Eyes, Bruce Springsteen) and even if your intention was to cut us down, you end up describing us as: "lyrically moody, musically sumptuous and dramatic." One is left only to conclude that you m ust think those things are bad.

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. It's true that the events described in these songs really happened. It's true we wrote about them in ways that make us look bad. (Sometimes in life you are the hero, and sometimes, you are the limp-dicked cuckold. Sometimes your screaming about your worst fears, your most trite jealousies. Such is life.) It's also true that the record isn't ironic or quirky or fey or disinterested or buried beneath mountains of guitar noodling.

As writers, we admire your tenacity and commitment to your tone (even though you do go too far with your assumptions about us). You're wrong about our intentions, you're wrong about how this band came together, you don't seem to get the storytelling or the catharsis or the humor in the songs, and you clearly have some misconceptions about who we are as a band and who we are as people.

But it also seems to have very little to do with us. Much of your piece reads less like a record review and more like a diatribe against a set of ill-considered and borderline offensive preconceptions about Los Angeles. Los Angeles has an extremely vibrant blogging community, Silver Lake is a very close-knit scene of bands. We're one of them. We cut our teeth at Spaceland and the Echo and have nothing to do with whatever wayward ideas you have about the Sunset Strip. That's just bad journalism.

But that is the nature of this sort of thing. It's always based on incomplete information. Pitchfork has slagged many, many bands we admire (Dr. Dog, the Flaming Lips, Silversun Pickups, Cold War Kids, Black Kids, Bright Eyes [ironic, no?] just to name a few), so now we're among them. Great.

This band was borne of some very very dark days and the truth is that there is something exciting about just being part of this kind of thing. There's this long history of dialog between bands and writers, NME ripping apart the Cure or Rolling Stone refusing to write about Led Zeppelin -- so it's a bit of a thrill that you have such a20strong opinion about us.

We hear you live in Los Angeles. We'd love for you to come to a show sometime and see what we're doing with these lyrically moody and dramatic songs. We're serious about this stuff. You seem like a true believer when it comes to music and writing so we honestly think we can't be too far apart. In any case, it would make for a good story.
all our best--

Mikel, Steven, Anna, Daren, Noah
The Airborne Toxic Event

Myspace / Web


dirkler said…
I love it!
Glad to hear I'm not the only one.
I wouldn't mind Pitchfork as much if the number rating they gave albums didn't hold as much weigh as they did.
Anonymous said…
Pitchfork is one of the worst music review sites ever.
benifit said…
I can't be mad at pitchfork for this because Airborne Toxic Event does actually really suck.
Anonymous said…
"Let me know if I missed any good ones."

bret dicrescenzo gave nine inch nails' best record, 'the fragile', a 2.0 in one of the most pretentious, banal reviews of all time -even by pitchfork's lofty standards. of course, dicrescenzo was probably the single worst music 'journalist' ever, so there's that.

Popular Posts