On Aug. 13, 2017, Wall Street Journal writer Neil Shah wrote an article titled “What Happened to the Negative Music Review?” in which he stated, “[N]egative reviews are so few and far between that they rarely impact overall scores from an aggregator like Metacritic.”
Despite this, online magazine Pitchfork has given some infamously scathing reviews in recent years to artists such as Greta Van Fleet, Ed Sheeran and Katy Perry. In the ’00s, Pitchfork developed a reputation for being ruthless in their expressions of distaste, and this reputation reached new depths with their infamous 0.0 Jet “review” in 2006.
During this era, Pitchfork reviews were considered gospel to many, but now it is not unusual for unfavorable reviews of theirs to be met with polarizing reception (see Arcade Fire’s Everything Now and Diet Cig’s Swear I’m Good at This.)
Pitchfork has also panned releases from artists with ties to North Texas, most recently Mercury Rev’s Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited, which was given an abysmal rating of 4.5 out of 10.
Don’t get us wrong — negative reviews are an essential component of music criticism, and their unprecedented absence in the current landscape is alarming. But sometimes, even Pitchfork can get it wrong, and below are five instances in which they did when it came to North Texas artists.
Parquet Courts – Monastic Living EP
Pitchfork rating: 4.9
This EP had the worst reception of just about any Parquet Courts release, but it scratches some itches for those who want the musical equivalent of a robotrip. "Monastic Living I" delves into Terry Riley-esque minimalism for the first 2 minutes, 48 seconds, and “Elegy of Colonial Suffering” and “Frog Pond Plop” sound like something one would hear off Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. At nine tracks, the EP runs just a little north of 30 minutes in duration.
Old 97’s – Fight Songs
Pitchfork rating: 4.0
In this review, writer Neil Lieberman stated that the fourth studio LP by Rhett Miller and Co. amounted to “a collection of insipidly pleasant, well-executed pop songs of some distant relation to country and, as such, a harrowing disappointment.” Not that this album was the moon and stars, but Lieberman essentially railed on it for its pop sensibilities, which were way less saccharine than he made them out to be. The reviews this album received from other publications were much more favorable, which gives a whiff of indication that Pitchfork's review was contrarian for the sake of being contrarian.
Josh T. Pearson – Last of the Country Gentlemen
Pitchfork rating: 4.0
In 2001, Lift to Experience released the classic album The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads and became trailblazers in the shoegaze/neo-psychedelia scene at the turn of the millennium along with other acts, such as Spiritualized. One decade later, vocalist and guitarist Josh T. Pearson released his solo effort Last of the Country Gentlemen, in which Pitchfork claims, “Pearson keeps going and going, treating your attention like a given instead of a gift.” (If that was indeed Pearson’s attitude, the fact that this review was even written kind of proved his point, did it not?)
The Reverend Horton Heat – Lucky 7
Pitchfork rating: 5.8
The thesis of this review is that Lucky 7 does not provide much in variation of Reverend Horton Heat’s signature sound. That’s a fair critique, but if Reverend Horton Heat took left turns in 2002, they would just alienate their already niche fan base. To writer Dominique Leone’s credit, however, she did acknowledge this fact in writing, “James C. ‘Horton’ Heath is in a real mess. Thing is, having a fairly sizable fan base who expects new product every couple of years is one thing, but what does he do when his band excels in a style of music which has remained essentially unchanged in 50 years?”
Midlake – The Courage of Others
Pitchfork rating: 3.6
Midlake raised expectations following their 2006 full-length The Trials of Van Occupanther, but as the old adage goes, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Contributor Paul Thompson panned the follow-up record The Courage of Others, saying the songs on this album “take up the same languid, near-narcotic pace, and they stick with it.” Again, making note that an artist is creatively stagnant is a valid criticism, but does it warrant a score as low as 3.6? The review for Weezer’s Raditude wasn’t even that low.