When music-inclined and web-savy individuals open their browsers this morning and click over to Pitchfork, they may end up reading a review with this funny little quote:
What immediately strikes you about Diary is it doesn’t sound intended to be a gamechanger– even if it’s no surprise that one of emo’s most enduring documents is called Diary of all things. But even if it doesn’t break new ground musically, it signaled a new way to talk about the passion.
Does that sound, well, odd to you?
It seems these days everyone’s got a beef with Pitchfork. Either their “too cool” and ahead of the curve and used to read the site back when it was a lowly blog and now can’t be bothered with it, or they hate it’s newfound control over the culture of cool/hipsterdom, or maybe they just have never heard of it. Whatever. You can place me in some column of mild irritation. I appreciate a lot of what they do, and, for all their wreckless bashing of many a band that might not deserve it (and, hey, maybe even some that do), they’ve managed to make the world of music journalism translate into the Internet age and thrive, a feat among feats as the media self-perpetuates its own demise right next door.
The reviews are inevitably what it comes down to for people. (I hide no shame in saying that I regularly check the site for its news updates because, hey, I’m one person who can’t track every press release even when they hit my own inbox, so to see it marked up in a solid fashion ain’t too bad.) Rarely will I take a review at face value, and often I won’t even read them.
But, when I noticed the Sunny Day Real Estate reissues (Diary and LP2), I figured I’d take a gander. Of course they’d give it the “Best New Music” treatment: the folks at P-fork may have a select taste that has no use for 99.9% of emo, but they certainly can tell what has played an important role in our culture.
So it was a little dumfounding to read Ian Cohen’s remarks on the albums. Much like the quote above, I was a little confused by the review… not because he crammed so many gargantuan words where they need not be (a problem of my own), but because he repeatedly seems to contradict himself. And not purposefully: I can see what he was getting at. But, it’s just… well, odd. To say that something isn’t “innovative” and yet completely changed things is just kinda like doublespeak. And I get what Cohen might be trying to get across: that SDRE took a combination of sounds from disparate scenes and communities and just put them together but that idea isn’t so much revolutionary as it may seem. I just fundamentally disagree with that statement, I guess.
Is this a case of Pitchfork trying to prove it’s might in writing it’s version of musical history? I can certainly see what Cohen is doing as a challenge-the-hindsight-and-historical-POV-about-SDRE type thing, but I really feel it falls flat. Reading, talking, and listening to the immediate community within which the band was wrought, there was literally nothing like them for miles around. Sure, zines and mailorders could connect music communities from across vast spaces, but it’s not like today where some kid can download kwaito and baile funke tunes and try and be the next Diplo. The Seattle scene which SDRE was geographically a part of was overrun with grunge, as it was ground zero. Most people looking for a break in the city must have looked stupid trying not to do grunge as that was what people asked for. So to say SDRE, who may have pushed a heavy and punk sound that was a brethren to grunge only in volume, wasn’t a gamechanger (for Seattle and the rest of the country). Well, you could call that a gamechanger.
Sunny Day Real Estate – “Seven” (Guitar Hero edition):