Thursday, February 10, 2011

Revisionist History

Anyone who knows me knows that I love music. In fact, I like reading about it almost as much as I like listening to it. There are a handful of websites that I go to for my music fix, but probably the most well-known of them is Pitchfork. They're sort of the Rolling Stone magazine of the internet age, and they've become influential enough to turn unknown bands into popular ones, at least on the indie rock circuit. That's fine by me, since their opinions are usually pretty reliable. Except when they aren't.
Back in the late 90's, I started listening to the music of Robert Wyatt, a British art rock musician. One of the first albums of his that I heard, and the one that really impressed me, was Rock Bottom, an early 70's album that had been reissued on CD around that time. It's a weird record, and definitely not for everyone, but as an experimental pop album it's just about perfect. Anyway, I remember Pitchfork giving a negative review of it back then; I think they rated it a 4 out of 10, which is pretty bad on their scale. It didn't make any sense to me, and I just assumed that the website didn't have much interest in pre-90's music. Well, a decade later the same album was reissued again, and Pitchfork gave it a 9. What happened? A different critic probably reviewed the second reissue, but it still annoyed me that there could be that much inconsistency. So I searched their archived reviews and found something even more troubling: they deleted the previous review! I imagine that they were embarrassed by their first review after giving the album a second listen. But the fact remains that they duped their readers. They couldn't admit that they were wrong the first time, so they had to hide the evidence. And that's just not cool. So the next time you read their website, take their opinions with a few large grains of salt. And listen to Rock Bottom!