An Open Letter To Pitchfork Media

2008-09-18 by Dr Dave De Sylvia STAFF | 17 Comments
Los Angeles indie rock band the Airborne Toxic Event have written an open letter to Pitchfork Media after the website posting a scathing review of their debut album yesterday.

Originally Posted by 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
The Pitchfork review can be read at the following location:

Tagged: The Airborne Toxic Event

Comments:Add a Comment 
September 18th 2008


September 18th 2008

haven't heard anything by the band, but that's awesome

September 18th 2008

That review was pure hater. Well-handled, though I can't say I like the music.

September 18th 2008

I mean its not like this dude is saying anything new about Pitchfork, but awesome letter nonetheless.

September 18th 2008


September 18th 2008

People take Pitchfork seriously?

September 18th 2008

I coudn't care less aobut this band and the fact that they took pitchfork seriously is funny.

September 18th 2008

i always thought that pitchfork only wrote joke reviews....
oh wait, were those meant to be real reviews that they write?This Message Edited On 09.18.08

September 18th 2008

Not the greatest review, a little excessive with the cheap shots, but he's pretty much spot-on describing the music. Derivative..and those lyrics are just, well, atrocious.

Nice letter though.

September 18th 2008

Don't know the band, if they're crap, I couldn't care less. It was a great letter, I have to say, so they get my applause for that. Pitchfork are pretty stupid anyways.

September 18th 2008

aww the poor guys got their feelings hurt and wrote a faggot pussy ass crybaby letter, I feel so bad for them now!

September 18th 2008

Agree with Jimmy, if every band wrote a letter to the publications that slag on their new albums, we would be here for a very long while. You got a bad review, so what everyone has an opinion, and quite frankly your music is probably shit anyway.

Hope i dont get a letter in the mail for saying their music is poo.

September 18th 2008

boo hoo. One review gives you a bad score. pshh, you should have bigger problems to take up your time

September 19th 2008

you guys arent getting the point that he is 100% right about pitchfork

September 19th 2008

i like the tone of this letter

"don't be a fucken cunt and come to see a show and stop being an asshole in your stuffy attic room"

September 19th 2008

yeah this was a pretty awesome letter. i haven't listened to their music, but the letter was intelligently thought out and well written. They weren't crying about the review at all, in fact, in the letter they stated their enthusiasm for being bashed alongside their favorite bands

May 9th 2013

This website and Pitchfork are both pretty bad.
Pitchfork - Reviews are just idiots.
Sputnik- Community is just a punch of assholes.

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