A year or two ago, I got the shits with Pitchfork nostalgically referring to bands like Jimmy Eat World and The Get Up Kids, when I distinctly remembered them hating on all that scene at the time. So I went back and read the original reviews and they were brutal, including the one above. Is it that the old guard have moved on and Pitchfork’s current staffers were teenagers in 2001? Or is that hindsight has shown them to have been wrong?
Oh yeah, around the turn of the century, Pitchfork, as a rule, despised emo. (Though not universally.) The softening over time, however, is most likely a result of changing staff rather than the site trying to rewrite its own history. I know some writers now at the site were very big Jimmy Eat World fans before they started writing there, and they’ve brought that appreciation with them. For that matter, many of the people who wrote for Pitchfork around 1999-2001 no longer do. Schreiber’s still the editor, of course, but I have no idea whether his views on emo have changed. Brent DiCrescenzo wrote some fairly vicious takes on the genre, but he’s no longer there, and I have no idea whether his thoughts have softened over time. And you know, if they have, that’s fine. Everyone’s tastes change.
What I think makes a lot of those reviews from that era so obnoxious is not that they panned albums and bands that have since grown in public esteem, but that they did so in such a way that refused to allow for the rationality of the people who did like that music. The Bleed American review that begun this discussion didn’t just think that the music was terrible, it posited that the only way people could possibly like it was if they were neophytes — dupes who could not possibly have informed or reasonable ideas about music. Such reviews look silly now because those dupes grew up, and rather than tuck away their old passions as shameful evidence of inferior thinking, they pointed out that, no, they actually had quite good reasons for liking that music, reasons that are quite straightforward and understandable if you remove the culture war frame older listeners applied to it.
And though those old Pitchfork reviews are obnoxious and more concerned with delineating in-groups and out-groups (see references to “TRL addicts”) than discussing the music, they definitely represented a prevailing sentiment at the time. Indie rock and emo were well acquainted because the audience shared a lot of crossover and the industry structures supporting the genres were similar. (So much so that people commonly described solidly indie rock acts like Bright Eyes and Death Cab as emo.) Indie rock had to reject emo so forcefully because otherwise people might confuse the two.
And, to be fair, at some point we all write one of those reviews in which we refuse to treat the subject as even worthy of reasoned analysis. I’ll probably be embarrassed in ten years time if the next generation of critics holds on to their love of LMFAO and explains in detail why that band was so definitive.
(Important, obvious disclaimer: I’m not, and have never been, a Pitchfork writer. I don’t speak for that website nor for any of the people who write there.)