An Open Letter to Pitchfork Media from the Airborne Toxic Event

We’ve spent some time here at SDM talking about Pitchfork Reviews and what they mean to up and coming bands. We compiled all the perfect 10 reviews as well as the reviews that were given 0′s across the board. We spoke briefly about the Pitchfork hyped Black Kids and their unfortunate (but funny) review of the band’s first full length, Party Traumatic. We decided that we enjoy the Pitchfork reviews but we take them with a grain of salt. Case closed right?

Well yesterday Pitchfork reviewed the Airborne Toxic Event’s self-titled album and gave them a less than impressive 1.6. Today The Airborne Toxic Event responded by posting an open letter to Pitchfork regarding the review. Give it a read and let us know what you think. Good move taking on Pitchfork or career suicide?

The Airborne Toxic Event – Sometime Around Midnight (mp3)

The Airborne Toxic Event’s MySpace Page.

Check out the letter after the jump…

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

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