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Friday, August 5, 2011

Jim DeRogatis, the cranky VIP

Posted by on 08.05.11 at 12:42 PM

DeRogatis avec Pitchfork Elite pass
  • DeRogatis avec Pitchfork Elite pass
I didn't realize that the Pitchfork Reviews Reviews guy was at the Pitchfork fest, but now that I think of it, it makes total sense. While he was there the site's quasi-anonymous proprietor, "David," sat down with Jim DeRogatis on Jim's favorite backstage spot (a bench behind what this year was called the Red Stage) and chatted with "the most famous rock critic alive" (David's words) about the state of music criticism, his personal philosophies, and what it means that he was given a super-VIP "Elite" pass, which were handed out to only a tiny number of people, one of them being Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber. DeRogatis seems to have spent a lot of the conversation bitching about Pitchfork, but his criticisms are actually valid. Pitchfork really is the new Rolling Stone, and if there's not actually a sign on the wall of Pitchfork HQ that says "[giving a record] three and a half stars means never having to say you're sorry" the way RS did when DeRo was writing there, it seems like that's only because that philosophy's already baked into the mentality of many of its contributors.

"David" also uses the opportunity to muse on the difference between DeRogatis's critical approach—Bangs-ian, motivated by visceral responses more than intellectual ones—and that of the younger critics who reflect more of the Pitchfork approach:


And then it dawns on me that Jim DeRogatis’ objection to Pitchfork is based on something deeper than the fact that they’ve almost put him out of business: it’s that he’s committed to thinking about music, and acting, like a 17-year-old, with his heart on his sleeve complaining about his boss to a newspaper, bitching to me about not feeling like a VIP, writing a book about his teenage hero, and generally being an insolent, self-contradictory, spoiled, histrionic, bratty guy.


And if Pitchfork was a guy he would be almost the opposite of that guy, or he would have at least grown out of being anything like that guy. There are no more 0.0s, the writing is professional and well-mannered and sometimes quasi-academic and almost never voicey. Pitchfork grew up and is now engaged in a kind of disembodied, endless taxonomy of pop music, which is astute sometimes and interesting to read when it’s on point, and useful and thoughtful, but you’d be hard-pressed to find people who would describe the writing as passionate. You read it and sometimes learn a lot, and find out about a ton of great music, but it’s really far from Lester Bangs sitting on the floor in his messy living room and raving about records he loves on a typewriter. Pitchfork writing is serious about pop music and Jim DeRogatis is passionate about it, and obviously those overlap sometimes but they come from different places.


All in all it does a good job of reminding you of some of the great things about DeRogatis that you tend to forget about when you disagree with him on a nearly constant basis.

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