I found myself quite offended at the excuse of a “review” that is Pitchforkmedia’s take on the new Metallica album, St. Anger. Let me reiterate that I don’t care how they feel about the album – everyone has a right to like or dislike something. What I take offense at is the off-hand, immature approach taken to the review. On a site that advertises itself as a portal of “independent music” a review of anything by a mainstream act like Metallica is questionable, and once read it is obvious that the critic simply used the opportunity to make jokes and feel superior. Below is my response, and I’m posting it to Blogcritics because I feel that all critics, amatuer or professional, owe it to themselves and their audiences to be as fair as possible under all circumstances. (My review of the album makes it clear that I enjoy the album, but I approached it with caution and tried to be fair because I actually assumed I wouldn’t like it at all. If I hadn’t liked it, I wouldn’t have posted a review at all, or if I had I would have been fair about why, instead of insulting readers the way this reviewer does.)
I usually take Pitchforkmedia’s reviews with a giant grain of salt, because the slant is always toward “indie,” which is what your site is obviously aimed at – and that’s fine. I review music myself (not by profession, but on my site and on http://www.blogcritics.org,) and I admire many of the reviews on PFM because they do help to expose music that may not make an impact on the “everyman.” But there are times when your reviews really embarass the efforts of legitimate critics out there. Brent DiCrescenzo’s “review” of Metallica’s St. Anger is one such review. It is very clear that DiCrescenzo does not care (or no longer cares, as he does exhibit some knowledge about the band’s music) for Metallica and approached the music with the intent to make fun of it. A critic’s duty is to listen and report without the baggage a fan – and an anti-fan – would bring to it. A good critic will listen to something and not let personal feelings, positive or negative, get in the way. DiCrescenzo was obviously unable to do this, and set out simply to poke fun at something that is easy to poke fun at. In short, he fell victim to the very thing most people associate with critics – a superiority complex.
I’m not suggesting that the review should have been positive. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it, and that’s fine. I’m suggesting the the review should have been *fair*. The task of reviewing music should be taken seriously, and a critic should know how to apply critical distance to the subject – instead of treating it like an excuse to make childish jokes. Not only that, but the question arises of why you were even bothering to review a Metallica album in the first place. It doesn’t fit into any of the styles that your site is known for reviewing. So why bother to review it at all? The only reason I can come up with is simply because Brent DiCrescenzo felt like poking childish fun at something. A quick search of the site reveals that Brent DiCrescenzo’s reviews aren’t of the “metal” variety at all, which makes his critical judgement meaningless. Asking him to review Metallica is like asking him to review Britney Spears – he isn’t going to like it, no matter what. What kind of service have you provided to readers when you push biased reviews like this?
The questions I’ve raised above are questions *all* critics should consider. Your readers rely on you to be unbiased because they want a fair review of material they may be considering purchasing. To stoop to the point where you use a review as a means of making yourself feel superior in some way only shortchanges the reader, and decreases the objectivity you need in order to be credible. Like I said before, you don’t have to like it, but you do have to be *fair* about why you don’t like it. Anything less and you only prove yourself to be a disgrace to critics everywhere.