Last week I thought about posting a preemptive review that guessed what Pitchfork's rating on the Pipettes would be. I had a feeling it was going to be in the 8 range, though it's not a very strong album top to bottom and deserves something lower.
And then it came in yesterday: An 8.4.
Why would this album get such a high rating? There's nothing new about it, that's for sure. In fact, the Pipettes are decades late to the genre they've decided to take up. And they really borrow heavily from their chosen genre. Is being so unoriginal worthy of such high praise?
Oh....well this sentence explained it very well.
"It's a welcome reclamation of indie pop as the work of bright kids with more ideas than money at a time when the genre's reigning kings, Belle and Sebastian and the Decemberists, are embracing theater-sized, 1970s-aping rock."
I'm sorry, but when did the two above bands start sounding like Yes and E.L.P.? There's nothing wrong with sounding like those bands -- even though B&S and the Decemberists have nothing in common with the type of '70s rock that has got a bad reputation over the years.
Anybody who read the Sound Team review knows that certain reference points are good and some are off limits.
And why is it ripping off Yes is so bad, but ripping off the Shangri-Las is OK?
"That the Pipettes are doing Shangri-La's impersonations on stage is almost a moot point. The necessity and charm of the Pipettes could have just as easily manifested itself had they framed their approach around replicating any other dormant indie pop totem."
Oh, there it is. Because the Shangri-Las represent an acceptable "indie pop totem" and prog rock -- and that kind of bloated '70s rock thing that B&S is supposedly doing now -- does not. At least to young music critics who have been force fed a belief that any technically challenging song is to be termed "self-indulgent." Mine the correct vaults and you will be praised by Pitchfork. Mine the wrong vaults and you're a waste of time. This isn't just opinion. Any band that takes a prog route is, in Pitchfork's mind, standing on the wrong side of history.
So why they 8.4 rating? Plagenhoef puts more value on ripping off '60s girl bands than he does '70s bands. Which is a crazy premise, to say one genre of music is inherantly better than another. Then again, could you imagine if Pitchfork started giving props to Yes, or Gentle Giant? Could you imagine if they had the same hard on over Soft Machine that they do for Can? What if Pitchfork enlarged its pile of Cool Albums And Genres That Are To Be The Blueprint For All Hip New Music?
Dare to dream. But their record collections are just too small, their body of knowledge too thin, their self-awareness too high. Certain records will remain high upon their Pitchfork pedestals, and any group that imitates them will be complemented.
Then again, if Jeff Magnum says he's a big Yes fan then Pitchfork will change its tune in a heartbeat.
And you know what? If his album were released on an American major, it would have got a 5.2 because Plagenhoef would have gone into it looking for a bone to pick. The Pipettes enjoyed a Memphis Industries handicap of probably 1.5 points, I'd have to say.