Monday, June 30

Pitchfork's Tens

Today I got curious to see which albums Pitchfork had given a 10.0 in their history. Of course Wikipedia has a list, duh. (Don't miss the Talk page, where the usual gang of asthmatics endlessly debate whether it belongs there or not.)

So anyway, I thought I'd go through the albums here and say a word or two about them.

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – Source Tags & Codes
Oof, and right off the bat, too. I suppose it'll seem duplicitous to claim, now that this band has self-destructed (and not in an amusing Brian Jonestown Massacre way, just in a favorite uncle masturbating way), that I was just never really that into this album. "Relative Ways" is on my um er ah Workout Mix, but I've always preferred the stylistically similar Aerogramme.

Pitchfork is to be commended for standing by the review. Former Pitchfork writer (and noted scumbag) Nick Sylvester mentioned the friction between what the band was and what it became in his review of the decidedly worse World's Apart: "Did Source Tags & Codes deserve a 10.0? That's not for me to say, but Matt LeMay rightfully counted it as one of indie rock's truly epic albums."

12 Rods – gay? (EP)
Huh? It's worth pointing out that this 10.0 dates back to 1996, perhaps before the idea of a 10.0 as a incredibly rare event became an established tradition.

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy – I See a Darkness
Now I'm in the incredibly weird position of arguing AGAINST an album I dearly love.

It's not that Will Oldham hasn't created 10.0s before. Hell, by my count he has THREE: Days In The Wake, Viva Last Blues, and Lost Blues and Other Songs. All of these are about as perfect as an album can get. Oldham's work as Palace casts just about one of the longest shadows in music, no matter how hard he tries to live down his legacy with his stand-up comedy, acting career, increasingly irrelevant side-projects, and the truly criminal Bonnie 'Prince' Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music. (A 0.0 if ever there was one.)

But I don't know, I just don't feel like any of the Bonnie 'Prince' Billy stuff--as good and even great as it frequently is--truly deserves a 10.0. It's like giving one of Stephen Malkmus' solo albums a 10.0, you know?

Again, that's not to say this album doesn't earn accolades. I'd give it a solid 8.5 or even a 9.0. Few albums contain three songs in a row as solid as "I See a Darkness," "Another Day Full of Dread," and "Death to Everyone."

Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert
I'm big enough to admit that I haven't heard this--though I absolutely love Vol. 5, The Rolling Thunder Revue--but just from a historical perspective this album, which documents Dylan going electric and includes the famous "Judas" / "Play it fucking loud" exchange, deserves a 10.0.

The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin
Yeah, in 1997 I probably would have given it a 10.0, too. Though the last time I gave this a listen, maybe a couple of years ago, I found myself skipping about half the tracks.

Robert Pollard – Relaxation of the Asshole
Wikipedia: "In the review, this album theoretically received both a 10.0 and 0.0 rating. The rating humorously appeared as (1)0.0" Uh, CLEARLY this doesn't count as a 10.0, you fucking nerds.

Radiohead – Kid A
Radiohead – OK Computer
I can't really comment here. As I've explained in the past, I'm just missing the gene that allows me to appreciate Radiohead. I don't think they suck, I just genuinely don't hear what other people hear when they listen to them. I've tried again and again to listen to both of these, and I just can't find the point of reference that fans of the music hear. And I even admit that I'm WRONG: enough people whose opinions I trust mightily love this band, I just can't get into them for whatever reason. It makes me feel old.

Amon Tobin – Bricolage
Really? Okay. I like Tobin, but I've never heard this. Actually, this 10.0 makes me at least want to check it out. I'll look for it next time I, uh, go to the CD store!

Walt Mink – El Producto
Another 10.0 from 1996, which I'm thinking explains this more than anything. Or, who knows, maybe a Walt Mink album really DOES deserve one of only eleven 10.0s ever awarded.

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Ah, shit, I wish I still had my emails from 2002 so I could just copy and paste my thoughts on this album and why I think it's just a little bit overrated, and the beginning of when I lost interest in Wilco. (I prefer Summerteeth.) Frankly, six years later, the whole argument feels a little dated and beside the point, especially in the context of A Ghost Is Born and the Dad Rock they're doing these days.

Besides, my squabbling aside, YHF is a masterpiece, and "Jesus, Etc" appears on the very short list of my favorite songs ever.


And then there are previously released albums that were 10.0 upon re-release. This is a much safer list, of course, because the reviewers have the benefit of history.

Boards of Canada – Music has the Right to Children
Okay, sure. (Though of 90s electronica with curiously mangled titles about children, I prefer Underworld's Second Toughest In Infants.)
Glenn Branca – The Ascension
What? Uh, no. Try again. It's cool to namedrop Branca or leave his albums out for visitors to see, but come on: You really listen to this shit? And like it so much you can't imagine a single thing you would possibly change about it? Give me a break.

The Clash – The Essential Clash
The Clash – London Calling
London Calling, fer sure, and the first album, too. But seriously: a greatest hits? I don't care if it is The Clash, the fact that it's a compilation should dock it at least a tenth of a point.

John Coltrane – The Olatunji Concert: The Last Live Recording
Ha! Nice one, college boy. An obscure live album by a doomed major jazz musician, comprised of only two experimental half-hour songs...this is a Stuff White People Like entry, not a 10.0. Now A Love Supreme or My Favorite Things...

Elvis Costello & The Attractions – This Year's Model
Sure, though this is my least favorite of the big three Costello albums. I'd give the 10.0 to My Aim Is True and Armed Forces (and possibly even Imperial Bedrooms) first.

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain
Yeah, now these are some deserving jazz albums. Hell, I'd even listen to arguments for Bitch's Brew or On The Corner getting the 10.0. I wouldn't AGREE with them, but I'd listen to them.

DJ Shadow – Endtroducing
This was the first 10.0 I ever heard of, and I can't imagine a more solid case of an album deserving it. Poor Shadow, whatever happened to you?

The Fall – This Nation's Saving Grace
I really don't know enough about The Fall to say one way or the other.

Iggy & The Stooges – Raw Power
Joy Division – Closer
Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
KISS – Alive!
The Velvet Underground – Loaded
The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground & Nico
I have no problem with any of these.

Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
This is the dictionary definition of a 10.0.

Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted
Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
The Replacements – Let It Be
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
Put these four albums in a blender and Johnny's musical aesthetic is the result. There's no way I'd argue with these. (And I'd add Wowee Zowee, Tracks, and Tim to the list)

Pink Floyd – Animals
Whatever, dudes.

James Brown – Live at the Apollo
Otis Redding – Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul
I can see the case for the 10.0, though for Redding, I prefer Live In Europe.

Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
Yeah, this is definitely a 10.0, even though personally I don't have much use for the album after "Teen Age Riot" ends. I guess that makes me a poseur. Still, I admire this a lot more than I like it.

Television – Marquee Moon
I guess just based on the weight of history this deserves a 10.0, but I'm sorry, this album bores the everliving shit out of me. I've given it so many chances, and every time it finishes I can't remember a single thing I just heard.

The Who – Odds and Sods
Ah, come on, a rarities and b-sides collection? Sorry, no.

Wire – Pink Flag
Wire – Chairs Missing
It's weird, I'm cool with either of these getting a 10.0, but oddly not with both of them getting it.

XTC – English Settlement
Um...okay? I don't know.

Various Artists – No Thanks!: The 70s Punk Rebellion
I'm ruling out box sets for the same reason I don't think greatest hits belong here. (Having said that, this is an awesome collection, and is a 10.0 in my book.)

Love - Forever Changes
Guided By Voices - Bee Thousand
John Lennon - Imagine
In all three of these, the reviewer explicitly called the original a ten, but docked points for the bonus material/personal pique. I agree with the first two as solid 10.0s. Imagine I'm not so sure of, though it's easily at least a 9.


And, since I know you're curious, here's the list of 0.0 reviews:

Bachman-Turner OverdriveRemastered Hits: The Best of...
The Flaming Lips Zaireeka
John FruscianteSmile from the Streets You Hold
Jet Shine On
Francisco López Untitled #104
Travis Morrison Travistan
KISSMusic From "The Elder"
KISS/Peter CrissPeter Criss
Liz PhairLiz Phair
Sonic YouthNYC Ghosts & Flowers
Various ArtistsThis Is Next


Johnny said...

I'd love to meet the guy who gave Travistan a 0.0...I really would.

savetherobot said...

The guy who gave Travistan a 0 is a total dick. And he ruined T-Mo's career.

You're OTM about that Coltrane live record. As for Branca, I'm not a fan but I dunno, I like pure noise experiences. The 9.6 for Keith Fullerton Whitman's "Playthroughs" was well-deserved - if you like incredibly minimal, pure tones that are still heratbreaking, I highly recommend it.

I totally agree on Neutral Milk Hotel. That's '90s indie rock's finest moment. More indie bands today should have the balls to sing "JEEEEESSSSSSSSSSUUUSSSSSSSSSSSSSS CHRRRIIISSSSTTTTTTTT I LOVE YOUUUUUUUU" like that.

And you crack me up with English Settlement ... that is kind of a wtf. It's not XTC's most popular record. But I remember, in 1990, a couple Boston Globe critics listed it as their favorite album of the decade. And if you set aside a couple weaker tracks ("Knuckle Down," "Fly on the Wall,") the rest is just some kind of genius - really the pinnacle of their career, even if you get misty for Skylarking.

10.0. For sure!!!!!!

Dial_m said...

"this is a Stuff White People Like entry, not a 10.0." lol

always wondered about the 0.0 review for travistan. the tracks i listened to were okay. he did rather disappear after that.


Anonymous said...

Glenn Branca – The Ascension is the only record on that list that deserves a 10.

You idiot.