My Part in the Spiral Stairs Snafu

I had no idea that any­thing I’d ever writ­ten, least of all a review of a mid­dling album by Spi­ral Stairs, would ever gain this degree of infamy, but then this sto­ry broke this week. Turns out Spi­ral Stairs is upset at Pitch­fork for their appraisal of his body of work post-Pave­ment. That’s total­ly his pre­rog­a­tive, but wouldn’t it have helped if he didn’t insist on rewrit­ing “Coolin’ by Sound” and just giv­ing it new titles?

For the record, that review stands as one of the most puerile pieces of crit­i­cism I’ve ever writ­ten. Bear in mind that it was writ­ten at a time when peo­ple actu­al­ly wrote neg­a­tive reviews about music, and those reviews were often long than 140 char­ac­ters. Want to know a secret? The orig­i­nal was longer AND mean­er. Hard to believe, right?

For what it’s worth, I loved Pave­ment. I’m not a hope­less nos­tal­gic for the band, how­ev­er, and I’ve felt that both Kannberg and Malk­mus over­es­ti­mat­ed their tal­ents in their solo efforts. I lis­tened to Mon­soon hop­ing to hear some­thing dif­fer­ent from Kannberg. How do you root against the under­dog? The unfor­tu­nate thing was that I didn’t find any­thing to like and he’s been shock­ing­ly con­sis­tent in under­whelm­ing crit­ics and con­sumers. This may be why he was so frus­trat­ed in Pave­ment. Malk­mus was too shrewd an edi­tor to allow him to con­tribute mate­r­i­al like this.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the praise I lav­ished on Kannberg for real­ly work­ing to pre­serve Pavement’s lega­cy as one of the great acts of the ‘90s. I meant what I said about him under­tak­ing the thank­less task of unlock­ing gems from old tapes that he had to lit­er­al­ly cook before they could be pre­pared for remas­ter­ing. I think I can speak on behalf of Pave­ment fans every­where when I say that effort was appre­ci­at­ed.

It’s a shame he can’t get past these bad reviews and just move on. He shouldn’t be dis­cour­aged by a hand­ful of bad Pitch­fork reviews. At least someone’s lis­ten­ing to these albums and pro­mot­ing them at all. Will he ever play sold out tours across mid-sized venues as a solo artist? No. But he’d do him­self a favor by low­er­ing his expec­ta­tions and maybe enjoy the fans who do come out to see him per­form. Is that so much to ask?