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?