“This Video Game Review Thing That Happened in 2012 as Onset of Pitchfork’s Decline”

Wow… there’s lacking a sense of humor, and then there’s sitting poker faced and “reviewing” a video game soundtrack created by a veteran of indie rock, stating in the review that the game is “pulse-pounding, A-list action game.” Yes, video games are still exciting, provided that you live with your parents in Lake Forest and also collect Dexter figurines.

The band HEALTH popped up in The New Yorker this past week, and brought on about 1,500 words or so detailing the band’s achievements from the last few years, achievements which were unique in that they included being approached about soundtracking a major video game (Max Payne 3). Even as a HEALTH fan, I didn’t know this had happened until I read the article. But then HEALTH had not been a pitchfork darling per their prior album, the infectious Get Color, as the album received only a 7.4/10 rating on the site (though cokemachineglow.com was hitting its stride at this time, and commendably championed Get Color). So even though I was a regular reader of coke machine glow, they didn’t review this video game soundtrack. Imagine that.

The whole pitchfork situation is extremely troubling, because the aforementioned 7.4 rating they gave Get Color is a scant 0.4 points ahead of what they gave the video game soundtrack. The reviewer apparently thinks that Rockstar Studios did HEALTH a huge favor not only monetarily, but artistically, as well, in offering them the opportunity to soundtrack gunshots and fake, bloody screams… all happening while presumably there’s still a real world out there, actual verdict on this pending.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of music (you know, that thing going on between episodes of you vividly envisioning killing people), there are things called “song structures,” which inherently cannot incorporate into video games, as the action of video games is unpredictable, save by some staged event orchestration. HEALTH was your basic talented indie act — their style was unusual, somewhat like a Modest Mouse or something, but their songs had a “pop appeal,” [1] also somewhat like Modest Mouse. The idea is ebb and flow, breadth and climax, of the band’s own designing. This is a significant aspect of the art, otherwise anybody at all would be able to sit down (or in the olden days, stand up), and create music. This is why when people say Kurt Cobain “sucked at guitar,” you should beer crotch them. Music is not a matter of playing quantifiable notes on your instrument… it’s not a “drapery of sound.” Artistic statements are made structurally, something at which The Shins likewise excelled, as they hardly ever would wowed anyone with their chops, or stylistic innovation. At times, it can almost feel like your music has a soul, or something. For all other moments, there’s pitchfork.


[1] The exact terminology used in A Pretty Good Read, Alan Goldsher’s Modest Mouse biography.

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