Thursday, October 11, 2007

In Defense of Matt Pond PA

This Pitchfork review of Matt Pond PA's new album, Last Light, has me all riled up.

I love the idea of Pitchfork; daily reviews, news about bands you wouldn't otherwise get news about, the occasional enlightening feature article. That's all really cool. But, whether by design or circumstance, the site has evolved into a haven for indie rock snobs

When rock 'n' roll was born, so was the rock snob. This type of person has an innate need to actively dislike any music which the majority of others enjoy. There's no sense of artist loyalty in the rock snob. They'll go cold on a band in a New York minute (and don't even get them started on Don Henley), but, hypocritically, will demand full fan loyalty from the artists they support. They are never short on opinions; and sometimes their opinion even has factual basis. Some rock snobs don't even really like music all that much. To them, music is a matter of identity more than anything else.

A lot of rock snobs, like Adam Moerder, become music critics.

Mr. Moerder approaches his Matt Pond PA review with a couple of chips on his shoulders (another rock snob specialty). The first is an obvious dislike of mainstream rock, as his references to Dave Matthews, David Gray, Howie Day and Phil Collins will indicate. He doesn't actually say anything bad about these artists. Rather, he assumes his audience is composed of fellow rock snobs who will understand innately that these are not artists to be taken seriously (note: they're all popular).

Moerder's other burden is simply that he doesn't like or respect Matt Pond PA. This is fine as an opinion. But, then, why agree to review their album? If you are going to review records by artists you hate, your review need only be the following sentence: "It has always been my belief that this band sucks, and this album did nothing to change that belief."

Unfortunately the rock snob mentality is not so simple. In fact, if rock snobs were not able to go on in detail about why certain artists are terrible, their whole reason for existing would be thrown into question.

So Moerder tells us that Matt Pond PA are fundamentally flawed in many ways. For one, he says, they have no clear audience. For another, their relevance is in serious doubt. I don't know about you, but when I am looking for a really good song or album, the first thing I think about is audience and relevance, certainly not lyrics, melody or production.

When Mr. Moerder actually does spend a couple of sentences discussing the album's songs, he offers nothing more insightful than three artist comparisons, which as I've said before, are the haven of the lazy critic. By the way, sort of counter to his point, he compares the songs to Elliot Smith, Pulp, and Polyphonic Spree respectively. All three, coincidentally, are rock snob approved artists.

Moerder is also upset that the band doesn't experiment enough. To punctuate this, he points out that the band doesn't have enough fans, so there's no one to offend if they branch out. If you take that logic and apply it backwards, he's saying the Beatles should have never made Revolver or Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band because their fan base was too big to support such experimentation.

Finally, Mr. Moerder suggests that the "indie universe pull the plug" on Matt Pond PA. Does this actually happen? Can an outside party decide to pull the plug on a band? Does the band get official notification? And what exactly is the indie universe? Does it have a board of directors? I'd like more information.

I saw Matt Pond PA perform this past Monday night. The audience greeted them enthusiastically and sung along to the songs they knew. The new songs from Last Light sounded great live. Of course, you won't find anyone ready to declare them the best or most original band in the world, but neither do they deserve the kind of hatefulness in Adam Moerder's review. In fact, when it comes down to it, Mr. Moerder's review is just as bad as the bland music he and his rock snob ilk deride. It seems fine on the surface, but when you really think about it, you realize it has no substance.