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August 22, 2007

Filed under: music»artists»rilo_kiley

Shovelful

There are bad reviews, and then there's Pitchfork:

Finding the band's music polished to an almost blinding sheen, Blacklight is not a commercial album so much as Rilo Kiley's conception (or misconception) of what a commercial album is. It's their "Project Mersh", an alternate-universe sell-out move. But beneath that surface-- and Under the Blacklight is at first listen almost overwhelmingly surface-- Rilo Kiley must know they're full of shit. Either they're utterly serious about their flirtation with the mainstream or they're taking the piss with a wink. In both cases, the songs suffer a smothering slow death by context. ... At the same time, the fun-- or maybe "fun"-- disc stresses how humorless and full of shit Rilo Kiley's former indie brethren remain, scared stiff of the prospect of unabashed pop in the true please-the-masses sense. But it's still an audacious, fascinating exploration of banality, almost to a patronizing point.

... Ah, L.A., where there's a thrift shop on every corner, the breakfast spots bustle well into the night, the lines at clubland bathroom stalls snake to early 1980s lengths, acts get signed at karaoke bars, and the plastic surgeons know just the thing to do with all those rough edges. Forget that Rilo Kiley's songs namedrop Brighton, New York, and Laredo: Under the Blacklight adds up to the familiar headline "California Band Makes California Album." Were all the AOR indulgences at least tied together into a concept they might have been more easily forgiven. And were any of those lyrics a little more pointed and less generalized, like they were in the anomalously galvanizing anti-Bush protest "It's a Hit", they'd add up to more than just a 40-minute short story collection on tape (with incidental music).

For the relative few who really, really care, debates may rage over whether Under the Blacklight marks some sort of progress, though what's just as likely is that Rilo Kiley's earlier output was artificially regressive in a bid for some sort of cred. ... Song by song it goes down awfully easy, but be warned. The band sure cleans up well, but there's a fair amount of guilty washing and hand-scrubbing to be done afterwards.

One asks: What does that even mean? Isn't it all just a bunch of rambling, snobby pseudophilosophy from someone who evaluates albums based only on some ill-defined indie authenticity? Doesn't this show, once again, that Pitchfork reviews are less about the mechanics and expression of music, and more about getting back at someone's Creative Writing 101 professor?

Yes. It is, and it does. This has been another edition of short answers to rhetorical questions.

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