Fevered Pitch

Pitchfork is taking over music criticism by making people laugh -- or pissing them off

3) Though a bit lame in places, To the 5 Boroughs isn't a bad little album.

DiCrescenzo's abrupt retirement is big news in and of itself -- he's Pitchfork's best writer and its most reliable lightning rod for argument and controversy. But he caught one hell of a bolt with his 2,162-word Boroughsreview -- less than a week later, Pitchfork issued a devastating retraction. "Pitchfork has since determined that a number of DiCrescenzo's assertions were false," it read in (small) part, "based on corroborated statements from the two parties he claimed were participating in the chain of events referred to in the review."

That chain included tales of Martin screwing DiCrescenzo over a 1999 Radiohead concert in Italy and, more recently, a Beastie Boys cover story DiCrescenzo intended to write for Meanmagazine. But the seven-point retraction not-so-subtly intoned that DiCrescenzo had fabricated a great deal of it: Whether it's pure fiction, or he intended it as an amalgamation of other writers' horror stories -- with only the times, places and bands involved switched around -- is anyone's guess. All parties here have somewhat understandably clammed (and/or lawyered) up.

So, DiCrescenzo's gone, Pitchfork's got a temporary black eye, and To the 5 Boroughsrates a 7.9. But that's the site's M.O.: Literary aspirations and human drama often eclipse the music itself. Just like real life.

Pitchfork can survive this and even thrive off the "bad boy" reputation this sort of debacle can produce. And maybe the music biz needs more of these sorts of shake-ups. After all, here's the wide-eyed idealist view of all this: The Internet, with its universal reach and anyone-can-start-a-blog accessibility, will eventually render dinosaur print mags obsolete.

"Rolling Stone is already obsolete in terms of music criticism," Schreiber said. "As far as the Internet being revolutionary, sort of a next wave? You know what? I think it is. In a way it's similar to the punk revolution in the '70s -- 'Oh, I don't need to know how to play an instrument; I don't need to sign with a major label to make the music or express myself.' The Internet has basically allowed the same thing. You don't have to go through four years of an English program at Columbia to get your opinion out and get your voice heard. And I think it's breeding a lot of people who are inherently talented, sort of naturals at it."

Of course, Schreiber said that weeks before the Beastie Boys slapfight, but it's unlikely he feels all that differently now: Punk rock, you'll recall, suffered the occasional black eye itself.

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