The Pitchfork 500: Obscure Enough For You?


Pitchfork released The Pitchfork 500: Our Guide to the Greatest Songs from Punk to the Present a few weeks ago, and it’s designed to be a perfect argument starter. No matter how you feel about Pitchfork (“where else would I get all my Beach House news?”, “not emo enough!”), their choices for this list are sure to raise some eyebrows.

From the over-abundance of ’70s reggae and ’90s dance tracks to a relatively lackluster showing for hip-hop, there are any number of battlegrounds among these 500 songs. For now, though, we’ll stick to one particular quibble — Pitchfork’s enduring tendency to arbitrarily over promote obscure music.

We think they might do it just to make us feel stupid.

After the jump are five songs that sent our obscure-o-meter especially deep into the red.

Vic Godard and the Subway Sect – “Parallel Lines” First off, there’s no clip for the song on YouTube, nor is it playable from Last FM, which in this day and age pretty much means it doesn’t exist. The band was tied to both Malcolm McLaren and Bernie Rhodes, and sounds like a likely John Peel favorite, but wasn’t the whole idea of ’70s punk was that hundreds of songs exactly this good existed?

Felt – “Primitive Painters” Seems like an excuse to slip a second Liz Fraser vocal on to the 500 without raising the specter of the instant list credibility killing “too Cocteau Twins heavy” tag. Sneaky move, Pitchfork.

Omni Trio – “Renegade Snares” We could definitely debate the merits of this vs. Roni Size, but we were pretty convinced that everyone hated drum and bass these days in any case. Wait. Is this drum and bass? Jungle? Ok. We just totally blew our cover didn’t we. Just forget you read that.

Basic Channel – “Octagon” Grudgingly offered kudos are in order on this one. It’s the perfect prestige pick: great minimal techno that no reasonable, healthy person will have ever heard. We’ll spot you a Liquid Liquid white label if you can convince us you wouldn’t rather be listening to “Lovefool”.

Uilab – “St. Elmo’s Fire” Apparently Stereolab and Sasha Frere-Jones’s pre-New Yorker project, Ui, collaborated on this Brian Eno cover in 1998. It’s not bad, but it’s hard to justify the inclusion of this cover, which sticks pretty tightly to the original, over, say, an original Stereolab song. Our guess is that Schreiber just wanted to give some props to his man SFJ.