We can thank “Ray Suzuki”’s mom for Pitchfork’s most infamous review
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We can thank “Ray Suzuki”’s mom for Pitchfork’s most infamous review


It’s been a hard couple of years for Pitchfork readers and an even harder month. Before its parent company made a cool $2.1 billion off Reddit’s IPO, Condé Nast folded Pitchfork into GQ, laying off dozens of writers and seemingly killing the site. Of course, Pitchfork is still around, and its reviews continue to generate conversation, curiosity, and reverence—making Condé’s behavior even more baffling. Many have eulogized the site since that faithful day when Anna Wintour announced she would be “evolving our Pitchfork team” into unemployment, but only Ringer writer Nate Rogers got to the bottom of that review of Jet’s Shine On that infamously only features an EPIC video of a chimp pissing in its mouth.

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For The Ringer, Rogers found the origins of Pitchfork’s most infamous bylines: Ray Suzuki, “Pitchfork’s Alan Smithee,” who was given credit for the review. Suzuki isn’t real. It’s a pseudonym that appears infrequently on the site, originally concocted when there were so few writers that adding a third fake one could help boost the idea that Pitchfork was a larger outfit than it was. However, now that the story has been told, we can actually thank the mother of former Pitchfork president Ryan Kaskie for the urine-positive monkey video. Kaskie says his mother, Jane, was attempting to “speak their language” by sending a funny video. Instead, she gave the internet one of its most legendary pans.

But it wasn’t as simple as declaring Shine On a stinker. There was an attempt to get to the bottom of Pitchfork’s critical assessment of the album. Scott Plagenhoef, whom the article cites as Pitchfork’s first editorial hire and the reviewer responsible for the fellow stunt review of Black Kids’ ‌Partie Traumatic (“sorry :-/”), recalls talking about the album at a cafe below Pitchfork’s offices:

We were talking about the central problem as we saw it with the record, how the Return to Rock trend that started with the Strokes, White Stripes, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs—and really rock in general—had curdled into a set of lazy signifiers and poses. When the point or driver of what you’re doing is reclamation it’s inherently limiting and resistant to new ideas. It’s a creative cul-de-sac. Progression—whether it was in hip-hop, pop, guitar music, electronic music—was important to us at the time. Seeing mainstream rock music, which of course most of us had grown up with a fondness for, become so knuckle-dragging and Xeroxed was disappointing.

Ultimately, it was Kaskie who “hit the cigarette with the tip of the whip” and suggested the video, and it became a signature review of Pitchfork’s early ascendency.

The whole history of Ray Suzuki’s career at Pitchfork is funny and fascinating. But it’s Jet’s response to the review that remains most surprising. “tbh the first time I saw it I laughed my ass off,” said Jet drummer and songwriter Chris Cester. Us too.

Read “The Ballad of Ray Suzuki: The Secret Life of Early Pitchfork and the Most Notorious Review Ever ‘Written’” at The Ringer.

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