Over the next couple years, Pitchfork would slowly establish itself as one of the internet’s premiere music websites, with Schreiber viewing DiCrescenzo as the site’s “star writer.” However, it wasn’t until Oct. 3, 2000 that the rest of the music criticism world would begin to associate DiCrescenzo with such celestial imagery. That was the day that U.K. art-rock giants Radiohead’s fourth album, the guitar-eschewing, largely electronic Kid A, was officially released -- and the day that Pitchfork published DiCrescenzo’s perfect 10.0 review of the album. It began with the now-legendary lede, “I had never even seen a shooting star before.”
Though they were one of the most acclaimed bands of the late ‘90s, Radiohead’s previous album, OK Computer, had underperformed commercially upon initial release. But after rave reviews across the U.S. and U.K. piled in, the album picked up steam and had sold 1.2 million copies in the States by September, 2000 -- one month before Kid A’s release. Pitchfork had named OK Computer the second-best album of the ‘90s in their 1999 decade list, and the band had a uniquely cultish fanbase that was brimming with unparalleled anticipation for the album’s follow-up.
However, the record’s release was bigger than just Radiohead themselves. As music critic Steven Hyden writes about in his forthcoming book, This Isn't Happening: Radiohead's 'Kid A' and the Beginning of the 21st Century, it was one of the first major albums that people experienced online; from its message board buzz and Napster leaks leading up to it, to the online reviews and digital discourse that followed.
“All these things that we take for granted now felt new and exciting then,” Hyden says. “Like reading the opinions of random strangers and learning about music that way.”
Pitchfork was on the front lines of this boundary-pushing reconfiguration of music criticism and consumption. Hyden notes how innovative it was for a review to be posted online the day an album came out, rather than in print a week or even month later. Schreiber was a massive Radiohead fan himself, and says that the rollout was extremely calculated. He had been building toward the release by stacking every section on the website with Kid A content, and he even reached out to Radiohead fan sites to let them know they were giving it a 10/10 so they could share the link.
“I remember the date like a birthday,” he says. “The web traffic was literally off the charts. I used a very small, local ISP and had a basic hosting plan, and the analytics maxed out beyond a certain point, which we reached that day.”
The review was much more than just its staggering score. DiCrescenzo managed to capture the historical awe of that moment with some of the most flamboyantly earnest, absurdly effusive, and borderline nonsensical bits of prose to ever be published in a legitimate music publication. Like many of his reviews, it was extremely long-winded and brazenly unhinged from the journalistic form and temperament of the time. If it were any other album then his review might’ve been a huge whiff; for the spectral Kid A, his extravagant style was undeniably effective.