NY Daily News Says Your Musical Taste Is Wimpy

The Daily News’s longtime chief pop music critic Jim Farber wrote a piece for his paper called “Stop being so sensitive! Burly men become girly men, turning pop music into a wuss-case scenario.” It opens with the question: “When did the wimps inherit the earth?” From there he explores why the “hip-oisie” are smitten with Sufjan Stevens, Antony, Iron & Wine, Devendra, Grizzly Bear, the National, Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend, Death Cab For Cutie, Bright Eyes, the Decemberists, and the “latest uber wimp” (his main focus), Bon Iver. He tosses out funny phrases — “high-brow/low-virility,” for one — and makes good use of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain in reference to the over-romanticization of Justin Vernon’s mono-induced cabin retreat, but he ultimately loses his course. For starters, offering the Black Keys as “perhaps the only hard act of hipsters who make any attempt to even things out,” is not a good look. There’s more:

I’ve been thinking aloud for a while — as I wrote in my Liars Double Take or again in my 18 Dark Bands To Watch — that in 2011 your average indie-rock kid has gotten more adventurously dark and, if not exactly “tough,” at least “tougher.” There’s plenty of “Dad Rock” and unrepentant twee, sure, but think about the ascent of longtime favorites Fucked Up into the record collection’s of ex-Cold War Kids fanatics. The interest in Iceage’s bloody shows. Ex-Decemberists acolytes memorizing Tyler, The Creators’ lyrics. St. Vincent fans discovering Big Black. The crossover of Krallice into non-metal quarters. (And Prurient’s potential crossover of the same sort.) I’d argue that things were more varied in the ’90s — consider Karp, Some Velvet Sidewalk, Lync, Beat Happening, and Lois Maffeo, etc., coexisting on K — and then got especially wimpy and hive-minded around the time “Blog Rock” broke. Recently, though, there’s been a slight return to that older, more open-ended form. Maybe it’s all the reunions. Or general nostalgia. Or puberty. But hell, shit’s not as sunny or vitamin-deficient as it was in 2005.

Whatever the case, Farber’s reading of Bon Iver is funny, and I appreciate the sense of history he brings to the piece as well as his attempt to rope-in hip-hop and other genres, but ultimately the only thing he proves is that he needs to listen to more music. Check out the conclusion:

Those seeking something with true bluster and force these days will have to sate themselves with an event like the Big Four tour, which, on Sept. 14, will bring to Yankee Stadium no less rippling a crew than Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth — all acts that date back to the ’80s.

When will our own decade create some smart and innovative equivalent to that — or at least to grunge? Maybe now is the time to kick off a movement for the quest: Enough with the sweet-souled stars. Can we please bring back the brutes?

Well, here’s hometown heroes Tombs plus 25 other brutes. Though we don’t need to go into metal: How about the appropriately monikered NYC crew The Men? Who are some of your favorites? And any thoughts on the thesis, wimps? (Like, why so focused on the testes?)

Comments (75)
  1. I love Sufjan Stevens, Grizzly Bear, The National, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver and I’ll kick anyone’s ass in this room.

    P.S. Hey stereogum, Metal Blows.

    • I also love Sufjan Stevens, Grizzly Bear, The National, and Fleet Foxes (I have yet to give Bon Iver a fair listen).

      P.S. FUCK YOU, metal doesn’t need more hipsters you close-minded little shit. But if you ever want to try some….listen to Opeth, Enslaved, Les Discrets, Alcest, Burzum, Carcass, Death, Black Sabbath, and Morbid Angel.

  2. What a douche!

    It’s simple different music for different times.
    Yeah those bands he mentioned are from the 80′s, there are todays versions of them kind of bands for those who need heavy metal music. But right now this is the kind of music that alot of people that are now young adults have grown up with in there teens listening to.

    The point he’s made had made me angry because i like quite alot of the bands he mentioned.
    I think he’s just making an article for the sake of it. It doesn’t really matter. He wont change what will be


    • Stop acting like such a pussy

    • he has very valid points at the end of the article:

      “So why has this happened just now? Why has cutting-edge rock become so achingly elevated and precious? Like everything, a key part of the blame can be laid at the keyboard of the Internet. Not only has this game-changer made the average listener more sophisticated (at the cost of some immediacy), it has dismantled much of mass stardom in favor of cults, a configuration far more open to something arcane.

      Consider, too, the role of college, where this music finds a key part of its fan base and identification. The new generation of college kid isn’t the frathouse brat of old, fist-pumping his way to glory. It’s a cool, smart, evolved soul, sporting skinny jeans and aspiring toward polysexuality, or at least moving against any form of gender rigidity. To these folks, the phallic guitar of yore represents the moldiest of oldies, a cornball signifier of a sad time when numb-headed musclemen ruled the world.

      That shift in thinking is actually a positive one on some levels, and — except in the case of Bon Iver — the change has actually made for some of the most inventive, and just plain different-sounding, music in decades.”

  3. Yeah, well, you know, that’s just like, your opinion, man.

  4. I think I’m offended he groups The National in with the rest of these examples – “Abel” or “Mr. November” would sure seem to be the very antidote to what he’s asking for.

    • You can even find more recent examples, e.g. Terrible Love, Afraid of Everyone, Conversation 16. These songs are all pretty emotional, but they sort of thunder and crash and I would say the subject matter is approached in a pretty ‘masculine’ way. What this “journalist” fails to understand is that masculinity is not synonymous with brutish dumbass-ery.
      Even with a couple of the other bands, I think The King is Dead by the Decemberists and The People’s Key from Bright Eyes go a long way to opening up indie to more traditional ‘rock’ in indie-see Down by the Water from the former and Jejune Stars from the latter.
      There’s always the likes of Mogwai or Mastodon to help those random bursts of testosterone.

    • But then there’s this:

  5. Hold on, read the article. He has a point. He lists the positives that come with Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes. He calls Helplessness Blues his favorite album of the year. The article is more of a puff piece than anything, and it is written that way. It isn’t criticism in the true sense of the word.

    The comments, on the other hand, scare me.

    All that said, there is plenty of amazing rock and roll out there. Mogwai continues to slay, and he conveniently left out My Morning Jacket.

  6. so… this a review of an opinion article?

  7. Thanks for running this photo again. I call it the Bon Iver is a serial killer photo. It’s everywhere. It will never get old.

  8. The opinion of a man my dad’s age (and I’m 31!) who finds the alternative to my music taste to be generic 80′s metal isn’t very important to me.

    I think he just came up with the phrase “wuss-case scenario” and had nothing better to do than formulate 1,000 words to make that term seem useful.

    This sap is basically saying it is a bad thing to have more intelligent and sensitive young men in the world? Surely, he must be kidding.

    For the record, Matt Berninger turns me on more than some neanderthal with a pig face, groaning into a mic while playing a Flying V. So you can keep your brutes, Daddy Farber.

  9. It’s simple… people listen to chill music when they wanna chill, metal music when they want metal, etc. Do people really ever only listen to one genre? I’ll listen to Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, James Blake, Nina Simone, Tune-Yards, the Sword, Death From Above 1979, Hank Williams, Health, Titus Andronicus, Fucked Up, Les Savvy Fav, the Velvet Underground, tons more.

    It’s all about what you’re feeling at the time… think of all the music festivals with differently ‘themed’ stages (metal, indie, rap, etc) and the fans that will stop by each of them throughout the day. Pigeonholing musical taste is ridiculous.

    • “Do people really ever only listen to one genre?”
      Believe it or not, YES. There are plenty of people that ONLY listen to metal, only listen to radio rap, only listen to jam bands, etc. Those people are called losers.

      And hey Stereogum – Farber is waaay off base with most of this but he does have a point with the “over-romanticization” comment…there are too many outlets (like blogs) that put too much important on the backstory or image of artists, when the only thing that should matter is the music itself. who gives a shit if he made the record in a cabin in the woods? if you found out he made it in a million-dollar studio in LA, would you like the music less?

  10. If I had to guess, he watches The Expendables every morning just to get through the day.

  11. Titus Andronicus, No Age, Bass Drums of Death, White Denim, Crocodiles, The Horror, Ty Segall.

  12. The term for girly music is vasectomy rock. It’s good, it just lacks male energy, which is odd when a many a man are swooning to it. This movement is a response to men oppressed by a generation of power females dominating the cock pit.

  13. I live in NYC and no one gives a shit about the Daily News, so don’t fret it.

  14. I genuinely think that the “brutes” Farber is wishing for, died with the over-glorification of self-destruction. Hipsters don’t see heroine addicts as role models. Sorry Grunge. Sorry 80s coke-fueled metal. Sorry Jim, Janis and Jimi.

    This is a gross over-generalization, but I think it’s somewhat valid. Can’t imagine Justin Vernon or members of Arcade Fire OD’ing anytime soon.

    As someone from Radiohead once said, “Our favorite drug is Aspirin”.

    Everyone just chilled the fuck out. Except for Farber, apparantly.

  15. Someone needs to tell Jim Farber that Limp Bizkit just released an album today…that’s like the manliest music ever.

  16. How does someone with so little musical curiosity end up a publication’s top music writer?

  17. I think guys that write articles like this feel they need to prove something (to themselves if nobody else). If you derive your sense of masculinity from something other than the music you listen to, I don’t think you need to worry about people like that.

    The author pic doesn’t really lead me to believe he’s much of a man’s man, himself.

  18. thank you jim!

    Most music today is far too sensitive. I think it’s a sign that people are complacent and too comfortable.


    • although i do enjoy a lot of this so-called new “girly rock,” i’m with you. the jesus lizard and butthole surfers were great, although a bit thrashy per my tastes. my favorite music will forever be the GBV, pavement, pixies, sebadoh, breeders etc. brand of 90s indie rock. stylish, smart, catchy as hell, and no absence of bite and manly guitar moments.

      and i concur with the above poster that the national shouldn’t be lumped into farber’s wimp bands.

      • Ugh, can we stop with this sensitive = feminine/wimpy, aggressive = manly B.S.? Bands and artists like PJ Harvey, Bikini Kill, Kim Gordon, Kim Deal and Hole were also making rock music with “manly” guitar moments… often about female or feminist issues for that matter.

        • very true. note the inclusion of the breeders, who are one of my favorites. “manly guitar” and “girly rock” were intended to be a bit tongue-in-cheek; no doubt that there are plenty of women who bring the manly guitar (and before you get mad, that was a joke right there). alls i’m saying is i miss all those bands and that style of music – as well as the females you’ve listed.

        • except bikini kill, i’ve never really listened to them.

  19. The Daily News! LMAO.

  20. The main readers of the Daily News are:
    Short-sighted republican-leaning numbskulls who would read shit tabloid mags if they weren’t so “girly”
    average people that get it for the sports coverage and are willing to give money to a piece of shit rag instead of tuning into ESPN.

  21. the daily news is a touchstone for the crass, in-your-face american wit we associate with new yorkas, and it’s funny reading their take on indie rock. no matter what you say about them you gotta admit they’re entertaining… i LOL everytime i pick up the old rag.

    one factual error, a lot of these bands are high-brow, high-virility – i hear even sperm whales are jealous of thom yorke!

  22. The article isn’t nearly as funny or misguided as the comment at the end of the article about how hipsters ruined J. Crew and music.

  23. Clearly Mr. Farber has not heard The Drift.

  24. And yet when I was in high school the kids who listened to “metal” (or what they considered metal.. a lot more “male energy” than the bands named in the article I guess, whatever) were the ones with long straightened hair wearing women’s pants. Whoah maybe power in music isn’t directly related to how loud it is.. an absurd idea probably.

  25. I hate it when people label something that displays vulnerability as “girly.” The notion that displaying vulnerability is something that only females should do is one of the reasons why far too many men end up repressed emotional basketcases who think they can only express themselves by lashing out. That said, the guy is right about the state of people’s musical tastes. There are lots of great, energetic and exciting guitar-oriented bands, but I have to search like Hell to find out about them since sad and quiet bands keep getting all of the press (even on supposed indie “rock” websites). This has become an epidemic. A Place to Bury Strangers were around for years before they were signed to a label or anyone wrote articles about them. Skywave, Oliver Ackermann’s previous band, were just as good, and if their albums are ever reissued, it looks as though it will be on the smallest of indie labels. The death of Anet Mook, who once spearheaded former UK buzz band, cay, received virtually no coverage, despite the fact that she wrote some of the best straightforward guitar rock songs (no easy feat) of the last ten years: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcKcUS2tNgg Inoffensive music that blends into the background has become the order of the day, and when it is not some acoustic, folky person being covered, it is usually some boring electronic drivel made on a laptop. And you know, if you are going to do something less rock-oriented, follow the Jeff Mangum model and risk something; do it with some intensity and edge. Every now and then, there is someone who comes along who can do the quiet acoustic thing really well, but they are really very few and far between. I have time for Nick Drake, Sibylle Baier, and Josh Pearson but not a whole lot of others.

  26. Does this scream “Back in Black was the best album ever and nothing will come close” to anyone else?

  27. It is really difficult to respond to this article because I am both a proud wimp and a fan of loud, angry music. The most I can really muster is “whatever.” I’ve always kind of compartmentalized my music anyway; there’s room for highfalutin jazz, brutal metal, austere techno and wimpy indie-rock.

  28. I actually was thinking the same thing as this guy. Not really saying it is a negative thing, but I have been wondering whatever happened to heavier guitar rock and roll. I’m sure many would call it outdated, but when I hear a really good guitar band, it affects me the way good rock and roll bands always have. Some good bands that play a little more amped up stuff : J Roddy Walston and the Business, The Features

  29. Uh… Sleigh Bells? I think that about proves this guy wrong.

  30. He’s criticizing the mythologizing of Bon Iver? Um, isn’t most hard rock built on mythology? Led Zeppelin and the mud shark? Ozzy biting heads off of bats? Christ, most of those bands come up with fake stage names and back stories to create their own mythology. And that’s not even touching punk rock. The Misfits, anyone?

    The crux of the argument, that rock is becoming girly, and slowly becoming “wimpy” as a result of that, is also inherently misogynistic and probably even borderline anti-intellectual. I mean, how does something taking on female qualities automatically make it wimpy? Does this mean all girl bands are wimpy? Has he listened to The Coathangers, who alternately mock and embrace the stupid masculine tendencies of punk? Ignoring that, many of the bands he’s idealizing would probably laugh in his face. He puts grunge and brit-pop up on a pedestal completely overlooking bands like The Gits and Suede, bands who either fought gender roles through directly confrontational lyrics (Gits) or took to androgyny as a way of skewering the traditional macho rock star bullshit (Suede). And, of course, Nirvana, whose own frontman would publicly attack traditional gender roles.

    And I’m guessing he intentionally left out bands like Fucked Up and Titus Andronicus, two of indie rock’s best reviewed bands of the last few years, because it doesn’t fit in with his argument. Having just seen Titus play in El Paso, I can at least confirm “concussive, strutting guitar music” is alive and well. Even if it’s choosing to acknowledge thoughts stemming from the head above the waist.

  31. As someone who seems like he’d be comfortable with the idea that St. Joe Strummer is our only decent teacher, Craig Finn & Co. are a serious oversight.

  32. I think the article makes a decent point and I don’t know why people are getting so sensitive about it. Basically, all he’s saying is that most of the popular indie artists out there right now are soft rock, sentimental stuff, to the point where some harder rock of the same quality as these other artists would be refreshing. I think the author does conveniently leave off some bands such as MMJ, Spoon, Hold Steady but overall I think he does have a point. Although I listen to and love a lot of the artists he names, I do find myself searching for harder rock often. The article is written to be inflammatory (by falsely equating softer, more sentimental music as for wussies) but I think at the heart of it there is a legitimate point. Basically, I want more bands like the Black Keys. I think, for all those artists he names (Sufjan, etc.), you could reasonably describe them as being similar to each other. For the Black Keys, however, I struggle to name too many widely popular indie bands that are similar to them. And, from what I’ve seen, all the other bands named in responses aren’t nearly as popular as the bands he names.

    Another possible aspect to this is how the “tastemakers” of today evaluate music. The influential review sites (Pitchfork, etc.) definitely value the more poetic, “meaningful” music as being more worthy. As one example, I actually really liked Aha Shake Heartbreak. I thought it was just a fun rock album. Pitchfork absolutely hated it. Now I’m not saying people can’t legitimately think that album is a bad album (as I’m sure many do) even if they do like harder rock, but if you read the review you can see that part of it is basically criticizing fun, meaningless rock in general.

    Basically, as other people have said, I like to listen to many different genres. I do think that lately there has just been less quality harder rock music.

    • I think that you’re overlooking the fact that the “tastemakers” of today have a broad definition for poetic. Tombs, Mastodon, Lightning Bolt, and Liturgy have all received a ton of press from those same people. The indie scene has actually reembraced noise rock, stoner rock, and various types of metal, all distinctly “masculine” genres. The idea that “heavy” music has disappeared is a myth; you just aren’t looking hard enough.

      • Fair point and I don’t think that music has disappeared, but for whatever reason, those bands just aren’t nearly as popular as the softer bands mentioned in the article. I guess the article is kind of implying that because there aren’t as many popular indie hard rock bands as soft rock bands, it follows that there aren’t as many “good” indie hard rock bands out there. While this of course isn’t true, I think it is true that there aren’t as many hard rock bands that have rose to the level of popularity as the softer ones named in the article. The point is I shouldn’t have to look hard, just as I don’t have to look hard to find Sufjan, Fleet Foxes, etc. right now. I don’t know enough about those bands you mention, but maybe the indie scene hasn’t embraced more catchy hard rock that would have the widespread appeal of the other soft rock bands.

  33. We had the chance to design the Tour Poster for Friendly Fires.

  34. to add to what everyone else has said, I also like how, in a piece acknowledging the so called ‘wimpification’ of rock, the author cites bands who, by and large, have never been classified as rock. GB? Iron and Wine? Bon Iver? Fleet Foxes? Devendra? If ‘hipster approved’ music has become ‘wimpy’, that’s one thing–but these bands are not rock; they’re folk, they’re chamber pop, they’re psychedelic-folk . Were he to accurately write about rock music that carried the ‘hipster’ stamp of approval he would find that it is still, by and large and for better or worse, testosterone driven: the horrors, fucked up, dfa 1979, titus, a place to bury strangers, and my morning jacket all represent this, and manage to do it with an intelligence and creativity that, for me, significantly distances them from the bands he seems to be calling for a return, or at least a modern equivalency of (90s grunge, 80s metal). Hell, Battle’s Gloss Drop, while incredibly intelligent and cerebral in it’s execution (ie no manly chants of Rock! Roll! Rock! Roll!), still bangs pretty hard at times, driven towards it’s end by both creative ambition and a distinctly masculine aggression.

    Or, I could just say ‘fuck him, it’s my music, my tastes, and not his to judge’ and move on.

  35. Yeah, remember when every band was a rough-rockin’, fist-pumpin’, cock hardened group of brutes? Pink Floyd, Neil Young, The Beatles, The Smiths. Those guys always turned the distortion up to 11 and fucked everything that came their way. “She’s Leaving Home”? I beat my wife to that shit. “Bigmouth Strikes Again”? Rollicking; my orgy soundtrack. “The Needle and the Damage Done”? Vandalism music; it just makes me wanna break shit.

    Remember when hip-hop was edgy? All I hear now is pissy cry-babies. For example, check out this excerpt from the latest Tyler, the Creator record:

    “Victim, victim, honey you’re my fifth one
    Honey on that topping when I stuff you in my system
    Rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome”

    What a bitch! Sounds like my 8 year old cousin.

    Truth is, if you like the music, why does it matter if it’s sensitive? “Sensitive” music has always existed, in every decade, and will never go away. “Concussive” music has also always existed, generally in harmony with the other types. It exists now, as others have stated, with bands like Fucked Up, Titus Andronicus, Sleigh Bells, etc. What, is this guy embarrassed by Vernon’s falsetto? Does he find it emasculating? Too “literate”? Maybe he should just jerk off to Transformers 2 again and leave “wimpy” music to the over-educated, sensitive hipster-folk.

  36. The Black Keys are pretty rock and roll if you will. The fact that it’s from the New York Daily News just proves its irrelevancy.

  37. For “hip-oisie” groups, a lot of those mentioned artists are making challenging and genre-bending music that legit wusses (i.e. fans of pop-punk or Owl City) could never tolerate.


  38. He’s just trying to rag on indie kids. $20 says he wrote a great reviews for Mumford and Sons and The Avett Brothers latest albums. Which are just as pussy as anything he put in there.

  39. So, though this article is humorous, it’s also incorrect. He should really pay more attention to this music before you generalize it. The Indie/Hipster/NPR music scene doesn’t just carry or produce the likes of quiet, soft rock; there are other aspects as well. For example, Titus Andronicus, a Indie punk band that generated a lot of buzz last year and ended up on a lot of magazines top five of the year. What about Fuc*ked Up? Then you have experimental bands like The Tune yards, Ariel Pink, Animal Collective, you have alternative rap groups like Flying Lotus, Shabazz Palaces, and don’t forget the most Hipster rap group of all, Odd Future. Would you call those guys wimps? I don’t think so. You also have prolific or poetic rappers like Big Krit.
    The list goes on and on. There are a lot aggressive bands I could name that you probably never heard of, but I’m just naming some that have broken into some mainstream success and garnered critical praise by the big timers. Indie/Hipster music is a huge bubble with different categories or labels of musicians; you’re just picking on one of them.

    All of the bands I named and the bands you named are more sophisticated and substantive than the mainstream rock you hear today. And a lot of the bands you loved from the eighties and ninety’s were just noise, people trying to prove how better they were with their guitars. This is smart music.

    Remember how you grew up listening to eighties and ninety’s rock, and your parents and the old timers probably told you that it wasn’t real music, and you should listen to who they grew up on? You probably rolled your eyes at them. Well, you sound just like them now.

    Listen old man, your glory days are over, and they’re never coming back. You don’t have to like it, but then I suggest you just don’t listen to it; because it’s not going anywhere, and it’s only getting stronger. This is the decade of the hipster, whether you like it or not. Either jump on the train or get ran over.

  40. Shoot y’all. Not trying to rain on the parade, but I listen to Bon Iver all the time and I think I’m growing boobies.

  41. If listening to “softie” like Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, Antony, The National, Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear all the time is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

  42. This article reminds me, I haven’t been to a Built To Spill concert in over a year.

  43. Hello …. My Morning Jacket?

  44. this Dad can go fuck himself.

  45. Sufjan can be un-wussy when he wants to: http://tinysong.com/7hlD

  46. Peche  |   Posted on Jun 29th, 2011 0

    He left out The Sea and Cake. They are where wimpiness and awesomeness merge and become one.

  47. For anyone saying that heavier music is dead, just pay attention to the way music trends cycle. There will be another resurgence of guitar bands eventually. It’ll just take one or two bands doing it catchy enough that the kids take notice.

  48. Who the fuck is Jim Farber?

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