This comment might create waves, but I’d also submit that we are seeing a lot of computer-based electronic music for one simple reason: it is a completely different animal to mess with a music program than it is to plug in a guitar, or sit at a piano, or behind a drum set, and use your mind and body to create it.
Unsugarcoated: it seems like a lot of these “electronic” bands would never have enough conventional musical talent in a million years to make anything even slightly noteworthy. There are a lot of untalented hacks out there with MacBook Pros.
**This isn’t to say the bands mentioned in the article fit this bill. But they are out there.
Or in a way that artists try to push it into new territory and/or use its versatility to find the right tone, timbre, etc. for a song.
I’m sort of in the same boat. Established acts like The National, Arcade Fire, Radiohead, The Walkmen, My Morning Jacket, Spoon (I could go on and on) might not be “guitar” rock, but guitar definitely features prominently into most, if not all, of their music. Then you have new(er) artists like Tame Impala, Local Natives and Fleet Foxes who fit the same bill. Kristian Matsson as a finger player is probably one of the most skilled guitarists to come along in a generation, but he doesn’t dry hump the air wearing a Flying V so he doesn’t get labeled as a “hero”.
The way I see it, guitar is being relegated to one of three new roles. It’s another instrument in an ensemble, a la The National or Radiohead, as it used to be in the early days of country and jazz. In other venues, guitarists who aren’t lacking for skills are exploring what the instrument can do and how to make it the perfect ingredient in a song. One other route it is taking is as an accompanying presence for singer-songwriters like Matsson.
As a pop instrument though, it might be at a low-point in popularity. I still have memories of the Jonas Brothers sporting Les Pauls, so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Seriously. Before I watched the video, I saw some comments about its length and was expecting it to be ten or twelve minutes. It clocks in at 7:42. ’tain’t nothin’. Arcade Fire just released a long(er than we’re typically used to because of a single-centric mindset) song and did a pretty damn fine job. It that’s “boring” to someone, I think it demonstrates much more about said someone than it does AF.
I’ll take the Marshall Mathers ESPN video over any of his music any day.
Fans can be spoiled brats, don’t get me wrong. But without people paying money for performances, almost no musical artist could do what they do. DG’s behavior doesn’t qualify as “pushback”. The expectation was completely reasonable- you let someone put your name on a bill, fans see the bill, fans pay money for an appearance, and you do it. It comes off as an attention-grabbing stunt, and in that aspect you’re absolutely right that it worked. But it was little more than that. It wasn’t gutsy, or even retaliatory.
I’ve known bands to walk off the stage when audiences are unruly or unresponsive. I can’t blame them for that. I wouldn’t blame DG all that much for standing on stage, silently, for five minutes, and calling that an appearance, because technically they’d have done what they said they were going to do. Perhaps they could have come on stage and done horrible, off-key ballad karaoke. The band could have served drinks and played a looped video of a bearded transient jerking off into a fedora for all I care, but the line that they crossed went from plausibly empathy-inspiring statement into full-blown narcissistic hissy fit. It’s no one’s fault but your own if you give the impression that you’ll be somewhere and then just aren’t- you yourself set the expectation, not the media or the fans. That part is just an excuse for the behavior.
If the artists are whining about the “expectations” being showing up to a place they said they’d be, then fuck them. Honestly. I can say honestly that if one of my favorite bands did that, I’d no longer be a fan. It’s not even about “art”. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do.
DG’s behavior is self-righteous pretension at its most insufferable.
I thought you didn’t want to state your opinion.
I’m a die hard fan now and was once a skeptic. Their body of work is something you really need to wade into gradually. But like mayonaise said, it might just be a matter of taste.
Ahem, *is still one of my favorites.
Great post, Tom. I have a personal story that deals with Converge:
Most of the friends I had during and right after high school were into metal and hardcore, and while I sort of went with the crowd I could never engage in it the way they could. I remember when I started listening to things like The Libertines, Bloc Party and Spoon (this was roughly 2006/2007 by the way) I found myself somewhat isolated. I’d try to play something like Sufjan or even Arctic Monkeys in the car and was subject to ridicule.
For reasons still not entirely understood by me, I agreed to go to a Mastodon show where Converge was one of the openers. My group planted themselves in the front row where I endured until Converge took the stage. I’ll admit to hearing them in album format and not giving much thought to it but damn…their set that night was still one of my favorites.
The best moment by far was when a fan who had made his way onstage attempted to stage dive and ran straight into Jacob Bannon, who had to stop singing (er…screaming) mid-verse (what I think was a verse) because he was almost knocked over. Bannon was visibly a little annoyed, but rather than lose his temper like I’ve seen so many musicians do around rambunctious or reckless fans, he lowered the mic, shook his head, made eye contact with the fan and beckoned him back on stage for a re-do. Not only did I admire his poise and the fact that he was being gracious to someone who had collided with him during a performance, but I appreciated the fact that doing the gracious thing was not his first instinct. It was humanizing and sincere to see that he had to fight off the impulse to get angry, that some urge in him was trying to get him to act on that irritation, and he did the more noble thing anyway.
A class act and a great band.
What this list should be called is “20 bands someone on our staff doesn’t like and we need to fill up space. Also, some of them might have popularity that outweighs their relevance or ability.” But AT LEAST half this bands are perfectly legitimate, and while I’m neutral about the label ‘hipster’ label, Airborne Toxic Event DOES NOT fit that category. I won’t even start into these writers’ completely made-up notions of what rock and roll is “supposed to be”. It comes across only as aging Gen-Xers prattling on about how music was so much better back in the day.
For some of the bands, they actually make good points (not going to say which ones, but describing Pitchfork as the ‘hipster gestapo’ sounds pretty dead-on). What this article should say is something I’ve felt for a long time: recording shitty music in lo-fi doesn’t make it not shitty. That is all.
Great article, Tom. I especially appreciate the part about how the music shaped your life in high school. I would say the same thing had Gaslight Anthem been around when I was in high school. In fact, I openly lamented to my girlfriend recently (as we tried to get in the door for their sold-out show in my town) that I wish “59 Sound’ had been released in 2004 or 2005, because even “Sink or Swim” effectively post-dated my teenage years (I was 19).
My one issue is with the commentary on “American Slang”, which to me is a thoroughly impressive record and consistently one of my favorites. The songs are bigger, yes, but they’re also organic, sincere, and more well-crafted than on “’59 Sound”. It marks the moment the band moved into their own.
All I have to say about this is that if the world held what I did when I was 17 over my head, no college or parent of a romantic interest would let me through the door. And I was an arrogant little shit without even being in a band. We have to let people grow out of their teenage selves, and yes, that means former screamo/metalcore/whatever heart throbs who used to front a band that toured with Underoath.
Now that’s not to say people have to LIKE Scrillex…I’ve had several friends try to sell him to me and I haven’t bought. But I understand a captivating live performance, and that doesn’t always translate to music you’d listen to at home or in the car. Regardless of whether I like the artist, I appreciate articles like this, especially since the live experience depicted is so identifiable and pretty damn well-written. It’s about the experience, and emphasizes Moore’s dexterity as a performer. Although the Bowie comparison was a bit much.
a) by the velvets do you mean the early 60s doo wop group, or the velvet underground? (i assume you mean velvet underground but since you’re SO INTO obscure bands getting their due, i’d better check)
b) if it is the velvet underground, you are aware that literally thousands of musicians have cited the velvet underground as influences, right?
If you want someone to argue with you ‘critically’, first let me echo the sentiment that these widely known bands are widely known for a reason: they’re really good. There were ten bands listed here and you only have an axe to grind about the more ‘popular’ ones.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but you didn’t leave us much substance to argue with you about ‘critically’, except that you don’t like Cymbals Eat Guitars and are kind of being a hater-ish dick and seem to think that maybe musicians should spend hours digging through obscure bands who may or may not suck so they can share their scholarly knowledge with the world on Stereogum instead of making music that at least some people enjoy, myself included.
You could try, but he probably can’t hear you over his millions of dollars and the fact that he probably doesn’t peruse internet comments sections for vindication.
It is awesome that this column exists. While I don’t agree with the content of this particular post, I think the column has a good function. When it comes to albums like this I think there is a certain amount of group think between fans/bloggers/journalists/etc. that does lead to wrongful “sainting”.
As someone who is often of a differing musical opinion than most of my friends, I really appreciate the fact that a well-read blog has a column that challenges this group think. I do think that there are some good albums that a lot of people just think are good, and I think The Suburbs is one of them (But I agree that High Violet was better, if only marginally so.) .
I also resent the fact that some bands can do no wrong in the eyes of a lot of critics, or that the “majority” opinion seems to be the only valid one. Fluidity and variety in music criticism and commentary should never be static or set in stone. I really look forward to reading this column in the future, whether or not I agree with it.
Ugh. I can’t stand comments like this. As a rebuttal, let’s start with: why don’t you either a) not read it, or b) go write on your own blog and do it exactly the way you want to.
I knew by the title that this was going to be a controversial post. And we should realize that the goal of a post like this isn’t to get people to agree with it so much as to get people to read it. Which clearly everyone here did.
The Simon Pegg thing would make sense, I’ve read somewhere that he and Martin are close friends.
Also, this song seems like a bit of a “Death and All His Friends” rehash, but I still get that giddy Coldplay guilty pleasure out of it.
lala, just curious, how many ‘serious songwriters’ in reality have been rich kids from middle america? someone’s background says nothing about their intention or legitimacy as a songwriter.
And Sean is right. What does it matter if it portrays immigrants in the video or not? Is it not enough that the song is part of a compilation helping people affected by that oppressive, xenophobic law? How would using real immigrants in the video help the cause at all? It’s very easy to see someone else’s work and criticize it with little or no recognition toward what it is trying to accomplish.