(above : the bright hardcore hopes of 1995 — every bit as crucial in their day as the Lumineers are in theirs)
Earlier today, no small number of persons gleefully linked to an essay by Your Music Is Awful’s Kitty Vincent, the provocatively titled, “Hey Kids, Grow a Pair : How Music Blogs Neutered Indie Rock”. The overwhelming majority of them — some of whom, I hope for their own sakes, didn’t actually read the piece from start to finish — gave an enthusiastic virtual thumbs-up to Vincent’s sentiments (“when did all the skinny jeaned, fedora clad 20 somethings of the world decide to get together and completely fucking neuter music? It’s like a whole movement of eunuchs out there walking around with synths and tambourines.”)
Vincent seems to be of the opinion The Lumineers are a colossal pile of suck and you’ll get no argument from me. But that aside, there’s more holes in Vincent’s analysis than the M.E. found in Joey Gallo’s corpse. For starters, the entire foundation is flimsy ; you don’t need a medical degree to know that kids cannot grow a pair. Equally specious is the notion that only recently did “indie rock” (a non-existent genre to begin with) experience neutering.
I’m not sure what to make of any music writer viewing rock’n’roll solely thru the criteria of whether or not it’s got balls. I mean, that’s all a little Buffalo Wild Wings for my tastes. There’s no shortage of amazing art that’s been made by the ball-less. I’d hope the lack of brains in contemporary music would be a bigger issue than the lack of balls, but everyone’s entitled to their own fixations.
Vincent considers the rise of fey-core (WARNING : I am trademarking this tomorrow morning) to be the handiwork of “the elite establishment” (ie. “Pitchfork or Stereogum”) and unidentified lemming blogs who take their tip from said websites. Unmentioned, however, is how the influence of these alleged tastemakers is any more or less pervasive than the agenda of traditional media outlets in say, 1991.
There is a reason why bands like Nirvana took over the world in 1991 and why the new generation hasn’t been able to recreate that energy
Differences in taste aside, crediting Nirvana with “taking over the world” is slightly less ridiculous than saying they made the world safe for Candlebox (and if I haven’t said so already, thanks for that). This alleged overthrow of the cultural status quo, of course happened at least partially via the auspices of noted DIY record label Geffen, and a medium long known to be impervious to blatant or subtle payola, U.S. commercial rock radio.
Seriously, if Nirvana represents some sort of personal musical and-or growing up landmark for you, I don’t begrudge you that one iota. But at some point, give it a fucking rest already. The Schaefer Beer jingle was a big part of my childhood, but you don’t catch me blogging about how it was better than Pentagram. And if you wanna stick to the oft-repeated line that “everything changed post-Nirvana”, yes, you’re right. Billy Ray Cyrus sold nearly 5 million albums in 1992. Hootie & The Blowfish more than 7 million in 1995. Please tell me again how pop culture became so much more vibrant.
I don’t think any original band worth a hoot in 2013 should feel pressure to be judged thru the prism of Nirvana, the year-punk-broke or whatever. But since Vincent accuses the contemporary crop of being unable to match the “energy” level of Kurt & Ko., where does that leave Destruction Unit, Wiccans, Lamps, Unholy Two or Hoax? In what way are they unrepresentative of 2013 or unable to match the hi-octane output of a band that mimicked Boston?
Vincent’s conclusion, I am very sorry to say, might be the dumbest piece of music journalism I’ve read this year. And keep in mind, I’ve read a lot of Luke Winkie’s stuff recently.
In 1992, when Donita Sparks of L7 pulled out her tampon and threw it at the crowd at the Reading Festival, she didn’t do it to create a YouTube sensation or to make a Pitchfork top 10 list. She did it in a moment of genuine defiance and frustration at a crowd flinging mud onstage. She knew what was between her legs and she wasn’t afraid to use it. And by that, I don’t mean a bloody tampon; I mean a serious pair of balls. She had more balls than the members of Fleet Foxes can ever hope to have. And that kids, is what rock and roll is all about.
Look, I know some of you would like to get back to circulating links to articles you’ve either not read or can’t really comprehend, so I’ll make it quick.
a) the only L-Seven anyone ought to concern themselves with is the late Larissa Strickland’s band. The L7 that Vincent lionizes totally sucked.
b) creating “a YouTube sensation” or aspiring to “a Pitchfork Top 10 list” is no more or less shallow than a band in 1992 setting their sights on an NME mention or a piece on MTV news. There’s some fantasy here that bands in the 90’s didn’t have to contend and/or play ball with their own set of elite gatekeepers (certainly there’s a long list of refusniks, but L7 and Nirvana weren’t amongst them).
c) again with the eunuch business. Fleet Foxes being kinda snoozy, is well, unfortunate, but has little to with what they are or aren’t packing. It’s beyond simplistic to declare that real rock’n’roll is all about grand gestures like tampon-flinging — in 20 years can we look forward to someone calling Billie Joe Armstrong’s fit of pique at a Clear Channel smoochfest a similar defining moment? If a band was really any sort of viable threat, odds are pretty strong they’d not get into the Reading Festival without a ticket.
OK, that wasn’t so quick.
Vincent is not without constructive advice (“lets go back to doing what we used to do..hanging out at record stores, going to shows, talking to actual people about what they’re listening to”), though keep in mind, said words of wisdom were circulated using the same technology as a Pitchfork review. It’s laughably naive to paint the halcyon days of record store hangouts and attending gigs (two pastimes which are pretty robust in 2013 if you know where to look) as though they were immune from the influence of market forces every bit as established and tough-to-crack as Stereogum’s editorial panel. How did Nirvana records get into record stores in 1991? How did L7 manage to play major festivals in 1992? If you believe the answer to either of these questions is simply “word of mouth” or “merit”, congrats on your warped sense of nostalgia.
Again, if you simply prefer the music of the early ’90’s, or more likely, that just happens to be the period in which you had a moment self of discovery (musical and otherwise) before real world circumstances beat it out of you, no problem. But blogs in general (or Pitchfork in particular) are a pretty convenient boogeyman compared to the public’s rotten taste and/or lazy music fans who’ve just fucking given up.