(Win Butler, still hoping to address your longing for palpable bass frequencies)
After a night watching the Arcade Fire, the New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones “really wanted to hear, after a stretch of raucous sing-alongs, was a bit of swing, some empty space, and palpable bass frequencies”in other words, attributes of African-American popular music.”
The cynic in me might suggest, “perhaps you could leave the Arcade Fire show and attend another event”, but that doesn’t really address SFJ’s main complaint in “A Paler Shade Of White : How Indie Rock Lost Its Soul”, in which the author regrets having “spent too many evenings at indie concerts waiting in vain for vigor, for rhythm, for a musical effect that could justify all the preciousness. How did rhythm come to be discounted in an art form that was born as a celebration of rhythm’s possibilities?”
I’m going to presume the cute title was foisted upon SFJ by an editor. “Indie rock” is every bit as nebulous and unhelpful a marketing term as Bill Chippert’s invention of “Toilet Rock”. But just for the sake of argument, to claim none of the contemporary bands on what amounts to a circuit more than a musical genre have managed to “celebrate rhythm’s possibilities” or embrace discernable African-American influences is laughable. Frere-Jones profiled Spoon in The New Yorker some weeks ago, and their “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb” (performed just two weeks ago on an obscure late night TV show called “Saturday Night Live”) owes a tremendous debt to classic R&B and soul. Is “Get Innocous” — as played by Arcade Fire tourmates LCD Soundsystem —truly a case of rhythm being discounted? Would Frere-Jones have us believe Yo La Tengo’s “Mr. Tough” is yet another example of what he calls “musicians retreating inward and settling for the lassitude and monotony that so many indie acts seem to confuse with authenticity and significance”? Is Reigning Sound’s cover of Sam Cooke’s “I Need You Now” just so much more “preciousness”?
Everyone has their own idea of what constitutes soul. But I would also hope Frere-Jones understands there’s something a little unfair about dismissing a pretty huge, disparate number of players (some of ’em more interesting than others, natch) as insipid or self-indulgent just ’cause Glenn Kotche doesn’t bring it exactly like Clyde Stubblefield.