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Old 12-14-2007, 06:16 PM   #1 (permalink)
killedmyraindog
 
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Default A Paler Shade of White

This is something I blogged, let me know what ya think...

I don't remember when I heard Lauryn Hill had made her infamous racist statement "I'd rather let my kids starve than have white people listen to my music." I do know that I've wished she'd have been hit by a bus since then. And I had never felt more empathetically vindicated than when Eminem turned his focus on those same vicious words and rapped "Bought Lauryn Hill's tape so her kids could starve."

So you can imagine my godless chagrin when last month Sasha Frere-Jones insinuated in The New Yorker that indie-rock had lost its soul and had become far too "white" forgetting its origins. The article was interesting, certainly I'd never heard that the "call response" origin of the blues and country might have come just as much from african-american chruch services as it came from illiterate congregations of Scotsmen. But the wealth of knowledge aside (one should expect that from The New Yorker) the problem was that not only are we going to start prescribing race to music, and therefore attributes to race (as if all african-americans made music that swung, and white people always made music that did not) but we're also condemning that as something that needs to change.

People are entitled to their opinions, the more opinions we have the better, and I'm certainly an advocate for racial diversity, but to conclude that there was no soul in Indie rock (a genre I happen to enjoy quite a bit, although not the Arcade Fire) and therefore it suffered because of it is preposterous bordering on absurd. The golden rule with art is to make the art that you want, phonies are easily spotted and make good music by accident and happenstance only. And I can't imagine another art form where we not only prescribe art to racial identity but where we deem them soulless if they don't use say, Mexican-inspired brush strokes, or Aztec pottery methods. It sounds foolish but this is what Frere-Jones is suggesting.

And if that were my only problem I may be more lenient. Pushing for diversity isn't a bad thing, and its good to keep those thoughts at the forefront of society. But while the Stones and the Doors caught the blues quite well. While Bob Marley took folk music to new and dynamic heights, its easy to loose sight of the utter train wrecks that occur when we try and "add soul" to a soulless body. I had the great displeasure of watching, on two-separate tours, Limp Bizkit remember to add soul to their white music and while I'll leave my opinion of that one out due to time constraints, when I walked by the merchandise booth and saw their name plastered on a trendy one-strap book bag, well that about sums up what I think of not only Limp Bizkit
but adding soul forcefully to something that doesn't naturally have it. Its commercial, it looks stupid and everyone can see it for what it truly is -- a corporate shill forced together and thrown out like a fish net to grab in as much money as it possibly could.

And I know i'm not alone on this one. The other massive offender that comes to mind, Michael McDonald, or maybe Michael Bolton, saw their own forced money-grab face the ire of a weary and vengeful youth culture. In the film, The 40 year-old virgin, the following dialogue occurs between two of the films characters as a Michael McDonald DVD plays int eh background:

David: I gotta tell you something. I'm really excited about it. Uh, for the first time, today, I woke up, I came to the store, and I - I feel confident to say to you that if you don't take this Michael McDonald DVD - that you've been playing for two years straight - off, I'm going to kill everyone in the store and put a bullet in my brain!

Paula: David, what do you suggest we play?

David: I don't care. Anything! I would rather - I would rather watch "Beautician And The Beast". I would rather listen to Fran Drescher for eight hours than have to listen to Michael McDonald. Nothin' against him, but if I hear "Yah Mo B There" one more time, "Yah Mo" burn this place to the ground.

Paula: You're such a smartass. Get back on the floor!

To this same effect years earlier, the film Office Space had a similar agenda to get across:

Samir: No one in this country can ever pronounce my name right. It's not that hard: Samir Na-gheen-an-a-jar. Nagheenanajar.

Michael Bolton: Yeah, well at least your name isn't Michael Bolton.

Samir: You know there's nothing wrong with that name.

Michael Bolton: There was nothing wrong with it... until I was about 12 years old and that no-talent ass clown became famous and started winning Grammys.

Samir: Hmm... well why don't you just go by Mike instead of Michael?

Michael Bolton: No way. Why should I change? He's the one who sucks.

And while I don't think its fair to say that their the worst, their certainly high-profile, on-the-radar offenders, one highly effective and capable of carrying Pat Boone's torch for watering down, and dragging the soul out of the very thing which they intended to put it into to. And I can't fault Frere-Jones's point, I'd like a lot more groove oriented things to come from the artful mind's of the indie rock world too. But suggesting that if they opt not to sell their soul (or lack their of) or make something other than they want to make that their are forgetting their forefathers and giving up something vital is nothing short of appalling.

"I gat soul but I'm not a soldier"- The Killers
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Old 12-14-2007, 06:22 PM   #2 (permalink)
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You are far too intelligent for your own good.
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Old 12-14-2007, 06:28 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Ha, thanks JH. I'm never satisfied though.

These damned race issues piss me off to absolutely no end. Next to religion they have to be some of the most baseless stances I've ever had to argue against.
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Old 12-14-2007, 06:33 PM   #4 (permalink)
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So don't let them piss you off. Unless you had an active role in them let the issue sort itself out.
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Old 12-14-2007, 06:35 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I like to present my fury in things like this. I get too emotional if I can't sit with it awhile and write it out. And this way I get to pretend I'm the Alexander Hamilton of music journalism.
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Old 12-14-2007, 06:44 PM   #6 (permalink)
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My fury stays buried in my music. Is it the best solution?

No but I just cannot stay angry at so many things in my life anymore.
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Old 12-15-2007, 04:08 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Where is your blog located on this vast network of data that we refer to as the internet?

I might have to go ahead and read all of what you say.
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Old 12-16-2007, 01:22 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Yeah well a great deal is Frank O'Hara inspired writing which is more accurately insomnia fueled rants. I'll PM it to you if you want. Posting it here seems like shameless self-promotion.

More importantly, did you guys think I had a point. Did Sasha? Whats your position on Indie music lacking a soul?
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Old 12-16-2007, 02:21 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Dunno about soul but I think it lacks originality.

I think the two are connected, I don't hear much that stands out from anything else. It's hard to empathise with someone's music when there are about 50 other bands that all sound exactly the same. I don't see how you can bare your soul to the world when your doing it backed up with something that just wants to be average.

Criticize a band like Oasis all you like for what they became but when they first came around they wern't going to be happy until they became the biggest band around , they had that attitude & that swagger and as soon as you put on an Oasis track you knew exactly who you were listening to from the opening chords.
That's what I think is missing from the Indie rock scene right now , a band who grabs the genre by the balls & wants to take it further.

It doesn't lack soul , it lacks balls.
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