04.18.13

2013 : The Year Complaining About Music Blogs & Beards Broke

Posted in Blogged Down, Rock Und Roll at 11:47 pm by

(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.

14 Responses to “2013 : The Year Complaining About Music Blogs & Beards Broke”

  1. Brian says:

    Yep.

  2. Schooley says:

    “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.”

    Bwah-hahaha!

  3. Well put. I couldn’t believe all the folks praising her (?) post up-and-down as though it was brilliantly insightful.

    As for the bit about Ms. Sparks, throwing a bloody tampon at someone is a potentially deadly act, what with HIV/AIDS, etc. It’s not cool; it’s dangerous and stupid. She’s lucky she didn’t land in jail.

  4. Electric Dylan says:

    You were right, that link was not worth reading. She sounds like me except not having read the requisite Azerrad book, any of ‘em, 8 years ago (actually this might be a point in her favor). I was wondering, if fun. & GusGus ever did a collaboration what would you call that

  5. GC says:

    “I was wondering, if fun. & GusGus ever did a collaboration what would you call that”

    A beautiful dream come true!

  6. Electric Dylan says:

    Hmm, I think I’ll just wait for the inevitable supergroup w/ G!YBE and Leftöver Crack… uh oh I feel a Grantland article coming on (provisional title: “Everyone’s a Diacritic”)

  7. walter says:

    I was driving a school bus when Nirvana struck it big- and they did destroy the hair metal bands of the time. No one could find Motley Crue really rocking when Nirvana sounded more fierce, desperate. True Cobain nicked Boston – a terrible band- but stealing from a source and turning into one’s own decrepit style is a victory. The guy’s blog sucks- he loves a lot of music from the UK- but then I can’t be bothered with many people’s blogs- except for Schooley cuz’ he is kicking serious ass!

  8. Piotr says:

    Thanks Gerard

  9. Pshrug says:

    Right on. Nothing annoys me more than nostalgic music criticism. 20 years from now someone is going to complain that nobody covers music the way Pitchfork covered music, and it will be just as annoying then as Vincent is now.

  10. Erik Otis says:

    Love your thoughts on this subject, was appalled and shocked by the words of Kitty Vincent. The little music I could find on that site was pretty terrible.

  11. Easter bilby says:

    I couldn’t read this, but I like Detroit L7

  12. Robert Christner says:

    As one who grew up in the fabled halcyon days of grunge, I appreciated reading her piece. There is a certain lack of depth in the music of this day (and I listen to it, my job requires it). I find more good music from the days of yore than I can find now. I am OK with missing a little anger that seems to be drastically missing; because hasn’t music always been a release ? And Erik Otis: There isn’t much on that supremely unvisited site, but what I did find was Johnny Marr. So shame on you. I’m “appalled and shocked” by little, certainly not by some blog. There are better things to expend your energy on. Johnny Marr is not pretty terrible. He’s a legend.

  13. GC says:

    “There is a certain lack of depth in the music of this day (and I listen to it, my job requires it)”

    maybe you oughta consider another line of work.

  14. I know I should just let this drop, but it turns out Miss Kitty has a band with a Facebook page. Despite her rantings about a lack of passion in today’s indie rock, her band is slavishly imitative, gutless, ’90s-style, alt-rock pap. She really should keep her damn mouth shut if she wants people to think she has any credibility whatsoever.

    https://www.facebook.com/ledivorce

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