Monday, April 27, 2009

It List: Monday

Mates of State/Black Kids/Sun Bears (Granada): I guess I'm a terrible "indie culture" blogger or whatever, because until earlier this afternoon, I had honestly never listened to the somewhat controversial Black Kids for even a split second. Of course, much like most of you, I had heard all about the group in late 2007 and 2008, as their faces were splattered on just about every cultural barometer one can think of-- Vice, Pitchfork, Leno, Letterman, NME, Spin, Rolling Stone, etc., and the astounding wave of press and critical praise for the band culminated in one of the biggest PR hype campaigns for an "indie rock" group in recent memory, which in turn made the whole thing more than a little difficult to stomach.... hence the whole "never listened to them" thing. And with this kind of rapid commercial success came, of course, the inevitably huge and over-the-top backlash, embodied most notably in Pitchfork's abrupt change of heart between the release of Black Kids' "Best New Music" EP and their debut full length, which fell victim to one of the website's infamously dismissive photo reviews. Aside from concerns that the band wasn't really, uh, all that good, I also read complaints, around the time of their full length release, addressing the supposedly racial undertones behind their name, as well as a variety of other grievances that had nothing to do with the group's music or artistic vision, if they have one. Truth be told, this group isn't terrible, really-- they've written a few decent, dance leaning pop songs that seem to be as close to being "hip" as anything this marketable could possibly be. My first reaction to hearing them related to how much the lead singer tried to emulate Robert Smith, until I realized that he was just ripping off the guy from Hot Hot Heat ripping off Robert Smith, which is clearly worse. Their songs, overall, are a pretty bland mix of dance punk, pop punk and mid 00's catch all indie a la Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Wolf Parade, and it is just mind blowing that this was considered in any way exciting in 2007, after these sounds had largely run their course with everyone other than teenagers. At the end of the day, it seems that Pitchfork and others were so harsh and quick with the backlash not because this band is chronically bad, but because they are nowhere near as good as the omnipotent online hype machine manipulated people into thinking they were. Music "journalists" and bloggers certainly seem to adopt a sort of herd mentality when confronted with bands like this, and the backlash might involve something more subtle than this crowd simply trying to appear as relevant as possible. Instead, it might be an apology of sorts-- "hey guys, we're sorry we told you this band was so great when they weren't. We all got carried away trying to talk about them before everyone else, and with the speed at which MP3 blogs and fashion websites move these days, we had to take a chance and go ahead and praise them just in case they ended up actually being a good band, which would make us look stupid unless we said something great about them right now, which is what we did. We rolled the dice and crapped out. However, as part of our commitment to customer service, we've gone ahead and ripped the band apart for you, just to make extra sure that we never put you through the experience of purchasing anything related to the Black Kids again. Sorry for the inconvenience!" So the public forgets about their free downloads, the websites and magazines continue to look hip and relevant, and the only people who lose any credibility in the long run are the group of young, mediocre musicians who probably should have never been "almost famous" in the first place. Indie rock 4eva!

Cool Out (The Cavern)


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