It’s that time again, when I act like I have no idea what magazine I write for, exuding disgust at the artists praised within these pages. After three years of writing this thing—a comedy column, if you haven’t noticed—the funniest words printed in MAGNET still fall within the hate mail I generate on the Letters page. To those letter-writers, I issue with full confidence the following statement: You deserve it. Music is the greatest comedy that was never written. I’m sick of typing words that no longer mean anything, words whose descriptive power has been squelched by overexposure and the neutralizing of a mindset that was, maybe 10 years ago, actually fresh and cutting edge. We have a problem on our hands when Sufjan Stevens is the barometer by which adventurous music is measured, when noise bands get fashion spreads in magazines, when music writers brag about not owning turntables (I’m looking at you, Chuck Klosterman), when there are as many faux-tastemakers as there are fratboys and jam-band fans, when everything feels mainstream. What follows is the best rock and circumstances that 2006 had to offer.
Stick a fork in these guys. They’re done. They’re a hair away from nü-metal. And what’s up with men in their 30s bellowing like 18-year-old hardcore kids? Screaming is one thing; barking like you’re in a ’90s power-violence band is everything this side of silly. (And now that Isis has snuffed the volume for the masses, it’s just awkward.) It’s a very fashionable stance to be the pasty boy who can talk the metal game, so for the time being, those people have a safe, louder Mogwai as a calling card. That is, before the X-station alternaheadbangers get a hold of Isis, which feels five minutes away.
The Hold Steady
I’m in a nearly invisible minority when it comes to dismissing this band. Disliking the Hold Steady is almost a new form of racism or something. Talk about blank stares! Apparently, the world can’t get enough “clever” pop-culture references. Last time around, the Hold Steady was all Midwestern chunky rock set to Family Guy plots (“amusing” references with nothing behind them); 2006’s Boys And Girls In America is boring McSweeney’s writing set to the J. Geils Band.
The Downside Of Indie Films
If you discover Gang Of Four through Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, I hope you’re under the age of 20. If you regard The Science Of Sleep as anything more than watching two adults act like a couple of emo kids courting one another to the backdrop of a bad Tim Burton film, I invite you to watch more movies. If you thought Broken Social Scene’s music fit perfectly in the otherwise enjoyable Half Nelson, I ask you to rethink the relationship that indie rock has with the “thinker’s” film. We will now refer to this genre of film as ReadyMade Magazine: The Movie.
The Deaths Of Syd Barrett And Arthur Lee
One incredibly depressing outcome of Syd Barrett’s death stands out in my mind: the local classic-rock station paying tribute by playing Pink Floyd songs that had nothing to do with Barrett, such as “Comfortably Numb.” At least Barrett only made two decent, albeit overrated, albums. When Arthur Lee died, his bad material all of a sudden became seminal. That Love album from 1974 is not good.
What Christian indie rock needs is its resident prima donna. With the quaint unoriginality of writing an album about each state, at least Sufjan Stevens is guaranteed to run out of good material nice and quick. I love how these guys (Danielson, David Bazan, MewithoutYou, etc.) act all aloof and weird about their faith, then choose the highly personal/confessional genre of indie rock as a template, thus inviting all sorts of uncomfortable attention.
Some of the best music writing from 2006 can be found in the praise of this crazy fuck’s latest record. The Drift should’ve been laughed into the ghetto where Joe Pesci’s albums reside. But no, music-writer sycophants wouldn’t want to turn in their badges by actually admitting that The Drift is a senile embarrassment. God forbid critics be honest to their ears and laugh out loud at a once-important singer/songwriter mimicking Elmer Fudd.
Howard Stern moved to satellite radio on Jan. 1, 2006, and your neighbors and co-workers followed. If you’ve been reading MAGNET for, say, 10 years, I invite you to tune in to one of satellite radio’s “indie” shows. There, the aesthetic you’ve held dear for a decade or more can be found neatly dumbed down. There are voice-over soundbites from Thurston Moore: “After the music leaves your head, it’s already compromised.” That may be the stupidest thing I’ve heard all year. Then there’s the daily morning show hosted by the all-mouth, no-substance Jake Fogelnest, a why-exactly-is-he-famous? hustler with instant musical history: Just add iTunes, a publicist-driven playlist and a familiarity with the CliffsNotes to Our Band Could Be Your Life. Here’s what it sounds like: Boring new song, boring new song, boring new song, boring new song, obligatory Hüsker Dü track, boring new song, boring new song, boring new song, boring new song, obligatory Fugazi track and so on.