clap clap blog: we have moved

Thursday, June 09, 2005
A thread on ILM about Ultragrrrl that starts out horrendous and gets fairly good--for the good part, please scroll down, past the multiple postings of the picture of someone falling off a motorcycle--and is well worth reading if you've ever been worried that you care too much about hipsters. (Caring about hipsters so much that you regularly express your hate of hipsters counts, by the way.)

A few quick bits before I get into the main thrust:

1) Jaymc said that Jessica Hopper is a scenester! He's gonna get his ass whupped.

2) As far as I can tell, the only reason Nick Sylvester's been so successful is because of his taut bod and face that could cut glass, to say nothing of his dreamy eyes. Whenever I see him, I just want to lick him and assign him articles, and the fact that I've done neither is simply a testament to my cowardice.

3) Marissa does not serve her argument well by saying "the men of ILM," given that really very few regular posters seemed to be supporting the virulantly anti-ultragrrrl line. I think the point made later about "music dicks" being basically the male equivlent of scenesterism, and that dickitude being in full effect on ILM, was a better way of going at things.

4) I back Miss Clap's theory that everyone on TV should be pretty, so her being on VH1 is fine with me. Male rock critics should put more effort into their appearance. If it's good enough for Prince, it's good enough for you, buster.

I don't really care much about UG one way or the other, but maybe this is because I don't have cable and don't read Spin; her blog these days seems to primarily consist of party flyers and promotional pictures, and since I tend to read blogs for the writing, I just pass over it all. It's hard to ascribe the more extreme hatred directed toward her as anything besides, at best, bitterness, and at worst something much more icky. Certainly if I were to pick something to really hate, she'd be very far down the list, but we all know my ambivalent feelings toward hipsters. ("Anything that gets you laid is hard to argue with," basically.)

But as to what she represents--Mis-shapes, Lit, NYC scenesters, all that--I can certainly register a hearty pang of disappointment. There's no denying that they appear to be having fun, and that all signs indicate they are, in fact, having fun. This simple fact goes a long way toward explaining the bitterness--I can cycle through theoretical explanations for the love of artistic suffering all day, but in the end people are going to hate you a lot more if you're having a great time than if you're miserable. (Note, for instance, how criticism of Conor Oberst always ends up couched in the high volume of poontang he's getting and/or his alcoholism being an affectation; his theatrical misery is not genuine, because if it was, the hatred would seem mean-spirited.)

But having fun is great! Fun is the way you should experience music, because that's the heart of its appeal, at first if not always. In the abstract--having great parties with your friends and listening to music you love--sounds wonderful. There's nothing wrong per se with the way these folks are experiencing music, and given the overserious way most music fans seem to approach their passion, it's nice to see someone determined not to take it (or herself) too seriously, even if there's something offputting about the "I made out with so-and-so," the exhibitionism seeming to put the focus on the writer rather than the music. But even this, really, isn't so bad--the writer is really the listener, and the listener is the ultimate focus of the music, right?

What's disappointing, then--and this is why I say disappointing rather than maddening or enhatenating as some might--is the music this otherwise admirable approach is applied to. Now, I know this might end up sounding like "their problem is that they don't share my impeccable taste," but, as others have said, I certainly don't dislike most Ultragrrl bands; I'm too lazy to check, but one of not both of Franz Ferdinand and the Killers made my top-10 last year, and I've always been vocal in my affection for the Strokes and Interpol, even if certain others (the Bravery, the Arcade Fire) have passed me by. But they just don't seem like the funnest choices to organize a scene around. The Scissor Sisters, Europop, neo-disco, shit, gimme a fuckin' 80s night. Hell, I really liked the electroclash scene, even as I recognized that I just didn't have the style to fully participate. But as much as I like Interpol, are they really the band that's gonna get me good and pumped up when the DJ throws 'em on? Not so much. Of course, as you know, I've never really seen the transcendence in post-punk.

It seems, though, that ending up with these bands as a focus is an inevitable result of the methodology at play, with scenesters liking bands that are themselves scenestery. This doesn't necessarily disqualify those kinds of bands--again, I like not a few of 'em--but it does seem to tragically narrow the scope of inquiry, and given that--due to the retarded obliviousness of A&R folks, who I'll blame this on long before I blame it on Ultragrrrl et al--this is the kind of music that tends to get pushed toward the mainstream, that's really too bad. In other words, I wouldn't mind at all being part of this whole deal, I just can't muster the enthusiasm for the bands they do, and it's mystifying, in the end, why you would want to.

Well, I suppose that's not entirely true. There's something odious about scenesters, and I'm actually thinking primarily of the straight dudes here. It's the sense of false camraderie, of achingly low standards, of coolness rather than passion--they're just not very fun to hang out with. And really, having a group of friends where you're all that much alike seems really weird. I mean, I want to hang out with other liberal arts grad as much as the next hipster, but do there really need to be more than 2 music geeks in any given group? Do you all have to be artists? Can't some of you be holding down day jobs and really interested in literature? Can't there be people who watch a lot of TV? Can't we all just hang out at a cheap, dirty bar and get drunk and flail around to whatever the DJ's playing instead? I hang out with them, and, you know, maybe I'm just too weird, or maybe I'm not being social enough, but good god, they're boring. Gimme a call when you're doing a DJ night that will be guaranteed to include Prince and George Michael. If we're going to act like we're in middle school, can we at least have the kind of awesomely pop-centric dances we had back then, too? Shit, I'll get dressed up stupid and go to a difficult club if I know I'm gonna hear music that'll justify the beer prices, and I don't mean italo-disco. (Which, god bless it, but still.) I know all y'all DJs want it to be like we're at a rave in England in 1991, but we're not, so shut up and play some fucking pop music.

The whole thing is disappointing because the promise that I felt back in 2001 seems to have coalesced into everyone liking the same four or five bands in any given week--every blog's got an MP3, every mailing list's got a gig posting. And that's not what I'm here for, people. Variety is what I'm looking for, because I am a creature of pop, and I have a voracious appetite. Give me more! More and more and more!