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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Beard + Glasses = Competency

I read the NYT Magazine article about the Toronto indie-rock scene (which Carl is quoted in) and man, I had a hard time getting through it. I had nothing in particular against those bands--I was even starting to grow fond of some of 'em, especially Metric--but sure seems like nothing sours me on a band faster than hearing about their ideals. What was particularly icky was the insistence upon the quintessentially indie (and wrong) idea that making music with your childhood friends is a higher pursuit than the alternative--indie and wrong because it presumes that everyone is basically an equally good musician and what matters is the social connections. But that's not true--some people are simply better at music (or, OK, particular kinds of music) than others, and they themselves can produce better or worse work based on the people they make music with. I was fortunate enough to meet some folks in college I have a strong musical connection with, but I've also been in lots of situations where I've had a strong musical connection with people I have no social connection with, and inevitably it doesn't work out--they don't have the social pressure on them to come to rehearsals, mainly, but there are a host of other little factors, too. Maybe I'm the one being idealistic in insisting that the musical connection should be enough, that social concerns shouldn't matter, but it still seems weird to me to insist that the kid who grew up in a town where no one else liked the music she liked is now doomed to making a less pure music than the one who grew up in a nice suburb somewhere. Maybe it's just that a kid like that gets used to working alone anyway.

I was also fairly skeeved out by the ability of all involved to apparently take the notion of an indie label seriously (although maybe it didn't help me that both SST and K Records were invoked, labels run by self-important, purist dicks who produced nothing of consequence except maybe the Minutemen), a notion that becomes more understandable when it's revealed that the only folks involved who have any label experience at all used to work at EMI--shades of Love Monkey! The grass is always greener, I guess. I've never understood the idea that ethical business practices somehow depend on who you do business with, rather than how you do business; certainly I'm familiar with not a few truly independent record labels whose business partners are models of ethicality whereas the labels themselves are not the kind of place you'd leave your grandmother for any extended period of time. (I mean this literally.)

Don't get me wrong--everything I've read about Toronto outside this piece makes it sound like a perfectly nice place, and I'm sure there was a lot of distortion going on for the benefit of Times readers (or, more likely, editors). Still, I'd hate to think what ideas aspiring indie rockers outside "Torontopia" are getting from all this. Brr.

EX POST FACTO DISCLAIMER: I wrote this post at 2 am, and in the cold harsh light of morning, I think it sounds considerably more grumpy than I actually feel about the subject. Still, that's what blogs are for, I guess.