Strokes redeux from New Yorker music blogger

Sasha Frere Jones, the pop music critic for the New Yorker has also blogged about the Strokes video on

This reminds me of something that I’ve been meaning to address for many weeks. For those who haven’t read Frere Jones’s article “A Paler Shade of White: How Indie Rock Lost it’s Soul,”  it’s worth the lookover:(

Frere Jones is one of the most important rock critics out there–and also one of the most hated. And boy he does like to provoke. In this cranky dissemination of the blandness of indie, Frere Jones aims to hit the genre hard. He rips deep into the indie sound, using the Arcade Fire as his primary example (number one misstep). The sound has no soul. Ain’t no James Brown. So Frere Jones essentially makes the arguement against indie into a race issue, criticizing, above all, that indie does music a disservice by being so disconnected to the black roots of rock n’ roll.

Not surprisingly, the article drew a lot of flack from bloggers. One arguement ran in a few days later:, where music critic Carl Wilson argued it’s a class issue, not a race issue. The Wilson article is a better written one, for sure. Frere’s article, like many of his reviews, is a meandering mess– and often just irrelevant.

Irrelevent mainly because The Arcade Fire do lack soul and gritty passion. No further elaboration needed. They aren’t important enough to the genre to eleborate.  And come on, do your homework! When your main influences seem to be Springsteen and The Sisters of Mercy, you are not going to sound very bootylicious. If you are predisposed to finding new nifty shit you can do on a keyboard and seeing how many times you can layer vocals, of course, you’re going to sound, well, synthetic.  Arcade Fire are arguably the Dexys Midnight Runners of the mid 00’s. And nobody is arguing about how much soul that band had. I like “Come On Eileen” a whole lot…and I liked the first Arcade Fire album too. But Arcade Fire are not Fugazi. They are not Indie with a capital I. They are like frat indie or this week’s indie–i.e.not strong enough an example for such a sweeping arguement as Frere is trying to make.

Frere feebly compares indie to “rock” of older days, or Classic Rock, if you will. This is also a moot point. Many would claim that the sprit of indie is or was a quietly incendiary reaction to Classic Rock. And, then again, many would claim that there would be no indie rock without the Beach Boys. Indie roots are as indeterminate as the lyrics of the Cocteau Twins.

Wilson’s counter criticism makes a lot more sense. Wilson claims that Indie was born out of college towns and middle class enuui. Rock was born out of sexuality and poverty. Comparsion nill. Indie can be criticized for class distinctions, yes, but it’s not so lucidly a race issue. Wilson also cleverly points out that so many “indie” bands show up constantly on Frere’s best of lists (LCD Soundsytem), despite Frere’s pointed dislike of the genre.

Anyhow, the debacle makes for provocation, if nothing else. And I wholeheartedly enjoyed the provacation! How can you note love highbrow music nerds ripping on each other?


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