Sunday, November 21, 2004

Payback Time (Georgia Straight)

My payback mail was published in the last Georgia Straight. They edited my original version down to 150 words:

Dear Payback Time: I have read a number of Martin Turenne's reviews, and--occasionally--agreed with the sentiment but not the delivery. Adrienne, lead singer of the No No Spots, recently brought his Chromeo concert review to my attention, and we had a good long talk about the state of indie rock in this pretty city of Rollerbladers and glass apartment boxes. Turenne's reviews typify the mindset which seems to pervade a very vocal, jaded minority of music listeners and concertgoers here. It works something like this: is it from Vancouver? Well, it probably sucks. Do the "scenesters/hipsters/cool kids" like it? Well, then it definitely sucks. Is it obscure and almost unlistenable, sonically boring but full of artistic pretences, or experimental to the point of being annoying? Well, then it's probably great, and the rest of you kids just don't get it. Read between the lines of Turenne's name-dropping and genre-checking and you can sense a palpable distaste for those of us who aim to build a scene--a subculture, maybe--that revolves around a like-minded view of art, music, and style. No No Spots are well aware of their shortcomings. But they do have hooks. And they do have a fan base and a group of friends who will support them as they grow. It would be nice if those with a voice in this city did the same. Hopefully, Turenne didn't spend too much time sulking in a corner of the bar while the rest of us had fun.

Greg Ipp

Martin Turenne replies: Dearest Greg--It sounds like you're the sort of person who shields himself from challenging music by simply dismissing it as boring; if that's true, that's too bad. As for me, whether or not the music is made by locals doesn't matter at all. You might think that's foolish, but I'd say it's necessary. Should I be more generous to Vancouver bands than to acts from, say, Seattle? If yes, should I be nicer to East Van artists than to those from the West Side? My gut says no; saying yes means I'd have to start lying to everyone who reads this stuff. As for my distaste for hipster-approved bands, the Brickyard show proved once again that these people don't actually care about music for music's sake. Was anyone at that show even listening to the sets? Not by my count.

The problem with these local "scenes" that you're talking about--whether they're centred on music, fashion, the visual arts, or some combination of the three--is that the folks involved in them seem to spend more time partying than toiling at their craft. (If you've ever been to the Emily Carr grad show, you know what I mean.) As a result, the art coming out of those scenes is inevitably shallow and superfluous, mere background for the next round of "candid" Polaroid shots and celebratory coke rails. If the rest of you kids can't see how lame that is, it's only because you're not working hard enough.