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Stand by your Man
November 15, 2006 2:16 PM   Subscribe

In the grand Village Voice tradition of slagging off musicians for being white and/or harmless, VV scribe Chris Ott writes an irrationally antagonistic critique of Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy, in an ostensbile concert review. Oh snap! Meloy's girlfriend Carson Ellis sticks up for him in the comments section!
posted by Bizurke (98 comments total)

 
Obviously, I totally botched most of these links. Just copy and paste them, then delete the superfluous "http" to go to the intended pages.
posted by Bizurke at 2:20 PM on November 15, 2006


I'm not a huge Decembrists fan, but that review was an embarrassment - the worst cultural criticism I've read in years. No critical analysis, no artistic evaluation, just snotty, condescending posing. The Voice has a long, illustrious history of publishing thoughtful, influential music criticism. That piece should never have seen daylight.
posted by twsf at 2:25 PM on November 15, 2006


Bizurke: "Obviously, I totally botched most of these links. Just copy and paste them, then delete the superfluous "http" to go to the intended pages."

Nah, that doesn't work either.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:30 PM on November 15, 2006


Delete both superfluous 'http's.
posted by Evstar at 2:40 PM on November 15, 2006


DeLillo wrote in White Noise that NYCers primarily communicate by expressing displeasure in an interesting or novel way. The VV tries desperately to live up to this standard.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 2:44 PM on November 15, 2006


Well he's right about one thing: that Decemberists Rushmore ripoff video is L-A-M-E, lame.

As an aside, the first person who played me the Decemberists claimed it was Jeff Mangum's new band.

I was very confused and depressed as I listened to the album.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:50 PM on November 15, 2006


Wow, that review not only said very little about, you know, the show, or the music, but it also made a lot of stupid assumptions (like that because Meloy's subject matter isn't about Montana, Meloy must be ashamed of being from Montana).
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:56 PM on November 15, 2006


what, is hate for hates passe now?
posted by Paris Hilton at 3:00 PM on November 15, 2006


Interesting to read a critical review which boils down to "not Irish enough".
posted by Bugbread at 3:01 PM on November 15, 2006


I don't get it - they're not supposed to be affected and precious? What's next, too much singing and instrument playing??
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:03 PM on November 15, 2006


Every time I read something in the Voice that is not about politics or national issues, I'm reminded of how glad I am that I never moved to New York.
posted by xthlc at 3:07 PM on November 15, 2006


It's frustrating to wade through an entire content-free article. I don't read the Village Voice regularly, but this is definitely the worst thing of theirs I can remember reading. Masturbatory AND hateful. Wow.
posted by mistermoore at 3:07 PM on November 15, 2006


Why is substantive criticism mandatory? I think it's arguable that if the band is elevating their ridiculous hipster image over their music, so it's only fair for the reviewer to step up and play that game.

They should be *glad* he didn't criticize their music -- I'm willing to say, on a purely substantive basis, that I think the Decemberists absolutely suck horse cock, and Colin Meloy's voice sounds like the scraping of bone against a chalkboard after tearing your flesh off in a vain attempt to escape the soul-crushing agony of his whine. That's an objective analysis, and anyone who disagrees can bite me.

Also, his lyrics makes the mixed metaphor in that last graf look like fucking Updike prose.


Was that substantive enough?
posted by spiderwire at 3:07 PM on November 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


It's fun to see that the reviewer described the introduction as "by someone with a faux-British accent almost as bad as Meloy's." The girlfriend comments that the introduction was done by Kristian Foden-Vencil who is a local NPR reporter in Portland and is, of course, really British.
posted by Staggering Jack at 3:12 PM on November 15, 2006


*bites spiderwire*

I love the Decemberists on record. Live, they suck (I'll admit, I only saw them once and they bored me to tears and I left).

That said, that article blew. (Carson's response wasn't really that grand either, but she's not known for her writing, but her artwork.)

And I'll take Meloy over Mangum any day of the week.
posted by dobbs at 3:20 PM on November 15, 2006


Your favourite band sucks, WAAAAH.
posted by fire&wings at 3:24 PM on November 15, 2006


FWIW, I've lived in Portland for a few years now and I always thought Foden-Vencil's accent was, if not fake, then at least comically exagerrated.

And, also, right on, Spiderwire.
posted by pdb at 3:25 PM on November 15, 2006


*licks dobbs*

I'm guessing you didn't take my hyperbole literally, but I do find Meloy's voice annoying and it prevents me from listening to the Decemberists. That much is true. But you probably didn't really think it was an 'objective analysis' :)

I'm still of the opinion that when a band is that concerned about their image, to the point of making ridiculous comments about the un-hipness of the joint they're *not* playing in, they've pretty much asked for it. Just my opinion.
posted by spiderwire at 3:28 PM on November 15, 2006


Spiderwire for the win
posted by statolith at 3:32 PM on November 15, 2006


"he mouthed off about the impact the "tay-n" cycle had on him. It's pronounced "torn." "

She mouthed off about the impact the "Ott" review had on her. It's pronounced "bitter self absorbed asshole".

I hate critics.
posted by MikeMc at 3:52 PM on November 15, 2006


They should be *glad* he didn't criticize their music -- I'm willing to say, on a purely substantive basis, that I think the Decemberists absolutely suck horse cock,

well, unhip person that i am, i'd never heard them ... so i went to you tube and listened to a few songs ... my conclusions?

not bad impression of 60s britpop with folk influences and some 60s l a pop moves (the horn arrangement on 16 military wives) ... however, ray davies and the kinks owned this kind of music before colin was born, so it's simply more polishing of a well-worn genre with nothing remarkable ...

Colin Meloy's voice sounds like the scraping of bone against a chalkboard after tearing your flesh off in a vain attempt to escape the soul-crushing agony of his whine.

i can beat that ... he sounds like billy corgan without balls ... i guess i can live with it ... but i can see why you can't
posted by pyramid termite at 3:55 PM on November 15, 2006


Thank God spiderwire's here so that I don't have to be.
posted by klangklangston at 3:55 PM on November 15, 2006


I don't listen to his band, but Meloy wrote a pretty great book about the Replacements for the 33 1/3 series.
posted by vronsky at 4:01 PM on November 15, 2006


Good to know that as a white person I am not allowed to be sad or depressed, ever. This will change my life.
posted by OolooKitty at 4:07 PM on November 15, 2006


pdb, i always thought Kristian's accent was legit, but regardless of it's authenticity, I've spent the last hour saying his sign off in my head. It's that catchy.

actually, "comically exaggerated" is pretty spot on. He always sounds like he's found out about something mildly risque about Her Ladyship during high tea. "Kristian FODEN-Vencil, Ou-P-B News." hmm, doesn't really come through written out.

back on topic, I hated the Decembrists before they were huge, when they played in front of, like, 16 people in a club you've never heard of. nyeah.
posted by acid freaking on the kitty at 4:12 PM on November 15, 2006


*dancing about architecture*
posted by keswick at 4:19 PM on November 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


Magic Marker House Acid F on the K?
posted by nonmyopicdave at 4:25 PM on November 15, 2006


Before I leave, I'd should point out just how unbelievably ridiculous it is to, on your own initiative, post a concert review to a public weblog bemoaning an incorrect form of review: namely, one which criticizes form instead of content.

If we weren't talking about a shitty hipster band, the irony would make my head explode. The fact that I'm not even slightly incredulous about it probably says something.
posted by spiderwire at 4:33 PM on November 15, 2006


I think The Decembrists are boring.

But I'm glad that they make so many people feel better about their shitty taste in music.
posted by bardic at 4:42 PM on November 15, 2006


I think the Decemberists suck. I also think the VV review about the Decemberists sucks.
posted by mistermoore at 4:49 PM on November 15, 2006


You're entitled to your opinion, Spiderwire, but I don't think this review even criticizes form. It just criticizes whatever negative traits Ott project upon the bandleader.

Either way, I posted it primarily because I thought the Girlfriend Strikes Back aspect was funny.
posted by Bizurke at 4:50 PM on November 15, 2006


what the hell?

I was at that show, and I thought it was pretty good. a number of my friends would say great. oddly, I was not surrounded by hipsters down on the floor--I was next to two married couples in their 50s and a bunch of yuppies in their early 30s. hell, a friend of mine was there with his much parents and kid sister, up in the balcony.

and embarrassed to be from helena? I saw meloy at the paradise in boston, and he talked about / played his old tarkio songs like "helena won't get stoned" and "sister nebraska." right.

jesus, who pissed in this guy's cheerios?
posted by theoddball at 4:53 PM on November 15, 2006


A precious lad sung ditties in New York town
His tweeness grated with the congniscenti
The rough and tumble forced him back to the burbs
Where he'd compose sea shanties slightly less twee
posted by dydecker at 4:55 PM on November 15, 2006


I'm neither for nor against The Decemberists, but help me understand something here.

The Village Voice dude writing a useless review, I understanding. He is getting paid and has to produce something.

What I don't get is the point of posting how a certain band or artist stinks.

It seems to me that posting this is a sort of way of saying 'I am superior because I don't like this" or maybe "people who like this music are inferior." Maybe it is a way of saying "I am cooler because I like better music" or "people are lame because they don't like this music." Maybe there is another reason, but I don't get it.

This comes across as more critical of the folks posting negative comments than I wish it did, but I really have a hard time grasping the logic behind these comments. Especially when I am not familiar with a band, this sort of comment ultimately ends up leaving me with a poor impression of the person posting it and almost no impression of the music itself.

Anyhow, please help me understand.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:26 PM on November 15, 2006


Joey Michaels: You're right, you don't get it. I said "I think the Decemberists suck" because I think they suck.
posted by mistermoore at 5:30 PM on November 15, 2006


Joey, it's pretty simple: the guy thinks the Decemberists are conceited and precious so he's taking them down a notch. Good on him, I say.

I liked the Decemberists once. For about a week.
posted by dydecker at 5:31 PM on November 15, 2006


the guy thinks the Decemberists are conceited and precious so he's taking them down a notch.

the problem with it is that he comes off as conceited and spiteful as he's doing so ... too convoluted in his prose to be sharp and too self-serious to be witty
posted by pyramid termite at 5:50 PM on November 15, 2006


mistermoore, my question (and this is being asked without any intended attack) is "why take the time to post that?" What positive light does it show you in? What benefit do you reap from positing it?

I respect your opinion, mind you.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:57 PM on November 15, 2006


Was there ever a memo released that outlawed bands having a shtick? I must have missed that, along with every band ever.
posted by xmutex at 5:58 PM on November 15, 2006


girlfriend?!
posted by carsonb at 5:59 PM on November 15, 2006


he sounds like billy corgan without balls

So he sounds exactly like Billy Corgan.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:01 PM on November 15, 2006 [2 favorites]


dydecker: the guy thinks the Decemberists are conceited and precious so he's taking them down a notch.

I'm not refering to the dude at the Voice. I mean everyone here at Metafilter - or, for that matter any discussion area.

That being said, the concept of "taking them down a notch" also seems silly. Why should that be an important thing? It isn't as if any band is forcing its way into people's homes and making them listen to them. Heck, if not for this article, I would be almost entirely unaware of The Decemberists. If anything, he has given people a reason to look into them - thus raising them up a notch in a certain sense.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:01 PM on November 15, 2006


Over the past decade the Village Voice has gone from uneven to unreadable.

These days, it's a two-page publication. There's Sietsema's restaurant review and then there's Dan Savage's column. The rest of it I don't read.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:06 PM on November 15, 2006


Either way, I posted it primarily because I thought the Girlfriend Strikes Back aspect was funny.

I realized that, but that doesn't make complaining on MeFi about how a reviewer who's complaining that Colin Meloy complains too much is a bad complaint any less funny to me. Of all the negative reviews on all the websites in all the world, you chose this one! No harm in snark. Not much, anyway. Nothing personal, at any rate.

Of course, it also helps that the Decemberists suck.
posted by spiderwire at 6:11 PM on November 15, 2006


Ugh, I guess I now know that the Decemberists have made it. People here are clamoring to announce their suckitude. As if the transparent cooler-than-thounessin this thread needed further squeegeeing.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:15 PM on November 15, 2006


anyway, as bad as the VV piece is, the author did mention how fucking terrible Melloy's crown of thorns-felching EP of Morrissey covers was all-around. yech. the first two full-length Decemberists albums were nice though. delightful, if not great music. their schtick hasn't changed at all since then, it's only found (slick producers, actual budgets, recording executives, and) a mainstream audience--- a painful procedure for indie music early adopters. for another similar example see the Shins, who weren't kidding about wincing the night away.
posted by carsonb at 6:16 PM on November 15, 2006


I find the Decemberists to be a fairly mediocre band. I don't have any problem with them per se, but I have to admit I did appreciate the 'review' if only because it touched a nerve of my revulsion at all this posed candor, faux-literary exhibitionism, and stylized earnestness--what is now called "indie" music by multinational retailers and marketing executives.

Ever get the feeling that we're being flooded with ersatz Elliott Smith's with 1/10th of his talent?

That said...if you can't count on the Village Voice to be smug, hipper-than-thou, arbiters of under-underground taste, what can you count on?
posted by inoculatedcities at 6:17 PM on November 15, 2006


err, and by 'mention' I mean 'insinuate'.
posted by carsonb at 6:18 PM on November 15, 2006


There's Sietsema's restaurant review and then there's Dan Savage's column.

Heh. I read exactly the same two pages -- but I do read them religiously every week, from 5000 miles away.

I really miss Cynthia Cotts' Press Clips pieces too -- the only other thing I used to read. That woman had balls the size of melons.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:19 PM on November 15, 2006


Reviewer to Artist: "my American Studies degree beats your American Studies degree."
posted by kid ichorous at 6:22 PM on November 15, 2006


Joey Michaels: "What I don't get is the point of posting how a certain band or artist stinks... This comes across as more critical of the folks posting negative comments than I wish it did, but I really have a hard time grasping the logic behind these comments... the concept of "taking them down a notch" also seems silly. Why should that be an important thing? It isn't as if any band is forcing its way into people's homes and making them listen to them."

Listen, buddy: rock is our music. It's a lot of things to a lot of people, but it is, in the end, the people's music. As such, quality matters. Greatness matters. Objectivity and truth matter. And those things are a large part of rock and/or roll music.

Now, I detect a hint of fear of offending in your comments here. Specifically, you imply that you don't want to be negative or critical. Well, guess what? Worrying about offending people is not what rock music is about. Rock music is about the truth that human dignity requires us to be honest, to be as loud as necessary when exercising that honesty, and to demonstrate enough care and respect for the people around us to expect them to be strong enough to handle something as innocuous as a different opinion. So sitting around "respecting other people's opinions" by thinking that their music is shit while not having the decency to tell them so has neither a place in rock music nor a place in human interaction.

The Decemberists suck. The reason they suck, and the reason they are allowed to continue to suck, is because hipsters have fooled society into thinking that, due to their obscure references and fancy record collections, those hipsters are on a higher plane of existence, and should be worshipped as musical gods. Hipsterism is characterized by an inability to acknowledge true, heartfelt love and connection with music and art because of a fear that one will be seen as "uncool."

Do not be fooled: this is a political, religious, and spiritual issue. Music is one of the single greatest factors in the spiritual health of our society. We were rocking along pretty nicely twenty years ago, but the cracks were already showing then; everything's gone to shit since. Yes, this sort of posturing needs to be 'taken down a notch;' if we can keep one more kid from becoming a withdrawn, self-loathing poseur, we've won the battle. And if anyone is frightened or disturbed by our expression of our opinions, they're far too fragile, or, as we might have put it some years ago, "too old." Besides, we can't possibly do any more damage than bands like the Decemberists or Wilco already have.
posted by koeselitz at 6:24 PM on November 15, 2006


He was pretty good at Pitchfork. I guess he got old.
posted by four panels at 6:32 PM on November 15, 2006


We were rocking along pretty nicely twenty years ago, but the cracks were already showing then; everything's gone to shit since.

You mean it was good back when you were young? What isn't?
posted by four panels at 6:34 PM on November 15, 2006


Music is one of the single greatest factors in the spiritual health of our society

um, no ... it's video games, graphic novels and cell phones/internet that are the center of culture now

music's just not as important anymore ... and i say that as a musician
posted by pyramid termite at 6:34 PM on November 15, 2006


Lemme see if I've got this whole thread sorted:

Rock critic writes scathing screed disguised as live review of popular band. Also, I hate you and I hate the band you like. Film at 11.

P.S. Fuck hipsters.

Does that sound about right?
posted by chrominance at 6:44 PM on November 15, 2006


but the cracks were already showing then; everything's gone to shit since.

As if that attitude isn't as tired a posture as what you're ridiculing.

if we can keep one more kid from becoming a withdrawn, self-loathing poseur, we've won the battle.

If you had kept kids from becoming withdrawn and self-loathing 20 years ago in your so called glory days you probably would have prevented: The Cure, The Smiths, Love and Rockets, The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, etc etc etc. And 'posing' is a much a part of rock and roll as mouthing off your opinion. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. The Decembrists still suck camel nuts though.
posted by spicynuts at 6:46 PM on November 15, 2006


. The reason they suck, and the reason they are allowed to continue to suck, is because hipsters have fooled society into thinking that, due to their obscure references and fancy record collections, those hipsters are on a higher plane of existence, and should be worshipped as musical gods.

Who were you talking about again? Bob Dylan, David Byrne, Lou Reed, Morrissey, David Bowie, Brian Eno?
posted by meech at 7:02 PM on November 15, 2006


Thank you chrominance. You said basically all I needed to say.

Now I'm going to rant about it.

What the fuck? We know everyone doesn't like hipsters. The Metafilter community has proven time and time again that given the slightest provocation, they will turn any thread into a skreed against hipsters and their moody insubstantive ilk.

At one time or another, no one liked hippies, or punks, or goths either (unless of course the hate is passe and its cool to like them again). Now I've run in a lot of those circles at one time or another. I happen to like the fucking Decemberists. But assuming you can wave your hands at an entire community of people (an extremely poorly defined one at that) calling them a homogenous bunch of shallow twats or whatever, and assume the same won't apply to you is moronic.

Despite having friends from many different walks of life, I've met shallow snobby hipsters, irritating moody goths, mystical bullshit hippies, and politically idiotic punks, but I never expected anything else because these groups are composed of fucking people. In any circle that you're going to arbitrarily delineate, you're going to have assholes and losers of some brand or another, because before anything else they're human god damn beings.

So stop pretending that by slamming hipsters or whoever the it group is at the moment, that you're somehow ahead of the game. You're the one that's judging people before you've met them. You're the one that's judging them by a criterion with almost no real substance. You're ultimately the one that's more shallow then anyone else, because honestly, who the fuck cares that you don't like an image?

P.S.: Also, that article sucked.
posted by Alex404 at 7:07 PM on November 15, 2006 [2 favorites]


I did not enjoy the first two Decemberists albums, but find the third one pretty good. That is all.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:24 PM on November 15, 2006


Joey Michaels: "What I don't get is the point of posting how a certain band or artist stinks

Web traffic. And we took the bait. Shame on us.

I like the Decemberists OK. Not enough to buy an album or see a live show, but I've listened to their stuff a few times.

I agree with pyramid termite. Popular music simply isn't as important as it used to be.

And I don't trust anyone who seriously uses the word "hipster." It means nothing. Right on, Alex404. (Most people still hate "hippies" too, btw. Except me. I love 'em. I might be one.)
posted by mrgrimm at 7:26 PM on November 15, 2006


I have two things to say. The first is relevant and the second probably isn't.

1.you'll find a lot more "meaning"—insight qua mood, at least—in these soundscapes

This is from the linked Wilco review. The writer of a clause like this clearly has a total dud of a bullshit meter, and should not be permitted to adjudicate on the bullshit of others.

2. Why why why do I always get sucked into these goddamn your-favourite-band-sucks threads? Although in this case, I was hoping at least for a your-favourite-critic-sucks thread, which would at least be more fun if no more nutritious . . .

Alright, fuck it, there's a 3. Here's me being told I suck by the Village Voice. (It's the single-graf hatchet job at the very bottom.) There. Surely that kinda self-deprecation justifies the post. Write it off as a business development - that's the ticket.
posted by gompa at 7:56 PM on November 15, 2006


He was pretty good at Pitchfork. I guess he got old.

Are you kidding? Did you read that article? It's like being in a time warp.

Someday they're gonna bring Chris Ott on Bassmasters and ask him how he keeps going back to the same spot year after year and using the same bait every time.

And he'll say, "sorry guys, I can't help you -- frankly, those fish are just much smarter than my audience."
posted by spiderwire at 7:58 PM on November 15, 2006


Listen, buddy: rock is our music. It's a lot of things to a lot of people, but it is, in the end, the people's music.

When you say it is the people's music, are you talking about the people who like country? Or the people who like hip-hop? Who is this mysterious group of "our" that you refer to?

Anyhow, I think your rant helped me understand that part of the value of slaming other people's music is so that one person can be in the group of cool people and label other people as the uncool people.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:15 PM on November 15, 2006


Music as a whole started going downhill with the death of Bach in 1750. Since then, we've had precious few bright spots...they just don't make 'em like Liszt anymore...
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:24 PM on November 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


worst rock band EVER ...

prepare to be owned, suckers
posted by pyramid termite at 8:30 PM on November 15, 2006


No critical analysis, no artistic evaluation, just snotty, condescending posing

Welcome to Music Crit 2.0, wherein the hacks who spent most of their time in college coining obtuse metaphors to induce semi-boners in the trousers of their creative-writing teachers (As opposed to learning thing one about music) now think that fickle and petty poison pen letters justifying the contents of their iPods actually pass as criticism.

Keep it up, kiddies.
Tomorrow's fish need wrapping.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:38 PM on November 15, 2006


Right after Og banged two rocks together in a syncopated pattern, Zor complained that he didn't do it right, and that the way Yar banged rocks together was obviously better.

Music criticism is, truly, as old as music itself.

WRT The Decemberists: they are fine in small doses. But after 2 or 3 songs, that's plenty. They could use some breadth. This is a common criticism of modern rock acts. I blame the death of the "album" format. jonmc, where you at?

gompa: Jesus, that review was harsh.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:45 PM on November 15, 2006


Pshaw. Liszt was a poncy show-off, all style and no substance.

Honestly, music went down hill after Palestrina. Frankly, the Western World didn't deserve to have polyphony.
posted by bardic at 9:08 PM on November 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


I lived in Portland in 1993-6, and the Decemberists remind me of a bunch of Reed dropouts. But I still like their stuff, and they're no less authentic than Gillian Welch. Hey, Bob Dylan was a suburban Jewish kid singing folk songs.
posted by mecran01 at 9:29 PM on November 15, 2006


What's wrong with woodcuts and/or Rushmore?
posted by slow, man at 9:37 PM on November 15, 2006


So...did the Village Voice guy not enjoy the concert?


I very much enjoy listening to The Decemberists' music and just saw them in concert Sunday night and enjoyed the show, despite the aforementioned Mr Meloy being a bit under the weather.
posted by jaronson at 9:46 PM on November 15, 2006


Jesus, I read that koeselitz comment and had to keep reading, just to see how people would destroy it. Then it reminded me of that Kids in the Hall sketch.
posted by 235w103 at 9:59 PM on November 15, 2006


That koeselitz suuuure hates hipsters.

So. Um. What are hipsters, again?

I conclude this by saying people take this music shit way too seriously and maybe, just maybe, they need to fill up all this empty free time they spend over analyzing shit with more productive pursuits. Like masterbating.
posted by tkchrist at 10:11 PM on November 15, 2006


a lot of stupid assumptions (like that because Meloy's subject matter isn't about Montana, Meloy must be ashamed of being from Montana)

Ott's hang-up with Helena really bothered me too, eustacescrubb. He almost seems to believe (probably unconsciously) that Meloy should be embarassed to be from Montana. After all, if Meloy had been born in, say, Brooklyn, I can't seriously expect that Ott would have mentioned the fact more than once, let alone used it as a point in his argument.

A very poorly considered point, at that. Far from downplaying his roots in interviews, Meloy has been "awfully proud of [his] Montana heritage," as a quick fact check on Google would have revealed. But Ott's research seems to have been confined to browsing Meloy's Wikipedia article for ammunition against him. I don't think he particularly flatters his own character by seizing on his subject's home state as a mark against him.
posted by Iridic at 10:31 PM on November 15, 2006


Tests don't lie Bobby, Tests don't lie...
posted by django_z at 11:41 PM on November 15, 2006


koeselitz : "Objectivity and truth matter."

Ah, yes. "Objectivity". I presume the reviewer wrote this review objectively, not reflecting his own opinions, but just the readings on his "music quality meter", calibrated in a laboratory in Switzerland.

The whole fucking thing is subjective, and you aren't fooling anyone but yourself by saying "objectivity matters". Here is the review, if purely objective:
Outside the Hammerstein Ballroom on a November night, a black man is saying, "DECEMBERISTS TICKETS. DECEMBERISTS IS SOLD OUT." I have looked at him, and he asks, "Hey big guy, you need tickets?"

Inside, dozens of people are talking about different things, including the Knife, who performed at Webster Hall using glowsticks. Tonight the Decemberists are playing.

"We're going to try to pretend we're at the Mercury Lounge," says leader Colin Meloy after playing several songs from the band's back catalog. The band's latest release, The Crane Wife, is their first for major label Capitol. There appear to be less than 2,000 people here.

At the Ballroom, the Decemberists walked onstage after an introduction by someone, asking the audience to "imagine you are standing atop a vast canyon wall, staring miles down as six figures walk into view, the wind whipping at their clothes."

Colin Meloy has done things involving Civil War period costume, Japanese folk tales, Irish solidarity, and has said that the Decemberists are "a wartime band." In The Crane Wife— which is in some part inspired by a Japanese fable — Meloy sings about the Shankill Butchers of Ulster. Meloy is from Montana. Meloy has made solo acoustic Morrissey and Shirley Collins cover EPs. The Decemberists released The Tain (2003), inspired by the Ulster cycle, part of pre-Christian Celtic mythology. Meloy sang "pleased tea" instead of the lyric "greased tea" when covering Morrissey's "Everyday Is Like Sunday". He talked about the impact the tain had on him.
That's it. That's the "objective" review of the concert. There's nothing wrong with writing a subjective review: it's the whole point of reviews. But don't pretend that they're objective.
posted by Bugbread at 4:53 AM on November 16, 2006


"We were rocking along pretty nicely twenty years ago,"

1987?

"Objectivity and truth matter."

Better albums weigh more. It's a fact!

(I tend to think that subjectivity and truth matter, though I'm with you for the whole Say Yes to Rock campaign.)
posted by klangklangston at 7:10 AM on November 16, 2006


back on topic, I hated the Decembrists before they were huge, when they played in front of, like, 16 people in a club you've never heard of. nyeah.

I hated the Decemberists when they didn't even exist yet and it was just Colin Meloy playing happy hour at the Mad Hatter (don't look for it, it's not there anymore) in front of 4 people. He's a nice guy, though. Also, I don't hate them, it's just not my thing.
posted by snofoam at 7:29 AM on November 16, 2006


nonmyopicdave: actually, it wasn't the magic marker house, although that's a good guess, since I have many fond memories of playing and recording there in another band (and Magic Marker Curt plays on my futsal team, yeah!). It was actually the now-defunct Blackbird, and if you twist my arm, i'd admit there were probably more than 16 people there.

snofoam: yeah, the Mad Hatter! i kinda miss that place. didn't go very much, but the times i did, good memories.

This has been your Aging Portland Hipster Remembrance Hour, brought to you by Stumptown Coffee. Please join us next time for yet another X-ray Cafe tribute show.
posted by acid freaking on the kitty at 7:48 AM on November 16, 2006


I like the Decemberists.

It's just music, folks.

And I'm a dork.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:43 AM on November 16, 2006


Actually, this whole discussion led me to go and purches The Tain, Her Majesty The Decemberists and Picaresque yesterday. So far, I enjoy what I've heard. This is cool, because I've thought I was an old fart for several years and now am relieved to discovered I am a hipster. The next closest I've gotten to "hip" in recent years was "hip replacement," so you can see how this is a big improvement.

Anyhow, I want to thank the Village Voice writer for his review because without him, I never would have been introduced to this band.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:34 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Congrats, Joey Michaels. Those are good records, though I'd argue for Castaways and Cutouts or 5 Songs EP over the Tain. Also, you can get all their records cheap from emusic.
posted by dobbs at 10:58 AM on November 16, 2006


At one time or another, no one liked hippies, or punks, or goths either (unless of course the hate is passe and its cool to like them again). Now I've run in a lot of those circles at one time or another. I happen to like the fucking Decemberists. But assuming you can wave your hands at an entire community of people (an extremely poorly defined one at that) calling them a homogenous bunch of shallow twats or whatever, and assume the same won't apply to you is moronic.

It seems to me that the difference is between the self-consciousness of the whole indie music genre. It's this notion that you'll find in a lot of recent culture/criticism, from Pitchfork all the way over to Judith Butler, that style has finally, at last, achieved its primacy over substance, and somehow we've decided that's cool because we're self-aware.

Lots of us are uncomfortable with the idea that just because we know we've passed beyond the pale that it's somehow OK because we're acknowledging it and reveling in it. If authenticity is dead, fine, but I don't think that means we have to be happy about it or say that it's substantively worse than the old-fart golden days where everything didn't get sucked into the death spiral of ironic self-parody.

And additionally, we find it hypocritical that when someone pierces the veil (like I think Chris Ott does decently in the linked article, and it's getting harder and harder to do artfully) there's a violent backlash against it, even though he's just saying what the rest of us are thinking, more or less.

Oh, and this is a somewhat separate rant, but I'm really tired of these comparisons between the recent indie rock movement and, say, punk rock. Say what you will about their fans -- and all famous bands have had stupid fans -- but there's a qualitative difference there, and all you'd have to do to see it would be to substitute "The Clash" for "The Decemberists" in the linked article, and it would become painfully apparent.

I mean, seriously, you could throw The Decemberists in a cage match with the Sex Pistols, and give them the entire Arcade Fire, the Fiery Furnaces, and Wilco as backup, and you'd still be scrubbing indie entrails off the ceiling for weeks afterwards.
posted by spiderwire at 11:12 AM on November 16, 2006


Dude, if you're using the Sex Pistols as a model of authenticity, you're ignoring thirty years of former members talking about how they were basically a fabricated band designed by Malcolm McLaren to promote his clothing store, Sex. They were specifically modeled after the New York Dolls. Almost totally fabricated band.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:39 AM on November 16, 2006


Mind you, I enjoy their music, but they are about as "authentic" as Paul Bunyon - who was originally designed to be a mascot for a lumber company but somehow managed to enter the world of folklore.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:40 AM on November 16, 2006


Look spiderwire, I'm not even on your lawn.
posted by dame at 11:41 AM on November 16, 2006


I kind of agreed with the reviewer before reading the article (I'm reading the Tain right now, and was fairly pissed off that a friend immediately began talking to me about the Decemberists upon seeing the book, as if it wasn't important without them), but really: who gives a fuck? You might as well whine about Neil Gaiman grabbing all 'these different mythologies he'll never understand and weaving them together for dramatic impact' or whatever the piss-head quote was. That's what writers do, fuck-stick. They steal.

Also, to the best of my knowledge, it is pronounced 'tay-n,' although I could be wrong.
posted by Football Bat at 12:44 PM on November 16, 2006


Listen, buddy: rock is our music. It's a lot of things to a lot of people, but it is, in the end, the people's music. As such, quality matters. Greatness matters. Objectivity and truth matter. And those things are a large part of rock and/or roll music.
Rock doesn't belong to anybody. It's not about anything. Objectivity and Rock are like water and oil, and Truth and Rock are like oil and anti-matter. You're right that it's people's music, but the venn diagrams of which rock belongs to which "the people" are truly insane.

The best criticism for this entire discussion is the standard "metafilter: your favorite band sucks" snowclone.
Also, to the best of my knowledge, it is pronounced 'tay-n,' although I could be wrong.
I truly long for the day when people get it straight that words are not static, either in meaning or pronunication. I don't know the word tain myself but I couldn't hep thinking immediately when people were arguing over the torn/tayn pronunciation that it's probably pronounced differently by different groups of people.

See also: schedule, pot, water, ass, car, etc. etc.
posted by illovich at 1:59 PM on November 16, 2006


Etc. pronounced: eht-k'
Is there another way?
posted by yeti at 2:47 PM on November 16, 2006


Clearly, yeti is a hipster, because all normal, non-hipsters like myself and Chris Ott, pronounce it eht-s. I can tell from yeti's pronounciation that he hides a secret loathing for New York and wishes he lived in Montana instead.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:00 PM on November 16, 2006


Dude, if you're using the Sex Pistols as a model of authenticity, you're ignoring thirty years of former members talking about how they were basically a fabricated band designed by Malcolm McLaren to promote his clothing store, Sex. They were specifically modeled after the New York Dolls. Almost totally fabricated band.

I thought it was pretty clear that I was throwing in a one-off joke at the end of the comment -- I'm no historian of punk rock -- but actually, you make exactly my point. At some point the presumption was that the bands weren't manufactured, but somewhere between The Monkees and Milli Vanilli, our cynicism about music reached critical mass.

But rather than increasing our level of scrutiny, we've degenerated so far into self-criticism that mainstream success itself is de facto "selling out," music be damned. The criticism of indie music is precisely that it isn't measured by quality but by lack-of-popularity -- i.e., "indie cred" is measured by the same yardstick it purports to reject, just in reverse.
posted by spiderwire at 3:21 PM on November 16, 2006


Look spiderwire, I'm not even on your lawn.

I'm on your lawn, callin' out your meloys.
posted by spiderwire at 3:23 PM on November 16, 2006


spiderwire: Ah! A thousand pardons. I see the joke now but did not at first.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:36 PM on November 16, 2006


NB: it's pronounced 'toy-n.'
posted by Football Bat at 5:47 PM on November 16, 2006


I mean, seriously, you could throw The Decemberists in a cage match with the Sex Pistols, and give them the entire Arcade Fire, the Fiery Furnaces, and Wilco as backup, and you'd still be scrubbing indie entrails off the ceiling for weeks afterwards.

I'll gran you that the Fiery Furnaces would wet themselves and cry in the corner, but the other 18 dudes and ladies would kick those four geezers' asses so fast it's not even fair. And Nels Cline could singlehandedly outplay the Pistols. I mean, seriously.

Jokes aside, the review's author is pretty insecure in attacking Carson in the comments rather than letting his work stand on its own merits, questionable though they may be.
posted by kyleg at 10:30 PM on November 16, 2006


You don't get to do hypothetical cagematch rounds with their current incarnations, or all my guys would just be corpses fuelled by heroin and crystal meth. I want the Sex Pistols in their prime, plus maybe Ozzy on tag-team to bite some people's heads off. Them hipsters have skinny little necks.

I mean, seriously, you think they'd have a chance? Wilco? The Arcade Fire? They can even have their one-man-band Final Fantasy (their violinist) to be a meat shield. They're friggin' Canadians.

You'd put that up against a drug-crazed Sid Vicious? Johnny Rotten? That dude's taken on mobs before. The Ramones? C'mon, lets see what you've got. As soon as we get a strategy to deal with Colin Meloy's Banshee wail, we're ready to bring the pain.

You know, we really should do a celebrity deathmatch, Hipsters vs. Those They've Appropriated. That'd be some fun stuff.
posted by spiderwire at 12:31 AM on November 17, 2006


This word, "hipster"... I think it's time for it to die.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:54 AM on November 17, 2006


Big Decemberists fan here, but what bothers me more about this article is:

There appear to be less than 2,000 people here.

I'm sure he means fewer than 2,000.

Also, if I could get a definite answer from somebody on how to pronounce Tain, it would be greatly appreciated.
posted by naoko at 3:30 PM on November 17, 2006


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