October 7, 2008

Andrew Bird 'Oh No'

1) Andrew Bird is the kind of musician who tends to bore me. The kind who seems to have forgotten the "sex, drugs, and..." part of the mantra. You know who I mean: Chris Martin, Sufjan Stevens, Jens Lekman, the guys in Weezer or Sigur Ros, and 90% of indie-rock in the last long while. Lots of artists I enjoy. Bird seems like he fits in that soporific crowd. He's conforming to this new cliche of rock stars as well-educated, middle-class, and effeminately, vaguely elitist. They've completely thrown away the "fuck you" attitude, or even the apathy.

But I like him. At least a little. And his song 'Heretics' is a near-masterpiece.

2) His newest song 'Oh No' comes so close to being too smart (read "ironic") for its own good. Oh so very close! Self-consciousness has a shameful track record of diluting rock and roll, and this song is millimeters from crossing that line. Like I said, he's not the kind of guy I expect to do something interesting.

But, it turns out it's a great track. Close to terrible, but really great. And it has vocal harmonies worthy of Emmylou Harris. Woe.

Listen to it here.

Or, fill up on the opposite: something interesting in every sort of rock and roll way here or in this incredibly compelling performance. Good, aggressive, rebellious, over the top sexy or drugged up rock.

This is also delightful (for Bon Iver and/or Lykke Li fans), and falls comfortably and properly somewhere in the middle.


jon said...

i'll have to listen to those.

i can see what you are saying about the "new cliche of rock stars as well-educated, middle-class, and effeminately, vaguely elitist"! but don't take them away from me! ha! i prefer them to the other crowd.

i like chris martin and sufjan stevens!

i like well-educated and "effeminite" (whatever that is)!

middle class has nothing to do with it, but i guess that's who i identify with too.

regardless, rebellion went mainstream. everyone can rebel. i'm not particularly impressed in rebellion for rebellion's sake. but that's just me.

i do like it when music has an edge, and pushes some boundaries even, but for my taste it has to be authentic, and even then i won't enjoy it much if it is just wallowing in the same old "sex and drugs" life. not only is that artictically too easy, too formulaic, it is just something i don't really relate to and so the songs are just sort of lost on me.

by the way, i like that you reviewed that song by saying it was "close to terrible, but really great"!

(to carry over another conversation, that's probably how i felt about amelie. in other hands or even done again it would be awful. but i loved it and thought it was perfect.)

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

I won't take them away from you. ha! I like some of those artists a lot. A lot a lot.

But I do worry that rock is losing its "edge." On the one hand we have the fabricated attitudes and styles of top 40 pop-rock and all its cliche rebels, and on the other we have a slough of artists falling into this equally-repulsive Nice Guy category.

I like Sufjan Stevens (even Coldplay) as much as the next guy. But I fear these Nice Guy artists are operating from that place not out of honesty so much as social conditioning.

My skepticism about musicians like Andrew Bird is a skepticism about myself. "Well-educated, middle-class, and effeminately, vaguely elitist" is probably a good way to describe myself, but I'm not entirely comfortable with that. I'd like to move past being such a well-rounded person.

jon said...

i see what you are saying. comfort is probably something we should be suspicious of.

what will "edge" look like, i wonder, since the past definition of "edgy" has been overdone and/or marketed?