Saturday, June 13, 2009

Wavves Defense Society and the Tweedy Paradox

I've had it with the indie rock blogeratti. One thing I've learned in the past couple of months, as I've had the headline updates on my culture blogroll is that pitchfork and the like are really just tabloids that post mp3s. And this nonsense about Wavves is the perfect example. I hate to even continue the nonsense by posting links, but for those of you that don't pay attention, here is a pretty good summary of what went down, some further creative googling will help you figure out the rest if need be.

For me, this was mostly a repetitive exercise in eye-rolling, sighing in boredom each time a new "news" blurb would pop up, each time feeling a little bad for young Nathan that he was getting the indie equivalent of the Susan Boyle treatment. But then Jared Swilley jumped in the mix. Yeah, that Jared Swilley - douche extraordinaire, he of staged homosexual stage encounters to garner fawning rock "press" coverage and of repeated and largely unpunished acts of violence, including a well-covered one at their last show in Cleveland at the Beachland. Suddenly, according to Pitchfork, Mr. Swilley's commentary on music biz professionalism is important. This is like when Amy Winehouse said Susan Boyle needed to go to rehab, only even more hypocritical (if that is possible).

At this moment, my oft-irritating underdog crusader empathy button was pushed, and I became a Wavves defender. But lets be honest, this isn't like when I became a Ben Affleck defender after everyone started shitting on him at the same time. Wavves is a better-than-average artist in his genre - dude isn't Beethoven or Sonic Youth, but neither is he trying to be. His work stands as a relatively excellent artifact of a particular time and scene in California music and - let's be honest, here - Wavvves is not half bad. In fact, as a whole, it is a pretty good album, as enjoyable as the recent Crocodiles release and arguably more ambitious. There are several good tunes on the album ("Beach Demon," "To the Dregs," "Beach Goth") and a few near-greats ("So Bored," "Weed Demon," and especially "No Hope Kids"). Plus, the album is infused with a sense of humor that is both clever and self-aware without being self-reverential. (And, yes, I mean self-reverential, not self-referential.)

So there it is. I'm in the pro-Wavves vanguard. He comes to town, I'll be there. He announces a reorganized European tour, I'll cheer.

In the meantime, now that I've made up my mind about that, I'm back to being torn about the Black Lips. Along with my deluxe Stevie Wonder greatest hits set and the Thao with the Get Down Stay Down We Brave Bee Stings and All album, 200 Million Thousand is my current favorite high-energy long-distance driving album. It is, critically speaking, one of the best I've listened to this year, and after getting over my disappointment at the aforementioned stage antics, I had come around to the notion that they could be a band I listened to without seeing live. But this recent Wavves thing, as minor as it might be, makes it clear - these guys suck as human beings and I really have a hard time supporting them. In this hyper-mediated era, it is impossible to separate art from artist, and for me both matter, if not equally, extensively. I call it the Tweedy paradox: does one support the art if one cannot stand the artist? Usually, this is easy, as obnoxious people like Scott Stapp and Bono also produce cultural products I wouldn't want to listen to anyway, and even Jeff Tweedy has passed the output tipping point where I don't want to buy the new Wilco album because the last one was so bad, regardless of all the personal stuff. (I'll add Bob Dylan to this example, too.) But the Black Lips are at the point where I was with Wilco when Sky Blue Sky came out: I really don't like the artist (in that case, Tweedy, but in this case Swilley and the rest of the band), but I really dig the work right now.

I'm going to be torn with their next album comes out.

And to Wavves, in the wise words of one of the dudes that posted in the comments section of your own blog: Fuck the haters, man. Your shit is rad.

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