Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Kids Rock

Two things have been occupying my thoughts recently.

The first started when I saw The Black Kids on the front of the New York Times Arts Section. I didn’t have a chance to read the article then – I have to stay up on the times for my job, and unfortunately that job isn’t “being an insufferable hipster” – but it’s since turned into a minor hullabaloo. Idolator chimed in, arguing against taking absolutely positive stances in favor of bands. John Darnielle put in his two cents against being absolutely absolute in any direction. And while I still haven’t read the article that started it all, I’ve been visiting the band’s myspace every so often for the last month to hear “I’m Not Going To Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You.”

The other has been Kevin Durant, and I’m convinced that the two are deeply intertwined.. First off, I swear I’m not obsessed - it’s actually not Kevin Durant per se, but Andrew Bynum’s development, the phenom that is Lebron James, and what it means to have talent and develop it.

If you haven’t heard The Black Kids yet, you should. Not just because this conversation is meaningless without the context, but because they’re pretty good. They borrow liberally from the Factory Records playbook, throwing in some Robert Smith vocals over amateurish guitar strumming and shout along hooks that all get to the point, if not with subtlety, with a whole bunch of fun.

But this band is not ready for the NBA. When I started reading up on basketball, and Kevin Durant, it took me a little while to understand thing like “Kevin Durant’s body may not be NBA ready” and “Kobe is in the prime of his career,” but now I’m starting to see how the connections between sports and music may go deeper than blog posts like these and explaining “sophomore slump” records.

In the blog buzz era, where there really isn’t enough time to hear every band that crosses the internet radar, there really isn’t much room left for nuance. Bands get lumped into good and bad dichotomies because if you equivocate on good, people will move on to listen to the unequivocally good, and most writers enjoy writing hate pieces too much to leave the benefit of the doubt open for a band without swiftly shutting it behind them. So where does this leave bands like The Black Kids - band with a lot of potential that hasn’t quite gotten there yet?

In the NBA, they’d draft them high and develop them. In the old music industry, they’d have developed locally on their own, maybe reaching beyond by touring in the style made famous more by Our Band Could Be Your Life than Almost Famous. Or maybe gotten signed to a major and done the latter. Who knows? But in the new music industry, they’re pushed into the big leagues before they’re ready, exposed to the cold harsh light of standards they can’t and really shouldn’t be expected to meet, and we wait for their failure. There’s probably an NBA reference here that I could be making, (the restrictions that led to the 2007 Draft Class were instituted for a reason, I suppose) but my hoops knowledge isn’t there yet.

I’m not saying we should go backwards – there’s a lot I like about the state of music today, especially compared to the way it used to be – but I do think it’s time to rethink how we talk about bands, and the standards we hold artists to while they’re still developing their talent. While music history is littered with debut albums that shattered everything we thought we knew about the medium, we’re not even expecting bands to do that. We’re expecting them to do it with the first demo we here from them on Myspace.

By now, I take it you’ve listened to The Black Kids, and you’ve probably got your thoughts on the songs, but put those aside for a minute. Now think about what this band could sound like on their first full length. Think about what it could sound like when they tighten up the beats and make the arrangements go somewhere, but keep the fun and the energy. Think about what it will sound like when you’re pushing those nifty bass lines through something other than your computer speakers. And think what will happen when that bass player realizes he can play half the notes and be twice as awesome. Pretty sweet, right?

1 comment:

Brendan K. said...

For anybody looking for the Black Kids' EP, "Wazard Of Ahhhs" can be found here for free: