Young Lions

At its best, rock ‘n’ roll unites people. From the original banding of the counterculture in the 1950s to the tightness of those hippie drum circles in the Haight to Joe Punk pulling his buddy up in the pit, good rock music has the capacity to provide much-needed community to people who would otherwise might not find it.

I just interviewed Randy Randall from No Age, and this was something that he commented on. Randall wasn’t talking about rock music in specific, but about the ways in which the artistic communities in Los Angeles band together, whether it be Joe Smith running the Smell by himself or any other number of artistic projects in LA. That sense of community is so important — people united behind a common vision are more able to pull one another in encouragement towards that goal, and they’re more able to correct people within the community who begin to run counter to that goal. Of course, the sense of fraternity that comes with community fosters love for one another, which is often just as important as the goal itself. No Age is great with this stuff, and I think it’s one of the reasons that I’m so into them right now.

But back to rock music. My good friend Josh White sent me a video of Toronto’s Constantines playing in the midst of Sasquatch’s infamous 2006 hailstorm (there’s good video of Neko Case from that day, too, on a bigger stage). Constantines fall somewhere in the disjointed crack between indie and punk rock, which is evidenced (probably) by their inability to find a strong foothold. They’re too abrasive and focused and honest to be indie rockers, too experimental to be traditionally punk. In that sense, they find sonic kinship with bands like Fugazi, who straddled the same lines for similar reasons, but there aren’t many bands out right now playing rock music as interesting as the Constantines with as much passion as the Constantines.

But watch this video. When the hail starts, this strange thing happens. Nobody moves. Everyone stays. Fists start pumping. People start jumping. Arms go around one another. I’ve been to shows like this (most recently, Trail of Dead at the Spanish Moon with Josh, ironically), but they’re few and far between for those of us who traffic in the gridlocked glut that is the indie world.

What happened, indie rock? If Michael Azerrad is to be believed, the pogo and draped arm came together for your birth. Why are we not allowed to celebrate you anymore?

I know I’m not the first person to write about this (this isn’t even the first time that I’ve written about it), but indie rock may be the worst thing to ever happen to rock ‘n’ roll. If one of rock’s greatest powers is to bring people together in an emotional and open setting, the androgynous world of the scene is beginning to neuter its own.

I think that this runs deeper than just what goes on at shows. Like most neurotics, I do a great deal of thinking about why I am the way I am. At some point early in college, I stopped liking things. I don’t know when exactly it was, but I’m almost certain it was around the time that I figured out that certain cultural markers lend you a perceived air of superiority (I’ve since come to find that that air isn’t really breathable, but I’m having trouble ripping my mouth from the tank). Apply those markers and, well, you don’t have to talk to anyone who doesn’t look like you and like like you ever again. Moving to L.A. — the most materialistic, fakest city in the universe if our musicians are to be believed…I’m looking at you, Don Henley — has served to strip away, piece-by-piece, all of the things that I don’t really like. Blame it on being away from the unspoken, self-imposed pressure to live up to whatever image I crafted for myself in Baton Rouge, but living in a gigantic city and knowing nobody has helped me to become more honest with myself.

What’s my point? I’m no longer feeling the immense pressure to keep up with the trends, as Pitchfork and Stereogum deem fit to create them. I’m more willing to try new things, approach styles of music I’d written off, etc. It’s exhilirating to listen to something and realize that you don’t really like it, to read a book that you’ve never heard of and actually experience it without feeling the pressure that comes with a thousand skinny voices telling you how good it is.

Anyway, I’m sure most of you know this already. But, well, I hadn’t. Now go listen to the Constantines again.


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