Friday, October 19, 2007

Indie "painfully white" shock

Some years ago now, I was talking with a friend when I made the observation - without any judgement - that their musical tastes were surprisingly, completely, white. At first, they were outraged, so I asked them to tell me which records they owned by black artists.

After a couple of minutes flicking through their vinyl collection, they triumphantly emerged with The Boo Radley's drummer.

It's undeniable that indie music has always been predominately a white pursuit - less so now, perhaps, than in the 1980s and 90s, but even so, you'd still be rummaging around for "drummers from the Boo Radleys" if you were trying to draw up a list of non-white indie stars.

Which makes it so surprising that Sasah Frere-Jones' New Yorker piece pointing this out has caused such a stink.

Although, of course, that wasn't Frere-Jones' central point: he was more moaning that indie rock isn't very rocky anymore, which seems even more pointless: it's true that the Arcade Fire aren't very much like the Rolling Stones and thus even less like Little Richard, but does that matter much?

The article is nothing more than an old man mumbling that the kids today aren't as good as the kids were when he was a kid; he even complains that you can't understand the words:

Indie-band singers abandoned full-throated vocals and began to mumble and moan, and to hide their voices under noise.

If Frere-Jones hadn't thrown in a spurious race angle, nobody would have given it a second look. Which, we heartily suspect, is exactly what Frere-Jones had in mind when he introduced this as a racial debate rather than the lament of a lost youth.


eyetie said...

And he didn't even have a Nobel Prize to make his ideas seem even remotely credible. This is turning out to be a bad week to be black: first you find out that you're less intelligent and then you find out you can't even make it in the indie world (unless you're gay cf. David McAlmont, Bloc Party or Skunk Anansie).

Anonymous said...

but even so, you'd still be rummaging around for "drummers from the Boo Radleys" if you were trying to draw up a list of non-white indie stars.

Dr Phibes & the House of Wax Equations? Admittedly, it did take me a couple of minutes mentally scanning through my record collection circa 1991. Oh, and Debbie Smith.

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