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Friday, October 19, 2007

It’s Class, Stupid

posted by on October 19 at 11:58 AM

Slate’s Carl Wilson on Sasha “Stephin Merritt Doesn’t Care About Black People” Frere-Jones’ much discussed recent essay in the New Yorker: “It’s Not Just Race. It’s Class.”

Ultimately, though, the “trouble with indie rock” may have far more to do with another post-Reagan social shift, one with even less upside than the black-white story, and that’s the widening gap between rich and poor. There is no question on which side most indie rock falls. It’s a cliche to picture indie musicians and fans as well-off “hipsters” busily gentrifying neighborhoods, but compared to previous post-punk generations, the particular kind of indie rock Frere-Jones complains about is more blatantly upper-middle class and liberal-arts-college-based, and less self-aware or politicized about it.

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so what kind of music do low-income, trade-working people listen to? im asking honestly. country? hiphop? britney spears?

Posted by jz | October 19, 2007 12:41 PM

JZ, ???

I don't think Carl Wilson's talking about the listeners here as much as the artists themselves. Not to defend Wilson's statement, since there are plenty of lower income people making the same type of independent rock, although it may tend more towards hardcore.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | October 19, 2007 12:58 PM

Yes, Wilson does use the word "fans", but I think his greater point is targetting the artists.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | October 19, 2007 12:59 PM

he uses the phrase "musicians and fans."

but maybe youre right, MWF. so the question is what kind of music are lower income-earners making? i take a look around seattle and the "indie rockers" i know dont own condos, or even cars.

"indie rock" is a stupid term, then. what were really talking about is "poor white people rock." or something.

this has turned into a really weird conversation.

Posted by jz | October 19, 2007 1:17 PM

This should be probably be filed under East Coast Music Journo Bullshit. :D

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | October 19, 2007 1:22 PM

I just can't stop it!

OK, now to infer from all of the above.

* SFJ wins in the publicity-for-SFJ finals once again
* Carl Wilson makes good point, but also misses some crucial counterarguments.
* Rich kids make indie rock today.
* Poorer kids make indie rock today, too.
* Many poor kids made indie rock yesterday before it was called indie rock.
* A few rich kids made indie rock yesterday but plenty of them formed labels to put it out, or had richer parents help them out.

So, summing that all up, more rich people are making indie rock than they are releasing it, and one ex-indie rock journalist knows how to rile people up whether it's his intent or not.

Isn't that profound?


Posted by matthew fisher wilder | October 19, 2007 1:30 PM

It's hard, no impossible, to deny that indie rock is not dominated by privilaged white kids. Look around. Do you see black, hispanic, or asian kids at Arcade Fire, Decemberist or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah shows?

Posted by Smash Yr Head | October 19, 2007 1:33 PM

@7--thats hardly a revelation.

Posted by jz | October 19, 2007 1:38 PM

I know, but it's frustrating none the less.

Posted by Smash Yr head | October 19, 2007 2:01 PM

"i take a look around seattle and the "indie rockers" i know dont own condos, or even cars."

But they usually come from backgrounds where their parents or families are doing pretty well--or at least middle class. And that allows many indie musicians to spend time on their not-so-lucrative bands and easy lifestyles. They can be slackers because they have something to fall back on.

They don't have the same kind of urgency that produced the punk and grunge movements, where musicians used their bands and music as an escape from their poor, blue-collar backgrounds and the boredom and problems associated with it. They had something to rebel against.

Posted by Chalupa | October 19, 2007 2:17 PM

we are all just grains of sand in this hourglass of life, brah

Posted by Brandon | October 19, 2007 3:41 PM

People get paid to write that shit. Wow.

Posted by Jason Josephes | October 19, 2007 4:32 PM

So what exactly do SFJ and Carl Wilson want indie rock to do? Can't they just not listen if the Arcade Fire isn't what they want to hear? I'm very confused.

Posted by Abby | October 19, 2007 4:46 PM

Gee, people who can afford stuff usually buy or make music than those who can't.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | October 19, 2007 4:52 PM

Didn't Pulp's "Common People" frame this discussion back in 1995?

Posted by anna | October 19, 2007 7:36 PM

Arcade Fire isn't a fucking rock and roll band, first of all. Secondly, if the author really wanted to see some working class/underclass white guys bang out some traditional rock and roll, it really isn't that hard to find a bar or club any night of the week that will accommodate that wish. Truth is, she DIDN'T want to see rock and roll, she wanted to go see what all the buzz was about, and had a hard time contextualizing it.

Why is she trying to tackle 100 years of American culture in 4 pages? If I were the editor of the New Yorker, I'd have handed it back to here with the note: "Be more specific, write about what you know."

Posted by Dougsf | October 22, 2007 2:28 PM

Oops, apparently Sasha Frere-Jones is a HE, not a SHE. Doesn't really matter.

Posted by Dougsf | October 22, 2007 2:38 PM

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