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Friday, October 19, 2007

The J Word

posted by on October 19 at 10:48 AM


The thesis statement from Ross Simonini’s feature on Akron/Family:

Five years ago, Akron/Family’s giddy, earnest-as-a-schoolboy genre-hop rock would’ve gotten them pegged as a jam band, a pejorative from which there is no redeeming. These days, like other clans of bearded, rural-born musicians, Akron/Family—who hail from Pennsylvania and have never been to Ohio—earn the fortunate if vague tag of “freak folk.”

You people that like this band: You’re all a bunch of daisy-sniffing, patchouli-wearing, hula-hooping hippies! HA!

Really though, the point of Simonini’s article is that such divisive thinking is beyond futile; it’s likely to deter you from discovering great music. One man’s freak-folk outsiders are another man’s barefoot jam band. Classification is for the IRS, taxonomists, and record store clerks. Preference based on other people’s classification is for suckers.

Akron/Family play tonight at the Crocodile with the Dodos.

RSS icon Comments


Good point JZ, but there is some usefulness to ascribing a label to a band, so as to seperate the apples from the oranges. Your job would be a lot harder if you had to describe in detail a band's sound all time, instead of using a couple words as a reference. The problem is, at what point does "band taxonomy" get out of hand? Also, there are some terms which are used only in a pejorative way, and i'm glad you pointed that out too. "Jam band" isn't a good term, neither is "freak folk" for that matter, and that's way more pejorative if you ask me. I would call them "campfire music" - or something.

Posted by E | October 19, 2007 11:00 AM

I think I can smell the bass player's feet just by looking at this photo.

Posted by Sally Struthers Lawnchair | October 19, 2007 11:05 AM

@1--you know what though? i steer clear of those shortcuts whenever i can. youre right, it makes my job harder, but i think it makes my writing clearer and more useful when i dont fall back on other peoples nomenclature.

funny, though, that "freak folk" has become a pejorative in your perspective. i dont agree w that. and there again were faced w the problem of these tags--they dont necessarily mean what we think they mean.

Posted by jz | October 19, 2007 11:21 AM

True true JZ, and you already know i'm a fan of your writing. The fact that you tend to avoid stupid genre-ish terms is good -- it makes you a critic and not a pundit.
"Freak folk" sounds kind of scary to me, honestly, so when you talk about terms that steer people away from music, this was the first example that popped into my head. Also, do they want to be referred to as freaks? Maybe Devendra does, but I don't know, the Akron guys seem nice and might not appreciate that association.
One term I really like, and as far as i know the Stranger invented (trent moorman?) is: BEARDROCK. I love it!

Posted by E | October 19, 2007 11:32 AM

ha! beardrock rules! its like bedrock but with more letters.

few musicians care about someone elses stupid punditry--even people w beards who rock. having interviewed probably a hundred musicians by now, and asking them about tags applied to their music, most shrug it off, like its not their concern. most, however, hate the term "jam band" bc it limits their appeal to college kids and stoners.

Posted by jz | October 19, 2007 11:46 AM

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