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Delirious With Weird

Thursday, December 23, 2004  
But not yet.

Natalie Portman, in Converse Allstars and faded jeans, listening to The Shins on big geeky headphones with little silly stickers stuck on them, covering up the name of the manufacturer, epileptic and a compulsive liar and an accidental hamster killer, never been in love with anything, falling in love in four days flat with a fucked-up Jewish wannabe-actor whose father is a psychiatrist, who accidentally paralysed his mother when he was nine and has been on lithium ever since and is emotionally numb but is having an existential epiphany and coming off the psychotropic mood-altering drugs and falling in love in four days flat, with a Nick Drake song on the soundtrack, and an acoustic version of “Such Great Heights”, and “The Only Living Boy In New York”… The debut film by writer/director/actor Zack Braff (the cute Jewish guy from Scrubs), Garden State, is the most indie film I have ever seen. My girlfriend loved it, and cried at the end when Zack and Natalie sat on the steps at the airport and he told her it was an ending but rather a beginning, and how he loved her but he was fucked-up right now and needed to go and sort himself out and then he’d come back, and he picked up his bag and went down two steps and then up the escalator (lazy bastard) and actually got on the plane before he realised he loved her and, I dunno, seized control of his destiny or something and got off the plane and went back to her. I quite enjoyed it; bits were particularly funny, especially when Natalie kept on telling Zack she couldn’t believe he wasn’t really retarded (“Do I know you?” “I don’t know, did you go to [school X]?” “No, no, from TV – aren’t you the retarded quarterback?! Oh wow! You’re not really retarded? Oh wow, I totally thought you were retarded!” etcetera etcetera). The deliberate and calculated use of music THE SHINS THE POSTAL SERVICE LOTS OF ANONYMOUS TUNELESS AMERICAN INDIE AND A BEAUTIFUL DEAD GUY WHO WAS DEPRESSED was intrusive (oh wow isn’t it cool how you can hear music when she has her big geeky headphones on and then she takes them off and it gets quieter, wow isn’t that clever, and she’s listening to THE SHINS too, that’s like, totally cool, I really love them); there was little or no character development (emotionally cold 20-something living in LA and working shit job goes back home and sees all his old friends stuck in local ruts rather than exotic ruts, discovers his “soul”, or nebulous variation thereof, by coming off psychotropics and falling in love with kooky-but-flawed girl); in fact, most of the characters remained resolutely within their nicely stereotyped boxes (emotionally cold Jewish psychiatrist father; morally ambiguous but concerned stoner friends; risqué Anne-Bancroft-esque mother having relationship with son’s friend and smoking pot); I find the syndrome-isation of emotions suspicious in the extreme (feel happy one day and sad the next? You must be bipolar! Can’t concentrate? ADHD! Concentrate too much? Autistic!); numerous plot devices were used too heavy-handedly; ah, fuck it, this isn’t a university film studies essay or a review. Garden State, as enjoyable as it was, is a very indie film, and as such it annoyed me intensely. I want to write about how much I Hate Indie.

Dom Passantino is a wise man, hear him quoth; “Indie is the soundtrack of failure, and that’s why so many of us have an attraction to it and a need to defend it. It’s like seeing someone throw stones at your psychiatrist.”

Funeral by The Arcade Fire won the Album of the Year poll at PFM, and it will be in the top ten at Stylus too. The review for it at Stylus is one of our most read ever. I bought it a few weeks ago, played it once and wrote it off as honking indie shit, quite nice if it wasn’t for the tramp yowling crap over the top of it. I thought pretty much the same about it as I thought about that Neutral Milk Hotel album from a few years ago. Dismemberment Plan I could deal with because it was electrified and funky and stole from hip hop and synth stuff and was technicolour. Arcade Fire and Neutral Milk Hotel are brown. Their covers are brown. The music contained within is necessarily brown (do the design departments at record companies not realise how much effect a simple thing like the colour brown can have on borderline synaesthetes like myself? [the colour of a record’s sleeve seeps into the music for me] Of course they do, they’re just not marketing at me!) even if it isn’t. The riff on the first track of Funeral is great, and I love how the piano is used, and the second track has some cool accordion and splenetic drums, but then the yowling tramp singing about digging a tunnel to your bedroom starts to do my nut in, much the way that the hollering tramp on the Neutral Milk Hotel record jars my nerves, and the Indie Talent Gap (meaning that you must self-consciously and deliberately sabotage your music in order to make it more- more what? Vulnerable? Loveable? Appealing to a certain type of person?) is manifest and frustrating.

Personally I consider that most people I meet everyday are completely, hideously, hopelessly insane, as mad as hatstands; people who might send their wives Christmas cards from the family pet - I would consider this insane behaviour rather than “fun” or “kooky” behaviour; religious people, as well, strike me as being irretrievably insane on a very basic and profound level. Probably most people I come across day-to-day have at least one huge, unbound and ragingly obvious chunk of completely irrational insanity in their lives to act as a coping mechanism. Indie is a coping mechanism with a flaw; it paints fantasy as reality by making the fantastical mundane (all good things in life [caveat; not all, obviously, that would be mental] make the mundane fantastical rather than the other way around [consider the difference between running away from and running away to]), meaning that people, rather than attempting to find or create the fantastical in things, wait for things to become fantastical. Creation of unrealistic expectations? Over-romanticising of faux-profound conceits in the face of actual expression of emotional sincerity. Excuse making (“I love you but I’m so fucked-up right now”). Acceptance of myth over engagement with reality. Plus the nasty little niggling aura of defensive condescension that cloaks and covers and permeates everything, the small-mindedness, the one-upmanship, the assumptions.

This is just a rant now, isn’t it? It was meant to be considered. I had considered it.

I suspect that Funeral (and the Neutral Milk Hotel record) would, after a great deal of time and effort and many listens, end up being fully enjoyable, possibly even a favourite. But I don’t know that I can be bothered to exert the required effort to get there, I don’t know if I consider it worth it anymore when, OH I DON’T KNOW, STUFF LIKE BRITNEY JUST SEEMS SO MUCH MORE IMMEDIATELY REWARDING. Speed, chaos, perpetually-enfolded surface. No depth. There is no depth. What is there no depth to? Things which are very narrow appear much deeper than things which are very wide. Proportional representation. No depth? Speed. Chaos. Can’t concentrate? ADHD. Concentrate too much? Autism. Oh the snot has caked against my pants.


12/23/2004 01:54:00 pm


Blogger Ian - 7:41 pm


Blogger Edward O - 1:10 pm

There are three good songs on the Arcade Fire album. I feel no need to pretend it's a masterwork on the basis of this. "Crown of Love" is definitely a keeper, I'll throw most of the rest out.

The reverence of the album encourages the celebration of failure.

Anonymous Anonymous - 3:29 am

No love for Love?


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Nick Southall is Contributing Editor at Stylus Magazine and occasionally writes for various other places on and offline. You can contact him by emailing auspiciousfishNO@SPAMgmail.com

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