Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Do Indie Rockers Love Bruce Springsteen?

Jody Rosen, as tone-deaf a music critic as there is currently writing, tries to make a play for the Arcade Fire as following in the steps of Springsteen and U2. Here's the gist:

Arcade Fire's embrace of grandiosity is decidedly on-trend. In rock, big is back—everywhere you turn these days, pop rigor and compactness is giving way to supersized sounds and ambitions.

Well, I guess it's on-trend if you've been listening to Blink 182 for the last ten years. But if you've been listening to Radiohead, Broken Social Scene, Belle & Sebastian, New Pornographers, The Decemberists, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Grandaddy or any countless numbers of other Pitchfork-reviewed bands, you'll know that the big rock anthem never went away.

Arcade Fire just finds themselves in the unique position of being the right band at the right moment, and their sound and look is right in the sweet spot: the working-class aesthetic, the Canadian internationalist (dare I say, Cirque de Soleil) vibe, the awkward, intelligent leading man, the cool band chick. Sounds more like Talking Heads or early Sonic Youth to me.

What this has to do with 80s era Bruce and U2, I have no idea. What I recall of the 80s is Bruce trading in his Jersey street cred for "Born in the USA" jingoism*, and a bloated live box set that mythologized the E Street Band and Bruce's on-stage storytelling. As for U2, it was always about Bono's ego, and as the 80s rolled along he became more insufferable and self-serious. It was only in the 90s that U2 learned to relax and have a sense of humor (I'll take Achtung Baby over Unforgettable Fire any day).

My hope for Arcade Fire is that they resist this sort of pop-culture domestication, and keep doing whatever it is they're doing. Forget easy comparisons, and false coronations. Just let them survive this success and we'll never have to suffer through the embarrassment of lyrics like "Hey little girl is your daddy home", or worship-your-elders nonsense like "When Love Comes To Town".

* Yes I know that Born in the USA was not intentionally jingoistic, but it was easily hijacked by Reagan Republicans at the time. Let's see them do that with "Black Mirror"