How Sasha Frere-Jones Lost His Mojo

If I had more time, I’d respond with a lengthy and airtight argument. Alas, the deadlines beckon. So, for the moment, let me just say that Sasha Frere-Jones is full of shit, that indie rock hasn’t entirely lost its soul, and that Carl Wilson offers a pretty good response echoing many of the problems that I had with Frere-Jones’s tone-deaf attempt at being contrarian. (Latter link discovered via Richard)


  1. Also, aesthetic racial quotas are still * racial quotas*…I’d like to see a mainstream critic try to get away with the equivalent argument coming from the opposite direction. Not to mention the untold cultural damage generated by assigning “black” and “white” values to certain styles/poses/attitudes in music. About time to move beyond the framework of worldviews codified on the plantation, wouldn’t you say?

  2. Okay, the essay was stodgy, but let’s be honest: Pavement is the most overrated band of the last two decades. Lazy, tuneless guitar squiggles…yawning vocals…bongwater lyrics that read like a toked-up 16 year old trying to mimic Ginsberg at his absolute worst…and, of course, critical darlings. Their “I don’t care if you like it” attitidue doesn’t exactly charm you into dropping any bank on their records, no?

  3. When a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Everyone’s a music critic, but 19 out of 20 can’t sing “Happy Birthday” and tell you if they are flat or sharp.

    I hear the wail of a lot of tone deaf defensive white boys. Sasha made some salient points, including the accessability of rap to non-black singers. If you haven’t noticed the loss of soul in rock, you can’t hear. And most of you can’t.

    Did YOU ever see Otis Redding, sit in the first few rows for Jimi, or catch Janis on a good night? Bill Graham and others presented great bands by the hundreds, and almost all of them had links to blues, soul, and beyond.

    Dub reggae has a vibrant pulse because roots music and artists have collaborated with European sensibilities…sound studios are thriving in New Zealand, Austria, Germany, Wales, Canada, and, oh my, even New York City. You have Wackies…and you have the Subatronic Sound System with Treasure Don. Hear the richness, the funk, the achingly beautiful combinations of new sounds and melodies. Why, you can even dance to it.

    Does it have that swing? That’s what Sasha was talking about. Otherwise, it may not mean a thing.

    Greg Tellis

  4. Dude, I saw a Sly Dunbar live show on the 101, his band and audience were all pretty much white boys. I love dub but that shit is way more played out than Indie Rock. SFJ never mentioned TV on The Radio, or any other black people that make “Indie Rock” and he left out any reference to the Haitian heritage of one of Arcade Fire’s main members. His use of bass-lines and the blues as hallmarks of black music was similarly reductionist. Did Fela play the blues? Did Prince have deep bass-lines? Does dub in Austria swing? Probably not. I also don’t know why SFJ feels the need to name drop his band and talk about his own insecurities about not being able to sing and being a wack MC. We can already infer all that by the fact that he’s a music critic anyways.

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