Sunday, December 03, 2006

Stuff on Music

The whole "Natalie Portman (or Zach Braff) approved"-Shins critical hobby horse needs to die a violent death. I most recently read this epitaph (that's what it's meant to do, right - a sign off on the Shins?) in an article from the LA Weekly, quoted by Idolator, but it's all over the place (google the phrase Natalie Portman-approved. You'll need the dash. They always use the dash). The Zach Braff thing, while pointless, is at least more honest than the Portman one, since she was, you know, playing a character in a movie when she recommends the band to another character in the movie. More to the heart of the matter, all of these critics, whether they know it or not, are attributing the Shins' critical worthiness to their appearance in the soundtrack to Garden State. I think you can interpret this backhanded compliment as an implication that anyone who listens to the Shins is a sheep because they only like the Shins because Zach Braff included them... ah whatever. It shouldn't be particularly notable or surprising to say that the Shins would be popular had they not been included on the soundtrack for a solipsistic movie that desperately wants to be taken seriously. I guess the real problem of this write-off is that it's incredibly lazy of the reviewer, and would be even if it wasn't repeated by so many of them. It's like a sports commentator who frequently cites a player's "intangibles" as the reason he's so good. What this write-off also suggests is that the reviewer had not heard of the Shins before their appearance in Garden State, that they were not familiar with the enthusiasm the indie press greeted "Oh, Inverted World" and "Chutes Too Narrow" with, that their popularity is only attributable to their appearance in the movie, and is a sign that they have done the most odious cliche in the reviewer's chapbook - they have sold out. I have to go now. I have to read a write-up of the Decemberists, and I'll bet you five bucks that this review includes the words "thesaurus," "Neutral Milk Hotel," and, "Unlike every one else in the Universe, I never understood the Decemberists Popularity. That all changed with [The Tain/Picaresque/The Crane Wife]."


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