An Idolator Real Talk Special Report: The Black Kids Hype Must Be Stopped

One of the worst things about the earnest nature of music blogs at the moment–whether giants like Stereogum and Brooklyn Vegan or some kid happily posting up uncleared MP3s, where most copy amounts to recycled press releases or “OMG! Music is so awesome!” if it expresses any sort of opinion at all–is that it’s now gauche to call out a crock. You get called a “reactionary” or a “hater” and these pushovers want to know why you can’t just relax and enjoy the bounty of an era where every new band is more mindblowing than the last. But the wheels-within-wheels meta-coverage of Black Kids, the latest blog-crush turned (almost) real-world hype, has forced us to say something about this pathetic state of affairs. Because Black Kids are some bullshit. And it’s not even their fault. It’s our fault, which is to say the fault of bloggers and writers. Because right now no one should even know who Black Kids are.

I had planned to write this over the weekend, and a lot of what I’m about to say already started to slip out in my post about day five of CMJ. Hell, it’s been written about elsewhere on Idolator, like Maura’s post about the Oxford American article on blog hype, and we’re hardly the only bloggers to voice similar concerns over the last few years. But after this morning’s New York Times hit the doorstep, it feels like it all bears repeating. Loudly. If they’re not killing music, which is sky-is-falling horseshit, then blogs are killing certain bands, mostly indie rock bands, one at a time, by acting like a surrogate network of Lou Pearlmans forcing kids without the chops or songs into the hard-touring, hard-interviewing, hard-pressed-to-come-up-with-material spotlight. And the hosannas heaped on what amounted to middling performances from a group (Black Kids) that should have been third on a five-band bill playing a small bar in a second-tier city feel like people trying to save face, and they’re an excellent example of what makes the whole “blog band” enterprise rancid and ridiculous and potentially unstoppable.

Many of you are probably sitting there grousing to yourselves that you don’t even know who Black Kids are or at least what they sound like, but isn’t that par for the course in a climate where a four-song demo is ripped from a band’s control and claimed the second coming in major newspapers and magazines (and Pitchfork counts if anything does these days), the blog dominoes falling one after the other? Black Kids may have evolved into something interesting in a year or two, but right now, at an impossible early peak of popularity, they’re half-formed at best. Despite the routine and baseless praise, Black Kids’ music is just a collection of indie-pop cliches–basslines ripped off from Peter Hook or James Jamerson, sloppy drumming, rudimentary guitar heroics, and the melodic fallacy that going “la-la-la” in a unsion shout qualifies you for Brill Building canonization. Like most bands still feeling their way around a practice space and each other, they’ve mashed these signifiers together to quickly write their first clutch of songs to see if it all works. And unsurprisingly, it’s all still very much undigested.

Which makes the hype the usual consumer fraud, and Jon Pareles’ half-hearted contribution to the hype someone turning a dispassionate eye to a real problem for young bands. In his defense, as a longtime critic for one of the biggest dailies on the planet, Pareles probably (rightly?) doesn’t feel very distraught by the state of online journalism or the vagaries of being a band in the era of online journalism. But I do, and I gather anyone reading this site regularly does as well. As for his critical evaluation of the band, while the article mostly allows him to turn that dispassionate eye to the larger issue of blog-hype, he still arrives at the conclusion that Black Kids are “a pretty good band with more than its share of blogger-friendly hooks” and “unpolished but immediately likable.” Which is faint, somewhat incoherent praise–what the hell are “blogger-friendly hooks”?–but praise nonetheless. Hell, the earlier Times blog report on the band reads like praising an invalid for not shitting their pants.

But the article is also a major news outlet at least stabbing at most of the problems afflicting indie rock and online criticism at the moment, even if Pareles doubles back on himself repeatedly–bloggers are usually there to puncture hype, but not always, and so on–and some of his assertions verge on laughable: “Lately, as downloaded songs tear apart albums and one-hit wonders come and go, indie rock has been one of the few zones where audiences stay loyal; they actively seek out bands, stay with them and give their music some undivided and repeated attention.”

What kind of madness is this? Blog-era indie fans are among the most promiscuous music listeners around, and it’s precisely this insatiable need for new bands among both fans and blogs desperate for more content that’s forced Black Kids into this position. For every major band that fits Pareles’ description like the Arcade Fire, where fans tape their photos to their lockers like they were Soulja Boy, there is an endless progression of “important” next big things to be forgotten about with the next iPod cull. The genre maybe have always been crowded with nonentities, but now it feels overpopulated with “bands to watch” to the point of polluting its own ecosystem, with listeners acting like game wardens mercilessly thinning the herd once they become bored. Most of these bands, even the ones more technically accomplished or even “interesting” than Black Kids, are obviously less than deserving of the attention. And yet it’s almost hard not to feel bad for them, considering that if they get written about in July, they’ll be forgotten by Christmas. (This is not exactly restricted to new, unsigned, or unknown bands either. Just ask Bjork, who apparently released an album this year.) It’s a “one chance to blow” kinda deal, with the idea of a band refining or improving or changing a distant memory from an era with, you know, albums and junk.

And above and beyond the current vogue for conflicted, confused blog-hype trend pieces, the problem is really that Mr. Pareles–or anyone, really–shouldn’t be writing about Black Kids right now, at least not writing about them as the linchpin in a larger narrative or calling their derivative sketches some of the year’s “best new music” with a straight face. They’re a minor league band unfortunately aggrandized into a position of prominence that their music can’t support. The problem is that it’s all minor league bands aggrandized into a position of prominence these days, having the life immediately sucked out of them by the two-month (and shrinking) press cycle. “Organic” growth on the part of a band–i.e. getting better and building an audience by touring and recording–is actually denied them when the blog ankle-biters swarm in, unless the band is refusenik enough to extricate themselves from the whole process. And obviously most aren’t. And the kind of indie/indie-pop virtues that Black Kids trade on–unskilled but earnest bands playing against the limits of their abilities–have no place in the rather ruthlessly “professionalized” world of insta-attention, where you have to grow-up into a Totally Freakin’ Mind-Blowing Band within months, sometimes weeks.

Or maybe more accurately those indie-pop/rock values become poisonous when transplanted to the music blog world. We all know that indie bands like Black Kids once thrived in supportive–cranks might say codependent–small city music communities for minor audiences. But these bands shrivel under the gaze of national press scrutiny, if there was any “scrutiny,” and that kind of uncritical, codependent support takes on ugly dimensions when it’s coming from “tastemakers” immediately pushing bands into the arms of major labels and MTV News pieces. Bands need someone calling them on their shit to improve past the status of a hobby. Empty boosterism is fine on the level of bands playing house parties, but it feels almost cruel to watch its effects on suddenly “important” young bands in 2007 and depressing to watch its effects on the musical landscape of 2007. And calling it criticism with a straight face is the biggest canard of the blog era.

As for what to “do” about it, well, you’ve got me. There’s a growing feeling that you can’t fight city hall, especially when, as a music writer, it’s almost impossible to not feel like part of the problem in a climate where writing positively about any new band feels suspect. I don’t like to talk about writing for Pitchfork because it’s unseemly, and because I don’t want to turn into Sasha Frere-Jones desperately trying to turn his old band in a major plot point. But in this case I feel like it’s at least somewhat germane, and otherwise it would be the BNM elephant in this tiny room. Whatever the outlet, I spent most of this year writing only about records I loved, under the assumption that life was too short and word counts were too limited to waste time on crap. As a result, I piled up a lot of raves, including raves for a lot of new bands. At the time, it didn’t bother me, because I believed in those records and still do, but now I’m not so sure that my all-love tack wasn’t just inadvertently feeding into the debasement of popular crit. The feeling of being hyper-aware about looking like you’re tossing around indiscriminate praise is, as Mr. Pareles mentions in his piece, a worry among many writers, at least the ones with enough self-awareness to actually be concerned about such things. Which is obviously not enough.

Like I said, these worries and gripes are not new. You may have voiced them before yourself. But they need to be talked about, if only so they don’t get steamrolled by the defeatist feeling that this slack slide into international-scale boosterism is irreversible. CMJ and Black Kids weren’t any kind of Damascus moment–this has been an issue long a-brewin’–but they did remind me that we’re at a precarious point right now for the future of what some of us still call criticism. If nothing else, people always love to argue about whether or not critics and reviews are useful as a “buyer’s guide,” and many have also argued that if music is as oversaturated as everyone says at the moment, it follows that the intermediaries should be more important than ever, even if the MP3-and-no-contextual-information evidence seems to say that the converse is true. Taste is subjective, but right now there are a lot of untrustworthy voices out there, voices with little in the way of insight–hell, voices that don’t even really want to start arguments–and yet are nonetheless regarded as the New Critics, at least among those old media types with the power to anoint such empty titles.

It’s easy to have a lot of friends when you don’t stand for anything–again, having opinions is called “hating” these days–and it’s equally easy to look like you’re merely out to snarkily puncture hype with no stance of your own when commenting on reviews and trends. But for the bands’ sakes–which means for the listeners’ sakes, since they can only benefit by a band actually getting, you know, good–a moratorium on slobbering praise, at least when it comes to newborn bands like Black Kids, needs to be imposed by those with the kingmaking abilities. Or maybe listeners just need to start imposing some sort of fine on the “critics.” Or maybe people just don’t feel ripped off when confronted by the bland realities of bands like Black Kids because they know there will be another mediocre train along soon enough that will at least entertain them until the end of the semester.

  • heyzeus

    If it’s any consolation, I neither know who the Black Kids are, nor do I give a rat’s pecker.

  • Jess Harvell

    P.S. Saying “I’ve never read Ear Farm before” should not be construed as some kind of a snotty diss towards the site. (We obviously agree about one thing at least.) There’s a lot of blogs to miss, but as Mr. Fennessey pointed out above, it’s part of our job to keep up.

  • HomefrontRadio

    This is why my life-long interest in music has finally waned in the last two years. Critics single out every band as great, therefore you don’t know which opinions to trust, especially as I feel you have to live with an album for a while before you can honestly judge it.

    I must admit, when I first finally heard the White Stripes after a long period of hype-frenzy, I pissed myself laughing. It had to be a put-on, right?

    I’d single them out as possessing the biggest gap between talent and ability, and the critical accolades that are piled upon them, but then I heard Art Brut, (who are a perfect illustration of this story, since they seem to have been Pumped and Dumped by Bloggers).

    Modern indie rock is dire enough that it has me questioning 80′s indie rock, and discovering bands like R.E.M. weren’t that great either – they just happened to sound better than 80′s mainstream rock, which was particularly putrid at the time.

  • Anonymous

    @Matthew Perpetua:

    I meant that if this was a pre internet time, Nickleback’s sales would be even higher than they are now and that Black Kids doesn’t get downloaded for free one tenth as much as Nickleback gets downloaded ilegally. Anyway, who really cares about Knickleback or what I think anyway? I thought this was about how much bloggers suck. Ehh. F*ing bloggers.

  • Anonymous

    oy, I didn’t mean to sound so bitchy up there – look, plain and simple my point is that there ARE honest blogs out there, there ARE critical blogs out there, you just have to look a little harder for them, that’s all. it’s not fair to write off every blogger as a gvsb/music slut/stereogum wannabe, pen-and-notebook wielding fanboy/girl with a boner for the next big up-and-coming band. that’s just not the case. ‘s all I’m sayin’.

  • sleuthee

    ‘writing about what you love’ – that is i think the biggest fallacy that’s affecting criticism right now (not just music, but all over the place). that’s precisely not what criticism is about. to my mind it seems like the internet as a space for criticism in the form of blogs,online zines, etc. have steered it in that direction. who knows why, maybe the egocentricity associated associated with the internet to begin with (MYspace, etc.) makes people more inclined to view their role as a critic as more of a cheerleader than anything else. then again, critics shouldn’t necessarily focus on just what’s good or just what’s bad, but on what piece of music provides them with the most interesting things to say, whether that be about music or culture in general. wilson’s new 33 1/3 book on celine dion is a good example. that book series made everyone assume it was music critics simply blowing their load on their favorite albums. wilson on the other hand used it as a forum to vet his views on music and culture more generally and i’m sure people just assumed he was positioning himself with some ironical cache by throwing platitudes in dion’s direction.

  • the rich girls are weeping

    @pgwp: Oh, dear. I wasn’t really trying to take the cop-out escape hatch. Promise! But there is a certain amount of joy in watching social darwinism at work in the music scene. I think what’s really frustrating for me is that everyone’s to blame: fanboys/girls who want to be the next Lester Bangs, every crummy 12-member band who wants to be the Next Big Thing, music execs who want to leverage blog hype into their marketing efforts, and the marketing people who work for both. It’s a terrible deafening echo chamber of horrors.

    I’ve put aside blogging for the past few months, and it’s one of the wisest things I’ve done in ages. I’m working on a way to carry the levity and slow-processing of print music writing back into my blogging — and others’ too. Who knows if I’ll be successful, however. We’ll see. (I’m hoping to be like the slow movement recently toward organic food, or something like that. Stop and listen to the music! How quaint, huh?) I’ll be like Susan Powter, y’all: STOP THE INSANITY. Go listen to that Pylon rerelease and repent for all your bloghype sins!

    (BTW, I didn’t attend a SINGLE CMJ event — not a one! — and I’m totally okay with that!)

  • gorillavsbear

    @taylor t-sides: hey! i never wield a pen or a notebook. and just so i’m clear, are you saying that when a blog isn’t critical, then by default, it isn’t being honest?

  • the rich girls are weeping

    @gorillavsbear: I hate to be this way, but a lot of blogging is heavy on the sin of omission — that is, it’s nearly 100% positive.

    That being said, on the other hand, you can say the same of a good number of print outlets, and if anyone believes that print journalism doesn’t depend on cronyism and PR, they are very naive.

  • Anonymous

    @gorillavsbear: oh geez. no, I’m not saying that. I don’t like blanket statements like that. while I do think that there are blogs who aren’t critical and aren’t honest, I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. and I’m not trying to pick a fight with you – you’re good at what you do, you’re on top of your shit and I respect you for that. look, we’ve all had all of these conversations on the board about good reviews vs. bad reviews and blog fandom and bloggers trying to be serious critics etc etc etc. my opinions were probably better voiced on there – clearly all I’m doing in these comments is putting my foot in my mouth, so I’m stopping right here.

  • scott pgwp

    “are you saying that when a blog isn’t critical, then by default, it isn’t being honest?”

    I know the question wasn’t directed at me, but my own response is that when a blog isn’t being critical, it isn’t trustworthy.

    Honestly I think the first mistake many people make(including me, even within this very post), is even deigning to attach a word like “critic” to “blogs,” as if writing words about bands is equivalent to being a music critic (amatuer or not). There are blogs–maybe they’re popular, maybe they’re not–that are simply nothing more than fans. You can’t fault them for that, though their thoughts on music are ultimately not very interesting to me.

    Part of the problem is that, because blogs are inherently a medium that requires the ability to write–even if only “listen to this!”–people let any old blog with words on it (rather than thought)somehow dictate the trends. And then we start griping about the state of “criticism.”

  • Pop Cesspool

    Can you do this for Vampire Weekend, too?

  • the rich girls are weeping

    @Pop Cesspool: OMG, did you notice, Black Kids killed all the Vampire Weekend buzz!??!! Now, there’s an upside to this after all!

  • Bazooka Tooth

    Every jort wearing douche in Jacksonville is huffing these guys (and gals) collective dong big-time!
    And that’s not just speculation– i live here.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure what all these words are about, but I really like that “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You” or whatever.

  • C.R.E.A.M.

    Jess = agonized, pseudo-intellectual, tiresome.

    cut it out. it’s a blog. amuse us, blogger!

  • hotshot

    For the record, I kinda dig the Cure vibe Black Kids is putting out there. And I really dig Arcade Fire, too (sorry, THERICHGIRLSAREWEEPING, if that makes me so 2005, even though they put out an album this year…)

    But I work as a critic in this industry, in a town with very little live music, reporting on most of this junk from the very afar, sitback position at the moment. So what do I know.

    Well, I know that it’s insane to try and keep up with it. And, in most cases, it’s not worth it. I can pretty much guarantee that none of my readers know who Black Kids is. And I can pretty much guarantee that if they were to come to my town, they would hardly sell 100 tix at their show – even if I were to give them a flattering preview write-up. (Daughtry, meanwhile, set a record as the fastest sell-out in town history earlier this year. Surprise? Hardly.)

    This is not a Middle America problem. This is a critic/music nerd/blogger issue that, really, is a matter of little or no consequence to anyone but us. Is the Black Kids playing at CMJ any different than, say, a band playing SXSW? Not really. Because I would venture to say that Middle America has no idea what SXSW or CMJ means. And the scary part to all of this is that they’re the ones out there buying the records. The people I know who are genuinely interested in music tend to download their music illegally.

    And what do these music-interested people say when asked what type of music they listen to? Like I say, they say “indie rock.” Why? Because it’s an easy umbrella to put things under for non-music fans and it generally doesn’t draw the same confused response as “Well, right now, I have this song stuck in my head by this crescendo-building sometimes-Springsteen-like kinda orchestral baroque pop band out of Canada.”

  • jfury

    Nice job, Jess. I feel your exhaustion/discouragement/befuddlement/etc.

  • janine

    @gorillavsbear: If you define critical as, “exercising or involving judgment or judicious evaluation,” then it’s the only value-add you have.

    I do think it’s a niche problem that’s exacerbated by the fact that (present company maybe excepted) no one has a clear idea of what a critic’s supposed to do. Is the role to make buyers’ recommendations or interpret or contextualize or simply deliver the new to an audience or what… Print and internet critics are just some folk with opinions, though most readers need for opinions to be set in stone. The good writing, even the bad writing, is there to have a dialog with. Ideally, it wouldn’t matter who was getting overly hyped, because even hype is an interesting thing to consider.

    Have you heard the Coathangers out of Atlanta? Possibly an even better example than the Black Kids… they effin’ blow.

  • mike a

    I have to agree with therichgirls re: slow processing of music.

    Maybe it’s due to advancing age, maybe it’s due to living in the very Middle America that takes such a beating in this post, but sometime in the past couple of years I recognized “keeping up” to be futile at best, damaging at worst. Now I listen to reissues and check out new stuff at my own pace. The result? I’m way behind the curve, but I’m once again able to discover music for MYSELF, at my own pace, rather than worry about being current or not. Result: I haven’t loved music so much in years.

    I recommend falling slightly out of touch, folks. It really does make music fun again.

  • Trackback

    In Esquire, Chuck Klosterman explores the ramifications of ignoring the Harry Potter phenomenon. I haven’t read any of the books about him, nor have I seen any of the movies. I know the novels were written by a rich middle-aged British woman named J. K.

  • Bob Loblaw

    @therichgirlsareweeping: Nail, head, etc. If it’s impossible to stop the carnage, let’s just sit back and let the medics sort things out.

  • Cam/ron

    Good, intense salvo, Jess.

    The current affection for blog-fed hype is expected for a new medium. When something is brand-new under the sun in the media, a lot of people and media tastemakers see nothing but gold in it. But the overpraise of music blogs’ influence will pass over time (crossing my fingers and lighting many prayer candles at the cathedral). A lot of bloggers produce the illusion that 10 of them endorsing a band is equvilent to a million people endorsing the band. Last year’s blog-fueled “Snakes on a Plane” hype had sunk the movie and Hollywood realized that its “cult” following was actually tiny but had very loud voices. What’s interesting about the rise of music blogs is that they may soon possibly level the playing field with the print publications, if not one-up print pubs since blogs are free and more accessible. And as many posters mentioned, one professional critic’s opinion would be no more relevant than a bedroom blogger’s. That would not be the end of music criticism, but the arena would be overcrowded and noisy as hell.

  • Anonymous

    As for what to “do” about it, well, you’ve got me.

    Take down oink?

  • Maura Johnston

    @janine: Oh man, the Coathangers are terrible, and I say this as someone who was really excited when I first heard about them. But their music is just … awful! In every way! It made me long for the musicianship of, I dunno, Raooul or Skinned Teen. And it really really bummed me out when I saw them highly touted as a “chick band to watch” [tm my personal dead horses].

  • prolixrush

    @hotshot: Amen! As a fellow music writer/lover who lives in a city/state where there are more cover bands than original ones playing on any given night (and even fewer original ones from out of town), I think you rightly point out the potential irrelevance of this whole argument, especially to Middle Americans.

    BUT, I think flyover towns see a smaller-scale hype effect that may have something to do with blogs and/or Pitchfork…earlier this year, I saw Cold War Kids and Tokyo Police Club play a sold-out show on a Monday night at our local “indie” club, followed the next night by a v. v. sparsely attended show by the (less hyped but still P’fork-approved) Black Angels. I’m talking sparse like…15 people. I also observed a prepubescent crowd freaking out at the same club when Matt & Kim opened for The High Strung (remember them, the Pitchfork hater-baiters?), then saw at least 75% of them leave immediately after Matt & Kim stepped off the stage.

    I racked my brain trying to figure out if all these kids were reading Pitchfork/BV/Stereogum and forwarding links to each other or making mix tapes and trading them around or what, because where were they when Shellshag, another (better) upbeat, punkish boy/girl-couple duo from NYC, played here? Certainly not at the show…because no one was there except the promoter and his wife.

    Does anyone else see this happening in their podunk towns, too? Have you noticed any heavily blogged-about bands drawing big crowds that surprised you? Or bands you expected to pack a club not coming close? Hell, even Broken Social Scene didn’t sell out their show here last year…

  • Dodge : My Old Kentucky Blog

    quick thoughts…good read and great food for thought. it is exhausting be a blogger/music fan trying to keep up in the internet era. entertaining your audience on a daily basis is a pressure-filled and occasionally fun-sucking gig.

    i like Mike A’s attitude about falling a little out of touch to be happy with music again. i wonder if i could do it.

    i think blogs don’t lose credibility/trustworthiness for only focusing on the positive if we keep in perspective that they are just blogs…started for the enjoyment of music and being a fan. the fact that some blogs have picked up large audiences can’t wholly be used against them…I mean, most are just doing what they were doing when they first started. one of the big problems is the PR machine that now infects everything internet related. most savvy blog readers are aware of it and have become more and more cynical and skeptical of what their favorite bloggers are writing. Pitchfork and Stereogum fight it out for exclusives, and based on their traffic and relationships, they’ve pretty much taken over that market. the competition for these exclusives has led to a lot of watered down hype surrounding most of them.

    i think the fact that the more powerful/respected media outlets are paying more attention to the blogosphere and jumping on the bandwagon at times is what really expands most of the problems discussed here.

  • the rich girls are weeping

    Last words?

    @maura: OMG, The Coathangers are totes THE WORST. Utterly terrible. Really.

    @lastclearchance: I’m telling you people, this whole Oink thing kind of couldn’t come at a better time.

    @Dodge : My Old Kentucky Blog: The dominance (and struggle for exclusives and readers) of Stereogum (Corporate) and the Forkcast has done more to singlehandedly destroy the former cozy homespun DIY world of music blogging than any other single factor. Really.

  • Michaelangelo Matos

    You know . . . making an argument that has a specific target within a specific realm does not (repeat: does not) de facto obliterate every other thing that doesn’t fall into that realm. If it doesn’t apply to every band out there, that’s OK. Middle America may not care about this stuff, but that doesn’t make it “potentially irrelevant” anymore than talking about middle-American stuff that coastal folks don’t care about makes that “irrelevant,” either. Relevancies differ and vary. Different problems, different solutions. Plus-and, not either-or.

  • MrStarhead

    Excellent points, but doesn’t all this hype just mean that the American music press is turning into the British music press, which (due mostly to two competing weekly music magazines, which meant a lot of space to fill) has been hyping barely-formed bands for decades now? If I remember right, the original Strokes hype all came out of the UK, and the NME and the Guardian are both already giving Black Kids some love. Sure, this has resulted in some promising bands collapsing under the strain in Britain, but it’s also produced some great bands, too.

  • the_j

    What happened to being brief, guys? Sheesh.

    And does Idolator like anything anymore? Every single headline is negative and cynical these days.

  • Catbirdseat

    @the_j: If that’s true, THE_J, then congrats Idolators, you’ve done it! You’ve become an actual Nick Denton Gawker Media blog proper.

  • Michaelangelo Matos


  • Maura Johnston

    @the_j: you’re right. we hate everything that’s out there.

  • Trackback

    AHHHHH MAHHHH GAWWWW BOOOOOYS! by Molly Lambert Indie Rock and Comedy go together like Pinkabet and Bagoog Monamon. First Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster teamed up with Monk creator Tom Scharpling to create longform call-in improv brilliance on The Best Show on WFMU (more on them later this week).

  • Trackback

    Black Kids: your new worst enemies Something unexpected happened to me at CMJ this year: I was moved. It very nearly didn’t happen, and it was over within a couple of minutes, but it felt something like a miracle.

  • Trackback

    On Progress & Sanctimonious Douchebags by Alex Carnevale Whenever you dig in the meat of a comments section on the Oink file sharing network shutdown, you inevitably get to the prick portion: You Stole.

  • Anonymous

    word – well said jess. although i’m conflicted – i kind of find “boyfriend” kind of jazzy, but its about time someone raised a point about thinking and absorbing before posting.

    rating: 8.6

    rating of this comment: 4.3

  • Duvalian


  • Lucas Jensen

    @janine: Saw the Coathangers last night. They were much tighter. And still pretty terrible. But I’ll give them time. They could be the next X-Ray Spex. I doubt it, but, hey, weirder things have happened.

    If they wrote a song, it’d be nice.

  • Lucas Jensen

    @Dodge : My Old Kentucky Blog: Dodge, I’ll hook you up with an exclusive anytime!

  • Trackback

    In one of the most provocative pieces of music writing we’ve read this year, Jess Harvell wonders whether it isn’t time to get a little stingier with the hosannas.

  • Trackback

    Darnielle has a nice post up at LPTJ re: Jess Harvell’s “Overhype” post. Between discussions on this, Oink, S/FJ (and Carl), the Wasik piece, PGWP, and even countless others, I can’t remember there *ever* being a time when there was a mass discussion of the Scene-At-Large on this scale, and that’s…

  • Anonymous

    The staff of INDIE ROCK thanks you deeply. Best article we’ve read all year. Yes, kids, that’s

    Seriously, your article ruled. And, no, we haven’t actually heard the Black Kids and we don’t mind admitting it.

    Eternal love,

  • Anonymous

    The Black Kids are still very very new, and to be honest to understand where the hype came from, you would have to been there in Athens on the day where everyone fell in love with them. I put together the Athens POPFEST and had been hearing great things about this band that had never played outside Jacksonville. They would help out bands on my label when they were playing Jacksonville by bringing in a crowd, and giving them places to stay and so on. I checked out the myspace and the songs where there, but the recording wasn’t the best. But that Saturday at 2:00 PM during 105 degree heatwave we were having these kids got up on stage and made us all dance, and just have a great time. Sure there were some bloggers at the show, but they were there to just see some new bands, it’s not like anyone was soliciting coverage. The Black Kids just put on a great show that day, and people were so excited about it, that they went home and wrote about it. It blew up out of nowhere due to everyone who wasn’t at the fest rushing to cover what might be the next big thing. It’s great that the Black Kids will get to realy have some great opprotunities come their way now due to the hype, but it’s a bit scary to watch a band that could really be the next big thing have to live up to hype that they never really asked for. We asked them to come up and play POPFEST, and 2 PM isn’t a great slot, but they played that day opening up the afternoon showcase as if they were playing in front of 1,000 people when maybe they played to 100, as most folks hadn’t come in just yet. I hope they can keep it together and not let the hype get to them, but only time will tell. I mean I think before everyone starts dissing them, they should at least let them release a full length. mike

  • Jfrankparnell

    You think?

    Jesus. I’ve seen more timely rants in college newspapers.

    As for:
    Whatever the outlet, I spent most of this year writing only about records I loved, under the assumption that life was too short and word counts were too limited to waste time on crap. As a result, I piled up a lot of raves, including raves for a lot of new bands. At the time, it didn’t bother me, because I believed in those records and still do, but now I’m not so sure that my all-love tack wasn’t just inadvertently feeding into the debasement of popular crit.

    Lazy, is what it was. The hardest sentence to back up, in the English language, is: “I say no.”

    As for your love tack, it was feeding into your age at the time. Young (under 35?) writers have the leisure time to listen to more, therefore they love more. They’re eager, not as jaded as they’d like to think, and thus as impressionable as the artists making music like that music made by Black Kids. I can’t tell you how many albums I loved in the 90s that I haven’t listened to in nearly ten years, and won’t. I mean, when you have a half hour to blast music each day, do you pick Smashing Pumpkins’ first (and really only) album over the Boredoms’ Seadrum? The later is the obvious choice.

    In other words, start a family or buy a house or take care of a dying parent and see how little time and therefore tolerance you have for the new Jens Lekman album, aka if James Taylor used pro-tools (and I loved Lekman’s ep-collection-album). Your tastes get honed, and real fast. In turn fighting the debasement of any crit.

  • stopokaygo

    I don’t understand why music has to be tight and polished to be appreciated. Granted, the Black Kids are terrible but they’re enthusiastic, funny and understand a pop hook… even if they’re too young to realize the hooks are derivative. As its already been said, bands have to start somewhere.

  • funkytaco

    I knew of Black Kids because my brother is close to some members, and I’ve known a couple for about 15 years. Mike is right – the show @ Athens popfest was small and at 2PM. The first blog I saw about it was from ( [] )and it went from there. I doubt they expected to get hyped so much. I read these articles and find so many inaccuracies, but just like anything, a thumbs up can get the hype machine going. I for one, as a friend and supporter of one of Kevin & Reggies previous semi-sucessful band in 1997 know that they can bring in the crowds and that they know music. They’re not really new kids on the block, the band on the whole is though. But, I don’t think we need to worry about it. They are aware of the blog hype hence the comment from Reggie in NYC before “Partie Traumatic”.

    The mashup of all sorts of music is not an accident, Reggie just has an ear for it and apparently puts it in his writing and lyrics. I definitely am not on “what’s hot”. I’m the guy who would buy a record from iTunes instead of finding it on [] (which I just discovered!), and am glad that the hype is overexposing them. Exposure is exposure.

    I agree that people rehash things on the internet, but music is personal. If someone hypes it, either they like it, they think someone else might or (insert some other valid reason here). You are essentially telling people to stop liking Black Kids or give them a listen before writing about them. We all know this won’t translate into sales, but even critical feedback like this is good in my opinion. I mean, look at the Coat Hangers (the ones being hated on in the comments here) ([])

    I live in Atlanta, and according to CL, in a year they’ve gone “band of girlfriends who couldn’t really play their instruments” a year ago, to being hyped on blogs like this. Personally, I think they’re crap (saw them at Star Bar and around Cabbagetown in some art gallery, I believe), but people will always hype their scene. It’s just how things are. Idolator can’t put the cap back on this scene; it’s what the scene is about. We like Black Kids. Get over it. :)

  • Anonymous

    Do any of you like rock and metal?????

  • Anonymous

    This was an outstanding essay.

    I’m from Jacksonville, I’m acquainted with Black Kids and all of their members and witnessed their first show. Their first show was bad, to put it mildly, but at the show I witnessed the beginning flicker of a musical flame that all bands begin with. So naturally I conceded that they might be onto something. Then suddenly when they played the CMJ and received hype around the world among the online-elite, I found it oddly puzzling. As a musician in a band of my own, I wondered if there was something I was missing. But it seems very sudden (too sudden) for a band that has been in existence for little more than a year to be receiving such accolaides for what is, in all honesty, something very mediocre. Perhaps that’s what our American society has grown to expect in almost everything: stagnant mediocrity. From our schools, businesses, politicians (especially) and now our most precious entity, our music.

    I wish nothing but luck and the best for Black Kids. They’re certainly riding the wave now, but I fear that the wave is rapidly approaching the underwater reef that will doom its unwary riders to the cold waters of indie-rock oblivion once again.

    In today’s sound-bite, 30-minute culture, you can almost count on it.