The Null Device

Twee will eat itself

The Architecture in Helsinki backlash begins; Rocknerd has a scathing review of their album launch at the Corner, arguing that bourgeois middle-class kids have no business being twee and "innocent", and should leave that to those who have won that right through hard struggle. And that their stage presence sucked.
The innocence that Jonathan Richman and Brian Wilson explored came to them in brief flashes amidst the pain of trying to reconnect with a lost childhood. It went hand in hand with the madness of being lost in an emotional wilderness. It doesn't have anything to do with spokey-dokes, or windmills, or fucking ice creams. For middle-class kids to play with and fabricate that innocence - that was for Richman or Wilson, hard won and fought for - without acknowledging the pain it goes hand in hand with is reprehensible.
All in all, it's as though punk never happened. To perform and write pop music that doesn't reflect an element of the culture and society that creates it is to miss the point. You don't have to write about Redfern or Soweto, but to perpetuate a mythic 'everything-is-fine-and-dandy' theme - especially when things clearly aren't - is stupid and misguided. The best pop music alleviates your troubles without denying they exist. Architecture In Helsinki performs in some kind of kindergarten nativity bubble, with a false innocence borne of a Hallmark Cards sponsored vision of a pop utopia.

IMHO, "everything-is-fine-and-dandy" is good when it's done in a (subtly or otherwise) subversive context, with just enough being askew to suggest that that's a facade or a pathological case of denial. Radiohead's Everything In Its Right Place is one example. (Btw, did you know that a British gardening/renovations show actually used that as incidental music for the "after" sequences of rebuilt backyards? Irony's lost on some people.)

There are 8 comments on "Twee will eat itself":

Posted by: gjw Wed Mar 19 08:55:43 2003

Pfft, I'm the first to chuckle at overly twee bands, but that review's pretty pathetic. It looks like the author is taking issue with the very morals behind their musicianship - how arrogant. If AIH are trying to present some kind of image, some kind of complete "kit" of style through music, lyrics, expressions, clothing, whatever, good on them! It's what bands have been doing all along, whether it's The Smiths or Metallica.

Posted by: acb Wed Mar 19 13:07:29 2003

Compare this to white musicians pretenting to be "black" and "from da ghetto". (Think every blue-eyed boy-band R&B star in the past decade. Yes, I know they're not technically musicians.)

I think (on one level) that it's a bit off if someone whose ancestors weren't dragged in chains from Africa and whose grandparents didn't have to sit at the back of the bus sends shoutouts to all his niggaz. Whether unironic twee pop from middle-class kids is like that is another matter.

Mind you, then there's the issue of Jealousy Masquerading as Class Consciousness; or Jealousy's Australian cousin, Tall-Poppy Lopping.

Posted by: Graham Wed Mar 19 13:08:50 2003

Well, at least they're not George. But anyway, Boards of Canada do the childhood channelling thing better, recognising that it's not all ice-creams and merry-go-rounds, but also terror at a world you have not yet begun to understand.

Posted by: Peter Wed Mar 19 13:33:54 2003

Hey! I thought _I_ started the AIH backlash ;) Oh well. Mind you, this review's pretty stoopid. I just think they're fairly talentless fankids playing second-hand tweeness that I thought sucked the first time round.

Posted by: acb Wed Mar 19 13:55:44 2003

They have one good song on the CD ("Scissor Paper Rock", which goes into Stereolab/High Llamas territory); the rest feels like kids jamming in half a dozen garages. I'd say it's on a par with early Ninetynine in this respect, which means that maybe their 3rd or 4th album will rock. Or maybe not.

Btw, odd that he referred to Ninetynine as "inoffensive". Am I the only person who thinks they're one of the most impressive and original bands in Melbourne? I feel like that guy in the Onion article with the theory that Willie Nelson or someone is the greatest musical genius of all time.

Posted by: acb Wed Mar 19 14:20:03 2003

Boards of Canada? How about Múm?

Posted by: sc http:// Thu Mar 20 15:43:47 2003

umm clem is female from what i remember.

the production on their debut cd is amazing and flawless and totally innovative, but they don't blow me away live.

Posted by: acb Thu Mar 20 15:52:17 2003

Amazing and flawless? It sounds cluttered and chaotic in most places. And Scissor Paper Rock lacked the punch of live performances I've seen of it.

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