Friday, September 5, 2008

WHAT IS THIS 'COLLEGE BAND' THING; OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND POST EVERY DAY


COLLEGE.
it's great.
i'm going to go. you're going to go, or you already went (hi dad). one of the nice things about college is that you meet a lot of new and intriguing people from all different walks of life, and you might make a lot of wonderful friends, and you might to do something amazing like start a band. i love this! go ahead, college kids! start bands! tell me your myspace address so i can listen to you! send me some mp3s! whatever! i am so for this it is unimaginable. i want people to go to college and start bands and i want to learn about all of these bands and love them. it is not this that i have begun to question as of late, it is this:
WHY ARE WE (by WE i mean MUSIC CRITICS and BLOGGERS) PUTTING SO MUCH FOCUS ON COLLEGE AS A FACTOR IN OUR ENJOYMENT OF MUSIC?
or you can phrase it like this:
WHY CAN I NOT READ ABOUT VAMPIRE WEEKEND WITHOUT SOME KIND OF ACKNOWLEDGMENT THAT THEY WENT TO COLUMBIA?
or you can phrase it like this:
WHY DO WE SUDDENLY CARE ABOUT WHERE BANDS WENT TO COLLEGE?
(this is beginning to sound like sex in the city where carrie would pose a question in the middle of every episode).

what is a college band, then? obviously, they formed at a (let's say reasonably prestigious) college. because they went to a prestigious college they have smart music and smart lyrics. also, preppy kids (their college buddies) presumably get down to their music on a regular basis. what else can we say? i don't know what other effects college would have on a band's music. let's just consider the overall question.

the seed of this question was planted in my head the other day when i listened to a band i'd been hearing about called chester french. the only interesting thing about chester french is that they graduated from harvard. also pharrell (sp?) likes them, which is awkwardly incomprehensible to me. anyway, i listened to them. i suppose you could categorize this kind of music as 'r+b' or 'hip-hop' or maybe push it a little with just 'pop' but it was all fuzzy and with reasonably stupid lyrics, and i didn't like it. (notable and lol-tastic stupid lyric: "if you wanna meet a girl you should go into a grocery store." they also have a song entitled 'jimmy choos.' like the shoes.) this disqualifies the notion that college bands can be defined by a certain smartness to their music and lyrics. the only thing smart about chester french is, to some extent, how they dress, and je ne comprend pas the winged suit. however, i can see a whole bunch of preppy coeds grooving to this while clasping red solo cups at a hot-chicks-with-douchebags-ready frat party.

another 'college band' is MGMT: they went to wesleyan. i really do like MGMT, i think they have a pretty cool and refreshing sound. however it is easy to dismiss their music as obviously for people who are on a great deal of hallucinogenic drugs. and are their lyrics smart? "i said ooh, girl, shock me like an electric eel"? awesome, but not smart. is their music smart? it is, in a way: i think the synth is very well done, and the lyrics and even the attitude of the band when i saw them fit so perfectly with the vibe of the music. here, a college band doesn't have to have smart lyrics, and they don't have to appeal solely to straight-edge popped collar kids. they also appeal to cool-bong-purchasing hippie-revival free-love type kids.

on the basis of two up-and-coming 'college bands' we have entirely thrown out the definition of college bands that we made up above! WHAT?!? i truly believe that we can't use the phrase 'college band' to describe any band, because the only definition of college band that we can agree upon is that the members went to college, and so many people in the world go to college! this definition makes nearly every band a college band! by putting so much emphasis on the collegiate chops of a band we totally ignore the music, or dismiss the music, or take the music into account only through the screen of the college band idea - what does this do to our appreciation of music? we, as people who love music, have tried on our blogs or wherever to judge it fairly, to love it if we love it, to hate it if we hate it, based on the power of the music alone. with this focus on the level of education of a band we totally ignore this basic tenant!

i think we started thinking about college bands because of vampire weekend. i really do think that were it not for vampire weekend no one would care about where bands went to college. i think it's very ironic and kind of strange for people to understand (i know i was one of these people) that four white kids from new england who went to columbia university would want to write african-influenced pop music namechecking peter gabriel and with lyrics like "english breakfast tastes like darjeeling." since i like vampire weekend so much i don't really understand why they would make people so focused on the idea of education in a band. the point is, people have a right to make art about whatever they want to make art about. while it might be ironic or strange, that might be part of its appeal. school - high school and college - teaches you, hopefully, to make your own mark with whatever you desire. maybe a college band is a band that uses its education as a driving force behind its creativity. i like this definition. chester french can use their harvard degrees to appreciate high society. MGMT can use their education to match their lyrics and music with an equally trippy aesthetic. vampire weekend can use their education to write more songs about grammar.

that said, i don't like chester french. i don't not like them because they went to harvard, and i don't not like them because of their winged suits. i don't like them because i don't like their music. there! if i want to listen to 'college' r+b i can just listen to discovery.

because this is a MUSIC BLOG and i have sworn to give you MP3Z, here is my favorite track off vampire weekend's only album, appropriately titled:
CAMPUS --- VAMPIRE WEEKEND.
here is a chester french song, "for the lulz":
SHE LOVES EVERYBODY --- CHESTER FRENCH.
those strings in the beginning are so arrows it's not even funny.
and here's some MGMT:
WEEKEND WARS --- MGMT.

2 comments:

David Oliver said...

I dislike the over-emphasis on "college bands" too. Or, as you, say "bands whose members happen to have gone to college". So what? I'm pretty sure Mick and Keith never went to college. Yeah, well the R.E.M. guys did. But no matter.

genevieve said...

mick jagger went to the london school of economics! i don't know about keith though.
r.e.m. are really one of the classic "college bands" to me even though neither music or lyrics are very smart and despite their appeal to such a broad range of people. their whole aesthetic is very collegiate to me in the sense of appealingly alternative.