earlier today, i was reading about the new yeah yeah yeahs DVD at lost at sea and it dawned upon me that i've never really read an actual interview with the band. this seemed like a weird sort of travesty, considering my current vocation, so i went out and looked for interviews. the first thing i came across was just some british press-ified, zinetastic interview with nick zinner that covered most of the standard yeah yeah yeahs bio stuff (karen o has a personal designer, brian chase does symphonic composition, zinner has cool hair). the second thing i came across was a prefix magazine interview with karen. it wasn't the world's most striking interview - she's not the most profound rock star around - but she did mention one thing that i found interesting:
Prefix: Do you worry about all the attention is given to the fashion style of the band? Do you think there's too much of a focus on that and not the music?
Karen: Yeah, of course. And that comes with being a female lead singer of a band. You'll see that with tons of women in rock. It's pretty unreal how many offers I turn down that are strictly fashion stuff. It sort of goes hand in hand with me. It sort of rounds out my persona better. But the press of course is going to focus on things like that since its exciting and it's a very trend-centric kind of writing. But then every now and then we get Thurston Moore writing an amazing piece on our music having nothing to do with our clothes. That kind of balances out the hundreds and thousands of other reviews.
now, i find a lot of this interesting. her total acceptance of her sexual position as cultural collateral and the subsequent need to turn it into a surface level persona, for example, is totally fascinating, especially since this places her within a lexicon of objectified female pop stars attempting to control their image (madonna, christina aguilera, even sarah fucking maclachlan), but a at a lower level and b without much of a struggle. i mean, she blatantly constructed herself as an image (rather than a flesh-and-blood person) from the get-go, which makes her a really strange and postmodern, if marginalized, cultural icon. i'll stop, since i could probably write a twenty page paper about this.
anyway: the part that i started researching, being the music nerd i am, was the thurston moore thing. i found it strange that thurston moore supposedly gave the yeah yeah yeahs good reviews, mostly because i'd never heard about it. yes, i'm that far gone. still: most bands wear the approbation of "elder statesman" moore on their sleeves (much like most bands wear the production of "elder statesman" albini on their album stickers). it was sort of a "what the deuce?" moment, so i looked it up. i didn't come up with thurston, but i came up with lee ranaldo's comments on the new york "class of 2002," if you will:
"There's something about the energy of what goes on here in the city," Ranaldo says. "The map expands larger than that, but there's a lot of what we do that's informed by different things that happen in New York. In the early days, that music couldn't have been made anywhere else. And that's kind of true recently, too, I guess. It's somewhere in our mind that the music is about New York."
"I think right now there's a lot of bands that are really reflecting this new New York energy - like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Liars and all that stuff," Ranaldo says, referring to some of the groups presently charging up through the Bowery's clubs. And so the Sonics twist their pegs as New York pulses around them - the New Rock rising, the aged lions co-existing like the stately, elegant facades of old New York.
what struck me about lee's commentary was, frankly, that it's the exact same thing i've said to my girlfriend a number of times when discussing the cultural implications of the new new york new wave no wave thing that's been happening over the last two or three years. i've gone off on entire tirades about the yeah yeah yeahs being interesting to me precisely because there was no way they could have formed anywhere other than new york. yes, this could be said about a lot of bands, but i mean it more in this way: if you threw these three people together in, say, seattle, they would not be the same band. new york is a weird, paradoxically heterogenous monoculture that feeds upon itself, that produces certain attitudes that really just aren't found elsewhere, and many of these - the marriage of artsy postmodernism and commerce, the retro-referencing via obscure influences, the pure irony of the whole enterprise - are uniquely new yorkian in a lot of ways (and, even then, i'm doing a terrible job of explaining what i'm trying to get at here). i've been studying london, what john clement ball refers to as "the semi-detached metropolis," for an essay in my brit lit class and it's really making me think about these massive supercities, like new york or london or tokyo, as distinctly removed from the countries that birth them. london may represent britain, but most of britain has nothing to do with london. by the same token, new york may represent a complete and total convergence of all american culture to most countries outside of us (or to many people within the city, for that matter), but it's actually an entity that's extremely removed from the general "american experience" that most outside it work within. unlike, say, the midwest, where a band from champaign might sound exactly like a band from minneapolis or seattle, new york produces a certain mentality and, as a result, many bands within the city have entire systems of cultural signs assigned to them from the moment of conception. it's easy for a band from new york to approximate, say, a band from olympia's sound (see: the moldy peaches), but can a band from olympia sound new yorkian? do i even know what the hell i'm talking about?
it's getting late and i can see all the cracks in this argument. and, worse, i could answer them, but i really need to go work on other things. blah.
still, i'm glad i got the chance to muse on something other than postcolonial literature for a few minutes. don't mind me.