"Dad, this music is kind of dumb." This was my older daughter's solemn pronouncement upon being exposed to ... The New Pornographers. And I had to agree with her. I don't know what the fuss over them is all about. To my ears, this group operates under the conviction that Men Without Hats left a musical legacy that should be extended the same way Green Day extended the Buzzcocks' -- a dubious proposition at best.
I bought TNP's critically lauded Electric Version, confident that so many critics singing from the same page must surely be right. I regretted my purchase the second I slipped the CD into the player. I played it a half-dozen times after that, hoping I'd change my mind. Nope.
That was the same summer I bought the White Stripes' Elephant. There was no denying Jack White's blues ability as a guitar player. As a lyricist, though ... well, I didn't understand what he was on about, and he had a prissy mode of delivery that didn't inspire me to dance so much as it inspired me to try the "rope-a-dope" (all the moreso after I caught wind of White's charming behavior). Tsk -- it's not good for a man my age to experience violent impulses while listening to music. The better tack is to just side with my daughter: this music is kind of dumb.
The problem for both these groups, as I see it, lies in the "kind of". I'd say the music and the lyrics aren't dumb enough. It is a fine line between clever and stupid, and these tossers are too clever by half. If you want to see my daughters get up and dance with abandon, throw on some Van Halen (David Lee Roth-era -- of course). Throw on some ABBA. Throw on some Scissor Sisters. Music that's cheerful, preening, and dumb dumb dumb -- that's what gets the feet moving.
That's what gets our family up from the dinner table and jumping around the kitchen.