Progressive-postpop label doesn't sit well with post-Payback Time curmudgeon
You hire the music section to coach the Vancouver Whitecaps, and we reward you with a Payback Time T-shirt and two tickets to a Live Nation club show of your choice taking place in Vancouver within the next four weeks. Here’s this week’s winning whine.
Dear Payback Time: Listen, Mike Usinger, I get your impulse to try and nail down a band’s sound by painting it with the ultra-specific genre brush, but is “progressive-postpop” really necessary? I quite like Future Islands, but I feel like you’re not doing them any service by labelling them with a verbose, Pitchfork-influenced stamp of hyphenated, compound-word categorization. Why not call them a pop band? You recently did a fine job of explaining the “synth-soaked, DIY-flavoured” songs that make this band so rad, but when I hear you fence them in with an adjective as ugly as “progressive-postpop”, I gag. I’m sure a band with as much humour as Future Islands wouldn’t like something as painfully unfunny as “progressive-postpop” describing them. I know I certainly don’t!
> Benjamin Gorodetsky
Mike Usinger responds: Dearest Benjamin—you’ve got me on this one. Truth be told, I struggled for some time to come up with a fitting description for Future Islands. It wasn’t easy, with the band at times reminding me as much of the Tindersticks, Tom Waits, and Devotchka as it did the Afghan Whigs, Nick Cave, and Cold Cave. What do all those acts have in common, besides not much of anything? That’s easy—they are almost impossible to pin a tag on. After briefly considering describing Future Islands as doom-cabaret techno, baritone-hearted bleak-pop, and black-clouds old/new-wave, I went with progressive-postpop. Would they like that? Probably not, and not just because most artists hate being labelled. Sorry, “pop” doesn’t really work either—that makes them sound like the Jonas Brothers getting it on with Katy Perry. In hindsight, maybe I should have just gone with something plain and simple like “original”. And speaking of that, I’m going to assume that you’ve seen This Is Spinal Tap. Everyone always goes on about the amp that goes up to 11 when they talk about that movie, but, for my money, the best lines in the films are those that are seldom-quoted. Like the one where Ian Faith describes the hotel manager as a “twisted old fruit”, only to have said manager indignantly huff back with “I’m just as God made me, sir.” Even better, though, is when Spinal Tap sits around talking about how they were going to call their band the Originals, except that name was already taken, so they decided maybe the New Originals would be even better. Admit it—even you see the humour in that.
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