Try Isn't Do

Musical drugs and shared secret codes abort the utopic mission

I have not been to one America for Democracy meeting though I am on their e-mail list, I have not answered e-mail from my long-distance campaign friends nor opened the mass e-mails that John Kerry's office so graciously sends, and I didn't even listen to protest songs, not that that does any good anyhow.

Jill Blardinelli
Chicago, Illinois


I'm torn between my desire to hear protest music that proves that people are paying attention to the state of the world, and my desire to not hear more reminders that caring about the state of the world isn't the same as being able to write good songs about it.

Todd Kristel
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


After totally blowing our one big adult responsibility in 2004, where else to retreat in 2005 than the bliss of childhood? Shake that Laffy Taffy. I'll take you to the candy shop. Sugar, we're going down . . .

Chris Weingarten
Brooklyn, New York


Is it too late or too earnest or too stupid to suggest that maybe our listening habits ought to help us try to improve our world? I'm happier than ever in my iPod audio-topia. I'm madder than ever at what's happening all around me. I just think maybe the two ought not to be separate.

Jeff Chang
Berkeley, California


Strange to see people criticizing the apparent lack of a clearly elucidated program in M.I.A.'s politically allusive lyrical mash-ups, as if the writers are sitting around reading Immanuel Wallerstein and Giorgio Agamben. Do we need M.I.A.—or Kanye, or Le Tigre, or the Beastie Boys—framing legislation or writing policy papers? There are actual people we pay to do that. By not being rapists or idiots they're already in the top 1 percent of pop music humanity. No one questioned the pragmatics of the guy who said, "I'm gonna rock you till the break of dawn." It was an invocation of human possibility. So is "pull up the people, pull up the poor." She isn't supposed to actually do it. She only has so many arms.

Jon Dolan
Brooklyn, New York


I'm from Canada, where we don't care as much about Bush as you do. The result? Politically deaf, socially insulated, and solipsistically inclined acts like the Arcade Fire, Stars, Broken Social Scene, and Feist made it big in the U.S. of A. Well, bigger anyway.

David Marchese
Manhattan


I love that the New Pornographers' lyrics don't make any sense, like watching a great foreign film without the subtitles.

Tim Grierson
Los Angeles, California


Whereas the Stones once sought shelter from the storms of the real world, Spoon's Britt Daniel seeks nothing less than an alternative reality altogether–a parallel planet complete with its own T-shirt, Gimme Fiction or Gimme Death.

Corey du Browa
Lake Oswego, Oregon


Right now insular indie pop played with unexpected virtuosity is as overrated as worldly 1970s L.A. studio pop played with exceptional virtuosity was underrated. Where Becker and Fagen at least intimated that they read The New York Times in between bouts of Burroughs, Gimme Fiction and Twin Cinema's undeniable charms come in large part from the absence of identifiable referents.

Alfred Soto
Miami, Florida


Sufjan's building blocks—banjo, the '70s sensitive folkie vibe, '60s girl group/Greek chorus background singers, trumpet and trombone, and the orchestral minimalism of Philip Glass and Steve Reich—are utterly wild and unpredictable. He's made truly new music.

Andy Whitman
Decatur, Georgia


Clap Your Hands Say Yeah almost sounds like there was a website where you type in all your favorite bands and then they create a new one just for you.

Mark Zepezauer
Tucson, Arizona


Konono No 1 taught indie-rockers how to look beyond their borders. And the indie-rockers taught African bands that if you don't want to play solely to the NPR crowd, you damn well better have a cool gimmick.

Chris Weingarten
Brooklyn, New York


No matter how hard I tried, I came away from the big indie records with a sense of terminal complaceny, a fatal lack of balls and engagement.

Edd Hurt
Clarksville, Tennessee


It seems that the only way to retain indie cred these days is to be into shit that is impossible to find: no label, CD-R label, or C-20 cassette reissue. On MySpace you can find millions of bands who never released anything. What's cooler than being into nothingness?

Marc Gilman
London, England


When are bands going to realize nobody cares about them after their debut?

Nick Sylvester
Manhattan


See, dudes, like Yoda says, there is no try, there is only do, and this squawky noise blast / nazi-porn-racism anti-music / Jim Goad drunk on Ivy League semiotics and bukkake—it's all try and no "do." And I know that that, supposedly, IS your point, but like, I mean, really—HOW IS THAT A POINT IN 2005 A.D.? It's not.

Jessica Hopper
Chicago, Illinois


Pre-Clinton, kindreds Pavement and the Jungle Brothers hastily and hazily pastiched old forms and craggy rhythms to create bubble-up realist possibility for a new cultural frontier. Pre-post-Bush this year's devilishly smart lyrical gankstas Craig Finn and the Clipse use obscurantist word-ninja flippage to excavate the localized experience where drugs and music and shared secret codes help them transcend dead systems that never made an inch of space for them in the first place.

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