Provincializm #11: Black Kids in Florida



I can has (genre) miscenenation?

Provincializm: Siblings Gonna Work It Out

by William Bowers

Friday morning last, Pitchfork (for which, let’s be honest, I’ve typed almost six years) deemed Black Kids’ four Myspace downloads “Best New Music.” By that night—after the band opened for Stockholm’s Lo-Fi-Fnk in its homescene at downtown Jacksonville, Florida’s TSI—the ideological provenance of that name had been roundly second-guessed, with the consensus being: “Black Kids” is an ingenious provocation. “Do you think it’s offensive?,” a Caucasian scene-staple asked an African-American scene-staple with whom he’d played in various bands, including one that Boss Pitchfork dubbed among 2005’s worst. “I’m not your mouthpiece for all black consciousness,” the interviewee responded, almost echoing verbatim Wanda Sykes’ answer to an impertinent Larry David on the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode about bow-tied Muslims. After whitey chummily quasi-apologized and reiterated his question, the black kid answered as an individual: “I don’t think the name is offensive. I think it’s trite.” This paragraph will abstain from taking the savvy quintet’s bait re: moniker-as-thoughtfood. (Instead, cut-n-paste your favorite declarative quote from Norman Mailer’s The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster here.)

See: TSI, the show’s venue, is like a Branch Davidian compound for northeastern Florida’s indie-demo, who are, to generalize, a gaggle of great-looking, fun-loving, unbrilliant drinkers who tend to hypercelebrate as fashion’s apex their aesthetic resistance to the bejorted Jax massive beyond the club—ahem, discotheque—walls. TSI, like America, reckon, can be a blast if you block out the combative undercurrent: a cretinous bartender might go out of his way to force the limits of his imagination onto you, an acquaintance might flip you off if you earnestly thank him for an Afropop recommendation (just in case you were being sarcastic), trial-ballooning a new look might be interpreted as threateningly distinctive, etc. Music is sort-of discussed all night, with an enthusiasm reserved for prognostication that rivals a sports gambling addict’s single-mindedness. Old hang-ups need not intrude: the closest thing to a rockist authenticity debate that one will hear at TSI involves fretting over whether or not Vice magazine is getting away from its roots. Black Kids Reggie Youngblood and Kevin Snow DJ there often, and the club’s entrance tunnel is adorned with posters of their faces, personality-flyers whose Leni-Riefenstahl-versus-glamtard design principles overtout nights spent spinning “Take On Me,” “Boy With The Arab Strap,” and “Wolf Like Me” (twice). Cultists awesomely fill the venue to support traveling acts (the aforementioned Lo-Fi-Fnk, Dandi Wind covering Men Without Hats, and so on), seemingly based only on TSI’s booking them as a qualitative vouchsafe; the equally ascendant Glass Candy played to a single-digit crowd likely because they took stage elsewhere in Jax.

Cultivated in that climate of overt NYC-mimicry and transcendent ‘tude: Black Kids. They’ve made good—internationally!—on the Warholian a-hole/microcosmic fame-whoredom of their own local iconography, as if a long season of cockiness could somehow will its raison d’etre into…being. Live, on the night of Pitchfork’s concurrence with NME, the huge, liberating slightness of the EP’s tracks convinced even showgoers who began the proceedings by asking, “What about Black Kids is singular, though, or, like, exceptional?” Some hooplehead familiar with Deadwood taunted the band’s UK-label flirtations by hollering, “Limey cocksuckers!” at them. Reggie Youngblood’s defensively self-conscious inflection and profane banter made a girl bark, “Wait, I feel heckled by this band!”

OMFG, preview of the non-EP tracks: But first don’t forget to check out the bassist’s journalism or what they did before the lady annex alley-ooped their sound into the Pipettes-versus-dawn-of-Steve-Bays-fronted-Hot-Hot-Heat-osphere. “I Wanna Be Your Limousine” features a guitar solo that serendipitously quotes the vox of a certain Klaxons hit and ends with the Wicked Witch Of The West guardsmen chant. “Magnificent Seven” eerily rubs early Electric Six up against The Dead Milkmen’s “Lucky.” Don’t you know that “Look At Me When I Rock With You” and the also-imperative “Listen To Your Body Tonight” rise above their dumbish come-ons via the mysterious tension created by the enigma of whether or not their hetero call-n-responses involve lead vocalist Reggie Youngblood’s sister and Black Kids keyboardist/ovarist, Ali. If so, wow: they totally one-upped the White Stripes’ winky incest-play, like an Oedipus and Electra tag-team getting rid of their parents so they can attend exclusively to each other. “Body” even (Southernly) taps into the soft-porn contradictions of a church car wash by swearing “on the Bible” that a hot hookup will be worth investiture.

Some dude in the crowd on the night of October 5 can’t help himself. He yells, “8.4,” the Pitchfork Decimal System’s estimation of the virtual debut’s quality. Then another “8.4!” follows, and another. Reggie Youngblood sez: “8.4?” and then, motioning to his white drummer, insists: “Kevin’s dick is 11 inches!” So. Before boogie-ing in anticipation of Black Kids’ kickass hooks, and thinking “Good for them,” one remembers the original, rejected name of Turbonegro, another controversially-entitled band: Nazipenis.

Black Kids play an official CMJ showcase at the Annex Oct 18 and Oct 19 at the R Bar, New York for a Brooklyn Vegan/CMJ party.