First off, a literature-related note. I had one favorite author brought down by going to the Newberry Library and leafing through his private correspondence (Sherwood Anderson? Turns out, dude was pretty racist and insecure.) and while another was elevated to an even high pedestal. I just got back from hearing Michael Ondaatje read at the University of Chicago (Sidenote- if you’re looking for an example of how to design a room that will maximize people’s enjoyment of the reading, go visit the Performance Penthouse at the U of C’s brand new Logan Center [Sidenote within a sidenote- OK Miss fancy-pants arts chairperson, I know that the big donors are sitting in the front row, but don’t you think it’s probably more important to talk about the author you’re introducing that saying the names of a family who have a lot of money twenty or so times?]) and he was extraordinary, insightful, just the right amount self-deprecating, and, as a writer and a poet, inspiring. If you ever have the chance to hear him read, go do it.
Second, today I found out through Pitchfork that The Cribs have a new album out. I haven’t heard it, so won’t talk about it, and will instead talk about the song I most clearly associate with the Jarman family band (two twins and a younger brother).
“Our Bovine Public” is either really, really smart or really, really dumb, but, either way, it is really, really, really catchy. There are plenty of songs which bite the hand that feeds them, but usually that hand belongs to some unspecific power which is killing “pure” entertainment- homogenous record labels, unadventurous radio stations, snooty critics. But I can’t think of a single other band who wrote a song which eviscerates its listeners. Guess what, guys? We’re the bovine public! We’d never exist without badass rockstars like The Cribs! We say nothing of worth, so we mean nothing to badass rockstars like The Cribs!
I don’t take offense to the song. Quite the opposite, I’ll actually defend its baiting lyrics. Sure, the band is taking aim at the head between the earbuds that are blasting the song it (at least, hypothetically) gave money to the band to listen to. But The Cribs aren’t doing it to no end. They’re doing it as a rousing call. The Cribs are calling you out on your shit for not wanting something more challenging. For settling for this. “Our Bovine Public” is about as sugary and punchy and perfectly radio ready a song I can imagine; every element is in it’s right place. And the band can’t help it- these are just the songs that the Jarmans had in them when they were writing this album: catchy, fun songs. But just because there’s catchy stuff right here doesn’t mean there’s not an ocean of more compelling, less easy-to-digest music in the next rack of the record store. There’s nothing quite wrong with wanting pop, but I think the song is saying don’t only want pop. Don’t stop there.
There is just as valid an argument that the song is stupid, that’s it’s lightweight punk from a band who don’t want to engage with politics (which, actually, they do in other songs, but still, I’ll let the argument stand), but even these people must concede one point. Even for those who believe that The Cribs are doing something stupid with “Our Bovine Public,” they have to admit that, at the same time, the band is also doing something pretty unheard of. There’s value in that, as well.
I hope their new album’s good. I’ll try to get back to you within the next month or so about that.
Also, Watch out!