i'm with the brand


Is sincerity making a comeback?
March 25, 2010, 1:04 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: ,
yeasayer

Yeasayer at LA's Natural History Museum (photo via Stereogum)

Conan famously left the air with his admonition against cynicism. We talked about Levi’s doe-eyed campaign here too. And as I was obsessively listening to Yeasayer in anticipation of their Feb 5th show at the Natural History Museum (nuts–just nuts), I started to really process their lyrics holistically and noticed they’re overwhelmingly charged with gobsmacked enthusiasm–and an unpretentious sincerity belied by the the arty band’s sardonic hair and absurd comment-if-you-dare onesie jumpsuits.

Boredom and mockery have become such knee-jerk reactions that I was sure I was misunderstanding their message–of course this simplistic positivity was some critique of the naïve, these life-affirming platitudes an elaborate in-joke at the expense of the banal. It had to be. But I don’t think it was. In fact, I’m fairly certain it wasn’t.

It’s been so unfashionable lately to be anything but ironic, that for a BROOKLYN BAND (oh dear!) and hipster darling that should, by all accounts, be kings of smug irony–a band that’s got all the visual and sonic semiotics to be just another blasé subverter–to have sentiments so effervescent feels kiiiind of like the ultimate subversion. A decidedly un-precious attack from deep within the heart of hipsterdom.

A hippie thread (alternately sunny and dark) runs through their debut, All Hour Cymbals–and robot jungle apocalypse Odd Blood exults as much as it broods, too. It’s disarming, the bald-faced joyfulness of “Ambling Alp.” It’s endearing, the humanity of “2080.” It’s refreshing, the vulnerability of “I Remember.” Don’t believe me? A sampling of lyrics:

Red Cave
I’m so blessed to have spent that time
With my family
And the friends I love
In my short life I have met
So many people I deeply care for

Ambling Alp
Now, the world can be an unfair place at times
But your lows will have their complement of highs
And if anyone should cheat you, take advantage of, or beat you
Raise your head and wear your wounds with pride
You must stick up for yourself, son
Never mind what anybody else done

2080
It’s a new year, I’m glad to be here
It’s a fresh spring, so let’s sing

Yeah, yeah, we can all grab at the chance to be handsome farmers
Yeah you can have twenty-one sons and be blood when they marry my daughters
And the pain that we left at the station will stay in a jar behind us
We can pickle the pain into blue ribbon winners at county contests

I Remember
I remember making love on a Sunday
Bright golden hearts in a fresh cut grass in May
I remember making out on an airplane
Still afraid of flying, but with you I’d die today
I remember the smell of your skin forever
Love us being stupid together
You’re stuck in my mind
All the time

It’s sweet, the lack of self-consciousness—but thankfully, never too saccharine. As Drowned In Sound puts it, Yeasayer finds “the emotional sweet spot that lurks betwixt being dispatched without irony, but not being unbearably sincere.”

So I’m not necessarily saying that one earnest it-band and the winking façade of an irony-steeped culture collapses—it’s just a musing for now, not a full-formed conviction—but it seems more and more, across all facets of culture, that we might be reconsidering the tongue that’s been planted so firmly in cheek.

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