Submitted for your approval. I give you Pomplamoose; apparently the hottest indie band in America right now, due to their hugely viral videos.
Do Americans know the term twee? Well, ya oughta. It’s a word that perfectly describes what is to me a really disturbing trend in pop music (and art in general); specifically it’s dumbing down. Or rather, it’s what I like to call the glorification of not growing up.
Now it’s not so much the ‘dumbing down’ of music that’s got me in my current lather. I’ve had most of my life to get used to that form of sadness. No, it’s simply that current flavour is so insidious that makes it so troubling.
See in days of yore, you’d have a group like The Beach Boys or later on Abba who did simplistic, tuneful, carefree songs featuring fresh-faced kids. This was marketing gold. I call it Audio-Wonderbread: Everybody likes it even though it provides all the nutrition for the spirit as the alleged baked good does for the body. But see the thing is, there’s no irony for these groups. They are honest crap. Everyone knows Wonderbread is bad for you, just like everyone knows “Surfer Girl” is fluff. But who cares? They both taste good! In other words, these are true guilty pleasures. And every once in a while? Guilty pleasures a very good thing.
What bothers me about Pomplamoose is that they aren’t representing themselves as guilty pleasures or artifice at all. Quite the contrary, the whole point I think is the ‘genuineness’ of what they are doing. It’s child-like simplicity. It’s honesty and wholesomeness. But not too wholesome, of course. And that’s the problem.
I see how positively everyone reacts to their stuff and I realise how far we’ve fallen. It’s not just that they’re taking a one chord song and redoing it in a totally caucasian way (below is a similar example of a why white people should be required to obtain a licence to do black music.)
Play That Funky Music White Boy
Is anyone old enough to remember Pat Boone murdering Little Richard? That’s what this is. When Pat murdered Tutti Frutti, he wasn’t winking at the camera. He thought he was doing something cool. But Pomplamoose is a bit different. They also believe in what they’re doing, but in a different way as I’ll explain below. But back in Pat’s time? Everyone who actually was cool were laughing at Pat. Nobody’s laughing at Pomplamoose. They’re singing along.
There was a time when it was good to be good. There was a time when it was cool to be an adult. Twee Culture rejects both premises. Twee culture celebrates a Rousseau kind of ‘naturalism’. It values ‘sincerity’ to the point that ‘craft’ and ‘complexity’ are suspect. (Kind of like the old Southern stereotype who’s lowest form of insult is ‘college boy’. And Twee Culture rejects maturity. Children are happy and care-free. Adults? Well, they’re kinda like Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins and need to go fly a kite (or in more modern terms, smoke a blunt perhaps?)
The final twist on Twee Culture is that sense of deep irony that is it’s primum movens. See Twee doesn’t work without an underlying ‘worldliness’. Otherwise? It’s just adults behaving like kids. Or adults appreciating adults producing stuff that seems like it was made by kids. Whatever.
Unlike Pat Boone, when the girl in Pomplamoose sings the above song she is winking at the camera. She’s rendering this angry song of African-American schadenfreude like a nervous twelve year old girl at a spelling bee. And she knows it. She knows it’s cute and it’s attractive. I’m not saying it’s not ‘genuine’ because I don’t think her self-consciousness is an act. But I’m also quite sure that she ain’t taking any lessons in stage presence. She’s working it because it sells.
What bugs me is not Pomplamoose. What bugs me is that almost everyone I show this video to thinks they’re great and don’t see at all the comparison with Pat Boone. They see the video (and the band as a whole) as very clever in that they juxtapose the ‘fresh-faced kid’ look and the simple tunefulness with gritty lyrics and more adult themes. They buy the irony as being extremely creative. But when I first saw it I immediately flashed on that show ‘Saved By The Bell’ or ‘The Brady Bunch’ where you had thirty year olds playing the parts of high school students.
I wanna know when we’re going to get back to at least some appreciation of music groups that can actually play; who aren’t trying to affect a light-weight persona. In other words? Along with the non-stop party of Blackeyed Peas, Lady Gaga and Pomplamoose, is there no room for a Steely Dan or Stevie Wonder?
As I said at the beginning, every once in a while, Wonderbread is a joy and a pleasure. But when the culture can no longer distinguish white from whole wheat? That’s not good.