April 24, 2005

For A Movie So Crass, And Awkwardly Cast, Even I Could Be The Star

natalie_portman_garden_state_interview_top.jpgLast night, the Shins began a three night residency at Webster Hall and Cinecultist was there (along with Janelle, Youngna, Jake and a whole mess of other folks) to welcome the Albequerque quartet to town. CC's dug the Shins for almost 5 years now, since our Seattle salad days, and this was the third time we've seen them in concert. They always put on a good show but for some reason, when telling people like our hip music editor co-worker Sarah that we had a ticket, it required some defensive tactics.

"We liked them before Zach Braff," CC told her with not just a little bit of petulance in the vocal tone. But somehow that wasn't enough to convince her of their sustained coolness. The Shins have sold out apparently, what with their Gap commercial lyrics and having earnest little Natalie Portman tell Zach listening to them would change his life in Garden State. James Mercer and co, you may be touring to remind your fans that you still exist while you record the follow up to Chutes Too Narrow, but actually, you're already over. You're passe. Too many mainstream-y types rock out to your '60s pastiche and melancholy shabbiness, and so the fickle ones with their fingers on the pulse have moved on.

This issue of in, or over, or over-exposed or whatever you want to call it seems to be following Cinecultist all over town these days. It's a full time job to try to stay ahead of the curve but for some reason, we always feel a touch out of touch even though our full time job actually is to stay ahead. That's not how it looks to many of our friends and family though; on our To Do List is to make a list for our younger sister of CDs to buy and even Janelle, who we think of as one of our "music friends," mentioned to someone over a post-Shins drink that she trusts our musical taste. But then again, on Friday over a glasses of $2 red wine in a Williamsburg art space we tried to be a part of conversation about a metal show that Björk and Matthew Barney attended. According to our afficianado friend Hisham, they looked like horses galloping as they head banged with knee length hair. It was beautiful -- like a sunset, he said. However, when we asked if this band's music was at all "melodic" or just purely "technical," it was obvious from his face that CC's just too square for words.

Somehow, in our mind, it all goes back to movie soundtracks. Like, if a group is hot enough that some movie soundtrack composer (say on the Wicker Park project or the Good Company, or the A Lot Like Love, or even The OC) decides a band is hip enough to include that means it's actually the death knell for their hipness. Acknowledgement commercially is the end of a band's outsider viability. Cinecultist may be bopping along to the Iron and Wine, Keane, Death Cab or Shins track in our plush movie seat but any idiot at the record store with a thing for Josh Hartnett or Topher Grace can purchase the soundtrack CD for their collection, thus discovering our indie band. For those of us living in the iPod generation, where a soundtrack to our lives can be playing via little white headphones 24/7, music becomes even more personal and intimate. That band is our band. But when the mainstream media, via commercials or movies or the NYT, gets a hold of it, that beloved track looses its luster.

To be a fan, or a cultist of some kind whether it's cinema or art or music, is to be a bit navel gazing. A little onaistic. It's pleasure but it's also torture.

Posted by karen at April 24, 2005 5:12 PM