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When Is A Scene Not A Scene? New York Magazine Covers Brooklyn

So, in light of New York magazine’s the Brooklyn scene is the capital Of rock music cover today, here’s a question. What constitutes a scene?




Let’s take a look at one: London in 1977. There were emerging rock bands and emerging rock clubs densely populated over a small area and magazines and fanzines covering the scene from the inside. Brooklyn absolute has all three. But in London there were filmmakers like Julian Temple, artists like Barney Bubbles, fashion designers like Viviene Westwood, poets like John Cooper Clarke. Brooklyn has nobody with that intense visibility and connection.


So the first problem with the Brooklyn scene is that there is no there there. Rent controlled buildings and $3 Coors Lite is not a movement and anyway, nobody is moving anywhere -the scene is a flat location and not a moving part. Hugo Lindgreen’s cover story is just plain wonderful, it’s so good that I have to keep reminding myself I disagree with its basic premise. That there is a scene greater then its parts: Brooklyn could be LA, it could be Durham, North Carolina. I’ve heard of a very vibrant scene in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Caroline Smith and the Goodnight Sleeps are waiting to break out of. But there are scenes and there are scenes. Here is Lindgreen discussing the similarities between the three top bands the Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bears and Animal Collective (there are none but let’s not bother with the facts for now): “fearless sincerity, devotion to craft—” blah, blah, boiler plate, “agnosticism about digital technology”, “profound musical curiosity…” (that line deserves  a place in the throwing up in my mouth hall of fame) “uncanny ability to reproduce their complex material live”. I could, if the urge took me, refer to Pavement, the 1972 Kinks, Jay-Z and the New York Phiharmonic in precisely the same terms. Even an interesting comment, like the bands “using the human voice as an instrument” kinda withers and dies once you think about it.


Here’s how it works in the real world: the Dirty Projectors are the Talking Heads of 2009: an arty, collegiate, headfuck who have released an album for the ages though they kinda suxd the one time I saw them live (I’m seeing them at Bowery Ballroom next Thursday and will update you then). Grizzly Bears are moribund bores with nice vocals if you’ve never heard Surf’s Up or Smile. Animal Collective are a pretty good psychedelic jam band for the 21st century who never lose track of the hooks.


If that is what consitutes the scene, well, poor David Longstreth because that’s a lotta shit for one man to carry. Looking at the Top forty brooklyn scene songs in New York mag what is maybe the best ROCK band -the Ramones if you will, is TV On The Radio, are at number four. Who else?Ultimate Manhattan band Vampire Weekend… don’t know why owning a brownstone gets you on the list.  OK, nothing special Vivian girls, who are from NJ I believe. the Drums who are OK, a bit overated? das racist who have precisely one song and the one song has precisely one line. LCD Soundsystem who are a pretty awesome dance band, and, of course, The Pains Of being Pure At Heart who are a wonderful young pop group with a great first album and second EP.


So that’s all very well but where’s the connect other than proximity? Since when does playing the Hall At Williamsburg constitute a scene? Hey, they’ve all played Bowery ballroom, does that make Houston street a scene? Also it is a highly educated, very middle class, very very white, very musically proficient and extremely insular scene. It feels like Solange Knowles and a thousand undergrads from Ohio.


For Brooklyn to be any kind of scene at all in an NYC sense it has to be a movement, it has to have a reason for being. There must be something about Generation Bankrupt that makes them different, there must be an implicit opinion connecting various strands of culture over and above fucking geography

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