Who Robbed the Pantry?! A Meditation on Voltas, Laziness, and Indie Rock’s Complicated Sense of Humor

By: Sam Ubl

Posted 04/09/2007 - 10:04:33 AM by J_R_K_:
 what about mighty boosh? or mcclusky?
Posted 04/09/2007 - 10:57:13 AM by bebopkid:
 i get a kick when i hear the Beatles sing "bang, bang shoot, shoot" on Happiness is a Warm Gun. (Mclusky is mentioned in the last paragraph)
Posted 04/09/2007 - 02:35:43 PM by MEKsLP:
 Great article topic and execution for the most part. You might be overdoing it just a little with how you describe distaste and defensiveness from most critics but overall bands do take themselves way too seriously these days. Your example of humor heightening other aspects of the music is spot-on. One of my favorite releases in '06, Xiu Xiu's "The Air Force", is probably also one of the darkest in terms of atmospherics in the sound and in a lot of the subject matter. What prevents it from falling prey to the faults of most introspectively dark genres are tracks like "Hello From Eau Claire" and "Wig Master" that incorporate a tongue-in-cheek approach to themes of loneliness, despair and the wide array of sexual topics within the music. Its that technique which makes a band like Xiu Xiu resonate 50x more than say the work of Tool. Basically what it boils down to is that when the band sounds like they are having fun with their music the music itself sounds infinitely better. Of course I say this with Pavement and the Pixies being my favorite bands and subsequently those two bands are perfect examples humor being used effectively and also what is lacking from most modern music.
Posted 04/09/2007 - 02:57:45 PM by Bertson:
 Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I think Modest Mouse is generally hilarious.
Posted 04/10/2007 - 05:53:03 AM by smezzer:
 Absolutely superb article, my favourite for a long while. I agree entirely with the po-faced attitude critics take to a lot of indie artists, and the inflated sense of seriousness a lot of indie artists fall prey to. How these are related is probably a chicken/egg situation, but its an infuriating practise nonetheless (though maybe not as widespread as the article makes out) looking to my music taste, the humourous (both lyrically and otherwise) is held as highly as the serious, perhaps even more so. witty derision is something likely to increase my love for an artist massively. Frank Zappa is (perhaps shamefully) probably my favourite artist, though the common critical line is he was 'just a joker'. i'm not too keen on his later scatological humour, but the biting lyrical satire on his earliest lps like We're Only In It For The Money is probably what enamoured me with him so much in the first place, as well as his knowing jibes at the construction of popular music. and he's not the only one.. Critical staples like Dylan, Nick Cave and The Smiths all use lyrical humour intermittently, and i often find these forays to be amongst their most pleasing work. Plus artists like Squarepusher use purely musical means to make sly digs at the formation of music in general, through construction and pastiche. Not sure what i'm trying to say here other than i love music with comedic elements, but i do often notice that these are brushed under the carpet in critical discussion whilst the more 'worthy' aspects are accentuated. I really enjoyed this article though, keep em coming Stylus
Posted 04/10/2007 - 07:43:56 AM by keyinblack:
 Good article, but I must say, Interpol can be very humorous at times. "Oh, look it stopped snowing", anyone?
Posted 04/10/2007 - 01:33:07 PM by DenverHughes:
 Wow. Brilliant article, Sam. It is kind of depressing that no one has called bullshit on the critical tendency Ubl describes, until now- I had never made a shortlist of the recent indie bands to "hit it big," but looking at the one that Ubl put together, it is *painfully* obvious what they have in common (not to knock them or anything- I think they're all brilliant artists).
Posted 04/11/2007 - 11:26:57 AM by J_R_K_:
 what about jens
Posted 04/12/2007 - 02:14:47 PM by deceasedlavy:
 how about some captions for all the pictures? for those of us not hip enough to recognize all the hipsters. good article, though; ever since nobody got beefheart's jokes, critics have given short shrift to artists who seem to be having too much fun at nobody else's expense. the problem is, a lot of indie artists think being a bitter smartass is funny. and to some people, i'm sure it is; humor needn't be inherently frivolous. i suspect colin meloy laughs at himself an awful lot. but i really don't think art brut is very funny at all; maybe sam ubl isn't quite as aware of everyone's self-awareness (or lack thereof) as he thinks? writers nowadays have to be funny in order to mitigate their sincerity enough to sound smart and not too earnest. wait, not funny--clever. smart ass.
Posted 04/12/2007 - 03:03:35 PM by dawhite:
 This is a great topic and an interesting article, but I'm surprised it didn't mention Pavement or Silver Jews. There was always an element of humor to Pavement's lyrics and music, and yet they were still probably the defining indie rock band of their era.
Posted 10/15/2007 - 03:26:09 PM by richardob:
 Well in defence of humour in music, four words: Half Man Half Biscuit.