Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Save the Dorkbot

With respect to Tuning Fork Media for poaching on their regular prey, but is that the sound of a hipster backlash coming?

Or is it just the sound of Chris Dahlen muttering "I want Sufjan Stevens to heal our fractured nation" while he's trying to figure out how to record something with his iPod.

When Stevens sang his own "happy birthday" song to the bassist or performed his melancholy arrangement of "The Star Spangled Banner"-- the clearest political message of the night, if you want to hear it that way-- I hoped someone at the front was recording this on an iPod. And while he's shy about the nationalist implications of his state songs, Stevens shows no doubt in his more personal, humbler material.

Maybe the hesitations, the rough spots, and the moments where you wanted your ass kicked a little harder all can be blamed on Stevens' inexperience as a bandleader-- or on the mixed feelings he's expressed about touring and "show business" in general. But I can't help but think that he doesn't know how far to reach. He could make us swoon if he were just one dude with a banjo, but by bringing the band and invoking our 50 States-- even just as a gimmick-- he's promising much more. Here's a guy who's smart enough to talk about America without basic left-right-moderate tropes, to an adoring crowd of kids that have never been called to service, have no one great to rally around, sank to voting for what's-his-face in '04, and get lectured every week by David Brooks about how meaningless and adrift they seem. But Stevens raises the problem only to duck it: It's all just part of the act.


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