Saturday, April 5, 2008

On Backlash: Ben Gibbard's April Fool's Day Joke

This is Ben Gibbard. He's the frontman for seminal soft-spoken indie rock group Death Cab For Cutie.

On April 1st, he did what so many of us do. He made a joke. Observe:

It's a little funny. It made me chuckle. What I find interesting, however, is how a few of the other members of my esteemed music journalism community reacted to this and Death Cab For Cutie's mere existence as a band. (I also cannot believe the debate in the comments section of the YouTube page!)

Here are some excerpts:

A fellow Atlanta music blog I read every day and enjoy, I Guess I'm Floating, had this to say:

"It's not lame because the music is lame or the idea is lame, it's lame because it's illogical and improbable for a guy like Ben Gibbard. He'd never branch out from convention the way this joke claims he would-- he proved that on Plans, an album that might as well have been dedicated to O.C. fans and the pasteboard 'indie' they're told to love in the liner notes."

Connor then says Gibbard's starting to look like Michael Moore. Ouch.
The comments section below this one's pretty priceless too, and practically a sociological study on the tiny self-victimizing subcultures attached to music fandom. The word "emo" is thrown around a bunch...debates as to the degree to which Death Cab fits into that category ensue (full disclosure: I engaged in just such a debate in this podcast, I think. If not, then it's this one.) I'm not saying it's unfounded. I just can't believe how swift and severe the reaction was. I think IGIF was surprised, too.

Some hate from Buzzgrinder:
"No, that’s not a fat Ryan Adams on the xylophone, it’s Ben Gibbard. The frontman of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service has started a new group called Just Jazzin. The band is apparently just a joke, yet somehow not as funny as the last Death Cab album. Aw snap! You’ve been served, Ben Gibbard."

Here's another from Tiny Mix Tapes:
While reporting the band's upcoming tour dates, writer Nobodaddy calls them "doily rockers" and concludes his little rant on how only your younger cousins can like them with the ejaculation, "Right. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to devote the rest of my morning to formating this now-sizable list of tourdates for this shell of a band. Have a super day, everyone!" Geez. Bitter much?

Forgive me if I fail to see how a band like Death Cab deserves so much bile. They obviously have a sense of humor about themselves, a point so many performers never reach. They're not teenagers anymore and perhaps their aesthetic and chosen subject matter has turned a corner around which a lot of us can't follow. Fine. Don't listen to it anymore. I wonder whether anyone would be wasting so much energy on this if they hadn't signed to a major label and happened to be featured on a teen television drama. I don't think a band would ever consciously make the choice to place themselves in the path of so much ridicule, as IGIF and TMT seem to assume. But then, I don't know. I'm not them. I mean, Chris Walla was perfectly nice...

I'm not necessarily defending them. I grew out of my Death Cab phase a couple of years ago (as most people seem to postulate inevitably happens when one reaches a certain age), but I'm approaching this particular situation with a sense of detachment and bemusement. Why is this such a big deal to people?

Please utilize comments section. I want an answer to this.


Rich said...

I wish I could say I'm surprised anyone would waste the time to rant about Gibbard's April Fool's joke. But I'm not.

Juliar said...

I take it you'd rant as well?

theleila said...

man folks are so mean. i'm just amazed at how much easier it is for folks to be hatin' rather than lovin' - i mean, there's a certain amount of energy put into that ranting. why not waste it on something you like instead?


theleila said...

oh and i think ben gibbard is a strudel - so cute!

bradley said...

Well it's the nature of our times really. We put people on pedestals because we don't really know anything about them and as soon as they "sin" in the eyes of the public, we don't allow them to fall to the realm of humanity from sainthood but cast them down into hell. People feel manipulated because they feel as if their idol has let them down.

I don't really pay attention to the band anymore really but I do like the singles they release... maybe they should get Dangermouse to produce their next record...

Rich said...

Nah, I wouldn't rant about it. I actually posted the video, noted it was mildly amusing, and moved on with my life.