Blowhard, Esq. writes:
The L.A. Weekly recently ran a feature on the “20 Worst Hipster Bands.” Here’s the entry for No. 20:
Fifty years after the Rolling Stones and we’re still upset about this? They “lack authenticity,” you see, b/c they aren’t black. Thus, they’re forever barred from using a I-IV-V chord progression and playing a minor pentatonic scale.
By the way, a question: how many young blacks are even drawn to playing guitar? Very few in my admittedly limited, anecdotal experience. It seems like most blacks who pursue music get into DJing, hip-hop, or R&B, all of which put more emphasis on voice or keyboards/programming than guitar. Given the relative dearth of young black blues musicians, shouldn’t we be happy someone is carrying the torch for this essential American art form?
OK, OK, OK — if it sounds like I’m taking this a little personally, it’s b/c I am. First, I think the Black Keys‘ latest album, El Camino, is a great rock ‘n roll record. Freewheeling, raucous, and energetic, it’s packed with dirty hooks and low-down riffs. Eleven tracks and not a single one of ’em is filler. And I used the phrase “rock ‘n roll” intentionally. In his autobiography, Keith Richards laments that fact that a lot of modern rock music puts all the emphasis on rocking and none on rolling. “What happened the groove?” he wonders. (My short answer: blame Johnny Ramone.) The Black Keys didn’t forget the groove. Unlike a lot of the music you find on alternative rock radio, you can dance to it. Here’s the second single off El Camino, “Gold on the Ceiling.”
The second reason this nonsense pisses me off is that I’m kinda, sorta an amateur blues player myself. After messing around on the guitar for years, I recently decided to take formal lessons. My teacher, who is white, was born and raised in Whittier, got his music degree at UC Irvine, and now lives in Aliso Viejo. In other words, cracker as can be. He’s an incredible guitar player whose favorite music is jazz and reggae. At my first lesson, within 15 minutes of meeting him, he taught me the basic blues scale and had me improvising over a rhythm track. It was a blast. Scary and exhilarating at the same time.
But I guess I shouldn’t enjoy myself too much, seeing as I wasn’t born to the right type of people in the Mississippi Delta during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, thus my playing will never be more than ersatz. Nah, fuck that and fuck these pinhead humanities-major music critics who probably couldn’t strum a C-chord if their tickets to Coachella depended on it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go practice my scales.
UPDATE: Stuff White People Like weighs in.