I FEEL betrayed. A folk singer of lyrical genius and shattering musical authenticity, who at that moment in his early 20s when certain young people of exceptional brilliance immerse themselves in a craft with autistic intensity, tap or are tapped by what seems to be an otherworldly power, and become capable of feats like discovering general relativity or incarnating the weltgeist in the key of F-sharp—such a folk singer has betrayed the revolutionary political message he once embraced. He had no right to do so. Having embodied his generation's longing for a political identity, he had no right to turn away into solipsism and empty artistry. I speak of course of Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes, who in the first two couplets of the band's single "Helplessness Blues", released two weeks ago, seemed to capture a distraction-addled post-ideological generation's desperate longing to lose its smirk and engage, only to drift into confused wistfulness over the course of the song's third stanza, and finally to execute a mid-song mood shift to an entirely different timbre, kick in an electric guitar, and start mumbling about going off and living on a farm. The fizz-out that took the Baby Boomers from 1963 to 1970 to accomplish takes Mr Pecknold about two and a half minutes.
I'm not sure I can say anything about those lyrics in the first stanza of the song without doing violence to its brilliance. You just have to go listen to it, or buy it. The tonal quality of the first half of the song is a painfully sincere hipster resurrection of Simon and Garfunkel (who'd have thought that could work?); the tail-off is full of reverb-drenched major sevenths a la Neil Young, Sonic Youth or Bright Eyes. I couldn't help but find the song's drift away from the gimlet-eyed clarity of the opening stanzas infuriating. I felt like the guy at Bob Dylan's Albert Hall concert who, when the electric band came out for the second set, screamed out: "Traitor!" Of course, the proper response to such a jeer would be something like what Mr Dylan called back to that heckler: "I don't believe you." Not as in "this is ridiculous", but as in: I don't think you actually mean what you are saying. You're a poser.
So, the hell with what I think: Robin Pecknold, you go ahead and nail the zeitgeist however you see it. Oh, also, it seems Bob Dylan played a show in Beijing this month, and was again forced to shrug off accusations of treason, which were about as legitimate as the ones he's been deflecting for 46 years now.
Is your political bias neat or messy?
According to a study to be published in The Journal of Political Psychology, you can tell someone's political affiliation by looking at the condition of their offices and bedrooms. Conservatives tend to be neat and liberals love a mess. Researchers found that the bedrooms and offices of liberals tend to be colorful and full of books about travel, ethnicity, feminism and music, along with music CDs covering folk, classic and modern rock, as well as art supplies, movie tickets and travel memorabilia. Their conservative contemporaries, on the other hand, tend to surround themselves with calendars, postage stamps, laundry baskets, irons and sewing materials