Pazz and Jop
January 19, 2011
When Arcade Fire take aim at the shopping malls (“Sprawl II [Mountains Beyond Mountains]”) while simultaneously mocking bohemian cool-hunting (“Rococo”), they’re engaging in a painfully trite contradiction: After all, what bohemian thinker in the past half-century has celebrated shopping malls? (Warhol, maybe?) And what has the bohemian’s instinctive distrust of commercialism done to commercialism except entrench it? (How many products have to be sold to us as embodying rebellion or nonconformity before we realize that our urge to rebel and not conform is how products are sold?) It’s no big revelation to note that today’s mainstream is yesterday’s cutting edge—it doesn’t matter whether we buy Converse or Nike or Vans or some currently small-time shoemaker with a Big Cartel website. Nirvana or Pavement, chillwave or slutwave—sooner or later everyone else catches up, or else it probably wasn’t worth catching up to in the first place.