“It’s just some funny old kitschy thing to him he saw on YouTube. But that was my commercial. I actually experienced it. You know?” – Ben Stiller ibn “While We’re Young”.
I finally watched this Noah Baumbach film over the weekend, with the much more appropriate Japan-release title “Young Adult New York”. I really related to the Josh character and admired the fine acting by Stiller, Naomi Watts and Adam Horovitz (?!?) plus … those kids, you know, that new Darth Vader guy and the chick that played Mark Wahlberg’s girlfriend in “Ted 2”. There was a surprising twist with Josh moving from initial attraction to the young hipsters toward eventual rejection of their cruel indifference to “the truth”.
Cultural misappropriation is a key theme and is amusingly handled via Adam Driver’s character naming his band after Carvel’s 1980s St. Patrick’s Day ice cream cake Cookie O’Puss, much to the annoyance of Josh (and, no doubt, first-gen Cookie P. appropriator AdRock). But bearing in mind that there is truly nothing new under the sun, it really all comes down to perception, doesn’t it? One man’s innovation is another’s bastardization. Where do we draw the line?
I’ve been listening to the recent releases from Deep State and Baked this week. My first impressions of both were that they were pretty derivative, but by the end of the week I was quite liking them. I have to wonder if Baumbach’s film had somehow prejudiced me against them temporarily. I fell pretty quickly for bands like Yuck, Car Seat Headrest and Whitney, none of whom are especially original. I can tell you WHAT I like about these groups’ sounds but when it comes down to WHY I like them it gets more difficult. Especially if I have to explain it vis a vis why I don’t like Speedy Ortiz, Vampire Weekend or Cabbage.
Deep State are a fun mix of classic punk and modern indie rock. Nothing especially sets them apart from recent peers like Cloud Nothings, except their singer, who sounds a like a guy who’s stayed up all night smoking, drinking and singing Paul McCartney and Gilbert O’Sullivan songs in karaoke. Baked is a bit more novel, with an odd fusion of alt-country and shoegaze that is done so naturally it doesn’t come across at all as bizarre as that description sounds. In the end it just comes down to the songs. And these are some some pretty good ones.