Attack of the Jewish Boy Bands
We’ve come a long, long way since the days of the Miami Boy’s Choir. As Orthodoxy has modernized and liberalized, so have standards of acceptability towards things like goyishe music. Once upon a time, the sounds of modern rock just weren’t so kosher for a Jewish youngster. Sure, sure. You had Israeli rock, some decent Jewish rock groups like Inasense (before they became Suckfarm; sorry guys, you broke my heart) & The Moshav Band. But those guys are like, in their 30s. Now, with teenage girls (frum and not-frum alike) swooning for groups like The Strokes, Yellowcard, or whatever other “cute boys” are the flavor of the week on MTV, starry-eyed teen and 20-something frummies with rockstar fantasies are coming out of the woodwork like a termite infestation, looking to get in on the action.
Once groups like N*Sync and the Backstreet Boys received their deathknell from the press, a new generation of indie rockers were exalted as the would-be saviors of rock n’ roll. It was only a matter of time until their sound, too, had been co-opted and overrun by sellouts and industry creeps, who subsequently repackaged their music for the teenage market. Now 20 year-old wanna-be badasses with with hipsterhawks and leather wristbands are doing soundtracks for horeshit dramas on the WB and the girls of suburbia are flocking to Sam Goody, wallets in tow. It’s a sad state of affairs for the modern rock scene. In the mainstream anyway…
Of course, far be it from Jews to exclude themselves from all this nonsense. The rising trend in Jewish music seems now to be squarely on the boy bands. This explains Jewsweek‘s cover story this week, about the “increasingly popular” group Blue Fringe, and the flood of e-mails I’m getting from groups like Eden and Asparklaria begging for free publicity.
They might not have tattoos, piercings, or wild haircuts, but the sound they’re pushing is the same. The only difference is maybe the lyrics are sometimes in Hebrew or the songs are all ‘spiritual’ and ‘about G-d.’ It’s a kindler, gentler, rock and roll. Good wholesome fun for the family. Neil Sedaka with a grunge pedal. And, well, I guess it’s not that they’re that bad or untalented or anything, per se… It’s just, well, this is the kind of shit teenage girl’s dig on—the kinda shit you’d have a family sing-along in the minivan to. And, well, does that really rock? I mean, rock your face rock? I mean, FUCKIN’ RAWK?!! After all, just because you call something rock, and it sounds like rock, that doesn’t mean it ROCKS.
I’m reminded of a fit of calculated fury, wrought by comedian Bill Hicks, who, in referring to New Kids On The Block, asked his audience,
Since when did mediocrity and banality become a good image for your children?
I want my kids to listen to guys who FUCKING ROCKED! I DON’T CARE IF THEY DIED IN PUDDLES OF THEIR OWN VOMIT! I WANT THEM TO LISTEN TO SOMEBODY WHO PLAYED FROM THEIR FUCKING HEART! PLAY FROM YOUR FUCKING HEART!
Hi! We’re the New Kids! We’re so good and clean and—SUCK SATANS COCK!—We’re so clean cut and—SIEG HEIL! SIEG HEIL! A good clean country—HEIL! HEIL! HEIL!
FUCK THAT! I WANT MY ROCKSTARS DEAD!
And well, you might find that funny, you might not. But the question stands before us, do rock and “Jewish wholesomeness” really mesh? And well, should they even? Even if the answer’s no, can’t you be true to your roots and still tear shit up, like, say Matisyahu, Rav Shmuel or Yidcore? I mean, shit, I love all those guys to death, but I even find them too corny at times… Can’t Jews rock without shlock?
Hell, maybe I’m just being overly critical. As a DJ, and a person who’s produced a handful of albums himself, I think I’ve got a tendency to be critical. But I gotta tell ya, I wonder about these guys who think they’re gonna make it because they put ancient Jewish lyrics to the same trendy, crappy, hollow, vapid, cookiecutter music that’s plunged the rock scene into its current dismal depths. Are they just trying to cash in, or do they really want to do something special?
Either way, this little movement’s got a long way to go before it earns my respect. Y’all either gotta do something original and profound, or get the fuck off the pot. Cuz at this rate, you can play as many soldout shows at Frisch as you want, but you ain’t never gonna fuckin’ ROCK and your “commerical viability” is going to be marginalized to a very narrow and fickle market that’ll drop your ass the second MTV declares The Next Big ThingÂ®.
Yeah, I’m harsh. But somebody’s gotta say it…