by carl wilson

A Utopia By Any Other Name (Except 'In-Joke')

When I first read Michael Barclay's Exclaim piece, "This is Torontopia", I didn't feel much need to say anything about it. It seemed like a useful primer for folks outside the city on what I've been discussing intermittently on Zoilus all year, the pains and frustrations that have arisen as the initial excitement of "the Torontopian moment" a few years ago started to be taken for granted, as some our friends have "become successful" in minor ways and the scene has grown and also come to be seen as an establishment in itself to be taken down, which is some combo of healthy and very silly. I would quibble with Michael's claim that I "called for the ['Torontopia'] term's retirement" - I think I just said we should consider it. But I talked about these issues in my interview with Kat Collins on Indiepolitik (linked here along with discussion) as well in the exhaustive debate with Graham Preston on the term that took place here as well as on Graham's blog.) (Which seemed to lead to this very clear-headed contribution from Victoria, which I'm very grateful to Michael for pointing out, as I'd missed it in the first place.)

However, Frank's post today, which was introspective and vulnerable and also kind of frustrating as a reaction, made me want to put aside planned posts on Junior Boys, the Mountain Goats and CopyCamp (more about all of which in the next few days), and respond.

First, I appreciate the fact that Frank agonizes so conscientiously about what the role of his blog should be in relation to local vs. non-local culture. I do this too, from the opposite pole: I often worry that my enthusiasm for the music community here makes Zoilus inaccessible to readers elsewhere, and regret the possibility that it forecloses dialogue, or causes people to overlook other issues raised here on which I'd really like a broader conversation. Sometimes I look enviously toward Frank's just-the-music-ma'am approach. I also don't begrudge him his own tastes, except in one way I'll get to shortly.

But it's also a bit shocking to me, after all this time, to see Frank refer to "something [Exclaim] calls 'Torontopia'," so much so that I just hope he was joking. Because if not, we've really, really been talking past each other here. Frank affords plenty of attention to the likes of the Hidden Cameras and Final Fantasy, to the (former) Three-Guts bands and others, so he is not at a vast distance from where this activity came from. We run into a barrier when we start talking about the Arts & Crafts bands, but personally I don't exclude the likes of Broken Social Scene when I think of Torontopia, even though their music's not my thing - while they may not be purists of localism and DIY the way most of the Blocks bands are, for instance, their "experiment in intimacy" is very close in spirit, as is the way that they foreground their collective nature. And of course BSS's background is no great distance from Wavelength, etc. Steve Kado and others want to dispute the issues of professionalism and independence and music-industry marketing, and that's a valid argument, but as Jonny Dovercourt implies in the Exclaim article, I think it would be detrimental if the localism that BSS has attempted to express and the Torontopian sense are configured in radical opposition.

At the same time, Frank's right that the predominant advocates of Torontopia are artists who come more out of an avant-garde tradition (there's that amusing oxymoron again!) than a pop one - although many have a foot in both sides. (I think Final Fantasy is in some basic way weirder than any noise band, not despite but because of the music's prettiness, for instance.) To misread this as the nature of the scene and the Torontopian argument, though, seems to be willfully tendentious. First, the music is much more diverse than that, and includes plenty of things likely to be more to Frank's taste - the Adorables, the Bicycles (who started out somewhat outside the Torontopian model and have migrated steadily into it), the aforementioned Hidden Cameras, Laura Barrett, Glissandro 70, and so on. So he seemed to be caricaturing the musical profile.

But more than that, the very participatory ethic and off-centre thinking of a lot of the bands - the Bad Bands, Ninja High School etc. - mean that they're asking you to listen differently, to involve yourself differently with the art, than you do with music that begins from the idea of the recording, which most pop music does today. It is partly conceptual, but it's not just abstract, but intensely embodied. I don't think it's been well-translated to record in most cases. So if you rely entirely on recordings and second-hand gossip to judge it, you won't grasp it. When you hear about similar work at a distance, you might shrug it off, but if it's happening a streetcar ride away, isn't the fact that people you respect - like the Cameras, like Owen Pallett - value it enough reason to be curious and check it out with an open mind?

Not that they're all artistic triumphs, by any means, even live. But dismissing it with the "conceptual art joke for their friends" slag-off is kind of infuriating. How is music that's made from an experimental (and even intellectual) position less valid than visual art or film or literature that's made that way? And how is it that given the long history of such work being dismissed in its own moment - including stuff that's at the root of the further-out rock that Frank and others do appreciate - people still feel confident about pissing on it when it's new and in a venue near you? Frank, to his credit, expressed that doubt: "Am I guilty of that infamous Canadian inferiority complex that craves validation from abroad before acknowledging homegrown talent?" I don't know if that's your issue personally, Frank - I'd say you're pretty open to new music when it seems close in any way to music you know you like, validation or no validation - but it's certainly one of the issues. But it also seems like people mistake the combination of sense of humour, a certain wild-leap-taking courage and the natural giddiness among people who have found "a creative commons" (as the Discorder writer put it) for some kind of cliqueish back-patting orgy. That's probably unavoidable, but given the general permeability and friendliness of this loose community - which everyone who's found their way into it in the past five or so years will attest to - it's disheartening.

That said, I really wish that some Torontopians would be just a bit more self-conscious when they start behaving in ways that reconfirm that misconception. It's just as discouraging to see people jump on Frank by saying, "oh, all you want is some neo-shoegazer music," or attack people who are trying to start projects - maybe naively, but sincerely - with a lot of snide "you don't know shit" commentary as happens too often on Stillepost. If we want to keep boasting of the open-mindedness of Torontopia, then that's something to live up to.

I could go on - there's lots to say about how Torontopia's renewal depends partly on extending it to new audiences and territory, as is beginning to happen with the all-ages shows and other projects, and also about its "whiteness". What the latter actually denotes is not-blackness: There are good numbers of Asians, Filipinos and other demographics represented, but the yawning gap between "Torontopia" and "the T-Dot" is conspicuous and troublesome. But there will be other times and venues for that. Meanwhile, it seems to me there's still plenty of reason to cry, "Long live Torontopia, wherever she may rise." As Michael's article says, "Torontopia is not a place": If you're home now, you could live there.

| Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, August 29 at 8:44 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (32)

 

COMMENTS

....ok...i confess that when i heard that t'0pia term being bandied about i (like goering) reached for my revolver...i mean who's playing who in the endless dance (best)/circle jerk(worst) of musicians and media?...and this whole self hatred thing about toronto...what?...who?...i mean do these people play rock?...do they fukn UNDERSTAND rock?...do they know any punk rockers?...geez....i"ve only encountered the anti-T'Yo thing once in my 20 years of noise making here and i promptly told him/her/it to go fuck themselves...collectives are great as long as they're about music...once it gets into the realm of identity it's time to serve the kool aid...

Posted by nilan on September 9, 2006 7:40 PM

 

 

Matt, don't waste your time. I'd be way more interested to hear what you have to say about the new Christgau-Torontopia post.

Posted by zoilus on September 5, 2006 2:51 AM

 

 

Wait, is Dale implying that the losers are losers because they're joyless or that they are joyless because they are losers?
Chicken?
Egg?

Posted by Matt Collins on September 5, 2006 2:32 AM

 

 

RE: "Torontopia" started in the first place as a term to challenge Toronto's chronic self-hatred and insecurity, so neither the hatred nor the insecurity should really come as surprises..

I totally agree, Carl. And ballsier, definitely needs to be... and I think perhaps Toronto has always been aware of its enemies, that's kinda what this somewhat self-asserting Torontopia article is all about right? Ack. I'm moving on.

Posted by becs on September 1, 2006 12:55 PM

 

 

"i'm afraid that the Torontopian movement in their arrogant churlishness and smug demeanour has made very powerful enemies...."

Oh geez, is this a George Lucas script or something?

The fact that so-and-so had a run-in with so-and-so really has nothing to do with anything, and the assumption that somehow the actions of a few individuals indict the whole is just silly. Your grudge match is boring.

Guy, again, I don't think you're being fair by lumping Frank in with Park. Did you read Frank's post? Are you familiar with Chromewaves? His taste in music is pretty much exactly the same as yours, and he has the right to express his opinion, which he did in a mostly mature and respectful way.

I think Half's right about the "ballsier." And that shouldn't be confused with getting into dick wars. It should mean not feeling so threatened by any of this shit and keeping on keeping on... Which is, in fact, what will happen.

Then again, "Torontopia" started in the first place as a term to challenge Toronto's chronic self-hatred and insecurity, so neither the hatred nor the insecurity should really come as surprises.

Posted by zoilus on August 31, 2006 5:38 PM

 

 

"Playing" music, it seems to me, is what this is all about. New ways of looking at things come out of playing around, not being constrained.

Maybe Torontopia is too sensitive. From what I've heard more often than not, I'd prefer it a little ballsier. If it dies from a couple of kicks to the head, maybe it was never meant to live.

Nevertheless I will always prefer to hear people play over a band grinding it out because it's their job.

Playing is harder to pull off but, when it works, it has such resonance.

Posted by Half on August 31, 2006 4:46 PM

 

 

Wow. I have to say that I read that article with pleasure, someone standing up to champion the cultural and musical breeding that is happening in Toronto. And I say that as a gal who has been displaced from her native North Vancouver home to right in the middle of West Queen West as they call it.

I'm not sure if some words from Michael himself would help here but when I worked with him earlier his week (he was interviewing a band I am working with from his hometown of Montreal) he said that he really felt that someone should highlight the amazing amount of things, or revolution (and I'm paraphrasing his words here) that is happening in TOronto. Rather than trashing a city who is upping their sub-cultures so they can be seen near the mainstream, he said that he felt we were all living in the middle of something special right now.

And I tend to agree with him on that simple point alone. If we step back a couple of years here, the musical and cultural sphere of life in Toronto has changed massively. Is it too much to shine a spotlight on it or should we just let the rest of the country continue to trash the "centre of the world"?

As someone who grew up with TOronto bashing in her blood, I have to say, it does have a innate bad rap, and well, I think we should be past that now, cause there's a lot of great stuff going on.

Posted by becs on August 31, 2006 4:40 PM

 

 

Carl my defintion of a band that qualifies for the torontotopian appellation is a band that a) (and I used this loosely) "plays music" and b) comes from toronto. Why do these guys keep talking about the same 4 bands matt collins is involved in?

The thing is park dale is that I am your perfect control experiment. I WANT that neo shoegaze music. I dont own any CD by and bad band, and dont actually go out of my way to see them. YET still I dont feel the need to complain about bands I may or may not like getting attention. the best way to deal with stupidty is to ignore it it. hich is how maybe you should deal with your feeling towards torontopia and how I should deal with you.

G.

Posted by guy tanentzapf on August 31, 2006 3:57 PM

 

 

all the crying in the world won't change the facts. these bands suck and no one should be surprised, since being horribly bad is part of their artistic manifesto.

i have seen many of these bands play live and heard their records (here and there, I admit). nothing they have ever done has been the least bit inspiring. And while I like pop and rock and hip-hop and dance music, I also like and appreciate avant-garde expressions as well, and I haven't seen or heard anything that would cause a thinking person to rate any of these bands on that level. maybe future efforts will change that, but to date these dudes are hitting well below the mendoza line.

Also, I am tired of reading about how these people are charitable young civic leaders who care so much about inclusiveness, etc... the fact is more than one unsuspecting Toronto musician has found themselves on the wrong side of the Torontopia line and ended up with their reputations trashed as gossip and lies spread through the community behind all their fake smiles.

i'm afraid that the Torontopian movement in their arrogant churlishness and smug demeanour has made very powerful enemies in music communities both inside and outside the city of Toronto. Any artist who becomes popular has to expect a backlash and it's the work that will see her through what is inevitable. I'm smiling because finally this whole show -- it's going down, down, down...

why?

their work cannot sustain their reputation, and for an artist, that's called the end of the line.

And if you're thinking I'm just being negative just because I hate your friend's band, I'm not. Get your head out of the Globe And Mail and Now Magazine and take a look around our beautiful city. There's so much more to Toronto than the work of these joyless losers...

"an experiment in intimacy" -- hah!


Posted by Park Dale on August 31, 2006 3:35 PM

 

 

BTW I just wanted to mention one thing that I dont know has been talked about. I think Barclay's piece is really terrific. If I read a similar piece about another city that I didnt happen to live in right now id be well impressed. Also I think he captured whats going on here quite well given space limitations and at the same time mentioned the detractors.

Personally I rather park dale and frank would stop going to shows that I go to and not contribute to the scene. Its this sort of negativity that killed whatever was going on here before 1999. So seriously there is no joke here, im serious, if you are bothered by whatever it is the Barclay is talking about than please stay at home. Dont do it for you do it for me, stay at home, pop in that star trek TNG DVD youve been dying to see just please dont bring me down with you.

What does concerns me however is kado's reference to the "muchmusic bands that rebrand themselves". I am dissapointed in him. I thought if anyone who should lead by example rather than by bemoaning some mythical past that doesnt really exist than Kado was (and I hope is) that guy.

G.

Posted by guy tanentzapf on August 31, 2006 2:33 PM

 

 

Calling the argument about live shows "a cop-out" again goes to this idea that recordings are what music is about and live concerts are just promotional vehicles. This is not the only way to look at things. In many of the cases we're talking about, either there *are* no recordings, or the recordings are poor representations. (Which is a criticism, by the way. It's just not the be-all-and-end-all criticism.)

As for the rest... well, you all can have your own opinions. But posts like Park Dale's, which are all about digging other people's graves so people with nothing better to do can dance on them, indicate why there's some of this defensiveness.

And Eppy - yes, I'm not defending cliqueishness. Of course it's something to be concerned about. But it's also something that people sometimes seem unnecessarily paranoid about. People have friends. Everybody can't know everybody. That does not mean they are cliqueish and unfriendly.

Posted by zoilus on August 31, 2006 1:12 PM

 

 

Also, Carl, I think the reason why people make the "cliquiness" argument is that they see exactly what cliquiness has done to the cities you name. Ain't pretty!

Posted by Eppy on August 31, 2006 11:33 AM

 

 

I don't live in Toronto and I haven't seen any of these bands live (although depending on how my day goes I may see FF tonight) and Frank can defend himself, but...he did say he'd seen a lot of these bands live, didn't he? So that seems a weird thing to complain about, disliking bands without seeing them in concert I mean. Also, I think he was less complaining about things being avant-gardeish in general than about the fact that bands have been approaching music in this way for some time now, and, to his ears, it just doesn't work, so it would seem to be the wrong path to continue to beat a dead horse down, so to speak.

(All the bands he complains about haven't done anything for me, either, and TBH his stereotype of the scene does kind of jibe with the impression I get from your blog, Carl! But then, again, don't live in Toronto, haven't seen the bands live, etc. Although I do think "you have to see them live" is a bit of a cop-out.)

Posted by Eppy on August 31, 2006 11:30 AM

 

 

it's pretty clear that whatever it started out as, this Torontotopia thing has become the preserve of over-ambitious passive-aggressive scenesters who think they can fool the world into giving them the honor of a career in music without having a lick of musical talent, or anything worthwhile/perceptive to say.

the fact that some influential critics insist on rating this sort of rank amateurism as high art is tragic... i don't care how smart you are, no amount of overcooked pseudo-academic clap-trap is going to turn the unremarkable noise made by a bunch of completely untalented, overeducated, spoiled upper-middle-class suburban kids (all pushing 30, by the way) into something that sounds like good music...

furthermore, music critics who champion this sort of thing are writing the epitaph for their own careers...

the clock is ticking

Posted by Park Dale on August 31, 2006 11:24 AM

 

 

I think that some people get defensive because it seems like a lot of people aren't so much critisizing something about the music as they are critisizing the right of the bands to exist.

And I'd like to think that The Riptorns are continuing that Warholian tradition of response to critics. Only with more cursing.

Posted by Jay on August 31, 2006 8:41 AM

 

 

to suggest that torntopia is the only scene (I'm assuming, Matt means in Toronto) with any negative press is patently false and dangerous. if you remember, the hip-hop community got a lot of bad press, criticism, blame during 2005's summer of gun violence, for one.

as promised, I have a post on this subject up at http://gravitysrainbow.blogspot.com ... discuss or ignore.

Posted by Graham on August 31, 2006 5:38 AM

 

 

But is that sensitivity to "negative press" becoming an actual weakness in our own sense of what is afoot? Is an inability to hear criticism becoming a defining trait? Because if so the strength of these demands starts to look like a need for approval and the addiction to approval like a chink in the aesthetic. It's one thing to ask for open-mindedness; it's another thing to reply to open expressions of doubt with a militant expectancy. How beautiful seem Warhol's monosyllabic answers, "Do you think this is monotonous?" "Yes." " "Will you change to respond to that?" "No." "How do you feel about your critics?" "Great, they're entirely right." "So will that change what you do?" "Not at all." Courage seems to fail this scene under fire: If we're right, the question is how much further to take it, not how to fight back under assault.

Posted by zoilus on August 31, 2006 2:48 AM

 

 

As I've insisted before, the wagons only get circled because we're the only ones who get any negative press. This, of course, is leading to a situation where people do things exclusively to get that negative press.

Posted by Matt Collins on August 30, 2006 7:25 PM

 

 

Apologies for the typos in my above comment ... my typing skillz apparently degrade while on a deadline.

I don't want to get into this really all that much here since (a) I might have nothing else to contribute nowadays that I'm so far away from Torontopia and (b) I want to talk about this a bit on my own blog ... but, as for the cliquey thing, I think I might have pursued this argument (and as its main proponent for awhile) but after a bit of time now spent away from the metropole it's clear to me that I was probably mistaken. Carl says it above: compared to other cities (I'm thinking Vancouver primarily because it's the city that to me is both home and ultra-cliquey), Toronto's scene (or at least the bad band boat type groups) pales. Instead of cliqueyness, I think the real problem (or challenge) is the inward, circle the wagons, we are really good and you can't dissent type thing that happens. part of that is of course Torontopia itself but the other, more destriuctive part is what I see as wrong with the scene (if anything is wrong that is)...

in any case, i suspect that what's going on here in the is-it-great-or-is-it-a-self-indulgent-wank (that's my uncredited term by the way, exclaim!) is that we're not actually talking about the same thing. or, rather, we might be speaking about the same people but we're using terminologies (and experience behind them) that are fundamentally different. someone might say i don't like the bad bands because they're like bad but Carl might praise them for their breaking down the barriors between audience/performer. these might both be very correct but they don't refute each other's statement , they don't even really speak to one another. i don't know what the solution here is, if there is one to be had.

more soon on my blog...

Posted by Graham on August 30, 2006 6:52 PM

 

 

oh my gawd, DJ Cyber Rap, you're like a superhero.

Posted by spitz on August 30, 2006 12:02 PM

 

 


Fiddlestixxx!!
Ron posted 2 many timez.
I'll get the hang of this net thing 1 day, I SWEAR!
Anywho, everything still holdz tru. x3!!!

Ron Marie

Posted by Ronald "Robert" Marie MacDougall on August 30, 2006 11:56 AM

 

 

Willikers! This debate's getting hotter than Pop Tart, fresh out the toaster!! DJ Cyber (that's yourz troolz) thinx we should settle thiz the old-fashioned way!!! ---> Arm-wrestling competitiun in my back yard!!!!! Winner gets to call themselvez King of Torontopia!!!!!

ps. I was THIS CLOSE to calling my record "Rontopia"

Carl, LOVE yer blog. Keep it up!
Ron

Posted by Ronald "Robert" Marie MacDougall on August 30, 2006 11:54 AM

 

 

Sean, while the "cliquey" criticism always needs to be heard, I also think that sizes of cities make a huge difference here. Part of the difficulty of Toronto is that it is large enough - and is the only city in Canada large enough - that it can only function by being segmented. I've lived in anglo Montreal, and it really is possible for everyone to know everyone. That's just not possible here. But if Toronto is cliquey, then New York is ten times as cliquey, and so is Chicago, and so is San Francisco, and let's not even think about L.A. The Torontopia thing - starting w/ Wavelength, which was really a project meant expressly to defeat the cliqueyness of the local music scene - has really broken down a lot of those social barriers, but it can't break them all down. It's literally impossible, because you can't spend all your time just meeting new people. So while I agree with you that it remains something to be concerned about, I think your Montreal friend was maybe overlooking the problems of scale involved.

Posted by zoilus on August 30, 2006 11:19 AM

 

 

avant-garde tradition =
"The Tradition of the New"
, a book of modern (avant-garde) art criticism by New Yorker mag art critic Harold Rosenberg. Written 1959.

Posted by john on August 30, 2006 9:44 AM

 

 

Toronto has always been wrapped in latex.

Therefore, I encourage Citizens with a valuable seed to push out with all their might against their constraints. Eventually, that condom will break. From our efforts, new life will be released all around us.

I implore Citizens to reject their professional safety net. It encourages the negative energy of "been there, done that". We need to revoke the spermicide that is managerial politics. The only way to push is with unbridled amateur passion.

I would remind Frank that most social movements arise from the artistic movements that precede them and that most art movements are built on in-jokes. I would also suggest that the world is a cliquey place.

Oh...and thanks Carl for "avant-garde tradition".

Posted by Half on August 30, 2006 8:36 AM

 

 

Matthew - I had actually written about 2/3 of a response before the one I ended up posting, but it got lost because someone - not naming names - hit F5 and the whole thing went poof. But I've seen the Bicycles a few times and am generally left seeking insulin. The Adorables - not yet, but that's usually been a scheduling thing. You'd think a band with a monthly residency would be easier to catch but not necessarily so.

It's kind of amusing to see the word "shocked" used so much in context of my writings lately. Because if there's one thing I go for, it's the shock value.

Posted by frank on August 30, 2006 7:12 AM

 

 

That was riddled with typos. I am so upset on so many kevels.

Posted by Matt Collins on August 30, 2006 5:05 AM

 

 

It occurs to me now that my previous statement about Feist could be read as anti-Feist, and that I should have picked a performer with more prestige- probably Shania Twain- to make my point, which was that bands like Tokyo Police Club have escaped any criticism at all while bands like my own, and Dollarama, And Garbage! Violence! Enthusiasm! have had undue and destructive criticism heaped upon them. It can be difficult not to feel hostile and defensive in the face of bands that receive huge amounts of press on behalf of their publicists (my own band has one, who tirelessly fights a losing battle to make people like us despite our pretensions and openness about pretension), especially in the wake of being grossly misreperesented in a national paper by people within our own scene who have been selected to speak on our behalf (claims that a CD called "Toronto is OK" are not sitting well with some of us who feel we work very hard on things we are very enthusiastic about).
Anyway, I wasn't attempting to add more fuel to camp-establishing, line-drawing fires; I was trying to challenge writer and readers to listen again beforwe accepting the authority of the typed word (albeit too passionately and impulsively).
One final qualm with the article: the viewpoint that BSS are stealing from anyone is hystrerical and wrong-headed, and is certainly not the inpulse behind the bulk of the creative forces working within Toronto.

Posted by Matt Collins on August 30, 2006 5:01 AM

 

 

I know next to nothing about the 'real' Torontopia - the only gig I've seen in Toronto in the past 5 years was by the Fiery Furnaces (with Raising the Fawn opening), and I've only seen a small handful of its bands (BSS, Hidden Cameras, FF). But about a year ago when I was really excited about the scene, from reading about it here and enjoying the spirit of several bands' releases (if not the releases themselves), thinking of moving there if only to join in - a friend of mine, with whom I have a great deal in common, had just moved to the city. And he deflated all my hopes. "It's really cliquey," he said. I said all scenes are like that in a way, but it seems really open and inviting, once you get past the initial barrier. He shook his head. "No, it's really cliquey."

I don't know if that's true - it's not my point - but I think if the *feeling* of cliqueyness IS really prevalent (even to a comfortable, creative, friendly Montreal hipster like my friend!), something Torontopians need to be super conscious of, and probably something to examine. It's in many ways so antithetical to, well, the thesis of the movement.

Posted by Sean on August 30, 2006 4:23 AM

 

 

Carl, I'm on a deadline right now so I don't have the time right now to go into this and even go through the exclaim piece but I will definitely have ome thigns to say about torontopia and all that.

I'm mostly commenting right now to point out that the discussion hasn't dissappeared, but it came later than the Sloan tribute show. More specially, it's here:

http://gravitysrainbow.blogspot.com/2006/03/rap-like-condom-protecting-me-from-all.html

back to work.

Posted by Graham on August 30, 2006 3:26 AM

 

 

Greg, at Are You Familiar?, recently (about a month ago) posted something that kind of predicted the response to what Frank said -- basically, that people will instantly close ranks around Toronto(pian) bands when there's the slightest hint of criticism, and that this inability to take criticism is what prevents good bands from getting better and what allows awful bands to get more attention than they deserve.

Which isn't to say this describes your response, Carl...you're by far the most eloquent, erudite, intellectual music blogger I read, and I agree with a lot of what you're saying. From Ottawa, what's happened and what continues to happen in Toronto is a source of inspiration for me (and a source of frustration, since I know that something similar could never happen here, but that's another matter). The number of great bands emerging out of Toronto right now boggles my mind, and makes me really excited about where music is heading in this country.

But at the same time, I completely understand where Frank is coming from. A few months ago, I remember him writing about a show with Tokyo Police Club, The Coast and The Ghost Is Dancing, and he talked about how enthusiasm for performing often seemed to run the risk of overshadowing the music...even though I love all three of those bands, and I love seeing them all live, I can see how it could feel like an exclusionary experience if you're not completely into it (even moreso if you're coming from a slightly different starting point). Frank is more than capable of speaking for himself (as he shows above), but I think that's where his criticism is coming from...not necessarily because he doesn't like the enthusiasm, or the mindset, or the music, but because it can seem clique-ish. That may not be as apparent to someone like you, whose writings have become central to the whole concept of Torontopia, and who genuinely believes in the inclusive nature of the movement and the community. This isn't meant to slag you in any way, since your blog provides a wondeful insight into a world (or at least a community) that I greatly admire, but in any movement, no matter how inclusionary it may be, some people will feel like they're on the outside...even if they have as great a blog as Frank's.

(And all that said, I'm kind of shocked Frank didn't reply to what you said about him probably liking the Adorables and The Bicycles...I'm eager to see what he has to say about that, given how little patience he has for bands that focus as much on their performance as those two do.)

Posted by matthew on August 30, 2006 1:51 AM

 

 

Carl, thanks for the thoughtful response even if it was at the expense of a Mountain Goats post.

I was being serious when I said I was fairly oblivious to the Torontopia movement. Obviously I knew of the players and musical output that comprised it, but as a broader statement? Not so much. But 've always just paid attention to the band and the song, not so much the sociological ideology behind it all.

Perhaps it's old fashioned of me but I'll initially judge music on what I hear from the album/website/myspace/whatever, and if what I hear doesn't impress, then that's the end of that. The fact that it doesn't accurately convey the underlying manifesto behind it really isn't my problem. But I was probably overly dismissive in writing off the Toronto(pia) sound as ironic or insincere - there certainly are many local bands who create music that stylistically is more in my wheelhouse, it's just that few of them have really made an impression and so when I chose to write about it, it was the bands who did make an impression (though not necessarily favourable) that were front of mind.

I've learned not to trust a lot of local boosterism of bands, right or wrong, because I find it comes off more as the "cliqueish back-patting orgy", or just cheering on of friends, than a real, considered critical endorsement. And I've also seen the dark side of that phenomenon, wherein said orgy closes ranks and turns vicious on anyone who dissents. Part of this is certainly the typical dynamic of any establised online forum, but it's also more than that and doesn't really speak to credibility. And it says to me that I spend far too much time lurking around stille post and should probably pay more attention to the music than the online personalities around it.

I've got other personal issues/prejudices/experiences/whatnot that certainly coloured my post and general attitude, but those are my issues and not necessarily relevant to the debate at hand. Certainly there's much food for thought here and I will nosh away at my leisure. Thanks very much for the take-out.

Posted by frank on August 29, 2006 11:21 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson