Call and Response

If the destruction of September 11 took with all the lives and the buildings America's love affair with irony (as more than a few self-serving media types have opined), why didn't it also subsume the self-perpetuating infantilization so many twentysomethings in rock bands seem to cling to like a life raft? That's not a rhetorical question: More than ever, the college-radio circuit is nourishing a glut of bands who sing gawky, ostensibly tuneful songs about multicolored animals and primrose lanes and roller-skating and blowing bubbles--a weird, noxious conflation of psychedelic poesy and twee-pop glee that seems to deny a jungle-gym-free outside world. If it's not an ironic riff on Scooby Doo ringer tees, what kind of timing is that?

Maybe the best kind: I can't say I haven't spent long nights since 9/11 in front of the TV, chasing down old Leave It to Beaver episodes or basketball highlights that two months ago I couldn't have cared less about, or that I haven't read the animated greeting cards my mom sends me on the Internet two or three extra times. That stuff offers enormous comfort we used to be more uncomfortable (or incapable of) acknowledging we needed, and I'm sure the undergrads spinning their Apples in Stereo 7-inches are looking for sanctuary just like me.

But I'm still a little surprised that people are in the mood to hear music like that made by the San Francisco group Call and Response, whose just-reissued debut album is, as far as I can tell, about wearing one of those little hats with the helicopter blades on the top. Though the bantamweight funk vamps and glittery French-pop accents the band peppers its pre-fab indie-glop with are nice touches (which probably help make the live show more fun than, well, college radio), it's really difficult for me not to get queasy with these well-meaning folks' relentlessly kiddie-sized ambitions, their insistence that I clap my hands when all I really wanna do is hold my head. This isn't their problem--it's all of ours, the baggage we're left to unpack when music like this--so benign and inconsequential just a season ago--now precariously rides the increasingly fine line between the necessity of moving on and the quicksand of denial.

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Mikael Wood