tUnE-YaRdS – w h o k i l l (4AD)

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In a recent New Yorker article, author Sasha Frere-Jones explained that w h o k i l l was originally going to be called Women Who Kill. However, Merrill Garbus’ friends and family convinced her to change it because it was too … controversial. So it was changed to something that almost sounds cute; like a Dr. Seuss character. Our differences could not be more apparent. I feel even more entrenched in my boredom.

Like the myspace-inspired studly caps used to capture superficial attention, tUnE-YaRdS feels hollow to me. At first glance, I appreciate the weirdness, but as some friends of mine once wrote about the affectation of weird,

… A far grosser impotence lies with those who believe they are somehow confronting the moral order by affecting an eccentric or “weird” pose. This type is the worst sort of moral agent, since they believe they are combating culture-at-large while they are, point in fact, fully in support of a “correct” culture: they will attempt at every turn to absorb into their order of “weird” anyone or anything they can find immediate use for, meanwhile rejecting what fails to suit their proscribed demands. Never is there an admission of useless elements, of glorious expenditures, committed sacrifice, or genuine terror—they play at politics, seemingly incapable of other means, and adopting a “weird” facade is merely done to disguise an apparent lack of authentic engagement with the world.

Because in my world, this whole album just seems like a musical about the time she studied abroad in Kenya. Which is fine. I just hate musicals.

Nevertheless, she has a real sweetness about her, which seems wonderful to me. She politely compliments others, she is humble, and she makes sure her ukulele isn’t too loud. She checks to make sure everyone in her band is ready before playing. She quietly warms up her voice. It is so unassuming — almost deferential.

But I need more than niceties to get the world moving under my feet. Maybe if I had never heard the ferocity in Ari Up’s voice I would be at the front of every tUnE-YaRds show, quietly seated, and miming every word. But I have heard of Ari Up. In fact I mostly stay at home and crank Cut and The Slits’ Peel sessions, jumping around until all my pictures fall off the walls. Now there is a girl who wasn’t afraid to be a Rasta. That’s why I am unimpressed by Merrill Garbus. I want her to shatter glass with her voice. I want her to stare down her audience instead of a camera lens. I want her to disappoint her friends and family. I want her to stop performing and push over the mic stand. I want her to put r’s at the end of words that end in r! I want her to stop TRYING SO HARD to get people to be moved by her music and just move the GOD-DAMNED earth already!!!! Doesn’t she have the potential for that? Don’t we all have that potential?

Perhaps I have no business[1] in asking.

This music just says nothing to me. This music was not made for me. And regardless of how much I enjoy the loops that open her first album Bird-Brains

— I really don’t want to go to Merrill’s slumber party. It’s nothing personal. I just don’t think we have as much in common as I originally thought.

And if this music was made for you, well then I think that is wonderful.

Just please don’t make me listen to it anymore, because I will refuse to drink my sweet tea. And I will cry until someone comes to pick me up.

[1] Or should I say “bizness”

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