“You know I've felt how I feel today since I was eight years old…I've been the same person since 1982.” –Jenny Lewis
Let’s ever so briefly enter a world of strawberry-flavored kisses and lollipop lanes where all animals live in peace and harmony and talk about something you may have thought was long gone, but is in fact still all around you. It’s one of the chief reasons you still see twenty-something girls in colored tights with flats and donning the haircuts of eight-year-olds; and why Zooey Deschanel has a career (and probably stuck with the name Zooey). It’s where everything is cute, cuddly, and precious, you know, the precise winning ingredients out of which one can form a complete genre of rock. And not just any old genre, but one that’s “alternative” or “indie” (I know, terms we all shudder to use) putting you just a stone’s throw away from the likes of Black Flag. It’s a place where the above stomach-churning quote (where the former child star and popularizer of long hair with bangs mopes about how she’s sad all the time) is adopted as a lifestyle choice.
Fortunately, we’re passed the nadir of this revival in Twee and while no self-respecting band would choose to release this tripe and far fewer people are willing to wave it in front of your face and sing its praises, it’s not so much gone away forever but rather dissipated into a fine mainstream mist that smells faintly of sugar cookies. Remember those quite dumb, grungy commercials of the mid 90’s where you couldn’t even be persuaded to buy Bubble Tape without a guy with greasy long hair? (Hell, a few years later Raisin Bran Crunch seemed to be marketed directly to people who looked like they were members of Pavement.) Even those ads would be preferable to what we are now forced to deal with. Squiggly moving fonts that look like they were drawn with crayon will sell you Coke. Stop motion video of people shilling for Kindles. Commercials that take the form of grade school plays… cotton ball clouds… balls of yarn… guitars on a minimum of capo five and mandolins, mandolins, MANDOLINS!!!
Now we certainly shouldn’t bemoan Twee’s fate as its aesthetics are used to hawk lame shit in every other commercial on the air right now, it certainly couldn’t have happened to a more worthless genre. But it’s maddening how just when you thought you were done with female singers babbling like babies, they come back at you more annoying than ever, every time you turn on the television, surf the interweb, or go out in public to anywhere even remotely trendy, you know, like Target.
Well, let’s do a brief history and let’s try to avoid being sexist, while simultaneously being a little sexist. When everything was coming up roses for Twee twerps several years ago, it was hard not to mistake it for being largely a female-dominated issue than it was a male, as if all of a sudden the world forgot to repress copies of Horses. (Christ, you almost could have recommended Lydia Lunch to these people.) But if you look back on the history of letting your inner child out through music you can see the blame falls at the feet of many males.
Even though you might find Jonathan Richman a little charming and quaint, trust me that “charming” and “quaint” are what started this whole mess in the first place. After the first album and he decided to put his name first and use whomever was in the Modern Lovers at the time as a backing band, he just got cuter and cuter with every release to point where in interviews, he’d openly talk about crying while reading William Blake (who despite being born in 1757, is also criminal in the court of Twee).
Calvin Johnson of K Records and Beat Happening was known for throwing pajama parties back in the 80’s and acting like a petulant child when someone brought him a vegetable he didn’t like. He also made records that could have been played and written by five-year-olds. And although K doesn’t always turn out shit, its logo still looks like it was still drawn in crayon and that’s all the evidence one needs make him guilty as the above.
This one is obvious, so let’s just get it out of the way: Morrissey is adored by all of these whiny babies, but at least Johnny Marr could jangle his way out of a paper bag, so you ended up hearing more than just fuzzy, open, major chords. On the plus side, every current day Morrissey single is now about how he used to be such a little bitch but now he gets tons of ass.
On a literary front, let it just be stated for the record that anyone who read The Perks of Being a Wallflower in their formative years and didn’t feel a strong urge to vomit with each page turned, and may have very well felt it necessary to recommend it as you walked down the halls of your high school should be promptly exorcised from your life, if you have not already done so.
It may still be everywhere, but at least we can thank the gods it’s no longer relevant. After all if we were to get to the root of what this genre is all about and what makes it so despicable we would see that’s its all a front, and although that’s the case with nearly everything, in this case it’s special. For instance, consider the following: In Twee we’re attempting to come off charmingly naive, while simultaneously looking like a child, acting like a child, and generally trying to come off as non-threatening as humanly possible. The perfect front for a case of good old-fashioned date rape. That’s correct, all twee males are date rapists.
Previously: Bringing in the String Section with Dan Bejar.