There’s no point in faulting Arcade Fire for what it doesn’t do; what’s missing from the band’s musical DNA is missing from dozens of other popular and accomplished rock bands’ as well—most of them less entertaining than Arcade Fire. I’ve spent the past decade wondering why rock and roll, the most miscegenated popular music ever to have existed, underwent a racial re-sorting in the nineteen-nineties. Why did so many white rock bands retreat from the ecstatic singing and intense, voicelike guitar tones of the blues, the heavy African downbeat, and the elaborate showmanship that characterized black music of the mid-twentieth century? These are the volatile elements that launched rock and roll, in the nineteen-fifties, when Elvis Presley stole the world away from Pat Boone and moved popular music from the head to the hips.
As I watched St. Vincent play to a sold out crowd at Mohawk's last night, I thought about Jones' article because it does seem rare these days - white kids with soul - in the world of rock music, but St. Vincent definitely has it. It is, at times, subtle but it's definitely there. And it's funny that Jones would talk about the transition from Pat Boone to Elvis Presley because St. Vincent sounds like a collision of both, more along the lines of Doris Day getting into a fight with Prince. After watching St. Vincent's performance last night, I can safely say that Sasha Frere-Jones has nothing to fear - rock n' roll will never die.