There seems to me nothing more despicable than a band, or really any cultural artifact that is all too perfectly suited for the time in which it first appeared, for them we know that this will be the first of many times in which we will encounter it. This is the fate of any project associated directly with Kimya Dawson, whose other band The Moldy Peaches received a significant increase in exposure as the result of inclusion on the soundtrack to Juno. And while such bands are not necessarily forces of art unto themselves, their connection to iconic, generation-centric films, the real world culture and attitude that feed off of those films, and their general accessibility will give them greater relevance in the years to come as the generation in focus – in this case the “millennials” – become more hegemonic. Assuming the future of this society remains pretty much as it does now. This is not to say that a band like The Bundles will represent the entire generation, only those of the generation that matter, people who are generally decent citizens without being stupid and with idiosyncrasies perfectly understood in the context of the time in which they came of age. Little will be remembered of what it was they actually did during that time, other than their wearing of distinctive clothing and posing no threat whatsoever to America’s stability or its cherished moral character. But this can be remedied with enhanced memories set to the kind of music that they might not have listened to religiously back then, but are thoroughly comforted by in their retirement.
The Bundles fit the mold perfectly for future relevance at the hands of aging millennials who weren’t punks and probably had employment during the Great Recession. The Bundles, like, say, The Mamas and The Papas for the boomers, meet the criteria for a kind of memorable blandness, though one that is mostly their own. They craft gentle pop songs with melodic chords but lo-fi production complemented by minimal instrumentation. The most prominent instruments are an acoustic guitar and the vocals of Dawson and Jeffrey Lewis, which boast the near-identical tone of the half-speaking, half-singing drone. And perhaps most importantly, when they sing it is most often about nothing in particular. In the case of The Bundles, lyrics veer from wistful platitudes of love and friendship with a kind of middle school simplicity, to offbeat nursery rhymes, to stream of consciousness nonsense that seems less like interesting wordplay and more like filler for a song’s particular phrasing pattern. A certain person who will be in his or her ’50s in the ’30s will play the music of The Bundles whilst performing a mundane task of everyday living letting it seep into the background. Rather than engage the music and its message, the music will do the engaging, forcing the listener to recall a color or sensation or perhaps even a scent not felt in some time but only half-forgotten. This, everyone discovers sooner or later, is what bearing with the unbearable is like.
But what The Bundles do for us now will be difficult to remember as time goes on. In fact I’ve already forgotten it. Since many of their songs unravel as dreams do, and contain similar decorative imagery, they fascinate upon the first hearing and become blurrier as one attempts to remember them. And it seems that each subsequent listen is not the same as the previous one, leading these twee model citizens to feel shaken with a certain dread of instability, which they try to avoid enough in their own lives and don’t expect it to happen in their music, at least at a time in their lives when they’re supposed to be paying attention to it so it can have precisely that void-filling significance later on. Whether or not this type of thing happens to those who go more than a few degrees south of The Bundles, into territories far more bizarre, perhaps louder, but certainly more niche, we cannot say, as they do not exist, but perhaps that’s for the better.
Jeffrey Lewis – 12 Crass Songs
The Moldy Peaches – The Moldy Peaches
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