We Are Family

It’s strange to think that at one point in history, specifically 1979, that “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge was a new dance song. People had never heard about the singers having “all my sisters with me.” It wasn’t played again and again at every 40th anniversary party, wedding or Bar Mitzvah that anyone attended. There was a time when a DJ, on the radio or in a club, heard the track and said, “Yes, this track is fresh. I need to play this.” People heard Sister Sledge singing and grooving in a new way and took to the original song.
People stopped changing the dial when the song came on the car stereo. Car-washing and yard-working were made better by the track appearing on the transistor radio. Girls sang it at recess, and life was good.
Like any good thing, though, the song went sour. Admittedly, I would argue that the song never had much merit, but at one point, it was immensely popular. So popular that every pay-by-the-hour DJ in the country added the song to their repertoire. So popular that the song has been included in nearly every set list a B-rate DJ makes. It makes the kids laugh; it makes the old people dance. The middle-aged clap to the off beats, sometimes to no beats at all. Why not play it?
Besides the fact that it sucks, there’s nothing wrong with “We Are Family.” It reinforces two American beliefs:
1) Family and friends are very important
2) We should enjoy and support the creation and proliferation of crappy music.
Yes, what isn’t more American? Well, I suppose hating those different from you and bathing in oil might be technically “more patriotic,” but that’s a whole other column entirely.
Family is very important, but to counter the other half of “We Are Family,” crappy music isn’t. We should all support and embrace great music. Who knows, if we did that, maybe we as a people would crave and demand great works of literature, thought-provoking films and competent government officials.
With that in mind, I’d like to talk about an important family and its fantastic music. Akron/Family, one of the most underappreciated bands in the country, may not be a family, but they play in a way that transcends the bond of bandmates. They make the audience more than just the spectator. Basically, Akron/Family makes other bands look silly.
A mix of hippy values, folk freak-outs and expertly executed math rock noise explosions, Akron/Family is as diverse as it is familiar. They sing about love, they harmonize, they guitar solo, they scream, they jump in the crowd and rub their bass guitars all over you (any one who saw them at Canopy two years ago know that part to be more than true). They don’t have gimmicky live shows (Of Montreal), quirky lyrics (The Decemberists), or ironic instrumentation (Los Campesinos), and they don’t stress image over substance (all of the above). They’re just a really talented band that not a lot of people appreciate.
Sometimes I get really discouraged writing about music, loving music and hoping that the artistic climate of our great country will someday change. I get discouraged when the poster children of underground, “indie” (vomit) or unheard music are half-rate and more concerned about being different than being good. Equally, it’s angering when My Chemical Romance-type bands are praised for making shitty songs outside of their genre. Make me feel better, and try to be more Akron/Family instead of Sister Sledge. It’s not about being pretentious (I really like Justin Timberlake, as many know), but it’s about digging on stuff that’s worth being dug. Check them out; make me less of a jaded person.

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