"Little Boxes" revisited

After seeing my favorite band, Walk Off The Earth, in concert last week, I'm inspired to reprise an earlier post I wrote about them. (I think this is my 15th article on the band, if you're keeping count at home.) This video is a must-see...

Every now and then a song comes along that savages the sterility and banality of modernity and its cookie cutter institutions.

Malvina Reynolds' classic “Little Boxes” did it in 1962, with its allusions to the “ticky tacky” conformity of residential tract housing and the sanitized roles that our social order tries to stuff us into. A half-century later the tune holds up all too well, as Walk Off The Earth brilliantly reminds us.

This song identifies SO many easy targets: our barren, highway-glutted, carbon-wasting, soul-choking suburban sprawl (which may be the biggest contributor to climate destabilization); our assembly-line industrial-era educational factories that produce obedient citizen-workers who (too often) “come out all the same”; and our personality-crushing, spontaneity-killing, Dilbert-imitating corporations that strangle the creativity out of its boxed-in cubicle captives.

As former Hallmark employee Gordon MacKenzie wrote in his wonderful book, Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving With Grace...

Society appoints its clandestine cartel to put a cap on imaginative brilliance…an originality-suppression agency that permeates our lives. It tyrannized Galileo into recanting the fruits of his own scientific genius. It handed Socrates a cup of hemlock, put a match to Joan of Arc, and fomented the crucifixion of Christ…From cradle to grave, the pressure is on: BE NORMAL.

Maybe "thinking outside the box" isn't such a dumb metaphor after all.

The beauty of a band like Walk Off The Earth is how they've gone out of their way to avoid giving us ticky tacky products. Each of their videos is memorable in some way, including this early clip of band members playing one guitar while singing Gotye's "Somebody that I Used to Know" (which went viral immediately, gaining millions of views in a few weeks).

For my 2012 interview with WOTE's irrepressible Sarah Blackwood, check here.

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  1. i remember when a lot of us wondered if wote's one guitar performance was a trick, then they pulled it off on national tv. still can't figure why they're not world famous.

    1. When I saw them last week, for an encore they all played the same guitar and sang a medley of tunes, not just "Somebody That I Used To Know"—as if to say "We can do any friggin' song in the world with all of us playing the same guitar."

  2. It's refreshing to see a modern act that tries new things. Their videos are extremely creative and a joy to watch. They're strong vocally too.

    1. "Tries new things" is exactly right. In their videos & live shows, they do things that I've never seen another musical act try — and I've probably watched a thousand bands in my lifetime. This is a gang with a very high innovation IQ (whatever that is).

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