A review of

“Black and White”

by Crippled Pilgrims

Central Question: Can you make white pop music about white privilege?
Main members of Crippled Pilgrims: Jay Moglia, Scott Wingo, Mitch Parker, Dan Joseph; Other bands containing members of Crippled Pilgrims: Velvet Monkeys, Rambling Shadows, 9353, Death Camp 2000, Trenchmouth, Government Issue; Moglia is now: a bicycle racer who runs a Virginia racing camp; Wingo is not: the minor-league baseball player of the same name; James Baldwin, in 1984, on whiteness: “America became white—the people who, as they claim, ‘settled’ the country became white—because of the necessity of … justifying the black subjugation. No community can be based on such a principle”; Wingo, in 2004, on his band’s reception: “My feeling at the time wasn’t so much that people couldn’t stomach the group, but that people were perplexed.”

Crippled Pilgrims were one of those early-1980s “jangle” bands that could have been REM but weren’t, with lots of reverb to accent the twelve-string guitars and to offset (barely) the flat male vocals. Their music was no more complex than that of their peers, but it was more melancholy, given to minor chords and half steps down, less angry than sadly baffled, with song titles like “Oblivious and Numb,” “Sad but True,” “People Going Nowhere.”

Many college towns had one, or ten, bands that played in a similar style. But Crippled Pilgrims’ town was DC, where most white kids (and white rock critics) sought not Byrdsy pop but “harDCore,” the fast, tight, hyperaggressive, openly political songs of Minor Threat, whose singer went on to cofound Fugazi. For black kids, and hip black adults, local music instead meant—usually—go-go, the live and virtuosic post-funk grooves of Experience Unlimited (E.U.), of Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers. DC was then and is now a black-majority city where national government, white-ish local art scenes, and black culture chug along in what, to outsiders, might look like surprising isolation from one another.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Stephen Burt

News on Facebook Photos on Instagram Stuff on Pinterest Announcements by RSS Sounds on Soundcloud Exclusives on Tumblr Updates on Twitter

Subscribe to our mailing list