Friday, April 15, 2011

So, You Want to Know About the Ukulele?

The New York Times has an impressive piece about the current "ukulele craze."  A friend of ours plays prominently in the story.

Not long ago it was an endangered species, usually encountered as cheap exotica or a comic prop. Now it permeates the culture to an extent that it hasn’t in more than half a century, turning up in Top 10 pop songs and fashionable indie-rock bands, in television commercials by the hundred and YouTube videos by the thousand. There definitely is something going on here.


Mr. Vedder’s album is halfway between the standard uke style and something more idiosyncratic. Respecting one of the instrument’s unwritten rules, he plays antique songs like “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and “Tonight You Belong to Me” (you may rememberSteve Martin and Bernadette Peters singing that one in “The Jerk”). And he exploits the sentimentality of the instrument for all it’s worth, singing lines like “For every wish upon a star that goes unanswered in the dark/There is a dream I’ve dreamt about you.” But on songs like “Can’t Keep,” he seems to be trying to cram an angst-y Pearl Jam song through the tiny instrument, attacking the strings.