In Defense of Gringo Star
What remains seems mostly to be the elitism/accessibility argument, the idea that Dad Rock offends because it's undemocratic, representative of the privileged fretwork that comes from idle hands that didn't have to do much else, the product of tryhards brimming with too much offensive unironical effort. Either that or, "It's shit I can't do." This, if anything, might explain why the White Stripes -- a band whose Dad Rock and Dad Blues antecedents you couldn't stop naming if given two minutes -- manage to be wildly popular among the same critical set that probably can't eyeroll theatrically enough at the thought of a Jethro Tull album: The drummer is historically shitty; the production is completely stripped down; almost every part of it seems borrowed; and the lyrics are lushly one-dimensional. Even if it isn't, it sounds like the sort of thing any bozo can do.
In fact, despite the historic power and legacy of Dad Rock, it seems by this point almost ineluctably "the other." People becoming basement MCs might sound to mainstream commentators like a countercultural pose, but there's something primarily and tangibly accessible to an audience about listening to great music and taking samples of stuff you like, then writing words -- the same shit you use every day -- to speak over them. That's reductive, but it feels within one's wheelhouse.
Despite ostensibly stepping into the shoes of billion-dollar bands, Gringo Star might as well come from a different culture. People who get together often enough to practice harmonies for songs they write have a lot more time and determination than most. When those same people get up after a song and all switch instruments and keep doing this until you realize that virtually every member of the band is capable of being the frontman and playing whatever the fuck he wants, they might as well come from a different planet. That's intimidating. And if music like that becomes the norm, if it is established as REAL rock and roll, then it implicitly says that you probably can never really rock without really putting in a lot of time.
It's easier, then, to deflate the worth of more time-consuming creations while elevating the authenticity and value of more instantly accessible fare. It doesn't really matter whether Gringo Star is good or unmistakably more skilled if you can establish that it is essentially unreal. To bring it back to a beer metaphor, it's a lot like the people who irritably call their friends pussies for drinking Belgian trippels because, "That's not real beer." For one thing, that's probably pretty absurd to most Belgians. For another, these kinds of arguments tend to get made by someone with a tallboy in his hand.
It's important to remember that long before Pabst Blue Ribbon became the hipster beer of choice, people bought it because they were poor twentysomethings, and it was really fucking cheap. PBR became the real choice and trippels the unreal pretension in the way the guy still driving a 1988 Tercel with a "KILL YOUR TELEVISION" bumper sticker is leading a more real life than the guy who comes back for the reunion in a BMW and a Hugo Boss suit. It's the way Jack White just loading up wheelbarrows full of cribbed blues-rock history and running it through his unique blend of MediocriMagic produces shit that's real, totally fucking real, and the way you can write off Gringo Star as technicist pose swaddled in a pastiche of guaranteed hits from history. The big difference, the only real difference, is what's easier for you to grasp.