Thursday, March 18, 2010

concerning keisha

Yesterday in the sock drawer (the name for the comments section located at the bottom of each post here at BSC, so named for the preponderance of jizz therein, not unlike the sockdrawer of a teenaged boy) the following was posted:

Side note: I saw on Tom Gabel's Twitter a link for the new AM! video which has a short article with it. In this article is this: "But while Against Me!'s sound works in tiny clubs, Gabel says he hopes that this album, produced by Butch Vig, and its anthemic, Tom Petty-inspired punk songs is the one that finally catapults them to selling out stadiums worldwide." Is that really what they're going for? You know the guy, what's up?

Now, I kind of don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll start like this: Ambition is a hallmark of successful, important and generally cool and worthwhile people. If you have no ambition, I personally want nothing to do with you. Ambition exists at every level and is not always the DETERMINING factor on if someone is cool (see Hitler or some dipshit that wants to be the head of his sector at the DMV) but there’s no one out there who’s worth a shit who has no ambition. Fact. Sorry lazy stoners and various vagabond hipster dildos, you’re lame.
Modest ambition is fine. “I just want to get my own place and move out of my parents house” is an ambition, and it’s a good one. “I just want to look cool.” Great. No judgment there. The key is that healthy restlessness and desire to improve things, however slightly. Without ambition what do you have? Complacence. And complacence my friends, IS the hallmark of the complete disgrace of a human being, or dildo.
“Oh, what about people who have already risen to the tops of their respective fields?” you ask snidely. “Surely they are allowed a little complacence, no?”
No. Fuck no. Jesus. What’s wrong with you?
Take Shaun White for example. He’s a world champion in at least snowboarding, and sometimes skateboarding too. That’s the top of a game if I’ve ever heard it, right? But here’s the thing…He’s not complacent. He’s so far and away the best snowboarder in the world that he didn’t even have to do his final run in the Olympics. White’s so dominant that it’s no stretch to say that he’s up there on par with the most successful people in their fields; the Trumps and Gateses and all that, right? But is he complacent? No fucking way. He’s out there trying to push snowboarding to exciting new places and do shit that no one’s ever done before. He’s got ambition that can’t be stunted just because he’s reached a point where he can rest. And THAT is exactly why he’s the best. Because he can’t stop pushing himself.
So we’ve got that established, right? Good.
Now, to switch gears for a second, people have this fucked up notion that music is art and not commerce. Sure, music is art. No doubt about it. And beyond art, there’s this abstract notion of connecting with people and doing it for the love and going on tour and all that and it’s great. It is. I love all that stuff and that’s why I make music. BUT, along with all that is commerce and compensation. It’s part of it, and why people have somehow decided that it’s gauche to factor money and success into the equation is so fucked up that it borders on perverse. Here’s what I mean:
The notion that people will come see me play music and sing along with songs I’ve written is awesome. The idea that people want to PAY to see me is also awesome. The idea that they want to buy things that I want to sell or pay to have words that I’ve written tattooed on themselves is so cool. It’s all part and parcel with the experience of sharing something kind of unquantifiable with large groups of people. You get to do it, and these people love what you do so much that they become your patrons, essentially funding your existence so you can continue to devote your life to making the music that they love. That give and take is an awesome gift to give and receive and it’s every bit as transcendent as singing along to a really sweet chorus.
In lots of cases with small bands, there just aren’t enough patrons for them to keep doing it and the results are fewer and fewer moments where they can sneak off and write songs and therefore less music gets made.
Now, to bring all this full circle, let’s talk about the tattoo artist that gives you the tattoo of your favorite band’s logo or lyrics. That guy is an artist. He’s doing tattoos because he loves tattoos, he loves connecting with people and he loves pushing the art form. He also charges you for it. He also has aspirations to be more popular and more successful and more nationally and internationally known, and no one minds that. There’s a marriage of art and commerce that goes hand in hand in tattooing and that’s just a given, but in music, for some reason it’s gauche to have ambition or to aspire to bigger audiences. What the fuck is that?
There’s no other profession in the world where achieving desired success is frowned upon. If your dad came home and told you he’d turned down a promotion because he does middle management insurance claim adjustments for the love you’d slap him across the face. But if Tom Gabel’s kid’s dad passed up an opportunity for advancement in his music career, for some reason people would laud him for keeping it real and “doing the right thing”. Even though that’s completely fucking retarded.
See, the reason you all like Against Me! in the first place, the reason that they’re even a band you’ve HEARD OF is because Tom et al have ambition that can’t be contained by playing dumb basement shows and working as waiters. They aspire to be career musicians. And before you get all snippy about that being a bad thing, let me remind you that making tee shirts, sweaters, patches and beer cozies are the trappings of a lifestyle boutique, not a musical troupe, it has NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH MUSIC. AND THAT’S FINE! That’s fucking great. That’s the thing. Propaghandi, Tragedy, whoever, they all fucking deal in commerce. They all want fans. They all want to play to full rooms. Some people have different aspirations and despite the fact that they’re in popular bands, music remains a hobby, and those people don’t have to tour, don’t have to put out music if they don’t want to, because their music is a hobby and their ambition lies elsewhere, but Aganst Me!’s ambition is wrapped up in music, and therefore, they should take it to the furthest point they can, and that’s pretty much what Tom seems to have summed up in that statement that started this, right? Right.
Finally, there are people out there (I was one of them) who say shit like “all I want is to play music to two or three hundred kids a night. I don’t want to be big. I think this is much cooler.” They say that because that’s an ambition point that they have not yet reached. Ask Avail. Ask the Suicide Machines. Ask the Lawrence Arms or Strike Anywhere or Matchbook Romance or anyone who’s gotten to that point and gotten stuck if that was where they hoped their career topped out. Go ahead. Ask them. They’re all working at bars and landscaping jobs and shit like that. Meanwhile, Tom is asleep on a bus and he’s gonna wake up and write songs and then play some songs for a bunch of happy people tonight and it’s because he’s realizing his ambition. What’s cooler? You tell me. Go ahead. Come into my bar today and see how many of your favorite songs I sing you. Yeah. I’m real glad I “decided” not to play stadiums for thousands of people.

Now, I realize how that last sentence sounds and I’d like to mention that I’m not bitter about this. I know it sounds like I feel like I missed the boat and I’m owed something, but I don’t feel that way. I love the musical career I’ve had. I just hate seeing my friends get chastised or questioned because they’re lucky enough to be able to keep doing music full time and doing what everyone else on the earth that’s worth a shit is doing, namely trying to advance their careers.
And you’ll notice, this isn’t JUST about money, it’s about bigger fan bases, more opportunities and the freedom to experiment with different genre styles that aren’t just punk rock TOO. But there’s no fucking shame in money being a factor. Look around. Your Yerba Mate costs money. Your dildo collection costs money. Your cable box costs money. Your books cost money. Everything costs money but music. The fact that anyone’s even still IN the music industry is proof enough that they’ve got their hearts in the right place.
Except for Keisha. She seems like she’s just in it for the wangs.

133 comments:

Hamilton Martin said...

Thanx Beex, your comments on ambitiion were exactly what I needed to hear.

10-4 said...

This is probably my favorite entry you've ever posted. I agree that hurling insults at AM! because they are trying to achieve something big is retarded punk posturing. I just wish that there weren't those "Ch-Ck-Ahhh" noises on the new record.

Manny Los Gatos said...

Your title should've been "Keisha! Get Mr Butler a Plate!"

"Make it a big plate, Keisha."

Capt Murdock said...

OK I understand all of what your saying and it is 100% logical. The problem is that logic and passion do not go hand-in-hand. The kids that go to shows and sing along do so because they are emotionally connected to the music. It doesn’t matter if its at a local VFW or in the last row of the Staples Center. They sing along because there is a passionate connection to the “artist”. Then when this “artist” says their inspiration for making music is not to connect to fans, but to “finally catapult them to selling out stadiums worldwide” these kids are bound to be upset. How can you not understand this? I’m no musician but I have made films and I never once said, “I’m going to make movies to make money.” I do it to express myself and hopefully connect with other people. If I wanted money I would have gone into middle management insurance claim adjustments.

Scott said...

This is hands down one of my favorite posts you have made. I agree 100% with what you have to say. Plus, i have a slight inclination that Tom's twitter had a little bit of sarcasm attached to it as well especially with all the shit people have given them for "changing their sound" or maturing. Whatever, its all bullshit from people who like the idea of the band more than the band themselves. This is coming from someone who recently got a lawrence arms tattoo and loves music and art and people who do it for the love of it. Look at all of the bands out there with a "look" those stupid haircut neon shirt bands. THEY are selling out stadiums right now and have not even been a band for as long as most of us have been out school. Those are the people that are doing it for the wrong reasons but they are milking it for as long as they can. But, if their music is good or if people actually care, that is the real question.

I actually know a kid who said his favorite band, FAVORITE BAND, of all time was, Thrice. Which is all good. They are a great band and have put out some great albums, his choice is not the issue here. NO, the issue is that he always says, "thrice is my absolute favorite band, but only the first 3 albums."

Now, how can they be YOUR FAVORITE FUCKING BAND if you do not like anything they have created over the past 4 years? And he will argue this to great ends. Constantly. That is the kind of person that bashes bands like AM! or Alkaline Trio because they did not recreate "Goddamnit" or "The eternal cowboy" again and again and again over and over without any adjustment or change.

j said...

ftr... There is no money in middle management insurance claims

Joe said...

Years ago one of my friends asked Dan Vapid about a rumor he heard about the Methadones breaking up. Dan's response was something along the lines of, "Yeah, while I was washing dishes at work today I was thinking about how I should stop doing music so I could have more time to keep doing this."

Baffling that people who supposedly love a band can want them to not be able to live a sustainable life by being in said band.

Donnie said...

Great post sir.

Mikey said...

10-4 are you Eleanor?

dustyfloors said...

Worst post ever...

It's Ke$ha.. DUH!!!

Seriously though, this is great. I, as I'm sure everyone in this "scene" has at one point, thrown out the sell out words without fully realizing exactly how little sense it makes.

In other news I would throw it to Ke$ha. She looks dirty and would probably give me something but I think that's the intrigue. Like playing russian roulette, no?

Jack Dalton said...

keisha needs to be burned at the stake. just when you thought tik tok was the most ignorant song of all time, she topped herself with blah blah blah. maybe i'm being a dickhead in saying this but if you listen to a keisha song and think "this is so like my life," then you need to be destroyed.

on another note, i always wish that bands that i like (ex. the lawrence arms) would be able to pursue music full time and play larger shows. The bottom line (cause stone cold said so) is, if the bands make more money, then that makes them happier musicians who make music more frequently and possibly at higher quality. In turn that makes us happier listeners. we all win.

Blake said...

Dusty Floors is right. It's Ke$ha. Don't you guys know anything?

Drew Lerman said...

I've never posted here before, although I read the blog all the time. To the end of maturing and selling out, Alkaline Trio was my favorite band for a long time, but I just wasn't that crazy about Good Mourning or Crimson or Agony and Irony. Each record had its moments (well, the first two did), but ultimately there was just a falling off for me. Every time a new album came out I'd get excited and be let down. I'm 22 now, and I got really into Alk3 in 8th and 9th grade, so I've often wondered whether the issue wasn't about the band's changing style but my own changing tastes. Anyway, then This Addiction came out. I think that record is fucking incredible, certainly the best album they've recorded since From Here to Infirmary (splits and comp stuff aside -- I liked both the OMA split and the HWM split). So it wasn't really a matter of me being irrationally mad at them for selling out OR a matter of my "tastes maturing," but just a matter of them changing their sound. Now that their sound is cool again, I like them again.

Jim said...

I often find myself not listening to a band once they start to gain a larger fan base. It's not because its cool to listen to a band that nobody else knows, its because the quality of the songwriting tends to go down when a band enters a large studio to record an album. I don't know why that happens, it just does. I can think countless examples of this, including the topic of this entry, against me!. the same thing has happened to the gaslight anthem, hot water music, and alkaline trio. Fuel for the hate game and goddamnit are two of my favorite albums to listen to. However, I listened to agony and irony or this addiction once before I decided to turn it off and not listen to it again. I guess that's just my opinion, but I think a lot of people would agree.

Jake Regier said...

Fugazi.

And the fact that this news is being released on Twitter is proof of ambition to be important enough for people to give a shit about frequent one liners.

I don't know. That's just not interesting to me.

JSIN said...

Fuck it right! I mean unless Tom starts doing gangster rap let him do what he wants...(Tom doing gangster rap hmmmmmmm........)

!thriller! said...

Ahh, I'm not in the music industry and such, but here's my two-cents just from what I've heard: Wanting to play bigger shows and have a bigger audience is not wrong, it's what you want to do. Hell NoFX plays stadiums in Australia, Europe and elsewhere. But here's the thing, NoFX did it without changing who they are or appealing to marketing groups. I don't like AM!, just never have. BUT if playing larger shows means changing record labels and having producers influence your recordings into more "mainstream" and "easily digestible" compromises what you set out to do, Make YOUR OWN MUSIC and compromising yourself in a situation is just retarded.
One last thing. Playing stadiums and larger shows usually means higher ticket prices in more metropolitan areas. By playing an expensive, trendy venue, one could be excluding the very people that propelled them to this level in the first place. Some people, like myself, can't afford $30-50 for a show, and I know most of the money goes to the venue. Still, playing a show that excludes core fans doesn't seem smart. Music, as with knowledge, belongs to the world, not a few people.

Garfield Roscoe said...

@Jim, I completely agree, but I also completely agree with the post. I think it is ridiculous to expect a band to write the same album 20x over just to appease a bunch of snobs who reference the first turd of a demo recorded on cassette as being "the only worthwhile songs they recorded," however, all those things that make you identify with a band as far as emotional, meaningful content seem to disappear when they end up in some giant studio that wants to make AM! sound more like GA. A while back Billy Joe Armstrong said something to the effect of "I hear Blink 182, and they sound like NOFX" to me, and to some extent, I understand where he's going with this. Outside the inner circles of PR (which can hardly be clearly defined anymore) people just don't hear the differences that we do. I can't help but think... and I may be VERY WRONG, because I don't understand the music industry to any depth, that there are really conflicting interest when a big name producer takes to handling a release like "White Crosses," where "preserving the identity and/or 'sound' of the band" falls well below "creating the 'perfect' mix and 'selling 10 billion albums." Anyhow, again I know nothing, but I still love Alk3, and I loved American Idiot, and jebus, I even like Dude Ranch (even though I might deny this one in a live setting :-) The amount of money a band makes means nothing to me, but being excited for a new disc, and then finally hearing it is completely lacking in the gusto and attitude that makes the band special and different is a bit of a downer.
Although, give me 10 more listens, it'll probably be my fav. new record.

Candice said...

i agree with brendan.

that is all.

Dead said...

Responding to posts like this is usually a no no for me. Being long time friends with AM! has kind of put me in the position that people don't tend to want to listen to what I say because more times than not, it doesn't really jive with what someone else may be thinking or feeling. For example, when I hear something questionable that really doesn't hold water (regarding AM!) and I try to weigh in on the issues I get the standard, "well your opinion doesn't count because you're friends with the band." Ultimately though, I'd like to think that my opinion might be a bit more enlightened because the people calling the band out tend to base their thoughts on feelings as opposed to facts. Sorry I'm rambling!

What I'm trying to say is thank you Brendan for writing this piece. It certainly won't shut up the throngs of dissenters, but hopefully it'll reach a few and maybe some effect will be had.

Honestly, I would love for my band Dead Sound to be in the position they are in.

Brian said...

have you guys heard the new record?

:/

Jesus said...

Deep Beex, deep. Amazing entry, way to stand up.

On another note, why has nobody mentioned or talked about the new album yet?

Daniel said...

I think an artist with a sound that pushes the form and in turn has a large fan base is an incredible thing. Ziggy Stardust is an amazing album, and it's an album with a large appeal. As to punk rock, one of my favorite all time albums is Sandanista and ALOT of people pan that album, but it's incredible, and it's an honest album that only the Clash could have made. And I feel that looking back at a bands musical career in comparison to what they are doing now is irrelevant if they are continually making good music that pushes the art form. However, when a band makes easy commercial music that appeals to dipshits because of its base appeal that a bunch of dildos can go and shake their asses to, well that's just dumb. I don't know what Tom and crew are doing. I don't give two shits. They stopped mattering to me when they started selling their music to Nickelodeon for their kids vote shit, or whatever the fuck that was. Hey Tom and crew, how about some artistic integrity? That's more often what people are bitching about when they talk about Against Me! (Kudos to you Jake Reigler for the Fugazi nod.) Especially those of us that were lucky enough to be there to see those early "dumb house shows." I saw them play in a fucking alley way. That was community and it was important. It was a betrayal that you thought you were involved in something personal and intelligent that could get bigger and it could be okay for it to do so because it was important and needed to be heard. Play to arenas if you want, but don't lay down a big steamy dump and then get outraged and self righteous and up on your cross for people calling it what it is. It's shit. Against Me's music fucking blows now. That's not a comparison to their old music. It's just not artistically viable.

Josh said...

@Scott: I'd say Against Me! is one of my favorite all time bands but I thought New Wave was one of the worst releases of last year.

It has nothing to do with loving the "idea" of the band or being upset they're "selling out" (although I do find it endlessly amusing that they basically made their name railing against exactly the band they've become but eh, people grow up, priorities change, it's cool) or even that the music evolved/progressed (I LOVE bands that constantly change their sound. I think two of the best acts around these days are the RX Bandits and Portugal. The Man, two bands that change things up every disc) it's just that New Wave was not a good album. It wasn't bad because it didn't conform to their previous sound, it was bad because it was bad.

Gabel's lyrics went from passionate and angry (Axle Rose/Cowboy) to clever and very tounge-in-cheeck (Clarity) to trite and and boring.

Muscially, aside from a few parts of a few songs here and there, the entire disc lacks any of that raw emotion and energy that makes AM! so infections and great and instead just came out like a wierd mix of Top-40 pop rock with some vauge punk influences. Clarity was brillaint in it's arrangement and was worlds better than their older stuff in that regard.

I hold out hope White Crosses will bring me back into the fold, but I'm not holding my breath.

chris said...

Thriller and daniel are all over it. I only got led here indirectly from gabel's blog. This is why chicago sucks. We've got ben weasel and you who are obviously much too influenced by ben weasel.
How can you even say "dumb basement shows"? Shit. A couple weeks ago, i went to one and saw 3 of my favorite bands for 5 bucks. The other band covered a broadways song. Whatever, ive never got into any of your bands, but you seemingly continue to influence new waves of punk kids, musicians. Who do you think am! is gonna be influencing now? The next fallout boy band that hangs out at the mall thats who. All is lost.
And yes, again, fugazi. Art is NOT fucking commerce! Stadiums: if your art is that great that it propels you to that level then so be it. If you start to manipulate yourself or your art to reach or sustain that level, you are a clown.
I have no problem with am! being popular and making money, they deserved it. I just think their new shit and most of new wave suck. And it happens every time.

10-4 said...

Yeah Mikey, that's me.

Nick said...

TLDR

Cheers
xkenneyx

STACEY MCCOOL said...

this always happens.

bands make brilliant debut (and occasionally sophomoric) recordings because they're been working on those songs: touring, re-writing and gaining feedback on them for years. then, fans amass, labels show interest and during a slew of meetings, tours, press photos and backstage blowjobs they're expected to write another hungry record when, to continue the metaphor, they're fucking stuffed.

i've worked in the industry for years and it never changes. it's in every genre, dude. look at jewel or alanis morrisette for fuck's sake. neither of them will ever write a song as jarring or relevant as the ones they wrote as starving artists living in vans or getting dumped by the full house uncle that isn't stamos.

conversely, alkaline trio surprised me with this new record... maybe against me! will (eventually) do the same for you guys.

JP said...

I have a few friends who disowned AM! after they decided to sign with a major label and your post hit the penis on the head, i mean nail. Why are they "sellouts"? Because they want to play bigger venues and get their music out to a wider audience? That's horseshit, am I a sellout because I want more money when it's time for a raise at my job? No because I work hard and earned it. Sure bands like puusycat dolls and backstreet boys are sellouts, they were created for the sole purpose of making money, but bands like AM! and Alkaline Trio still write the music they want to and express themselves how they want regardless of what record label is putting out the music. If you think that is selling out, then just go back in your room, put on a DK record and jerk off to Jello's soothing voice.

On another note Brendan, why does Ben Weasel have such a dislike for your band? Is it jealousy? Did you or one of your equally handsome bandmates dis Ben? Did you see his small ill-shapen penis and tell Maximum Rock n Roll or is he just a crazy old coot?

I dig the new split, thanks for recording quincentuple your money, it cured my ED.

Andrew said...

you suck! but your peanut butter is OK!

and for the record i think that tik tok song is pretty tight

Trace said...

I dropped $50 for tickets to see Thom Yorke's little (guess it really isn't little, though) Atoms for Peace project next month, and though I wish I could be seeing that in a smaller venue, the opportunity to see Yorke live in an amphitheater outweighs never getting a chance to see him.

So if kids wanna see AM! in a big fucking stadium, let 'em, what if they never get a chance to see AM! again? Though I gotta say, they pretty much killed it when I saw them in a small venue on that Alk3 tour back in 06 or 07.

Timing is everything.

Banana@1000MPH said...

I agree with this post, but the generic response, which I can't ignore, is that Tom started off singing about not being a massive band and I get that shit changes, but its just the exact opposite and now he has a song that basically says "I was a dumb kid...that's why I was an anarchist" and he is still so young that I'm sure he is going to write a song in ten years saying "I was a dumb young adult...that's why I something, something".

I don't know. I heard Ke(dollar sign)ha and said it was horrible in the OTHER sock drawer and multiple socks disagreed.

Candice said...

aww Nick, you made me think for a second that xkenneyx was back from the dead, just like that other zombie, jesus

RIP xkenneyx
May 2009-whenever his gf cut off his balls

Garfield Roscoe said...

"getting dumped by the full house uncle that isn't stamos."

I may have peed a little.

Brian said...

@Trace

am jealous about atoms for peace

Justin said...

Very well worded sir, and a commendable job all around. I feel you hit the nail mostly square on the head. With that said, without sounding too much like a pretentious cock sucker, I think there's another underlying reason for all the negativity hurled towards Tom and Against Me!.

Brendan, you and I are about the same age and grew up in the same scene. So, when you think of early 90's punk rock, three bands should come to the tip of the tongue; Green Day, Bad Religion, and NOFX. Green Day made the jump from plucky kids touring the country playing basement shows to being able to sell out any venue on the planet, which they continue to do. For this, they were much maligned by a good portion of the kids who saw them playing in basements. Bad Religion signed to a major label and flirted with taking it to the next level, but never quite got there (Probably due to the subject matter in a highly Christian nation). They left Atlantic and returned to an 'Indie' and have since rebuilt much of their 'cred'. NOFX never signed to a major, haven't had to work day jobs in the better part of 20 years, and as a broad generality, are still adored by a vast section of both people deep in the scene and those who are casual.

Against Me! is similar to Bad Religion. They very obviously have the talent to take it to the next level, but getting over that hump will take a big push. This of course will lead directly to pissing off a lot of the people who watched them in some dude's basement, but that's how it goes. People want to hate New Wave (I haven't heard the new record yet) because of the way it was put out (ie: not on an 'indie' (whatever that means) label), while in fact, it had a couple really good songs.

So really, the point of this (in some long drawn out fashion), is that people are purely jealous to see Against Me! leave behind the life of hand to mouth, floor to floor punk rock. A man's gotta eat, and if Tom Gabel wants to eat rare truffles for dessert every night, he has to hustle his ass off.

Sean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean said...

I love the new Against Me! record.

Every single song just seems of higher musical quality than those on New Wave, which I couldn't really get into.

But I never threw the phrase "sell out" around, because I still had faith in them and they definitely did not disappoint.

Same deal with Alkaline Trio... I liked Crimson (for the most part), but Agony and Irony was kinda painful to listen to (except Calling All Skeletons, that song is catchy as shit)... but This Addiction takes the cake in kickassery.

That being said, BEEX, is it possible for a Lawrence Arms, Alkaline Trio, Against Me! show/tour?

or is there some reason that I'm not thinking of that would make that literally impossible... (besides timing and desire to do so)

Rob.m said...

Eh, as much as I dislike new AM! and love old AM! I'm all for this whole hitting it big thing. As long as you've done your time in the slums and gutters then a little time up top is most definitely due and it's great to see them get their pay off. I saw AM! at a tiny art gallery in San Jose, CA a couple months ago and it was perfect. In a way, I'm glad I'll never get to see that again.

Keri said...

Dear BK,
Everything you said is exactly right in this post, except for when the person in question established their music career and their fan base with lyrics like "just gimme a scene where the music is free" and themes of not "selling out." How can Tom Gabel have the ambition that he has and NOT expect his fans to be let down when he contradicts the very theme his beginnings were based on?

egodiego said...

People bitch when good bands get popular and bitch when shitty bands get popular.

I'm pretty sure I am the punk rock scene of Lynchburg VA ("What's ska?") and I'm always trying to get people into my bands. I don't get the elitist thing.

There's certainly the association of little bands going to big labels and starting to make boring, shitty music. But the reality is, popular or obscure, a lot of musicians do that as they grow up and have different life experiences.


I personally find AM!'s recent music to be boring and shitty, but it's not for me. It's totally cool if someone else likes it. I don't think they suck now or sold out or whatever, I just don't care.

I do, however, wonder why their intense live show turned into total ass. Maybe they just didn't care about my boring, shitty town.

Scott said...

@Josh:
Oh, i agree completely with what you are saying. I think what i am getting at is that people have opinions about what they like and what they have and what things mean to them and i think we are on the same page on a lot of that. My thing is that what happens is that people dismiss a band when they change, alot of bands have changed and it has been amazing. RX bandits, like you said, are a PERFECT example of this. How amazing was mandala? I guess what i was getting at more than anything is like the kid example i gave, Thrice, who had more mainstream reach with their first albums and changed a lot, are still his favorite band but he is so fast to dismiss the new stuff simply because it is not the same hooky sound as "artist in the ambulance"

All and all, i think everyone on here seems to have a grasp on what music really means.

RJ said...

You know something, BK? With all due respect, you've completely missed the point.

The reason a lot of kids out there are pissed off about what has become of a band like Against Me! (personally, I couldn't give a shit about them) is because they feel cheated and, therefore, let down.

Why? As a few of your commenters have astutely pointed out, AM! *once* stood for and, in their songs, extolled the virtues of a certain lifestyle, aesthetic, and political perspective that is wholly anathema to the aspirations Tom Gabel and co. are now purporting to believe in.

I can't help but compare them to all those shitty pop-punk bands out there that sing about the mall, farting, banging chicks (or dudes), throwing up after too many Bud Lights, etc. With those bands, there is never any doubt what they're all about, whether they claim to be "punk" or not. They're in it for the good times, the fame, notoriety and the dollars. God love 'em though, these sorts don't take a stand in their music about defending the possibility and the urgent need for a world that is governed socially, politically and economically by more egalitarian and progressive principles.

Ah, the dollars. You rail against those who could wish to deprive musicians of "compensation". Once again, you've misunderstood the source of the criticism. I don't think anyone with half a brain and an intelligent thought in it is under any illusions about the relationship between art and commerce. I suspect a more nuanced view of the matter would involve some appreciation of the difference between making enough to support yourself (and, if you're not alone, your family) and a rapacious quest for riches and fame.

At the end of the day, you know as well as I do that there are musicians and bands out there who make enough to live and survive comfortably enough in this world without taking a path lined with gold and MTV reporters. Someone already mentioned Fugazi, for instance, but there are countless others.

As a matter of disclosure, I share my life with a woman who is an independent folk/roots musician. (I say this, lest someone comes along and claims I "don't get what it's like for musicians trying to make a career of their art.) While certainly not rich, her band makes enough money for each of the members to live decently - more so than most do in this world - and do what they love every day of their lives. For each of them, it is and has for a while been their full-time, paying job. Now, would they turn down an opportunity to sell their music for licensing purposes? Likely not. Do they aspire to "bigger and better things"? I think you know that's a complicated question. For what it's worth, I can say that from what I know they're happy with where they are in terms of career success at this point. Their concern is more about whether it will continue. The key consideration, as far as the overall point goes, is this though: Do they sing songs about living life according to certain ideals; to a certain code of political and economic ethics that excoriates those who would fall into step with the corporate line, including musical tastes that are manufactured and conditioned by high-powered music industry executives? Certainly not. That is why it wouldn't be "selling out" to do so. However, when a band takes that kind of stand, they are going to have to answer for their repudiation of it when there is a marked and recognizable departure from it. Therein lies the difference and the more fundamental issue here.

I suppose you could take the tack of criticizing impressionable and naive kids out there who ever really believed in and trusted what Against Me! purported to say/sing to them. But that's an entirely different kind of argument and certainly not one you've made here.

Gregory said...

Thanks for such a great post. I appreciate how much effort you put into this blog.

Dom said...

If this was almost any other band, I would agree with you. I have absolutely no problem with Against Me! aiming high and wanting to play stadiums, but I just wish they'd find a way to do it that doesn't involve watering down their sound to the point of almost being unlistenable to try and get a bigger fanbase. It's clearly possible, Gaslight Anthem have pulled off a fairly mainstream sound that could work in stadiums, your mum's radio or your local 500 cap punk club, but Gabel just doesn't seem capable of it.

Mark said...

"And what the hell did Vig do to the vocals? I don't hear James at all and your voice, your beautiful and amazing voice, THE rock n roll voice of our generation, has been polished into something I barely recognise anymore AND THEN buried under a swamp of multi-tracked backing vocals.. WHY???"

Uhh.

Sickie27 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. Kenzington said...

This is a great post and I think it provides an interesting perspective that is seldom considered by fans when the realization sets in that one of their favorite bands is getting bigger (or has aspirations to). As a fan, I think the difficult thing to cope with is the loss of intimacy that occurs when a loved band becomes greatly successful. The energy and emotion found in a small club, in my experience, does not translate to the arena experience. If the bond between band/fan is developed in the club, it feels broken sitting in the fucking club level seats (probably why I have no interest in AFI shows anymore). That's selfish reasoning, I know, but I think it holds some truth. However, I don't want Strike Anywhere to fizzle out because of dwindling numbers (as I've seen lately) and I'd kill to have Avail and the Suicide Machines in my town again. If greater success guaranteed that they'd be back on the road tomorrow, I'd take that in a heartbeat. Besides, after all these bands have given to me, it's only fitting that they get something greater in return.

Sickie27 said...

You only wrote this so it'd get featured in Punknews.


Sellout.

Orwell B. Huxley said...

I think your absolutist mentality gives people the wrong impression. I believe in the case of Against Me it is okay for people to be offended that they want to "sell out stadiums" (they were offensive to many well before this). The reason being, they said they never wanted to be a part of the corporate-run music machine. And yeah, things change, but if you're going to have that much conviction, when you go back on your word, you have effectively become a liar. Liars are way worse than lazy stoners.

p.s. Basement venues > than any stadium venue. There's nothing wrong with devoting your life to service labor, as you make it seem. There is also nothing wrong with devoting your life to playing music in basements (while holding down some less than glamorous job), as you make it seem. There actually are musicians who do not want to transcend the "crummy" basement scene.

jbody said...

Fugazi happened when the industry was so different its not a fair comparison.that trajectory is gone.Anybody else never give a shit about against me?btw the last rise against record debuted at number 3,this addiction recently landed at number 10.new wave debuted at like 58 plus they still play sluggos which is a tiny shithole(not quaint).the incongruous nature of how they are perceived as "huge" and how successful they actually are strikes me as peculiar.I guess it has alot to do with vig.Holy fuck,that mexican joint of warren's is terrible.unlike against me im pretty passionate about burritos

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Bridgett said...

I read too many comments, but somebody said something about a tone of sarcasm, and that's really what I was getting at. I think it'd be great if they played stadiums (I saw them play at the Rosemont in Chicago before Foo Fighters 2 years ago and that was pretty sweet) I just think it was kind of a weird thing for him to say. But, like I said, I don't know the guy, so maybe he says shit like that on a regular basis.

I read your whole post, but did you mention talking about ambition? Like I work in an office at a car dealership, but it would be really weird of me to go around saying that I want to be the office manager someday, or rule the world of all things DMV. Secretly, I would love to lord over the DMV, but I'm not gonna go around talking about it. How's that work?

I should incite riots like this more often! 52 comments? Beautiful. I love you, Bad Sandwich!

Owner Operator said...

fuckin A+ Mr Kelly!

I've got a question/comment/i dunno for ya kinda relating to this...

Tom (yeh, he and I are on a first name basis) is on this bus you speak of, away from his kid a shit load more than you are... In my opinion it is one area you win at. To my question... What else are you better at than Tom Gabel? This blog thing? Side projects? Getting more colourful (yeh, i spelt that shit the right way) tattoos? Being way more punk rock cos you decided not to play stadiums and what not?

Cheers n beers,

OO

Owner Operator said...

also. i think frank turner said it best...

"we can never sell out cos we never bought in"

Robb said...

Some really articulate arguments here. Justin--not to single you out/be a combative dildo for the sake of it but you can’t condense people’s dissent towards stuff like New Wave/White Crosses to something as simple as “jealousy” or whatever--There’ve been some very rational viewpoints here from that side of the fence--most of which I at least understand if not necessarily agree with entirely. Like any heated topic, there’s just so much arbitrary and subjective bullshit. Here, in terms of “what constitutes selling out to YOU--moving to Vagrant or moving to Epic?” and “are you sure that “clean” production you scoff at isn’t a mere byproduct of finally being able to record on a fucking budget that allows the sound they WANT?“ and ‘Just how much clearcut commercial intent do YOU allow to creep into your music like your pervert uncle Ted before your gag reflex triggers? For some that threshold is very high; others can’t bear to glance st a copy of New Wave or Agony and Irony (or maybe Candle Apple Grey is this was ‘86) without like, getting the urge to “destroy something beautiful maaAan!” or stand there and cry like a gayboy or rub their cock all over their first run vinyl copy of Goddmanit or whatever. Mine is apparently pretty high. I can acknowledge the aroma of commercialism pervading my copy of, well, Agony and Irony but still find at least a few things I dig about it--musically/thematically/whatever. Did I just lose three internet fans? Sorry.

I mean yea, I can sit there quip “wow this production is smoother than the virgin mary’s cunt, and fuck it’s a stacked guitar burrito in there” but whatever. I can still find at least certain elements I love.

And to those falling in the latter camp--I 'get' it. Really. Separation of art/commerce. Artistic compromise. FuGaZi bRo! Your ex-favorite band has made some very clearcut career choices that point unquestionably toward commercial scheEeming, and their latest record has an avg 16 layered guitars per track. You feel a vague betrayal. For some it’s this intense, super lame “all or nothing” emotional tie to the music/artist wherein if they catch even the faintest whiff of a measured 'attempt' at 'bigger things', they’re out of it. And to listen and potentially enjoy would feel like a betrayal of ideals you hold and thought this artist also held--etc etc. I get it. I just… can allow myself that disparity between enjoyment of the music and "confidence in the purity of the artist's intentions”, apparently. I mean, Dandriano could have told me half the proceeds from This Addiction were going to American Life League or something equally shitty and I'd still find it insanely listenable.
Again I make no bones about any degree of commercial intent when it’s staring me in the facebut it's not necessarily a deal-breaker for me.

As McCool said--this is nothing new. You see it across all popular genres. Happened with Green Day…pretty much happened with Jawbreaker--you know back in ‘95 when Dear You was shat upon by the scene collective before being ‘rediscovered’ and embraced when everyone had finally had time to quit crying and count to 100 and stop pretending it wasn’t a first rate album. Whatever.

But the whole “stupid basement shows” thing did raise an eyebrow. I mean yeah. Stinky. That kid wearing an alk3 hoodie over a popes shirt (yea we get it you LOVE that shit!) The chick who scoffs at bras and deodorant buzzing in your ear about the raw almond milk her even smellier roommate prepares weekly. The bands making no bread. But since it’s the pretty much the foundation on which your entire scene kinda sorta stands... Err, I like the split though?

Owner Operator said...

i lvoe how we've kept it pretty civil in hte drawer here even though there are conflicting point of views here! and i'd have to agree with Robb, a lot of it is about perspective...

here's something else. i'm from australia.

i've been lucky to see alot of bands that i love on tour in australia but there are many mroe that i will never get to see. some of these bands have made sweet fuck all doing the tour (i saw smoke or fire play and dave said to me something along the lines of "we have to sell 25 more tshirts to cover the air fairs to perth otherwise we lose money on this show" [that shit hit home]) but did it for the love/experience/lifestyle.

i got angry that i had to fly across australia to see the larrys play last time you were here cos you bailed on perth. but i get it. money is hard stuff to make. and in the end i saw you twice, had some good times with mates etc etc.

what i'm saying/rambling/i dunno is i guess is that if a band gets a bit bigger and thus they have more fans in Perth , western australia, and it means i get to see them play live then i'm down.

kylewagoner said...

I am soooo glad you said all of these things. I love you, man. For real, and I've never met you.

love,
Kyle

Jahni Mindu said...

Hey Brendan, Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem tweeted about you and your blog :), guess he really loved the new blog like we all did!

1bourbon1scotch1beer said...

Been reading your blog for over a year now and never felt the need to post anything on this jiz-filled comment board overflowing with BK adorers.
But i gotta fucking google account b/c im hammered and this entry was a fucking blessing. I completely agree with your opinions on successful punk musicians (an oxymoron of a career that deserves more respect from the very fans who catapult these artists to bearable, almost comfortable[GOD NO!] lifestyles). I highly doubt any musician to become successful playing punk music had any original ambition beyond creating the best art possible...that's how this damn subculture works.


However, Against Me! could be cited as one of the only exceptions to your excellently worded case because of the subject matter of their first few albums. I don't think i need to quote RAR again, but it's hard to take Tom seriously after he poured his heart into those lyrics only to contradict himself less than a decade later.
I understand that people change, but with his drastically different approach to the industry I find myself less drawn to what originally captured my heart and imagination.

ACE said...

I really like this post! There is one band that I really like that has fallen into big arena shows for me and thats Rise Against! I had not missed a show since 2003 and the last show with Rancid and Billy Talent was god awfully pricey and full of random ass people. I know that its good to expand and make a quick buck, but the music also get's lost along the way. This is probably the last show I will see them play.

As for my all time favorite band Alkaline Trio, I love every single one of their albums, and I can say that and know I will get crap from everyone. Obviously there are albums that I like least then others one being Agony and Irony, but there are still a few songs I really enjoy on that album as well. What I like about this band is that they have not raised their tickets extremley like Rise Against. I'm paying 22 dollars after service charges where as RA I paid 50 bucks!

Music will always change and there will always be people in it for the music and people who claim they are but wanna make the money. I guess to each their own but I know whom I support and will continue showing up to their shows.

kevin said...

wow, honestly getting to know the guys in am! over the years id say that any comments on "selling out" are kinda ridiculous they wear there influence on their sleeves and write music that is influenced by whatever artist is on their mind... the constant cycle of bands breaking out in house shows and basements and moving up happens because you realize more people like you so you play for more people.... you sign to bigger labels to make better records get better promotion blah blah blah... this new album is fantastic.. seeming influenced by stiff little fingers, Springsteen, the replacements and stones.... fuck a label like punk rock its for kids... its just good music and good writing.... infact i havnt really disliked anything by them except a handfull of tracks here and there... ive been spining records and tapes with the am!/tom gabel logo on em since i could find them hell i saw tom live in st pete in collective bookstore... years ago before there even was am!... theres a difference between selling out and stepping up...

Graham said...

110% agree with this post.

i played in a metal band that signed with a "pretty notable" label (not gonna wag my dick online, who cares), toured our asses off, etc. etc. got dropped from said "notable label" because we wouldn't write the kind of record the label wanted to market, wrote the record we wanted to and broke up soon after. (industry burn-out, anyone?)

some of the people i met and bands we toured with are HUGE in their respective "scene" now and i'm nothing but proud and happy for them.

let's face it - touring can be one of the most isolating, spirit-killing things if nobody comes out to shows. if you're living on $5 a day (or none at all) you're gonna get bummed. the people who keep at it and continue to forgoe "standard" and "conventional" lifestyles dictated to us by the ever-lovalbe American media monolith ABSOLUTELY DESERVE to be compensated in some way for their pursuits.

fuck yeah for this blog!

brendan - you remember playing in corning, ny with the broadways at an outdoors park to about 15 kids? i was 16 or 17, there, and it was one of the most inspirational days of my life.

thank you for continuing to do what you do.

peace be with and may love be the law

Adam said...

What Against Me! does or does not do has no effect on any of you. You just feel like you need to find acceptance in a circle of people rejecting the "mainstream" and refuse to see the grey area. People have decried Against Me! as sellouts, yet they embark on small venue tours almost annually, and are gracious enough to allow many of their fans into shows on the guest list after tickets have sold out. You aren't a sellout until you've got Coca Cola advertisements on your guitar, until then you're just doing something you like.

Jake Regier said...

Keri,

Very well done on quoting Gabel's lyrics. I laughed, and then realized that this argument is pretty much 'null' when ""just gimme a scene where the music is free" is taken into consideration.

Nothin' free about sold-out stadium shows.

TopherBook said...

I really like your post. I'm one of the people who only wants to play to 300 people a night, and I'm well aware that it's because I haven't gotten there yet.

I'm also one of the people who typically feels that a band has "sold out" if they get picked up by a major. And I always know how stupid it sounds. Always.

But honestly, I don't care how a band releases music or who pays for it as long as their music doesn't change just for the sake of being on a major or playing to an arena. Shaun White pushes his sport and his art to the limits because it's what he loves and he's amazing at it. But I don't think his goal in coming up with the "super-frosty-360-kickslide-mcnasty" is so more people will pay to watch him do it.

So the bottom line is this: pay for your record however you want, play to as many people as will listen, make as much money as is available to you, but if you intentionally sculpt your music to be more easily digestible to a larger number of people then you, sir, are a dildo.

But thanks for your post, it was great.

Erin said...

Regarding The Suicide Machines:

Jay's new band is really good, and apparently they're thinking about covering "What I Learned"

I dont know, that information seemed like it fit in here.

crazycarl said...

regardless, tom petty sucks, and the new album is garbage.

i've got no probs. with people making money, but no one should aspire to be tom petty, that shit is nauseating.

at least the bruce springsteen thing he had goin was a little catchy hahaha.

Pierre-Marc said...

The problem I am mentionning in new AM's CD is not that they want to be big, but more that, into Gabel's new lyrics, deny what they have always been. How can they chain up both "I was a teenager anarchist" and "Baby, I'M an anarchist" in a show? (Well, that's what happened yesterday at their free acoustique show in Montreal). I'm really more concerned about incongruous speech than wanting to sell out with a shitty producers. The fact is that I'm diggint their new album even though some songs are overproduced and sounds too catchy. There is also some that reminds me of what I adore of AM!: aggressiveness and such.

Michael Holman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

Jesus christ. I just listened to "white crosses". Yes I downloaded the leak FUCK YOU. I understood New Wave, I got their intent, and they did it well. I hated it, but I understood. White crosses is fucking horrible. By all accounts. At least there were A FEW good lyrical and musical points on New Wave. Now it is serious radio-rock. Brenden have you heard any of their new songs?

I'm so sick of people being so upset with old AM! fans for calling them sellouts/hating the new music/bashing their direction. Like so many people on these comments have said: it has nothing at all to do with what label they are on or how nice their production. I mean there's plenty of shiny polished major label albums I love (Dear You, from the first moment of the first song. fucking love).

There's been a few people defending AM! say that "There are still a few great songs on new wave". A FEW!? You're happy with a few great songs? No one would argue that the first 3 LPs AM! put out are pure gold. I contend there isn't a bad song on any of them (aside from don't lose touch, we don't talk about that song in this house).

The bottom line, and a line I'd like to steal from the woman from fat wreck that is talking to Tom gabel in the van in their tour dvd, is this: "major label, indie label, whatever. just don't make shitty records and don't be an asshole".

New Wave and White Crosses are shitty records, and from what I've seen, Tom Gabel is an asshole. You were once a "teenage anarchist", you should understand how it feels to be betrayed.

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