Wednesday, July 13, 2011

wait, you're telling me why your favorite band is terrible?

Okay, once again I’m gonna complain about music. Well, no. I’m not gonna complain about music but rather about how people, listeners I guess, ingest music. I’d like to preface this by saying that I’m a music lover and a music hater and a musician and as such, I find myself on a lot of different sides of very heated debates about music. Depending on what side I’m on, I find myself completely baffled and disgusted with opposing arguments. It’s fucked up, because music is SUCH an easy thing to ignore and it’s such an easy thing to love in a vacuum. Here’s what I mean:

Just because you liked the first couple of Bad Religion albums doesn’t mean that you have to like them now. It’s been twenty five years since some of those records came out. There’s no real reason that you should hold anything new up to the standards of anything old. Shit changes. Sometimes it gets better, sometimes it gets worse, but it ALWAYS changes. In the words of Tupac (via Steve Windwood), that’s the way it is.

Think about this: when I was younger I had a girlfriend that I was pretty sure was the hottest woman I had ever seen. I can think back and remember her now and even if we include everyone I’ve ever seen in magazines or on television, this girl was competitive in the very top one percent of the most stunningly ball-meltingly hot chicks ever. No doubt about it.

Well, it’s been a while, and now she’s older and she’s still good looking by the vast standards of the world (as in, there are a TON of people who are vastly uglier than her out there) but generally, I wouldn’t say she’s hot anymore. Yes, if push comes to shove, she’s cuter than the vast majority of uggos, but she’s no longer even in my top 100 by any means. Here’s how that makes me feel: fairly indifferent. It’s not a big deal at all. We were close for a while, I really, really liked her and thought she was the best, the absolute BEST thing on the planet for a sec, but shit done changed and now she’s just a woman who’s out there doing her thing. I’m glad she’s still alive and kicking and I’m sure she’s still nice and has people around her that love her and think she’s great and beautiful and all that, but I’m no longer one of them and that’s just fine.

I guess there’s a small bit of nostalgia for when she was just the hottest girl on earth, but that kind of thing never lasts forever. That’s the beauty of perfection: it’s so fleeting. It’s the pinnacle when the glider stops and the world gets silent before the great descent back towards the ground. That’s WHY her beauty was so astounding back when I knew her: precisely because nothing can be THAT beautiful for very long. It’s a huge part of why we consider THAT to be beauty, it’s because it’s so unstable.

Now, do you see where I’m going with this? You loved a band when YOU were a kid and they were kids. Now you’re a grown woman and they’re grown men and the record comes out and (fart noise) it sucks to you. Why is the result of that assessment anger? People that listen to music operate in this fucked up universe of expectation. Once someone delivers you something that you enjoy, something you enjoy so much that you make it part of the very fiber of your being and dedicate a bit of your soul to it, that if they ever produce something else that doesn’t live up to the thrill of their old offering, it enrages you and makes you kind of hate things, even if, in the great scheme of shit, this newer offering is better than 90% of the shit out there. Can you imagine operating like this in ANY other situation and what a total cocksucker you’d seem to be?

You have sex with a dude and it blows your mind. It’s the best sex you’ve ever had. You even have sex for a straight month and it’s just mind boggling. After a while, you do it and it’s just okay. It’s still better than most of the other sex you’ve ever had with other dudes, but it’s not as good as when he was rocking your world. Is the appropriate response to be pissed off? That’s fucking crazy AND that’s an even more excusable situation, because to translate this back to music, you can ALWAYS go back and put on the old album that you love, but you can’t go back and get buttfucked so generously and tenderly, you can only remember it, and that fades.

Of course, that old record has been listened to into the ground and as such you can’t still squeeze the same endorphin-blasting pleasure from it as you once did. You’ve been hoping for a new fix and it comes up short and so you throw a tantrum. It’s fucking silly is what it is. But I do it too.

Well, I don’t do this so much anymore simply because I don’t have too many bands that I care about that much anymore. I remember being furious at the Bad Religion album Recipe For Hate when it came out. I thought it was a shitty cashgrab and a complete dismantling of everything I held dear about Bad Religion. I’ve since come to realize that my obsession with Bad Religion was pretty unhealthy in terms of them living up to my expectations for any period of time. I got Against the Grain and thought it was too produced. I got Generator and thought that it had some stinkers and I got real worried, however I still probably played both these records a zillion times. I got Recipe For Hate the day it came out (just like I had with all the BR records) and was BUMMED. Eddie Vedder was singing on it? Weird guitar sounds? Bullshit mid tempo shit that tried to wax poetic rather than furious? What the fuck? This is not what I want my Bad Religion to be.

That last sentence is true. It also makes me sound like a petulant baby. MY Bad Religion? They’re making THEIR music to the best of THEIR ability and trying to keep shit interesting as best they can. If it doesn’t always connect with me, fuck…They’ve provided me with some of the best music I’ve EVER heard. I should be able to cut them a break, or at the very least not just start HATING them because of it, right? Especially now that records are free, the notion that someone works hard on a record that I take for free (despite the fact that it costs a lot of money to make) and then get ANGRY with the person who worked hard to provide this entertainment to me because it doesn’t live up to MY idea of what THEY should do is fucking asinine, childish and shitty, and yet anyone who truly loves music does this, because you can’t love something without hating it just as much.

Slight variation: I remember talking to my friend Chris after he played a show with his band, Sundowner about a year ago. He’d taken a chance and changed it up. He usually played an acoustic guitar, but for this show, he’d brought out his electric and a small amp and played that way. He felt the crowd response was lackluster. He got some people approaching him, questioning why he’d switch up the formula. He sat backstage and was a little bummed out, second guessing his decision. My response was this: That was a great show (and it was. He sounded great). People as a general rule have no vision at all. No human accepts change or new things very easily. You are the person who figured out what Sundowner is and how it should evolve. Of COURSE people will be slow to follow your progress. That’s because they’re boring and so far they’ve only accepted what you’ve already done. If they REALLY knew what the next step was for Sundowner, if they really knew how to push forward and make a better version of what you’ve done that they love so much, then THEY would be doing it, and there would be a crowd of people there to see them.

Does this make sense? I’m not saying that artists don’t make missteps. They do (this Sundowner show was not an example of that, however, just so we’re clear). Of course they do. But the thing is that every step is part of that artist’s best attempts to do something good and keep it interesting. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s their deal, not ours. If I really had known what the next Bad Religion record should sound like, I would have made it myself and presumably it would have been my favorite record since they were my favorite band, but I never could do that. At best, I could start my own band and do my best Bad Religion impersonation, which would be terrible.

Bad Religion has a classic song that builds to an explosive outro (which fades out!) where Greg Graffin screams “everybody knows what’s best for you!” over and over again. This is never more true than when you’re a child, underemployed, or when you’re a musician that people enjoy. Don’t change! Don’t stay the same! That sucks! Be more like that! How dare you invoke this iconography!? This is all said by people who sit there and wait to be entertained by you, people who will readily admit that they’re not creative, not musically inclined, people that aren’t adept at expressing themselves emotionally. Lazy people who are sitting there like cowboys shooting at your boots, demanding to be entertained will tell you exactly where you fucked up or what you should have done as though their hindsight/armchair ‘producing’ is somehow as valid as the vision that created the music that brought them to the table in the first place. It’s fucking ridiculous.

Now, finally I’m not suggesting that you have to be able to do something in order to say that someone else doing that same thing stinks at it. For example, I can’t do surgery, but I can spot bad surgery no problem. I can’t take good photographs but I recognize bad ones. This is all fine. People don’t have to like shit. That’s not the issue. The issue here is the rage, the smug disappointment and the cocksure notion that the person creating the shit is the one who got it wrong, ignoring that the whole reason we care is because they were the ones who invented what was right.

Fucking A.

32 comments:

Osky said...

That's kind of where records can hurt a band. They create this expectation of what the band is supposed to sound like. Live shows and subsequent records shouldn't be held to that standard, but it's hard to break that tendency. Nonetheless, I hope this means Eddie Vedder makes an appearance on the new Brendan Kelly record.

Boombox-27 said...

Is this your way of telling us Ediie Vedder is singing on the new record?

Chris said...

Very well spoken and i totally agree. It's taken me so long on this topic to completely agree with someones views and thoughts.

Thank YOU for expressing yourself.

Steele said...

I think you meant Tupac via Bruce Hornsby. Get it right dildo. haha.

Jess Bowles said...

How dare people grow up and things change?!

Sarcasm aside great entry,thanks for sharing.

I've always approached music with the notion that if I like it, I like it. If I don't, I don't and there's plenty out there for me to always find something I enjoy.

departarrival said...

" It’s still better than most of the other sex you’ve ever had with other dudes, but it’s not as good as when he was rocking your world."

That was the perfect analogy for women everywhere to know exactly what you are talking about when it comes to music. Great analogy.

RE: Sundowner.
You know, I have always felt that when a musician does something different than what the listener is used to they're going to have those who love it and those who didn't fully appreciate it. But would one stand over a busker's shoulder on the street and tell them, "No no, don't play it that way!" when they're doing their original material? Or, would you want up to a painter and tell him, "Ah bro you were doing so well until you took those last few strokes. Now it sucks. Ugh." No. I mean, sure, maybe some dickheads would, but I don't think the majority of people would. I guess its just manners. My attitude on it is, ok they played it a little differently: BUT they did it for their enjoyment and for those who would be into it. Just like not every member of an audience is going to love EVERY song all of the time. Heck, sometimes things "click" with me live than as they did on the record for me. All in all, respect the musicians' right to make creative choices whether it be on a record or at their shows. You have to trust that bands aren't doing things deliberately to lose their fans. There has to be a level of "trust" there that if you're a fan of their sound, they recognize that people come to see them for their sound. But just like a relationship, people are going to grow out of things. A band's choice of new creative direction oughtn't cause people to trash them or act like they've been betrayed (as some people tend to do).

This whole entry is worth a re-post. Every music fan I know ought to read it.

jbody said...

more like "fucking c+"!riiiight?i mean really folks..........."oh ur jus bein"..."jus bein".."ur sayin that cuz....ur not han....ur saaaaaaaaaaad!

Eric said...

I get what your saying. Pick up the new Sublime With Rome record.

YeahYeahNo said...

Damnesia?

Dissent said...

I completely agree with this entire post. Also, this: "Lazy people who are sitting there like cowboys shooting at your boots, demanding to be entertained will tell you exactly where you fucked up or what you should have done as though their hindsight/armchair ‘producing’ is somehow as valid as the vision that created the music that brought them to the table in the first place" is fucking awesome, and Sundowner is truly great music.

Manny Los Gatos said...

What about Saves The Day: In Reverie?

Hatchet_Man_17 said...

Loved the buttfuckin analogy. I kinda did the same thing with NOFX and Pump up the valuum. Now it's a favorite record, but the knee-jerk response is to pick it apart. I thinks it's ingrained in our DNA, perhaps as a way to ensure we'll never settle for a set way to operate. Or it's a world full of curmudgeons. wakka wakka wakka!

Matt Ramone said...

How about lazy retreads done for coke money? I am of course referring to Acid Beaters.

Seagull Steve said...

Agreements and compliments aside, Ive never thought of buttfucking as "tender" (although it certainly could be) and definitely not "generous". Nice choice of adjectives.

Drunken Acorn said...

This is like all the fucknuts bashing Alkaline Trio for changing their OWN fucking songs. I got the record it's awesome. And it's nice to hear something different but familiar.

BEEXtrix Potter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BEEXtrix Potter said...

"Lazy people who are sitting there like cowboys shooting at your boots, demanding to be entertained..."

;)

Robb said...

Yea I had a songwriter friend who would always play the asinine "If YOU'RE not WRITIN tunes like me (his tunes sucked btw--I was in his band), then you have no business criticizing" card, and it made me want to punch a hole through his head every time. I also find it "charming and endearing" that that intellectually dishonest turd of a viewpoint is NEVER taken to its full logical conclusion by those who express it, e.g. NEVER in the face of positive feedback. You (indeeeeefinite you) can't have it both ways. Either accept that positive/negative feedback from 'regular schmoes' is entirely valid (correct), or acknowledge that reg schmoes deepthroating you over that song/album/film/novel are no more qualified to do so than detractors.

Robb said...

ohhh bwendan that shoulda been an i.e., not and e.g.! tee-hee

Jamie said...

how about the Vaselines: sex with an x? was mad about it then realized that...well, duh, none of us are as cute as we done used to be. still an alright record when listening with an open mind

jbody said...

actual sample lyric from the dude robb mentioned-"She walks through your garden/and makes your flowers cry" in a short mans faux bluesy warble.oh,and his myspace music section at the time read-"anything that chris cornell touches"........him right raaa?at least one sock writer has had to have stumbled upon that same line before right?kev........dreeeeeeeeew,,,drew?!maybe sean wrote a ska tune where he substituted puke or toot for cry..."makes yer flowers blaaaah!"ANYTHING THAT CHRIS CORNELL TOUCHES!...then i guess he must really dig eddie vedder's waaaangis!boom!no?ok

jbody said...

beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeexblaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiir,................................

It's A-Me, Martucci said...

Bee one time I was, was on onion av club and i think it was a series sponsored by, by 'cappuchino coffee' and alkaline trio, was, they covered a, well a fucking archers of loaf tune, which really pissed me off but beside the point, and in the comment section someone was like, "they sound just like green day, big whoop!" and then, then someone else came into the fray and said "They remind MEEEE of the rolling stones!!" Hahahaha pure sarcasm. Just great, had to be there. Vaselines? You're cruisin for a bruisin jamie. hahaha all in good fun! No but that is pretty obnoxious though

It's A-Me, Martucci said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dustyfloors said...

Like

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Trusty Chords said...

On a completely unrelated note, I saw the trio last night (never seen Skiba that loaded btw) and I had no idea that Neil was playing drums for the Popes now, which made me feel fucking lame wearing my limbs shirt when I saw him up there.

It's A-Me, Martucci said...

Oh yalls I think that may have been a different trio discussion elsewhere on the internet, come to think. Bren would you agree that though Dead Presidents may just be the most mediocore movie of the '90s, the first 40 minutes alone are worth it to see terrence howard get his ass kicked in swift and brutal fashion? Yeah definitely.

It's A-Me, Martucci said...

"#1 rule of zombie flicks....swords don't need reloading!" --actual web banner ad I encountered the other day over on pirate bay, or something. So I guess these now-ubiquitous 'ninja weaponz'/tactical gear websites that target secretly-deranged militant dweebs are kinda goin for a crossover appeal thing now? Like evil dead fanboys n shit?

Robb said...

Hehe google 'Voice message from Tyrese Gibson'. First hit. Been up awhile I guess but shit. It's a term that's comically overused these days, but, what a tool.

Robb said...

Oh mah bad thabee the wrong one yall, thabee the wrong one. Hyaaa. This one

MA said...

I basically do agree with this post, although maybe not the emphasis. It is very uncool when people attack bands for not reproducing their magnus opus, and expect bands to conform to a certain artistic direction. But on the other hand, there is so much emotionally invested in music that it's very understandable why serious disappointment comes about when bands change direction, or just put out inferior records. All in all though, I'm pretty sure I've come across the 'childish anger' reaction to this far more often than the 'respectful disappointment' - maybe those people are just louder.

There is another element to this though, which is the extent to which bands pursue an objectively more commercial sound, particularly after signing to bigger companies. I don't think anger is always unwarranted in this situation, why shouldn't you be pissed off is someone compromises good art for money? Sure, they don't necessarily owe you any good art, but they were more than happy to build up the expectation for it, and then deliberately deny it.