Saturday, April 15, 2006

Not Just Whistling Dixie

I've been trying to spare you but it has been building up. I'm going to talk about music now.

First, let's establish that country music is out. It's no good. Occasionally I will hear a song that sounds like country music and I will think, "If that was country music, I would like country music." Example: Beck's "Rowboat." But it is NOT country music. It never will be accepted as country music. When I was in college and had a job changing oil we listened to country music all day long. Anytime I thought a song was okay, I would suddenly realize, "Hey, this is a remake of an old Sting song (I'm so happy I can't stop crying)." Even most of Garth Brook's songs were written by Billy Joel, cheater. Garth is a nice guy but he has issues. What was all that "Chris Gaines" stuff? Bottomline: Country music is no good. End of that discussion.

Rap music: Some is cool but not much. Rap never seems to evolve. It always comes back to bitches and hos and money making. It's like Aaron McGruder pointed out: In the videos they have all those girls and cars and money and still only rap about how angry they are and how hard their life is. It has the potential to be cool with the beats and rhymes but the subject matter needs to get out of the gutter.

Jazz and Classical are both good but it's hard to collect the stuff you want and nobody really discusses them much anymore.

About a week ago at work I went to lunch with a guy named Steve. He talks like Boomhauer from King of the Hill, swears like crazy, never shuts up, and most people don't like him. A lot of people tell me they think he is verbally abusive. Anyway, we hopped in his car and he whipped out his Ipod. He said, "What music do you listen to? Crap?"

He said "Crap?" over my response so I changed my answer, "That's right. I only listen to crap."

He asked, "But rap or rock?"

I said, "I like rock and roll."

He said, "Do you listen to Adema?" He played Adema and I said, "They sound a lot like 'Faith No More' but without the talent." I think that made him a little mad so he enlightened me with "Club Music." Steve is all about clubbing. I tried to act impressed by "Drum and Bass" crap and that Madonna song about how "Time Moves By... So Slowly" but I don't know if I was convincing.

I try to keep up with the music young people are supposed to like (as the radio stations would have it) but so much of it sucks. Most of the "harder" songs sound like boiled down "Faith No More" to me. "Korn," sucks. Korn's brother, "Adema," not very impressive. I know there were many more bands than Faith No More that had that sound but I think they did it the best. I miss Mike Patton. He needs to cut out some of that John Zorn experimenting and just sing something. EVERYTHING doesn't have to be groundbreaking art. Just sing man. The same goes for Radiohead. The first three albums were awesome. Now it seems like they just want to go nuts with their keyboard effects instead of utilizing the gifted musicians.

Some of the new crap is alright if you're in a bind for loud guitars. Like that Crossfade song, "Cold." It's still just powerchords and a heavy beat but the vocals carry the song. But I have to subtract a point for the boring wah-pedal guitar solo. Evanesence is kind of like Sarah McLachlan with a hip band. Most of the alternative bands you see on MTV or VH1 (if you can find a video on there) are worthless.

There are a lot of good musicians out there who write boring songs. Like Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz and please stop writing crap, John Mayer! Nobody wants to hear wuss songs about your high school or bubblegum tongues and all that other crap. I think John Mayer is catching on and that is why he has changed to the John Mayer Trio featuring music where he jams on his guitar a lot more.

I think music is kind of a lifestyle. For instance, I think my wife likes music that emulates the way she wishes the world was. She likes PRETTY songs and she seems genuinely revolted by any music that dares not to be pretty. Sadly, this seems to give her... (dread!)... Top 40 leanings. She always denies it when I say that, but she is more prone to like (the cooler) stuff on the Top 40 than most other things. Five for Fighting? Baby, c'mon. She likes Keane a lot. It's good but so agreeable that that seems to be the flaw. Music shouldn't be afraid to challenge you, now and again.

I made a mixed CD for my kids the other day. They really love the Tenacious D song "Tribute." Ethan plays air guitar when it comes on - it's cool. I put on a They Might Be Giants song that Minnow gave me called "I enjoy being a boy" and even some old Weird Al songs (Why-ohh Dee-aay, YODA!). I put a song on that CD by The Flaming Lips called "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" and my wife said, "I like the clapping but the song is TOO PEPPY." What does that even mean, dear? Music that keeps me awake and keeps me going is much more important to me than all that stuff that puts me to sleep.

Shooting Star likes Sufjan Stevens a lot, if you read her blog. But he needs some rock in there. Ballads should be the gourmet chocolate chips in the hot, chewy cookie of rock. If music is all ballads then it just turns into some melty american chocolate bar.

I read Dooce's blog the other day and she really likes a song by Wolf Parade called "I'll believe in anything." (You can play the song by clicking the link on that page). My wife didn't like the song because she didn't find it to be pretty.

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog went to some music awards and was hanging out with some nominees (like John Mayer). There was a Native American up for an award and Triumph said something like, "If your music was any good don't you think the white man would have stolen it by now." So I count the song "I'll believe in anything" as a success for native americans. "I'll believe in anything" seems like an obvious take off of just about every Indian song ever sung at a pow wow. Listen to the song. Picture some indians sitting around a large leather drum striking that beat. The way the song is sung is just like the Indians sing. Even the lyrics about nature, ghosts and bones seem to have an Indian vibe. The hook, "nobody knows you and nobody gives a damn" just seems like an easy way to connect with lonely listeners. When I hear the drum and the singing I can easily picture girls in jingle dresses and guys in their feather regalia dancing their hearts out like if they just dance hard enough it will save their culture from being melted down completely into america's soup pot leaving nothing but footnotes in the Big Book of Wealthy White Dudes and the People Who Helped and Hindered Them. You know, history books. I like the song and I like that someone ripped off the Indians and their beats and singing. It's better than being a forgotten and mystified culture. I guess I should have said NORTH AMERICA's pot of soup, as the band is from Canada. A gothic canadian navajo that I used to work with told me they say "The Reserves" in Canada instead of "Indian Reservation." Just a fun fact.

Minnow has given me a lot of music that I really like (a lot of which I was heading towards getting anyway but he sure sped things up). Like Stephen Malkmus, Death From Above 1979, that Pedro the Lion song "Rapture." Ben Folds is good but doesn't it seem like "piano rock" is starting to saturate the scene?

I want music that speaks, lyrically or musically, about the world we live in. It doesn't have to be pretty. It just has to have some sincerity and meaning. My wife likes pretty. I like a view of the world. The world is far from perfect. Looking at newer music I see stuff for Swedish bands like "The Knife" and "Envelopes" (Don't ask me how they come up with these wildly imaginative names. They must have a super-computer or something.) Those bands seem to be very keyboard intensive. Too much, really. One or two songs can be okay but the singing starts to seem like a joke if not done right. I was going to say, "Listening to that accent makes me feel like I'm living in a Ricola commercial" but I checked and they are SWISS. Do you get my meaning anyway?

It is rare to come across awesome rock music. It is sad when bands could become legendary and then burn out, like Guns N' Roses or Pearl Jam. Their first albums were amazing and then they sputter. (There ain't gonna be any middle anymore!) Why must it be so?

A very proud "father moment" occured the other day. Eleanor saw that scene from "Kindergarten Cop" where he asks the kids "who is your daddy and what does he do?" She was curious to see how our son would answer that question so she caught him off gaurd and said, "What does your dad do, Ethan?"

Ethan thought for just a moment and calmly said, "He rocks." And he meant it in the musical sense! I was proud. My son doesn't think of me as a cubicle fungus or a dirtbag on a forklift. He when he thinks of me and what I like to do he sees visions of me playing the drums and strumming a guitar - rocking out.

Pick the life you want. Pick the music that goes with it. Rock on.


Native Minnow said...

I don't think it's just your wife that gravitates toward 'pretty' music. I think most females tend to, maybe it's the motherly instinct thing - trying to envision the world as the way they want it to be for their children.

Me, I like depressing stuff. Lyrics that seem to speak the truth do the trick for me. Especially if they say something harsh.

Some examples:
Clem Snide -
"Love is only for the lovely"
"The beautiful were never meant to suffer"
"I don't wanna know me better"

Wilco -
"Dreamed about killing you again last night and it felt alright to me"

They Might Be Giants -
"but we've run out of things to say, just grab your coat and walk away"
"Lad looks at other gals, Gal thinks Jim Beam is handsomer than Lad, he isn't bad"

Michael Penn -
"There's a few things I wanna say, make no mistake I'm mad, 'cause every good thing I've had abandoned me"

Stephen Malkmus -
"Done is good, but done well is so much f**king better"

Jim White -
"the sad irony of love is how seldom you feel it, yet it's all you think about night and day"

I could go on and on, but this comment has sort of turned into it's own blog so I'll stop now.

flieswithoutwings said...

The They Might Be Giants line is sad AND funny. I think it (the slow version) says:

"I'm asleep but she's talking to me. She's walking 'round wearing all of my clothes...

...As we run out of things to say she grabs my coat and walks away."

I could have wrote a novel on this topic. This was as short as I could make it. There is definitely a lot still unsaid.

flieswithoutwings said...

I told my wife I talked about her on my blog. She wanted me to clarify that "Pretty" isn't the issue. She says she likes music that is "pleasant to your ears." I'm not sure what the difference is but when she tried to explain it to me she did a funny impression of Weird Al singing "Another one rides the bus" and how that song is NOT pleasing to the ears. I wish you could have seen it.

Native Minnow said...

I wish I could have seen it too!

I suspected I was screwing up the TMBG line, but was too lazy to go give it a listen.

How about this one from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club:
"it's easy to fall in love, but there ain't no easy way out"

flieswithoutwings said...

My favorites from Jim White are:

My Trans Am is missing
My Trans Am is missing
I guess no more kissing
The girl who loved my car


In the prison of perpetual emotion
We're all shackled to the millstone of our dreams
Me, I'm handcuffed to a fence in Mississippi
Where things is always better than they seem


It's a mystery to me why I like walking in the ghosttown of my brain.

Native Minnow said...

I like

"she's smarter than me but then so is wood, but that don't mean I should submit to her authority"


"From the splinter in the hand, to the thorn in the heart, to the shotgun to the head"

Like I said - there are a million song lyrics I could list. I'm sure there are a million you could too.

Ken said...

I personally like Rage Against the Machine:

"Why stand on a silent platform? Fight the War, F**k the Norm."

But I also like to be naked so what do I know.

flieswithoutwings said...

"Rage" was cool. It's not the same now that the band is hanging out with Chris Cornell in Audioslave. Chris is a good singer but it's really nothing like hearing Zach De La Rocha getting all pissed off.

slimysculpin said...

It's like Elton says: sad songs say so much