One for the Underdogs
I am predisposed to vote for the underdog, and it all started with Jane Child. I remember thinking she was going to be HUGE. She had it all — a harried, squalking voice that sounded like shit, the best cheesedick synths you could get at the time, a catchy lead single (“I Don’t Wanna Fall in Love”), a propensity for strange keyboard solos, a nose-ring-chain-thingie, spiked hair, and a generally aloof look that was the diametric opposite of sexy, and, most important of all, you couldn’t tell if she liked dudes or chicks. I was sure she was going to be the next Madonna, and it didn’t really matter that the music wasn’t up my alley. It seemed… different, underdog-ish.
Then it became obvious she was a one-hit-wonder-IF-THAT, a record-label experiment concocted more for their entertainment than any notion of it actually catching on in any big way. In retrospect it seems obvious to me. She is 100% asexual — I mentioned before that you couldn’t tell whether she liked chicks or dudes, but it’s beyond that: you can’t tell if she likes HUMANS. (Remember when Homer said, “I don’t know, you’d have to be pretty desperate to do it with a robot”?) And in her music video, she doesn’t appear with another human. No dudes. No chicks. She doesn’t even glance at anyone, save a presumably homeless man standing there as she does one of her ubiquitous sidewalk strolls.
And I’ve got to return to her look. I mean, it’s simply hideous, but fascinatingly so. Steroid-spiked hair with partially shaved sides, long in the back and braided; not one but TWO nose chains; skinny, bird-faced features that can only mean she is of the dreaded Canadian persuasion; outfits of all-black, like she’s in the goddamn matrix; flowing, shin-low overcoats that anticipate the Trenchcoat Mafia and just look creepy; more rings on her fingers and bracelets on her hands than a fortune teller; and, to top it all off, in the video she walks around city streets at night and preposterously starts dancing a strange, spastic freak-dance at random times. It’s fucking crazy.
Once I realized she’d never, ever make it big in the Madonna sense — and that the old, smelly guys in Damn Yankees, and Madonna, not to mention, were already that big twice-over — I became obsessed with the idea of a truly unlovable character breaking through. (Which brings me to an interesting question: Did Animal Collective break through? I mean, really, truly break through? I feel I’m too detached from such things to know, for sure.) Perhaps the skeleton of that old obsession is at the root of my willingness to wind through tape after tape looking for something messy and downer, but in just the right way, in such a way as to grab music history by the flanks and HOG IT OUT like a good ol’ boy. (Sorry for the crudity, I’ve had a rough week.) And so I thank you Jane Child, for being just twisted enough to have a hand in the development of a dedicated spazz-monger.
Twitter Sucks, Of Course
So, after reading the header, you’re probably waiting for me to bitch about Twitter. “Old guy bitches about Twitter, can’t find his Slanted and Enchanted t-shirt, and stepped on his falsies,” right?
And as much as it pains me to play right into your assumptions, I’ll be double-dipped in buffalo SHIT if you’re not right on the money. I think Twitter is the ultimate insult to a generation (and coming generations) that thinks MP3s are better than 7-inches, video clips are better than films, YouPorn is better than real sex (they might have something on this one), text messages are better than conversations, and Facebook pages are better than actual lives. What’s even worse, however, is that it’s helped us all forget that the world needs good, sound information rather than bite-sized nuggest of thought-jerky.
For example, I work at a newspaper (buy one today!), sometimes on the Sports Desk, and I’ve found that many columnists/anchors/etc. have taken to referring to tweets instead of actually interviewing players and coaches. Not only that, but players get in trouble every day for a stupid-ass remark or gesture they funneled through the soft, warm meat curtain that is Twitter. How does this all affect music and Tiny Mix Tapes-related matters? I’ll tell you how: For one, musicians are getting in fights. As if audio artists needed another outlet (remember when music alone passed for a serviceable outlet?) to show how terminally ill they are, now we get these freaks insulting each other on the web like Wavves are on tour in Europe again or something. And why does it matter if Justin Vernon throws out a remark about not caring whether he wins a Grammy? And why is it news when a random band no one has heard from in years sets Vernon “straight” by saying he’s a sellout? None of this shit matters unless it’s elevated into public discourse by a filthy middleman with no thought for human emotion or relevance.
And what’s worse than reading a weird, discomfiting tweet and then seeing a half-assed apology make the rounds a few minutes/hours/days/weeks later? Can’t these people just shut the fuck up in the first place? Where’s the “off” switch on Wayne Coyne’s huge fucking YAPPer? It was only inevitable that some douche champion would start reviewing records through Twitter, and that’s the most serious crime of all. In a link-an-MP3-then-watch-the-hits-collect indie-rock world, do we need more people taking shortcuts to pageviews? I’ll let you collect your thoughts before you answer.
Life as a niche music writer — it’s okay, I know; I know I am — is confusing, especially because I’ve had a lot more success online than in print. The people who read my stuff span the globe, and that’s awesome, but it’s tough to know if one’s Keeping It Real from assignment to assignment. When I used to write shitty pieces for weeklies in Spokane, WA, I knew for a fact less eyeballs were taking in my dashing attempts at spiritual mind-FUK. But because Spocaine was so incestuous, I got feedback constantly, whether it be letters to the editor, acquaintances, or bands angry that I slammed their bitchin’ Nickelback cover band (one of them was called, I shit you not, Black Tooth Grin).
There was a lot more communication and even some near-death situations. Although I tend to get comfortable in my isolated cocoon, I feel we’re only scraping the surface of the possibilities. There must be a superior way to reach out to, well, YOU, and for YOU to reach out to us, the wizards behind the curtain. We should know each other, right? We should all be raging and putting on shows and experiencing community on a whole new level. Is this, by chance, already happening and I don’t know it? (That would be SO LIKE you!) I think we can do better.
IS ANYBODY WITH ME? I know the TMT staff is; let’s take 2012 to the next level like “Electric Avenue” pumping from a jacked-up convertible on A1A.
[Artwork: Keith Kawaii]