Now accepting all suggestions for new (or old) music…
With a new vehicle (pronounced “vee-hickle” around these here parts) came a free 3-month teaser of XM Radio. In the absence of new Killing Joke or Radiohead material, a teaser of XM meant I make one last, futile attempt at exposing myself to “what’s new?” music before my tastes — like the closet of every man (according to the Seinfeld riff) — permanently freeze to reflect the best years of my life*.
*not sure if those were defined by when a man was most young and hip, when his body had no quarrel with daily aches and pains, or simply when casual sex was most attainable for the least amount of effort.
There Are Problems with This Approach
First, make no mistake: The XM experience is quite fun. There are “decades” stations like “’70s on [channel] 7,” ’80s on 8, etc. Those are a memory trip. But for those, the decade in question is literally the only criteria. So you can have The Cure bookended by Pat Benatar and Michael Jackson. Or Stone Temple Pilots sandwiched between TLC (“Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls”) and Erasure. I don’t care what your tastes are, that combination is like a twisted psychological experiment.
What at first is a novelty quickly becomes a jolting, fucked up memory trip. It’s a reminder of what was on back then, but it’s also a reminder of what I hated back then. I need a very quick trigger finger lest Creed invade my head.
What’s worse — but interesting in a Musicophilia kind of way? With this experiment going on, I don’t need to hear a song at all to have it stuck in my head. I’ll hear part of one song I didn’t like then (or now), and then half an hour later I’ll be on the hockey bench realizing that some other song from that era is now rattling around in my head. It’s haunting. How do our synapses do that?
Sad to Confirm, New Music Modern Rock Often Sucks
But the decades stations are just land mines of last resort. There are a couple of stations that are pretty decade-specific, but much more up my alley. “Lithium” focuses more on my kind of ’90s, while “First Wave” hits my kind of ’80s, which are happily Michael Jackson-, Bon Jovi- and Pat Benatar-free.
Then there is a “modern alternative” station that I counted on to be my introduction to What I’ve Been Missing. Now, Mrs. Fall of Because calls me a “music snob” — but I’m hardly informed enough to claim such a title. What I do have is pretty specific tastes across multiple genres, so if something doesn’t strike me in multiple areas of melody or bass or tempo and certainly lyrically, my patience wanes. I’m not a snob, it’s all subjective at its root; I just want music to smack me in the head and the gut, and knock my knees out — or else I’ll turn back to old standbys that do.
So there’s a lot of Mute Math or Sun-something-Pickup or Muse or Killers or Kings of What-Not … more names than I can remember. They’re trying to incorporate multiple eras and influence — while recognizing the synthesizer is not to be feared — all intentions I applaud. The songs grab me a little bit at first, then kind of plateau. I’m not feeling it. Now I’m hearing the same songs cycled through the rotation again, and I’m recognizing them, and they’re still not grabbing me, and I’m feeling a bit hopeless. Even the singles that grab me, I can tell from other material it won’t be an album’s worth (and by god, I’m still going to clamor for the full album that grabs me).
I need to (nervously) check out the Headlights’ latest album, because some how their “Kill Them With Kindness” album resonated with me. Based on the lone single I’ve heard, though I fear disappointment there, too.
The Tipping Point
But you know what really killed it for me? Some outfit called Airborn Toxic Event has a song “Sometime around Midnight” that sounds to my ears like a close (and worse) rip-off of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.” Structure, pace (slowed down for dramatic effect), lyrical rhythm: The first time I heard it, I thought somebody was just making up new words and instruments to the same song, a song I rather dig. Maybe a tribute? No, not so.
They’re not at all the same, yet they’re the same. Also hindering my appreciation: The lyrics of the former are whining about a girl, treading the wrong side of that line (for my money) between sincerely sentimental and just melodramatic. Yuck.
Finally, a song that I’ve heard multiple weeks in a row from whatever radio feed is used at our Saturday morning hockey: Some bastard decided to cover Pearl Jam’s “Black” — a pretty classic song, Pearl Jam-wise — by doing nothing but slowing it down even further and even dragging out the lyrics to truly oversaturate the drama. The original “Black” was already quite slow and already tread that line between moving slow song and over-the-top. So this cover is like some tool in his dorm room saying, “No, that song means so much to me, I need to slow it down, drag it out and make it mean more.”
So yeah, I guess I’m a snob, I’m being overly negative, and I need some serious help in the ol’ music catalog department. But this cover makes me vomit. And makes me want to dig back through some Butthole Surfers to exorcise the damage it inflicted. At least they knew how to do a cover (of “Hurdy Gurdy Man“) to hilarious effect.