Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Your Music Sucks! or It's Not You, It's Me

For many years I've always thought that I had the best music taste around*. I liked rock, both old and new, I liked hip hop (mostly older stuff, but I wasn't afraid of the new stuff), I could dig on a well-done pop song, country wasn't a dirty word and I also liked the older stuff like Sinatra and Dean Martin. I was pretty impressed with what I thought was a wide swath of choice music taste.

* I don't think that I was being egotistical in my thinking. I believe that everyone thinks that they have terrific taste in music. Once in a while you'll hear someone self deprecatingly say that they have bad taste in music but that's because they know that they listen to crap and want you to know that they know that it's terrible. But underneath that self deprecation, they love what they listen to and think that it's pretty good. Because otherwise, why would they subject themselves to music that they don't like?

And as someone who thought that they had great taste in music, I thought that people who had tastes opposite of mine were terrible. Looking back at that time in my life, I can honestly say I was an insufferable prick about this. Who was I to judge another person's listening habits? As a music fan, I had purchased tapes and CDs or downloaded the following groups (unironically, I might add):

Limp Bizkit
The Dave Matthews Band
Billy Joel
C+C Music Factory
Not one but five CDs crammed full of TV theme songs
Above the Law
White Lion
The Doors

There are a ton more, but looking over this list there are reasons why I bought these songs. White Lion and Winger are when I was into hair metal, I had a pretty good inkling that these bands sucked, but that's what people were listening to at the time. Same thing for Above the Law, I was so into West Coast/gangsta rap, that I would have purchased anything by anyone in a Raiders or Kings hat.

The C+C Music Factory tape was lame and I always felt dirty listening to it; I never would turn the stereo up too high for fear that one of my friends would come busting in and find me grooving to the sounds of Freedom Williams. As for Dave Matthews, it was the early 90s and those stupid jam-heavy, hippie bands were starting to really take over the radio. Plus, my roommate at the time liked them and Phish and since all I did was complain about the latter, I'd have felt like a complete dick crabbing about the DMB. I kept my mouth shut and actually started to like it and saw them a few times in concert before the DMB magic wore off.

Billy Joel tapes that I have, I blame on youthful indiscretion and the fact that I was in fifth grade and didn't have an older brother or sister around to steer me to cooler bands. I originally bought the TV theme CDs as kind of a gag for parties. It was not funny.

This leaves the list (which is much larger, but I could only think of these ones right now) with two bands. One that I will defend and the other I have no defense for.

I'll go with the latter first, Limp Bizkit. Much like C+C Music Factory, when I bought their CD (the one with “Nookie” and “Break Stuff” on it – I have no desire to even look up the disc's name on line) I knew that it was a stupid album by an even dumber band fronted by a complete idiot. Just thinking about giving that dopey, backwards Yankee cap wearing, frat boy rapist leader Fred Durst even a dime makes me angry, but I talked myself into it for two reasons: 1. I needed some up-tempo music to listen to while I was working out and 2. Method Man was on it and he seemed cool.

But it wasn't cool, it wasn't cool at all. I didn't even have the decency to buy this CD from Colombia House or something. I actually bought it at a Newbury Comics and I could feel the gaze of disappointment from the counter jockey as a paid for my purchase. I felt like I was buying scat porn or something. I think that this may have been my worst overall music experience ever. It's like a black mark that I can never wash away, no matter how many showers I take.

It feels nice to get this off my chest.

As far as the other group goes, the Doors, I like them. A lot. I know that pretty much every hipster in the world considers the Doors to be the worst band on the face of the planet, but I don't know what to tell you, I think that they're good. I have every album, I have one of their box sets, two of their Greatest Hits (which is completely superfluous and a waste of cash), a couple of live albums, I even have the soundtrack to the Oliver Stone movie (which I also own on DVD and VHS) and at least three biographies of the band.

I agree that their lyrics are trite, their music is a bit over-complicated yet simple at the same time, Jim Morrison is a lousy singer and that his myth far outweighs reality. The guy was an alcoholic junkie who had the fortune of being born good-looking and not being able to care that his poetry was garbage. His stage antics were obnoxious and the live shows could turn into literal riots if Mr. Mojo Risin wasn't “feeling it” that particular night. Their music is often ponderous navel-gazing that sounds like it was written by four guys who flunked out of an Intro to Buddhism course. And worst of all, they're a favorite of aging hippies and boring baby boomers who love to tell you how “dangerous” they were.

Jim Morrison once said “fuck” on stage! Who gives a shit, pops. I just saw Ernie toss Bert's salad on Sesame Street.

Having said all of that, I still like the Doors, a lot actually. What I like most about them is that they take back to a time in my life where I thought that it was “deep” to like these guys, that they had something different to say. I like thinking about one of the most embarrassing acts of my life occurred under the influence of the Doors*. I like that I got interested in the Doors because a hot girl told me that she liked them and I went home and listened to their Greatest Hits over and over and over again just so I'd have something to talk about with her.

And their music isn't that bad either. Sure, Morrison can't carry a tune in a bucket, but he fits into the group. Someone once told me that they didn't like the Doors because they didn't have a bassist in their band and I thought that was the strangest reason to not like a band. Never mind the fact that they do have a bunch of songs with bass lines in them, but facts shouldn't get in the way of a good rant.

* My Doors-inspired embarrassment goes something like this: I was a sophomore at college and at that point I pretty much listened to the Doors 24/7. I thought that I was Jim Morrison, if Jim Morrison was too afraid to do any drugs, kept his hair short, loved sports and was kind of afraid of talking to good looking girls. One Friday night I got completely blasted and decided to go downstairs to the freshman girls hallway and look for some ladies. One door was slightly ajar and as luck would have it, a Doors song was playing. I had no idea who these girls were (there were a handful of them in there) and I didn't care. I sort of did a Jim Morrison like dance into the room, slurred a few Morrison witticisms and waited for them to drop trou.

Of course it never happened and I had to slink back to my room, alone. My plan was doomed to fail for a number of reasons: 1. I do not look like Jim Morrison 2. when I drink I am not charismatic, in fact one could say that I am the opposite of charismatic and 3. at that point in my life, I could barely handle one girl never mind five. Epic and total failure.

Why am I writing all of this stuff? The long short of it is I'm writing this entry because my wife and I were talking about music a few weeks ago and she said, “You have much better tastes in music than I do.” And I don't, but then again, who really does have good taste in music. It's far too subjective and even the most hip music fan has some sort of skeleton in their closet.

Maybe it's because I haven't bought any new music in about ten years, aside from the new Pearl Jam and comedy albums, the White Stripes' “Elephant” could be the last new release that I purchased, or maybe it's because I've mellowed a bit since I got older but I don't care what other people listen to any more. If listening to “Under the Table and Dreaming” on a continuous loop is what you love, and as long as I don't have to listen to it, knock yourself out.

A few weeks ago I finished reading “Eating the Dinosaur” by Chuck Klosterman and he talks about how he's not interested in arguing about stupid things. The example he brings up is KISS. He's a big KISS fan and as such he said that a lot of people often come up to him to debate the merits of KISS. He said it's a no-win situation for himself because he knows that KISS is kind of a crappy band, but he loves them anyway.

So he's not going to get into a discussion and go point-for-point against the other person's band because chances are they're going to be right. And in the oft chance that Klosterman “beats” this person, that same person isn't going to become a KISS fan. He's still going to hate them just as much, if not more than before.

I guess that the bottom line is this: it's useless arguing about music. But television on the other hand, that's a whole different story.