Month: May 2013

That Sucks, continued

Continuing on what I wrote in my last post, part of the problem I have conveying things to band members is that I listen to songs as a songwriter.  I analyze it, take it apart, try to figure out what makes it work.  Try to find things I can use in my songs.

Here’s an example of a song that almost surely would be voted down if I suggest to my band that we should cover it:

I know.  It’s Poison.  Poison sucks.  Brett is a clown, you can’t hear the bass, the drums have way too much reverb, and, while CC is a great guitarist, the guitar sounds like it recorded on a guitar you’d buy at KMart.

But underneath that is a good song.  It’s got a nice, solid melody that’s both easy to follow and not too predictable.  If it had been recorded by a band with even a shred of artistic credibility and quality instruments you’d still hear it on the radio once in a while.

It’s not always true that people aren’t able to tell when a good song is being played by an objectively shitty band:

I have a basic metric for a band’s quality- if you can imagine them doing a credible cover of another band’s song, they probably don’t suck*.  Can you imagine the Violent Femmes doing a not awful cover of anything?  Nah, me neither.

So what’s the difference?  Beats me!  If I knew how to cater to audience taste I would be a well compensated song writer right now.

 

*Of course, there’s the examples of Jack White, Dwight Yoakam and Axl Rose, great talents who completely fuck up any song they didn’t have a part in creating.

Things that suck about being in a band: That Sucks.

Or its less mature brother- that’s gay.

The words no one with an idea they brought to the band wants to hear.

Let me paint a picture for you.

The band is all together, practicing songs.  You get an idea.  During a pause between songs, you chime in with:

“You know, I was thinking at the end of this song, maybe we could do a round”

“A what?”

“You know, how like the voices overlap on row row row your boat, that sort of thing, I think it would be really cool”

“That’s gay”

PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSssss- the sound of the air going out of the room

“What do you mean? My Chemical Romance does one on that one song”

bravely trying to press on

“My Chemical Romance is gay”

nope, now you’re done

You decide that now is the time to pretend you have to go to the bathroom, and you sneak out to go run out onto the freeway.

Seriously, this is probably the suckiest thing about being in a band if you’re one of the ideas persons.  It’s fucking nerve wracking to me to bring in songs to the practice space.  Sometimes my songs suck.  I know that.  But I almost never know that until I’ve played them for some people.  Playing a new song live isn’t a big deal- you’ve got the band backing you up.  Playing it in front of people for the first time- that takes courage.

Not only is it galling to have your idea ruthlessly destroyed in front of people who are supposed to respect you, it’s almost always the least useful member of the band doing the destroying.  The bass player who only shows up half the time.  The guitar player who shoots down EVERY FUCKING COVER IDEA YOU’VE EVER HAD (and proposes covers so damn hard you suspect he just wants you to see you publicly immolate yourself).  It’s always the person who has never tried to write a song, has never made a significant positive contribution to the creation of a song who will be quickest to shit on your idea.

I get it, some of the people who play punk rock are damaged.  They’ve been misfits like me all their lives, and they’ve put a ton of work into their image and they don’t want someone in the audience to call them gay or say their band sucks.  But it’s not an excuse.

I have no more jokes about this, because this shit sucks.  And not just being calling people gay is not cool in 2013.

Just for the record, this isn’t about anyone in my band right now, and speaking of my band, have you heard our CD?

Oz the Great and Powerful

I heard this got mixed reviews.  I don’t get why.  I enjoyed it.  But then again, my standards are low.  The only thing that bugged was the casting of the two evil witches- Mila Kunis and Rachel Weiss are supposed to be sisters?  They don’t even speak the same English.  I didn’t get whether that was just Sam Raimi being like “fuck it, it’s Oz, I don’t have to make sense” or whether Mila was trying to sound English (?).  Yeah, otherwise I liked it a lot.

Random Thoughts

My son is sick this weekend so we’re re-watching Lord of the Rings.

  • Can you imagine how much smoother the whole quest would have gone if they didn’t bring that dipshit Pippin along?  Elrond gives this speech about how theirs is the most important quest in the history of the world, and then Merry and Pippin show up and say “we wanna go, we wanna go” and Elrond is like “ha ha ha sure little ones, why not?”  At this point in the movies Pippin has already endangered Frodo twice.
  • When they were forming the fellowship, they should have asked Legolas if he had any brothers.
  • Boromir was a pretty dubious choice too.  He’s like “let’s not get to hasty about chucking this thing in the volcano bros, we could use this thing on Mordor.”  And then he’s like “yeah, I’ll join your quest and I’M TOTALLY NOT GONNA TRY TO TAKE THAT RING ONCE WE’RE ALL ALONE IN THE WILDERNESS.”  Should seen that one coming Elrond.
  • They should have cast Gary Oldman in the movie somewhere.  Gary Oldman as Denethor?  Oh yeah.

Speaking of Gary Oldman, we’ve also been watching some Harry Potter.  The scene in Prisoner of Azkaban where Sirius Black shows up, Lupin is like “hey old buddy” and they zap Severus Snape (and Harry Ron and Hermione are looking at them like, what the hell?) is the best in the whole series.  So well done.

One of the few complaints I have with Harry Potter is that the series inverts the master/apprentice relationship that works so well in Star Wars.  The Emperor in Star Wars is on top because he’s a psychopath.  He’ll do whatever he can to get power and everyone around him knows that.  He has no conscience and is completely flexible in his methods.  Darth Vader is his man until Luke comes along and then he’s like “kill Vader, this guy sucks since he fell into that lava”.  Voldemort, on the other hand, isn’t even the scariest member of his own group- that would be Bellatrix LeStrange.

Voldemort is more powerful, and he does kill people pretty randomly, but he’s also got some pretty obvious vulnerabilities.  I don’t get, for instance, why he has to kill Harry himself.  I’d just get someone else to do it.  Who cares?

I guess it’s cool that JK Rowling wanted Voldemort to be a bit more human, but humans need answers and when we’re given them, we’re less frightened.  What is wrong with that guy, why is he so mean? is a lot scarier than he wants to be immortal, so he’s got to kill some people.   At the end of the series I was cheering when Bellatrix finally dies, but with Voldemort dies I was thinking finally snake face can get some peace.

Can we just drop the word entitled?

I’m tired of hearing the word entitled, to the degree that it’s become hard-wired into my brain that anytime someone says it, I can never really follow what they say next.  Conversations kind of go like this:

My nephew is so entitled, he thinks that…

(in my brain) so, after this I need to stop by the supermarket.  Did we need onions or did I buy that last time?

And my sister just…

(continuing)  I’ll pick up some avocados while I’m at it.  Make some guacamole.

Can you believe it?

(shakes head) Oh, yeah, that’s yeah…  I gotta get to the supermarket.

Seriously, let’s all just shut up about that shit.  Everyone in the world feels entitled to something.  I go to work, I feel entitled to get paid.

Oh, you mean they’re entitled to something they don’t deserve.  OK.

(as a former Catholic, one of my mottoes is- There is nothing I want less than what I deserve)

But really, we all think that way.  Especially when we’re young.  How many of you thought you deserved a car when you were sixteen?  Yeah, I thought so.  Kids today don’t even want cars.

They want I-Phones and FLAT SCREEN TVs!

Yeah, and that shit is cheap.  Certainly cheaper than cars.  And you know, you can’t really buy TVs that aren’t flat screen anymore, so pretty much old people want the young to not have TVs, and as an American, we’re all pretty much entitled to that.  It’s like Article VII of the Constitution.

So I was very glad to skim this article:

My students tend in quite the opposite direction: extremely goal oriented, procedure conscious, and career driven, they often astound me with their calculated, organized approach to selecting courses, securing internships, and planning for their work lives.

I say skim, because I’m a Generation X slacker and boy is that story long.  To summarize those parts that I was inspired enough to read, it’s a GenX professor talking about the differences between himself and his students.  There’s a lot of crap about how kids don’t listen to music and about how they haven’t watched The Breakfast Club* but the above quote gets to something that I have noticed myself.  Kids today work a lot harder than we did.  And a lot harder than our parents did.

Probably because they don’t expect to be handed anything, because there is nothing to hand out.  When I growing up adults were all “follow your dreams” and that really didn’t work out so well.  Generation X pretty much decided to drop out when we figured out that all the great possibilities we thought were waiting for us never materialized, or took a lot more work than we thought they would**.  And to add to cruelty, there was a giant internet bubble that made some of the biggest douchebags among us frighteningly rich, for no apparent reason.  Most of us are only now figuring out a plan for our lives.

I’m not complaining.  Things have always been pretty good for me, beyond a few tough spots.  But I look at the young people today and I’m in awe.  They know they won’t have it easy, and they’re working hard.   I don’t know how others don’t see that, but I guess it’s always been the case that people look at kids today, and get self righteous.

 

*GOOD.  That movie sucks.  It’s an totally implausible piece of crap about 5 kids, only two of whom convincingly portray their designated stereotypes (Anthony Michael Hall as a nerd and Ally Sheedy as a weirdo).  I like John Hughes, but that movie and that racist pile of shit Sixteen Candles (also featuring date rape!) are fucking awful.  Have I mentioned I hate the 80s?  I hate the 80s.

**The entitled generation?  Oh, that was us.  And our parents.  Seriously boomers, you didn’t work that hard either.  You got born smack in the middle of very favorable historic times- lots of cheap oil and a developed world that had just been smashed to bits.  The world was your oyster.  Again, not bitter, just saying.

Bruno Mars at it again

I’m back on the Bruno Mars beat!  I like Bruno.  I think he’s a great singer, up there with Sam Cooke or Stevie Wonder.  But his songs are unsatisfying.  Now that you’ve heard my band you can discount my opinions as those of a hack, but I’m going to put my opinions out there.  I like my lyrics.  I’ll put them next to anyone’s.  But enough about me.

I like the melody of this song.  I like Bruno’s vocal performance, it’s brilliant.

But as usual, the lyrics are dumb.  So dumb.

My wife and I were listening to this and she asked me “who could relate to this?”

No one.

That’s not true.  Bruno’s song is sung from the perspective of a man who has been dumped and his girlfriend has moved on.  Fine so far.

Here’s the meat of what he got dumped for:

My pride, my ego, my needs, and my selfish ways

Here’s how he illustrates this:

I should have bought you flowers

And held your hand

Shoulda gave you all my hours

When I had the chance

Take you to every party cause all you wanted to do was dance

Uh huh.

I wish there were a word for it, but Bruno is engaged in the time-honored act of saving face by conceding that he screwed up but then finding examples that aren’t really all that embarrassing.  That is relatable.  If Bruno wrote a song that was consciously playing on that idea, that would be pretty clever.  I don’t see that happening here.

Does anyone get dumped for not buying flowers?  Not in the real world.  Men get dumped for things like cheating, acting like a slob, ignoring their girlfriend in order to hang with friends (he makes a nod towards this), being clingy, being pushy, being controlling, etc.  The list is long.  It has never included not holding hands.

We listen to music because it helps us understand the world or understand our own feelings.  Bruno is letting us down.  I love the way the guy sings, but someone’s got to tell him his lyrics aren’t cutting it.  Bruno needs to dig deeper.  Bruno knows why he got dumped.   Or he should.  He should write that song.