Monday, May 5, 2014

All of the Musics

I've been given an assignment.

At my Sister Blog, the aptly named Starpoop and Cheese, my sister blogger (slogger?) wrote a poignant ramble about music, and called upon myself and a few others to put voice to our musical history, or roadmap or whatever. I think that's what she said. I'm not so good with the words.

Be right back...

OK, I went and read it again and it just says "write a music post". So, that's it. It's open to interpretation. I guess I invented that other stuff myself.

Music has been really important to me in that, I just like music all right? Get off my back. I don't feel like I can wax poetic about the way that Ween's "Push th' Little Daisies" got me through some hard times, man. I don't have the emotional vocabulary to explain what it all meant to me. I really just pretty much liked music.

It totally did, though.

 I think my musical taste was all about eclecticism. I prided myself in how "weird" my taste in music was. Not that I was into anything really avant-garde, although Mr. Bungle can be pretty strange when they want to be. I just had a very wide variety of tastes that generally excluded whatever was "pop" music.

This started when I was in my formative years in grade school. When my friends were listening to Vanilla Ice and Bell Biv Devoe (or alternatively Poison and Def Leppard) I was listening to the Beatles, The Four Seasons (whatever records [yes, records] my parents had lying around) as well as classical music (the first Compact Disc I ever owned was Beethoven) and some neo-alternative from They Might Be Giants, REM, Talking Heads, and Primus. This last set of music was weird. It was my kind of weird. It had nerdy, complex, or downright strange lyrics, (Les Claypool, I'm lookin' at you) and almost as strange music. I guess I didn't want to be pigeonholed into being the guy who listens to [insert genre tag] music, so I gravitated toward music that was impossible to define by its genre.

No, it's supposed to sound like that... really.

And I wore t-shirts to proclaim it. I wanted to be undefinable, but be as loud as I could about it. In an ironic twist, all the music I loved got lumped together in what was now called "Alternative" and I myself got lumped in with the "Alternative" crowd. I remember very clearly someone asking me "So what do you listen to". Not wanting to say something categorical like "Rap" or "Metal" I described what bands I listened to, and she said "Oh, you're one of those alternative kids."

I guess so?

In my attempt to be different and follow my own path, I fell into another. At the time, that was when alternative was good. Kurt Cobain was "still alive" (Yes, I know that's a Pearl Jam Song, haha. I make joke.) and "alternative" was in its early ascent to the mainstream. This is when I made connections to bands that I still love to this day; bands like Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Alice in Chains, Dinosaur Jr, to name a few. The one that I love most of all though is Smashing Pumpkins. I remember where I was. I remember where I bought the album. I remember sitting on the floor in front of the CD player at my friend Mike's house the first time I listened to Siamese Dream and it totally blew me away.

Best track 1 ever.

This is my desert island album. It is (almost) flawless start to finish. Anyway, from there Alternative as a whole fell into complacency and eventually irrelevance. Too many imitators, too many Eddie V wannabes (and I don't mean VanHalen). By the time Nu Metal came on the scene, I was looking for something new. what I found was Ska.

I'm referring to what is known as 3rd wave ska. I won't get into it, but basically this isn't the jazz ska, it's the punk-infused version. The curious can read more here. These bands were Reel Big Fish, The Suicide Machines, and the big one, Operation Ivy. If there is a desert island where you get to pick more than one CD, book, movie, what have you, Operation Ivy's Energy will sit right beside Siamese Dream. This album... my speakers never seem to be able to go loud enough for it.

Hard to pick one when they're all so good.

This was the last time I really let myself be defined by a genre. I went through a phase where I thought I was a punk. I wasn't punk. I went to a State College in Michigan. I've never even set foot on a skateboard or smoked a cigarette. It worked out fine because ska died in the late 90's about as quick as it hit mainstream. That's fine, because a lot of it was silly and superficial.

There isn't enough room in this blog for the rest of it all. I've since become a ravenous music explorer. I love falling down the wormhole of niche subgenres. To pick through all the bands that formed the Black Metal movement in Norway. To find the nuances that made shoegaze music what it was, and how it influenced other bands. To give some bands a spin that people take for granted like Rush or Kansas. To listen to the kings and queens of Motown, your Stevie Wonders, and your Diana Rosses...

My latest new album purchases? Journey - Evolution (Don't judge me. Listen to Steve Perry and tell me the man isn't incredible) Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I might See because I neglected them in the 90's and wow, this is dreamy floaty shoegaze and it's great. Almost better than Jesus and Mary Chain. And lastly, Chvrches, because one has to stay relevant. I'm kidding, I only get music because I genuinely enjoy listening to it, and Chvrches is some solid pop.  Does it speak to me on some kind of emotional or spiritual level? Frankly, I don't really know, and I don't really care. I only know that it makes me feel. I learned some time ago that you can't let what you listen to define you. I learned that earnestness is cooler than being part of a scene. But I don't really know what cool is anyway, so nevermind.

I leave you with my favorite song from Ke$ha, because I think she gets a bad rap and I actually like her music. It' fun and honest and sweary and dancey and awesome.

Maybe more about music in another entry later, but this is a decent overview.

Oh, one more thing. I don't like Jazz or County. I neither understand nor appreciate the aesthetic of either, even though I recognize that musicians are all talented no mater what they play. Just... play it somewhere else.


  1. Dude. Amazing post. Siamese Dream was so damn good, IS sooooo good....I remember listening to it, feeling all the feels.

    Also, 'just play it somewhere else' got a legit mini-snort. So there's that. ^_^

  2. Great post! I love that you mentioned Push th' Little Daisies, I love that song! Siamese Dream was basically my soundtrack to 1993 and I still love it! Is 'just play it somewhere else' the musical equivalent of get off my lawn?