"I can't get that sound you make out of my head, I can't even figure out what's making itů" - Brand New
"Take apart your headů" - Built to Spill
"It's like Brand New took Built to Spill's 'I Would Hurt a Fly' and made a whole album out of it." - my best friend on The Devil and God Raging Inside Me when listening to Perfect From Now On this week. It was a total "Oh fuuuuu. You're right!" moment when he said that. While the album pulls on many influences, there was even an old argument among friends who took a grudge when The Devil and God came out, saying Brand New ripped off Colour Revolt, who at that time were gaining momentum alongside Manchester Orchestra's popularity. Brand New would later take out Manchester Orchestra on their first major U.S. tour since releasing The Devil and God. Then behold, months later, Colour Revolt were opening shows for Brand New. It's a wonderful cycle. Where is the hate if Brand New learned a few tricks from Colour Revolt, isn't that the most exciting thing about music, artists feeding off each others ideas? There were so many reviews comparing the album to The Smiths and The Bends. Where was the Built to Spill write-up? Where was the Perfect From Now On shout-outs most of us missed? Why the hell didn't Pitchfork man up and just say it was great record? At least a 6.7 dawg!
Then there's my "hyphy" review of Basement's upcoming swan song, colourmeinkindness. Maybe I went a little overboard with the references, but after seeing comments like this, I sort of didn't disagree. There are times on colourmeinkindness where someone's going to go, "Maaaan. That's so radio sounding. They sold out." What the hell does that even mean though? I know I've said it a lot about a lot of really good records. Why? I grew up on the radio. I grew up on MTV. I grew up in the suburban South. There was a point in my life when NOFX's Pump Up the Valuum was the heaviest record I owned. Before that it was Insomniac. Before that it was Sixteen Stone. Before that some AC/DC record my dad would play. Back to Black I think.
The point is that unless your older sister was a hip college student or you grew up in such outcast lifestyle that you knew everything before it was big, then you started with the gut of society. As we grow older and discover new music, some of us also grow a tendency to shift towards shitting on everything and anything, and we act like we've always been in the know about certain bands. There's another branch of elitism that is even more annoying. That branch is one where allusion and/or influence is seen as either "been done" or "not as good as when band X did it."
I mean, Simpsons did it.
Where does that thought process come from? What separates a great rock song on the radio from a DIY darling? It's like we'll make up genres just to separate our personal catalogs, another division of what's better or more savant than the other. The funniest and truest thing anyone's ever said to me was that chill wave was just "Blink 182 songs with a flanger." Look, I know you're tired of hearing "We Are Young," just as much as I am, but it's a damn good pop song. It's like we're sitting here dissecting specific elements to walk around with our noses up instead of being open to new music, letting our guard down and enjoying a song or album for its surface value. So what if it sounds like a more obscure band? I get it, Refused pulled elements from a lot of American hardcore acts. Look dude, they just wrote a better record. Just live with that. None of those other bands suffered, and everyone has their place in history. It's not like Refused have never been quiet about their influences either.
There is nothing more annoying to me than when someone's ego gets the best of them and I hear things like, "Yeah, that band's not as good as this band. They did it first," or "Psssh. Sounds like a (insert band/album) rip-off record." Really dude? Did music just fucking stop for you in 1997 on some small label? You must lead a sad existence. I would have never gained the musical background I have now if it wasn't for being open to everything - for the most part. I'm looking at you Ke$ha. Maybe being around some of those people in my life helped me. Maybe we need the elitist bourgeoisie to keep the past intact, but there's a line of subtle snobbery that closes off a sense of openness to new music, that's where my gripe lies.
Last week I went to a screening of the KARP documentary that Bill Badgley from Federation X put together. The documentary is really eye opening for many reasons, the main one seeing the effects of individual friends coping with becoming a steady growing band. One of the most interesting side elements is how KARP were influenced by The Melvins, how fans were calling them the next Melvins and were okay with it, and then in a full-circle event, bassist Jared Warren ends up playing as The Melvins' bassist decades after KARP's inception. Everyone is okay with this. They should be. When the Q&A followed, there was a discussion about it. Someone brought up that The Melvins were influenced by KISS. Have you heard the cover of "Goin' Blind" off Houdini? Again, most people are okay with this. Again, they should be.
Music is a wonderfully cyclical thing. Young bands like Title Fight, Basement and Balance and Composure are harnessing a time right now where the Internet didn't exist. There was a time when The Melvins could play with The Smashing Pumpkins, and no one went, "That's crazy. Why would The Melvins play with those radio dudes?" It didn't matter, and it shouldn't matter now. If Jay-Z wants to curate a festival with a bunch of indie bands, why is that so weird? Why do we have to even look at it in the light of "This large hip-hop mogul is getting Vampire Weekend to play his festival? That's crazy man!" Again, my best friend on Drake this week, "Yeah it's just M83 beats." That's not a snobby revelation, he's a big Drake fan.
There are a lot of bands and albums I scoffed at when I first heard them. Some of those bands and albums are my favorite now. There is a lot of music I'm probably missing out on now still because I sometimes harness that elitist irrelevancy within me. That's me, and that's my critical tendencies. This is a call to action to pull my head out of my own ass more. This is me asking everyone to just be open to the past and present equally. Without that, the future of music is doomed. We might as well just curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth about how we'll never get another Jawbreaker record, when bands like Make Do and Mend are writing the perfect angst for the next generation. Just as much as we should respect our elders and learn from them, our elders need to always recognize "the new beat" of future generations as well.
- love and respect