If anyone read my last entry, it may have been hard to follow - then again - most everything I write usually only makes sense to me. While I'm way more excited for the week of South by Southwest than I would lead myself or any of you readers to believe, I suffer enough from anxiety on a personal level, it always tends to bleed into my work. Those "great" points I make aren't methodical, they're generally neurotic and paranoid to the point of trying not to over-think the subject at hand. To me, there is no right or wrong defined in music (no matter how drunk and belligerent some conversations have gotten between me and others), just a means to gather more and more information in hopes of coming close enough to a conclusion without ever actually getting there, and therefore leading any topic to a never-ending open discussion. (See what I mean by over-thinking things?)
Tonight I came home to two things - one positive and one negative. I opened my inbox with a response from Converge vocalist and Deathwish Inc.'s Jacob Bannon. It read: "Thanks for that. I feel that you touched on something that a lot of critics/writers miss that aspect of what's been going on in the last decade or so in "heavy" music..." His response really left me staring at my screen for a few minutes. I said something that's been missed? I've said nothing that I believe a lot of people are thinking, that's my job as a critic, right? To sift through the bullshit? Where is the the term "bullshit" defined in an area of subjectivity like music? With no clear definition, the battle between what is authentic and what is processed to turn a buck continues I guess.
Then I read Patrick Stump's melancholy, heartfelt and truthful editorial. Coming from someone who has never been a Fall Out Boy fan, this column covers every aspect as to why music fans are their own worst enemy and on the same level of elitism they see publications to be and so on. A friend the other day was telling me a kid was removed from Anthony Green's solo show because he kept heckling Green to play more Saosin tracks after Green explained to him that "Seven Years" was just something special for the tour. Apparently the same fan berated obscenities toward Green like a small child who stops the world when he or she doesn't get his or her way. Over what? Trying to stretch a nostalgic moment longer for personal enjoyment instead of accepting the moment as something special? Have we become so attached to the past that we can't embrace beauty in the future? How many people listened to Soul Punk expecting more Fall Out Boy instead of opening themselves up to a new chapter for which it was? We all break in shoes, buy new cars and eventually throw away or even sell or thrift our favorite tattered t-shirts that once held special moments. (Maybe these aren't the best examples, but it's one in the morning, I'm trying to make some sort of sense.)
Stump's point on growing up is one many of us as music consumers tend to overlook. Some artists start their career mathematically trying to construct perfect architectures (we can't all be Godspeed guys, c'mon), but like Fall Out Boy, Thursday, Thrice and countless other bands we oh-so sit high on the throne in our musical tastes and judgements - they were young kids with nothing to lose attempting something that at the moment meant nothing more to anyone else but them. At that same time, we were young trying to figure it out as well. What I as a writer have yet to solve in this equation is where we lost that connection as our tastes evolved our favorite bands grew as well. Was it that we drifted apart like we do in our personal life with friends when our ideals and nuances take separate paths? Is it that simple? Or do we live in such a fast paced world that we don't have time to sit down and fully hear what someone is trying to explain they learned in trying to improve themselves? Are we that closed-minded in what we're comfortable in understanding?
As I sift through these showcases both official and unofficial during South by Southwest, there is a lot of "Who the fuck is this?" circling my head. There's also, "Wait, these guys still make music?" boggling around in there too. I don't know about anyone else reading this, but music, my favorite bands, they're like friends to me. They were there when I needed them most. Sometimes when we talk, we're not always on the same page. Sometimes growing up means finding a common existence of acceptance among conflicting ideals and beliefs and creation. It's about meeting new people who do share a common ground as well. People apologizing about not liking the new fun. album (or any new edition to a favorite band's catalog for that matter) is unnecessary. Their career is more ruined every time someone yells out a Format song at a show. The subjectivity in music is more positive than we lead ourselves to believe or act out. The negative aspect dips into opening our mouths in critiquing the present based on the past. That's why it's the past, it's over. The moment was there, we shared it and nostalgia is meant to be something special, not a bar we deathly have to hold onto. When I sat down to write the Narrows review, I didn't want to tell you how much I missed These Arms Are Snakes or how it sounds like Botch in some aspects - I wanted to tell you what Painted means presently.
Like one of the best scenes in Spaceballs, let's live in the now-now. 2012 is happening now. Let's talk about how Every Time I Die's Ex-Lives is one of the best records of 2012 in terms of guitar play and satirical commentary and talk less about how it compares to the band's other releases. I had a conversation with a good friend a couple of weeks ago about how anxious I am to live up to my final statement about last year's South by Southwest, how I hope I can live up to that in some way on a personal level. He just smiled at me and said it'll come once I get through the week and not to worry about living up to anything for anyone beyond myself. So on that note, fuck the past, continue to move forward and if at any point conversations among friends, attempts to grasp a record or competing viewpoints don't work out for whatever reason - move on and maybe some understanding will come in time.
Who knows, maybe one day I'll fully grasp everyone's love of Fall Out Boy. Hear this, I have the utmost respect for Patrick Stump from here on out, and I wish him only the best of luck in his future endeavors - whether I get what he's trying to do or not, at least I know his heart and mind are in the right place - and as the asshole critic I am, that's all I ever ask of anyone doing anything.
This week Patrick Stump has sent us a little present. It's a Festivus miracle!
Christmas doesn't have to mean crappy sweaters and even crappier songs (I'm looking at you Paul McCartney's "Simply Having a Marvelous Christmas Time"). Here are a few songs that I think right the wrongs committed against the holiday season by Wham.
Donny Hathaway - "This Christmas"
This is easily my favorite Christmas song ever recorded. Hathaway was not only an incredible singer but also a truly gifted arranger. The chord changes with their suspended bass notes are thick and joyous, the low brass commands an anthemic attention equally at home in a John Williams or Danny Elfman score. But it's the relaxed acrobatics of Hathaway's golden pipes that sells you on the holiday, let alone the song.
Vince Guaraldi - "Oh Tannenbaum"
Some records make an entire room more hip. I don't know what it is about Vince Guaraldi's "Charlie Brown Christmas," but as soon as you hear the opening chords, your crappy studio apartment becomes an effortlessly classy penthouse and your day old flat diet Coke becomes a martini as dry as your suddenly James-Bond wit. There are a few piano runs that are straight up hummable. I understand that as a jazz-fan I'm biased, but this is a favorite Christmas album of many of my anti-jazz friends as well.
Harry Connick JR - "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers"
Harry Connick JR kicks ass. I SWEAR. I know it's a hard sell, I know he's played romantic lead to Sandra Bullock, but he was in Iron Giant and that thing was excellent. His Christmas albums are crazy (he's made 3 already). Some eerie dissonant chord changes, a croaking baritone sax, and here on this update of a forgotten 1934 classic, his avant-garde New Orleans jazz rumbles as a chaotic creepy robo-march. The tweedly clarinets above it all feel like Frank Gorshin's Riddler laughing at you for ever underestimating Connick.
The Drifters - "White Christmas"
Bing Crosby's version of White Christmas is evidently the best selling single of all time, but at the risk of sounding contrarian, the Drifters' version is much better (though Bing's is indeed excellent). Whenever radio stations switch over to Christmas music, I always look forward to this one with it's signature "Duh duh/duh duduh," vocal bassline. Clyde McPhatter's broad throated tenor coos and bubbles like an excited younger sibling tagging along behind Bill Pinkney's authoritative boom of a voice.
Louis Armstrong - "Baby It's Cold Outside"
While Louis Armstrong is commonly confused with Louis Jordan on Ella Fitzgerald's famous version of the song, however Armstrong also did his own version: A hilarious slow drunken sexed up 5 minute come-on you'll swear is early Tom Waits (who obviously took notes on this). Louis sounds almost predatory, discarding Johnny Mercer's expertly written boy/girl stream of consciousness lyrics for perverted growls and insinuations: "Female voice: At least there will be plenty implied/Louis: Mmmmmm, you tellin' me!" I'm gonna be honest, if I were that chick, I'd consider braving the cold the second Satchmo says "Let's get juicy!"