Archive for the 'classic rock' Category

25
Jun
12

Coldplay-hate-ology

A pet area of mine is thinking about why people hate coldplay. I don’t know why so many people hate them. It’s just a small puzzle that has grown on me over the years.

I’ve asked three of four people now why they hate them or why the band is hated. No one has a really good answer other than to say something about how they carry themselves. That’s not too revealing though, because you can always insist that you don’t like the cut of another person’s jib. If you ask why and the other person says “I just do,” there’s not too much further to explore.

This article I think does a really good job of summarizing the relevant points. They aren’t bad musically (not awesome, but not bad), they are nice people (give a fair amount to charity from what I understand), and they don’t seem to be arrogant or anything like that. They’ve even admitted a kind of humble place in pop history. Also, I like quite a few of their songs. Some I would even say have made me think or moved me.

Is it like the hate for LeBron James? It would be really interested to get a list of examples in which collective hate-o-rade is drunk by a group of people regarding an otherwise unobjectionable public figure. Is it freudian? Is it something else?

I’m still accepting explanations if you have a really good feel for why you don’t like this band. Some have suggested that the band wants to be like too much, and I kind of get that, but think about that for a second. Is the right response to someone who wants to be liked to hate them for it? To be liked is a completely natural impulse, ESPECIALLY for a pop band. That can’t be the reason to hate them…unless one wants to admit that it is completely arbitrary to dislike them, as I mentioned above.

18
Nov
10

Trolling the Cultural Trashcan

I have several points in this post, and most of them are about the same subject, which is the movement of time, specifically to our perception of it, and to nostalgia. You see, I worry a lot that our culture is bored of itself, and that we have nothing to be excited for anymore. I don’t mean to come across as  an emo creepster who is angry at everything. I’m not, but I think we can do better as a culture and should be on guard for the dissolution we’re wreaking on ourselves.

Consider some examples. Amateur sociologist that I am, I’ve watched a lot of youtube videos of songs from older bands, Boston, Zeppelin, the Cars, etc. On almost every song there is some reference to hating Justin Bieber or rap (check for yourself). Then there is someone saying something like “hey, just listen to the music and relax” and then there are usually a hundred comments after that telling this calm, level-headed person to fuck off and to kill themselves, etc. etc. This is distressing to me, because it indicates an undercurrent of not just nostalgia, which has its place, but angry, aggressive, insecure nostalgia, which does seem to me to be a very dangerous substance to be  pouring into the cultural pool.

I mean first, it’s a little ridiculous to even compare a 16 year old pop sensation to some of the movers and shakers of music tradition. Or actually, these bands I referenced weren’t really all that artistically high minded either. They were popular sure, and they were good, true. But in their age, they were successful and well-known. Anyway, the point of all this is that people, in a big way, are living in the past.

You see it everywhere. Around the Christmas season, reminders of the good ole’ days (you see the good ole days showing up all the time really) are nauseatingly present. Old Christmas movies re-released that no child wants but 70 year old people think it would be nice for them to have. Talk about family when we all the family unit is undergoing a massive shift in its function and cohesion in this country (nursing homes r’ us?)

Friedrich Nietzsche hypothesized that all cultures move toward nihilism: the destructive of their creative and artistic energy until life becomes a cold routine, devoid of verve and danger. His analysis is wrong in many ways, one of those ways being that, unlike what he thought, we are not moving toward some apocalyptic end point to all culture. A final resting place for creativity. Instead, we are going through what I think is a slowing point and a hump that must be gotten over. Compare things to the turn of the century (1900s). Optimism was in the air. Technology and capitalism were thought to be the solutions to all things. Not saying this was right. It wasn’t. WWI happened and shattered Enlightenment fantasies about unlimited progress. But there were, in teh 1870’s and 80’s and 90’s, robber barons, tycoons, and magnates all filled with the spirit of optimism. People were looking AHEAD. Now, as the 20th century closes, we are looking back, down at the ground, into ourselves.

TV started to obsess over reality, because except for “the wire” and “lost” we’ve lost the ability to create meaningful worlds of our own. It’s like all our collective imaginary world are being slowly destroyed until all we have left is this world: ourselves and our miserable little status updates and daily boredom. We’re trying to generate excitement out of boredom, and that scares me. When will look forward again, toward new cultural productions and new experiences?

This brings me to another deep point though, about Holidays. When was the last time a Holiday was created? Probably the closest thing in the U.S. is independence day created by an outpouring of liberal achievement about 200 some years ago. The most powerful holiday in the western world is more than 1000 years old. Where are our reason to celebrate?

What I think it’s important to notice is the power and energy needed to create a holiday that is celebrated so passionately for so long (even for me who’s not very christian at all). I see friends and take time off from work and on and on. I celebrate Christmas a secular solution to a coordination problem: how to get all my friends to have off work at the same time.

What this suggests to me is that culture is essentially lazy. We prefer to subsist on the traditions given to us, and we should stand in awe of how powerful they are. Will any holidays come from our world? It seems not. It seems that interests and beliefs are so fragmented that there will never be another day that unifies so many people so powerfully. Again, we’re running on the fumes of more energetic times, and as we turn to the holidays to invigorate ourselves with 1000 year old traditions, watch reality TV, check our facebook, we have to wonder, how dangerous is nostalgia and when will we create something again?

Nietzsche thought we needed to create the Overman, and such a creation would be celebrated for thousands of years to come. The creativity of the specimen would catapult us out of boredom and into a new level of self-actualization. I don’t think we need something so dramatic (or so utopian, or so..a lot of things).

12
Oct
10

Winter

I’m getting killed out there this week. So I’ll just leave people with this quote I ran into today. I think it’s an awesome quote and fits with a lot of things I want to philosophize about. It also validates my points about the deepness of Led Zeppelin lyrics (particularly as they related to existentialist themes).

“I’ve felt the coldness of my winter /
I never thought it would ever go. I cursed the gloom that set upon us.”

-Led Zeppelin

 

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer”

-Albert Camus

03
Oct
10

The right to party

Recently I’ve been listening to some 80s hair metal songs and it’s amazing how many are about just partying. I mean, songs are always about partying, but take these songs:

“Nothing but a good time” by Poison

“Rock and Roll all Night” by KISS

We’re not gonna take it” by Twisted Sister

“Fight for your right (to party)” by the Beastie Boys

Come on Feel the Noise” by the Quiet Riot

Just notice how similar they are to each other, both musically and in their message. Specifically, focus on the last three which are all protest songs that are remarkably similar to each other. Even the music videos seem to be kind of related. All of them involve kids saying no to adult restrictions on fun. These three songs were a big deal, and Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister was even called to testify before Congress on the appropriateness of lyrics in rock songs and the message they were sending.

Let’s not be naive, the controversy about lyrics in songs has NOT changed from the 80s until now, but something else DID, which is the targets that anger and adolescent angst are vented towards.

In the last three songs I listed, rock was concerned with the right to party. Was that right somehow in jeopardy in the 80s when Reagan and cultural conservatism was on the rise? I’m not sure, but if music is any indication of the state of society, then we must have moved past that era in a big way because pop musicians today don’t really focus on rebellion at all, much less rebellion related to partying (the most superficial and hedonistic type of social outrage). Even rappers who today express the grittier underside of modern day life (at least for some people) often talk about MUCH more serious issues than partying, like pregnancy, violence, and discrimination, but yes, also trivial topics like getting extremely rich (“I wanna be a billionaire” anyone?)

The point though is that maybe between the 1980s and now, kids won the “right to party,” so that today’s adolescents and young people are living in a post-party world.  I think this might be a very relevant and important development. Has partying in the sense that I know it from my generation, i.e., going out till late Friday night, getting drunk, doing drugs, hooking up, and then sleeping until late Saturday afternoon and then doing it all again, become an acceptable and socially institutionalized activity. I’ll say it again: has there become a socially recognized right to party and did my generation accept that right uncritically?

I don’t have a good answer, but I do think these sorts of blips of pop cultural data can lead us to appreciate just how different even FUN is from decade to decade. What does it say about our generation that we didn’t have to fight to party?

23
Sep
10

Musings on Led Zeppelin and Boxing

Tomorrow is going to be one of the busiest days of my life, and so I spent most of today just getting ready for it.

Anyway, I still feel like I have a worthwhile post, though its shorter and in two parts.

First part. I listened to Led Zeppelin today, just came on the radio randomly, which is the best way to experience any song, because as I’ve said on this blog before, sometimes, part of the fun of hearing a song you like is knowing that it came to you purely BY CHANCE. Something about that realization really puts the cosmic order in perspective.

Anyway, I was listening to a pretty obscure song called “hots on for nowhere” and the lyric that really strong me in this song was just several words long. At one point, the lyrics talk about “the land of the not-quite day.” Now this seems pretty innocuous, but think about how many songs have sung about night and day and dusk and dawn throughout the years. I think this is just a really interesting way to put it, and this small kernel of insight led me to two others straightaway.

First Led Zeppelin loves rocking about water. They have “the ocean,” they have “down by the seaside,” “the rain song,” “when the levee breaks,” and actually many others that I always think about but never succeed in making a master list.

Anyway, the big philosophical lesson here is that good work, of any kind, is the kind you can keep coming back to. Nietzsche is a great example. I’m about to read the Genealogy of Morals again, and I’m sure I’ll notice so many new things. In a way, the best works are infinite portals into knowledge: they speak to you in all ages and whether you’re sad or happy, in a good place or in a bad place in your life. And then I thought that the street runs both ways. A brilliant piece of work always grants new lessons, and by the same token, a good person (one aspect of being a good person) is charitable to his fellow human beings, and here I mean that in a specific sense in that one is always READY to learn lessons from them. Great interpretations can result from a great piece of work, but as literary critics new, a new interpretation is also the work of the mind doing the intrepreting.

A great person is someone who seeks to aggressively theorize the actions and words of another person so as to craft a beautiful interpretation of that person’s character. This is one of the most noble things someone can do; to lionize, complicate, and appreciate the lessons offered by another human being. When we fail to find the lessons in another person, we fail to be proper interpreters and we miss the opportunity to create something beautiful.

This is not to say we have to accurately characterize every person we meet. After all, all interpretation is part fantasy and part myth, but the point is that if we build someone up in our mind, even if it is a caricature, we’ve made the most of their interactions with us. It’s like eating all the food put in front of you at someone’s house: it’s just shows respect.

Anyway, there’s a line in the “rain song” that I think is earth-shattering in its profundity. It goes like this, “Talk Talk – I’ve felt the coldness of my winter /
I never thought it would ever go. I cursed the gloom that set upon us… /
But I know that I love you so.” The way Robert Plant delivers this line gets me every time. I curse the gloom that set upon us everytime.

Second part. Check out this great article for an accessible and thought provoking philosophical essay.

17
Aug
10

Songs with Girls’ names

The internet kind of ruined this game by providing massive lists of songs with girls in the title, but a few stand out for me.

“Sara” by Fleetwood Mac

“Ballad of Jayne” by L.A. Guns

“Rosanna” by Toto

“Pamela” by Toto

“Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes

“Brandy” by Looking Glass

“Barbara Ann” by The Beach Boys

“Lola” by the Kinks

“Lorelei” by Styx

“Jessica” by the Allman Brothers

“Melissa” by the Allman Brothers

“Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners

There are a bunch more I’m sure. Interesting that strikes me is that Zeppelin doesn’t have any songs named after girls. Second, most of the names are pretty non-standard. Where are the Rachels, Laurens, and Mollys, and Susannas? On the other hand, there are also a ton of songs with Jane in them that I didn’t list (“Jane says” “Jane” “Janie’s got a gun”). Kind of plain for the girls that rockers are getting jilted by…must be easy to rhyme or something.

14
Jul
10

Led Zeppelin and Myths

I really love Led Zeppelin, but my phase of pure obsession with them has come and past. Now I return to my 5 disc set of their music every one in a while, and every time, I’m struck by some new aspect of their music that gives it power and beauty.

This time what struck me is that Zeppelin is a mythical band, and I mean this in two senses. First, the band itself has been draped with a kind of mythos. When they were together they rarely granted interviews (not very weird for a band honestly) and to this day, they have not sold the rights to their music or licensed (you can’t find it on sites such napster for example).

But also, and this is what I noticed this time around, is that their songs are very epic in their subject matter and lyrics. Take the following fairly substantial subset of Zeppelin songs:

“No Quarter”

“Ramble On”

“Stairway to Heaven”

“Carouselambra”(sp?)

“Achilles’ Last Stand”

“Kashmir”

“Battle of Evermore”

All of these songs are straightforwardly mythical. Ramble On and the Battle for Evermore both make reference to characters from Lord of the Rings (Gollum, Ring Wraiths) and their lyrics involve the clash of good and evil, princesses, and a picture of human spirit in its largest and most dangerously energetic guise.

Kashmir, Carouselambra, and Stairway to Heaven are less about warfare and more about magical journeys that are thematically related to stories like the Odyssey, and Achilles Last Stand explicitly concerns classic Greek epics. Still though, what is Stairway to Heaven if not a lyrical reflection on the tragic flaws of human nature; the flaws that drive us to greatness and great failure.

What I also think is interesting and worth pointing out is that Kashmir and No Quarter, though mythical in scale, draw on traditions other than the classical western canon. No Quarter is about a group of Norwegian messengers, and it fits nicely with the nordic tone of the “Immigrant Song.” Kashmir on the other hand feels Persian or at least eastern with its references to sandy deserts and Shangri-La.

This side of Zeppelin, the phantasmagoric tendency toward the epic (most of these songs are more than 6 minutes), is a theme that runs through, I think, almost all their songs and infuses it with its larger-than-life quality. For example, “the rain song” uses lyrics that are poetically reminiscent of Carouselambra and Stairway to Heaven, and “In My Time of Dying” could be understood as told from the deathbed of a great hero such as Achilles just as much as it can be imagined as a rootsy Southern riff on Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying.” Other songs like “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Over the Hills and Far Away” echo some of the epic themes and style of these more paradigmatic songs while still avoiding the flight to absolute fancy or at least staying with the bounds of the strictly bizarre rather than the beyond human.

In short, I think the mythical can be one way to try and understand Zeppelin’s artistic achievement.