Conversations About Contemporary Music and Culture with Myself (Part Three)

Part Three:  “Pleasantness”

It’s my preference that the music, films, literature, and art that I expose myself to are not “pleasant.” From a frontman of a band, I want the the grating falsetto of Frank Black, the pissed off tone of Isacc Brock, the sandpaper sounds that come from Tom Waits’ throat, the discomforting whine of Gordon Gano, the awkwardly range-constricted Malkmus, and so on. Obviously there are many exceptions, Elliott Smith comes to mind, but even though his voice is “pretty,” his music certainly is not “pleasant.”

So, after many years of cock-rock dominating the rock n’ roll radio-waves, wuss-rock is in full effect. You should be able to identify wuss-rock from a mile away. As mentioned in Part One,I am aware of that wave of wuss-rock that breezed through in the late 90s to early 00s. Tal Bachmans Shes So High (Above Me)is so chiseled into my mind that sometimes I want to ram a ballpoint pen into my brain if that track happens to enter it. Other wuss-rockers include Vertical Horizon, Nine Days and their track Absolutely (Story of a Girl)and so on. These bands never outlived their 15 minutes and never for one second attempted to be indie, or were ever treated as though they were indie. Id never hear a critic, or overhear an irritatingly high-pitched voice say, Vertical Horizons latest album is a breakthrough for indie-rock.Unfortunately, this is the kind of press that the contemporary wuss-rocker Conor Oberst gets.

All Im stating is that not only has the perception of indie-rock become commercial, its gone the way of the wuss. So many soft voices whispered over dull string-quartets are repeating sentiments of unrequited love, teenage confusion, or irrational bliss. These songs haunt me in grocery stores and through acquaintances’ ipods.

I am by no means attacking the “validity” of this music. Is this music better than Nickelback or the proudly superficial radio-rap? Yes. I mean, generally, these starry-eyed boys are preaching anti-superficiality, non-conformity, anti-war, and other principles I can get down with, but unfortunately, they come off as weaklings and/or nancy-boys. Which actually hurts the messages that I agree with.

To be clear, though I’m calling certain musicians “weaklings,” I don’t listen to testosterone glorifying cock-rock either. With so, so much music out there, I’m curious as to why people aren’t more selective.

Obviously, a debate like this will invoke gender roles and sexuality and so forth, and I’ll try to dodge that discussion by just saying that you don’t have to be a “man’s man,” or some giant hoss of a guy to not be a wuss. Many huge body-builder type fellas are wusses. And there are many artists who may or may not appear effeminate (according to your perception) who are certainly not wusses. Woody Allen is no wuss. Gordon Gano is no wuss. Thom Yorke is definitely not a wuss. William Burroughs was no wuss (I’m aware of what his sexual orientation was). So, I hope that throws out the notion that I was looking at this from a regressive “men are men, women are women” perspective.

At the end of the day, if your music sounds like something that can be enjoyed by a soccer mom who voted twice for Reagan, I don’t think I’ll enjoy it. Ben Gibbard, I’m looking at you.

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