Sunday, August 02, 2015

Innocent Pleasures

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, at least not as far as art is concerned.  Anyone who has to preface their enjoyment of a song or a movie or a book with “This is a guilty pleasure” is a giant wuss.  I can defend any piece of art I enjoy.  And I shouldn’t have to.  I like what I like and fuck off if that gets me kicked out of the club. 

For example: punk purists are about the most insufferable of music fans.  Break one of their dumb rules (wear the concert tee of the band you are going to see perform; buy a ticket in advance; enjoy a indie band’s major label release) and you’re not truly punk rock.  For nonconformists, these jerks sure have a lot of rules.  And their rules, like their fashion, are pretty stale. 


The guilty pleasure confession is indicative of the fierce judgments often leveled at we consumers of culture by those who feel entitled to be arbiters of good taste.  Often, usually to be a silly dick, I have proclaimed myself to be as much.  It was all meant in good fun, though it often ruffled the feathers of the Tarantino loving and Foo Fighting friends of mine.  Oh well, if they love Kill Bill and that Mentos commercial song, they ought to have a better sense of humor.

With that in mind, I’m going to list some songs I love by bands I dislike.  This is to prove that I have a more open mind than it may often appear.  In return, maybe some more of my pals will give the Boredoms or Sleepytime Gorilla Museum a chance.

“Box of Rain” by the Grateful Dead.  

Jen Bosworth was nice enough to interview me about my forthcoming book.  The Dead were in town, so she started the interview by asking if I am a fan.  I told her they have come up with one song in 50 years that I like.  This is the song.  Honestly it never fails to give me chills.  And I hate the Dead.  Never liked the 30 minute guitar dickery, the “high on cocaine” sing along that makes all the great unwashed so giddy.  But here’s the thing: as much as I used to find Deadheads annoying, they are considerably more open-minded than half the pricks I've met at punk or metal shows.  Maybe I’m mellowing, but I have less animosity toward the Dead and their fans than I used to.  That’s allowed me to embrace this song, which is about as close to liking the Dead as I’ll ever get.

“Everlong” by the Foo Fighters.  

I fucking loathe the Foo Fighters.  I might normally ignore them, but they are everywhere, on every station, popping up on every award show to play one of their toothless sing-songy stadium anthems as a means of introducing someone more interesting.  But I have to admit that this is a good song.  It’s got an edge.  It’s well constructed.  None of the lyrics are as lame-brained and dull as “Don’t wanna be your monkey wrench.”  So kudos, Dave, for this the best thing you’ve done since being Kurt Cobain’s bitch. 

“Heavy Metal Drummer” by Wilco.  

It’s not that I actively dislike Wilco.  I just don’t think about of them very often.  I’ve tried to get into their older, better records, the ones people tell me I ought to listen to when I mention how little I care for, say, Sky Blue Sky.  And again, I don’t even hate that record, but I’ve just never gotten Wilco.  This may say more about me than them.  Fair enough.  But I do admit that I love this song.  It’s funny and it appeals to the metalhead in me.  When it comes on WXRT, I become a Wilco fan for three minutes and eight seconds. 

“Mayonaise” by the Smashing Pumpkins.  

Okay, I still like Gish, but even that record is pretty tough to take from start to finish.  Billy Corigan’s voice was pretty buried in the mix, which helped, but by the time we got to Siamese Dream, things had changed.  Songs like “Disarm” were too easy to decipher, thus the idiocy was all too clear.  This would only get worse as things went on, culminating in “Despite all my rage, I’m still just a rat in a cage,” the epitome of angsty 6th grade diary lyrics.  But there’s one gem among the rubbish heap called “Mayonaise”.  I think I like this song because it makes me remember sitting in a friend’s dorm room while slightly drunk on malt liquor and hearing this on top volume and thinking it was actually very beautiful.  Listening to it now (thanks, Spotify), it still sounds pretty good, at least by Smashing Pumpkins standards. 

“Don’t Cry” by Guns N' Roses.  

First let me say this: Fuck Axl Rose.  Fuck Slash.  Fuck Izzy.  Fuck ‘em all.  Okay, now that the bile is out of my system, god bless these cheese rockers for coming up with this wonderful song.  None of the pomposity of “November Rain” or the false claims to machismo of “Get in the Ring” or the dunderheaded camp of “Welcome to the Jungle” here: just a damn fine pop-rock song that balances the sad instincts that sank a million glam rock ballads of the 80s with a clean, economical approach.  Even a broken clock is right twice a day.