Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I Had Power, I Was Respected

Today Rebecca texted me saying that she was watching Frozen for the first time at work and that she was really enjoying it and was surprised by the emotional gravity that sneaks into the movie. This entire post is about how somebody actually didn't see Frozen in the last two years.

But actually, the film does seem to resonate with this generations children, specifically young girls. That's because it touches on the matter of sisterhood, which is relatively rare in film, but also because both Elsa and Anna are positive female role models. Rather than conforming to what society wants from her, Elsa does her own thing and that works out for her. You could read this a variety of ways, for example as a metaphor for being queer, but really it applies to almost anything. That type of character arc doesn't happen to female characters nearly as much as it should in popular media.

The main way that Frozen communicates the emotions tied to the film's events is through song, a Disney staple. In case you lead a life similar to Patrick Star, you know that "Let It Go" was the "Can You Feel the Love Tonight", or "A Whole New World" or "Under the Sea", etc. of the film. My favourite, personally, was "Love Is an Open Door", which Rebecca echoed. Look at us, too cool to pick the one that everyone likes.

What this did was remind me of one of my all-time favourite movies, Toy Story, and not only how good that movie is, but also how good its soundtrack is. Hearing the three original songs from the Toy Story soundtrack by Randy Newman just destroys me. The first time I saw the movie I was six and since then it has come to mean a lot of different things to me and represented different feelings. I could probably write a dissertation on how the movie has stayed with me through the years, but I can barely finish the one I'm already working on, so I'll stick to just the music.

When I was young I loved the songs, but that was mainly because they were the songs in a movie I enjoyed. I didn't think about the content in the songs or what the words meant, I just knew them as the sounds that complimented parts of a movie I really liked. But the songs do have a very strong emotional core to them and when paired with the visual elements of the movie, they come across as emotionally devastating. I subconsciously knew the emotions tied to the songs because of the movie, but I couldn't articulate those thoughts yet because I was a six year-old boy.

I always liked the movie, but I sort of re-discovered its appeal in high school. When I was younger I liked it because I played with toys all the time and the thought of my toys being sentient seemed like the coolest thing in the world. In high school I understood the greater themes of the movie and seeing Andy's attachment to his toys triggered very strong nostalgia in me towards the bond that I used to have with my toys. I think I even got out my Lego and played with it again.

I went through another re-discovery of the movie during university when my friends and I went through a phase of watching Disney movies at our house. I constantly said how Toy Story was one of my favourite movies and probably annoyed the hell out of everyone around me. This time, the main thing that stuck out to me was how well-crafted the songs were. Now when I listened to "You've Got a Friend in Me" I thought about my friendship with Brian and how I felt what the lyrics in the song said. This wasn't a "Oh yeah, it's that song from my childhood." it was "Holy fuck, this song."

My dad is a huge Randy Newman fan and when I was talking about the movie one day, he got out all of his old Randy Newman records. He's a really cool guy (you get to choose who I'm referring to) and his records are all very satirical and cynical, which isn't exactly what you would expect from him if you, like me, were introduced to him via the Toy Story soundtrack.

For example, from "Money (Is What I Love)"

"I don't love the mountains
And I don't love the sea
And I don't love Jesus
He never done a thing for me
I ain't pretty like my sister
Or smart like my dad
Or good like my mama
It's money that I love"

I think he's trying to say something!

I won't lie and say that I'm all that familiar with Newman's music, or that I'm even familiar enough to approach it critically, but he means something to me through my relationship with my dad and I think it's pretty lame that everybody my age only knows him through that fucking stupid Family Guy sketch.

Anyways, back to the songs he made for the Toy Story soundtrack. "You've Got a Friend in Me" was the biggest song, and deservedly so, as it's the catchiest one and has a very family-friendly sentiment, but the one I really want to talk about is "Strange Things", which plays in the movie when Buzz Lightyear is starting to occupy more of Andy's time and Woody is becoming jealous.

There's a panning shot of Woody's astonished expression while the "Straaaaange things are happenin' ta me" plays and that kills me every time.

I think that this is the best song on the soundtrack. It seems like whenever I get back into a "Toy Story is the best" frame of mind, I'm at a point of change or transition in my life and I suppose that this songs really resonates for that reason. But I think that the case is really that your life is always in transition and always changing, so this song really just applies all the time.

I high school it was about me packing and moving to university, in university it was about me learning how to grow up and move on from a break-up, during the summer at Ontario Place it was about me entering the last year of my undergrad and not being sure about what I would do and now, as I'm sitting in a bachelor kitchen, it's about me looking the end of my thesis in the face.

This means that the song can apply to me at more or less any point in my life and it's probably that way for a lot of other people to. In reality, strange things are always happening to you, so this song has nailed down transcendental truth of human existence, which is the mark of a truly great song.

I'm not really sure how to end this, as typing it out has brought up some pretty strong emotions in me, so I guess just next time you feel weird about shit put on this jammer.

And then after that put on "You've Got a Friend in Me" and think about your best friend.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Rolling Like a Cel-eh-bri-tay!

Early last Friday evening I found out that I won tickets to Riot Fest in Toronto. The lineup featured some things that I really wanted to see and some that I just didn't care at all about. Since I got the tickets for free I figured it would be worth to head down for the Sunday of the festival, since I was already committed to watching the Blue Jays play the Red Sox at 4 PM on Saturday (A disappointing game featuring a rare blow-up from Roberto Osuna resulting in a 7-6 loss).

I've become pretty disenfranchised with large music festivals. Before things like Riot Fest and Osheaga and Wayhome and Veld were things, artists used to tour a lot more. A band who were signed would tour Canada in the summer, bringing maybe a smaller labelmate along for the ride to go with a few local acts to fill out the bill. This kind of set up was great because it let me see my favourite bands in a more intimate atmosphere (I mean, even the Kool Haus was more intimate than Downsview Park), but also because it gave smaller bands crucial exposure and allowed them to grow. Nowadays many bands just run a circuit of festivals, Riot Fest ->The Fest->Groezrock->Soundwave->etc, and playing large tours has pretty much become a thing of the past. Though I'm sure that most bands, especially the older ones, love this because it lets them have more down time, for me it sucks and has taken away one of my favourite parts of the summer.

With the influx of large music festivals, a weird (at least to me) culture of people who go to these festivals has popped up. It seems like there are people who buy a ticket to most, if not all, big festivals and make being a "festival-goer" a part of their identity. I've noticed people on facebook who seem to have a new picture of themselves in front of a large banner for each new music fest. Google "Music Festival Guide" if you don't believe me. For every girl in a flower crown or bro in a tank top, there are 5 BuzzFeed lists telling what to wear/eat/drink/do wherever they are.

And whatever, people are going to do what they want/like and I have no control over that, so I shouldn't let it get to me, but something I've noticed is that they people who go to these things don't seem to give much of a shit about who they're seeing. They don't even care about the artists there and that really rubs me the wrong way. They are just there to be at the festival, not to see anybody, if that makes any sense.

Case in point, on the Sunday at Riot Fest was headlined by 6/9 (RIP ODB) of Wu Tang Clan. There were a ton of die-hard Wu fans to see the set. For example, my friend Erik, the drummer of my first two bands, is a huge Wu fan, so seeing the set was of paramount importance to him. But for every one of those, there were two people there who didn't really know anything about Wu Tang Clan. Sure they have the "W" shirt and know that "Wu Tang Clan ain't nothin' ta fuck with" or that "Cash Rules Everything Around Me", but I bet they couldn't name a single album. I bet they couldn't name a single member. They love the brand of Wu Tang Clan and they like the idea of being a person who likes Wu Tang Clan, but they don't really do. Logically, a Wu Tang fan probably would have also been interested in seeing Atmosphere's set earlier in the day, yet his crowd was 1/5 the size. With how much people seemingly have to advertise their interests and themselves over social media now, it seems like having a visual signifier is now more important than the signified, and that's just fucked to me.

Instead of watching Wu Tang, I decided to watch Weezer, who were playing all of Blue (Do I italicize "Blue Album"? I mean, it's really self-titled and wasn't called "Blue" until "Green" came out. Hard to say.). Their crowd was also huge. I expected this and tried to not worry so much about how shitty they crowd was around me, though it was monumentally shitty. I will limit myself to one complaint: A large number of extremely drunk bros doing a "Rosanne singing the national anthem at Wrigley"-level rendition of the falsetto "Hoo-ooh"s during the pre-chorus in "Buddy Holly". Fuck off guys, you actually completely ruined it for me. 

Some assholes aside, everyone seemed to actually be pretty into the set. But the dumb part came in the second half. The singles that Blue is known for, "Buddy Holly", "Undone - The Sweater Song" and "Say It Ain't So", all come early, so as soon as "Say It Ain't So" ended, THOUSANDS of people left the crowd. Guys, the three best songs on the album are left! A first I was annoyed, but I was coming down from a few red wines and uh..., which, combined with the really nice sunset made me really relaxed. The fact that all of the bros and drunks were leaving during the nerdiest song on an already nerdy album made me feel kind of good too. Rivers singing "I've got Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler too, waiting there for me" during an exodus of assholes made me sort of realize that I was who this song was meant for and that made me feel really good.

That didn't last long though, as some dick started yelling "'Beverley Hills'! Play 'Beverley Hills'!" behind me while Weezer played "Susanne". THEY PLAYED FUCKING "SUSANNE"!

After this I walked over to catch my friends Like Pacific and upon realizing that their set had been moved up and I had unknowingly missed it, watched the last two songs of Wu Tang. The crowd was maybe 1/5 of what it had been earlier which I can only imagine was a result of all the poseurs leaving once they realized that they don't even know the songs they thought they did. The being said, everyone who was still there was super into it and there was a giant crowd of people worshipping the stage with the "Wu" gesture.

I hate being right sometimes.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I'm So Sorry I'm So Paranoid

When I was writing my post about The Ataris "Boys of Summer" cover (jeeze, mention it again why don't you!), I mentioned three music videos and how I would sort of like to write a post on just those three.


The three music videos are by three of the biggest pop-punk bands and made during pop-punk's biggest boom. "All the Small Things" by blink-182, "Makes No Difference" by Sum 41 and "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World. At this time, a song succeeded more or less solely on the performance of its video, which was not the case at all 20 years prior and not really the case now, 15 years later. If you wanted to be a successful pop musician, you had to have a video that performed well on TRL or Muchondemand or whatever. Your video had to reflect the tone of the song, reflect the image of your band/artist, and also reflect popular ideas in society at the time. Now that stations playing exclusively music videos have gone by the wayside, that logic doesn't apply anymore. It's a system of music production that was short-lived in the grand scheme of things, but while it was the system it was the ONLY SYSTEM.

All three of these songs had a huge impact on me and also occupy a different place within the world of early 2000's pop-punk. It was a time in my life when I hadn't yet carved out a niche for myself musically, so these three songs really represent me starting to like my "own" music that wasn't stuff that my brother listened to or what my parents played in the car. The stuff that I listened to in 5th/6th grade then greatly informed what I got into after that, so in many ways these three songs were the catalyst in me becoming who I am right now. This is why I like punk. This why punk is "my thing".

Let's get to it.

I don't think I need to mention that blink-182 is one of my all-time favourite bands. This sounds like a pretty cliché thing to say, given how popular the whole "defend pop-punk" thing is right now, but it's absolutely true. They were one of the first bands I listened to and have stayed in pretty constant rotation since then. This was the first blink song that I heard. I know that "What's My Age Again?" was the first single, but this is the first one that I remember. Given that I was an 11 year-old boy when this single was released, the video appealed to me for obvious reasons.

Like I said in the introduction, I hadn't yet discovered the music that I liked yet. My parents dissuaded me in watched MuchMusic, which meant that I was a little sheltered musically, though I was only 11, so I wouldn't say I was sheltered. But around this age I started to notice that girls looked nice and I wanted them to think that I looked nice. I also noticed that they were into music, so maybe I should be into music too. Other big singles from this time were "What a Girl Wants" by Christina Aguilera and "Say My Name" by Destiny's Child, neither of which appealed to me at all at the time. In hindsight, "Say My Name" is a pretty big jam.

But when I saw three guys spoofing all the other videos around at the time? That I could get behind. I'm not really sure why, but back then I knew that all of the boy bands and teen starlets were lame, but I didn't know why. They didn't play guitars? There was too much sex appeal in the videos for my pre-pubescent brain to deal with? I won't know for sure, but I know for sure that that was how I felt.

Before getting into the video, I want to talk about the song. I think this jam is pretty high on my list of "Best blink-182 Jams" and boy is that ever a long list. This song is good because the instrumentation is simple and the melodies are huge. That's it!

Think about the verse and chorus vocal melodies.

See! Both of them can be called up on demand and are instantly burned into your mind because they are so catchy. That is how you write a successful pop song.

Now think about the lyrics. How fucking stupid are they? So fucking stupid! I would say that never before has a song so expertly crafted musically ('cause brother, let me tell you, writing a song this catchy ain't easy) had such dumb lyrics, but that would be a gross exaggeration and is definitely not the case. If you are a blink aficionado such as myself, then you would agree that this song has Tom DeLonge all over it. Tom (using the more formal "DeLonge" would seem way too weird) always tended to be the weaker songwriter in blink and while Mark Hoppus injected a fair amount juvenile stuff in his songs, it always seemed like it was coy as opposed to the "wow-he-might-actually-be-that-stupid-hahaha-oh-well-look-at-me-laughing-at-it-anyways" nature of Tom's songs. Think about the singles that Tom wrote/sings. This song, "First Date", "Dick Lips", "Anthem pt.II", "I Miss You", "Always". All of those songs have dumb lyrics. They're all good songs (save for "I Miss You", which is hot garbage), but they all have super dumb lyrics.

The video is clearly a Tom creation too. The earlier singles "Dammit", "Josie", and "What's My Age" are all super goofy videos, but are more self-effacing in their humour, with the protagonist Mark poking fun at himself, as opposed to the straight-up "ripping on you" nature of "All the Small Things". When you watch the video, it mostly focuses on Tom, though Mark's belly gyrations will get burned into your mind as soon as you see them, and Travis clearly does not give a fuck about doing anything at all. This video is also weird because blink is really the same thing as all of the artists they're making fun of. Sure they play guitars and "write their own songs", but they're given the same budgets and the same sheen on their production as the others. They might be marketed as edgier or different but when it comes down to it, they're really just New Coke.

But man, the whole "fuck these pop stars" attitude really spoke to me as an 11 year-old and became a rallying battle cry for Paul, Damien, Pat and I in 5th grade.

Let's now move on to the next video, "Makes No Difference" by Sum 41.

blink was pretty easy to come across because they had their feet firmly planted in the mainstream. They were all over the radio and all over MuchMusic, so they were naturally the first band I discovered. The second one was Sum 41. Man, did I ever fucking love Sum 41. Sum 41 was my whole fucking world. They were my first "favourite band".

A big part of that was because they were Canadian. Thanks to Can-Con laws, they received even more airplay in Canada than blink, which meant that I was exposed to them just that much more. When I was a child I also had a much larger sense of national pride as well, so the band's passports definitely played a huge role in my love for them. I knew that Canadians played better hockey, I knew that Canadians were smarter and I knew that we made better pop-punk bands (in hindsight, the last point is debatable).

The first CD I went out and bought with my own money was All Killer, No Filler, but I remember this video before then. My brother told me it was cool because DMX rides an ATV in it.

The thing I find interesting about this video is that it introduces a trope that is hugely popular in both pop-punk videos from this time and the teen movies they were the soundtrack for: The house party. The teen comedy movie could not exist without the house party. American Pie begins and ends with one. So does American Pie II. SuperbadCan't Hardly Wait? This isn't unique to the early aughts, Dazed and Confused is centered on teens trying to find a spot for their party after the original locale falls through. You cannot have a teen-centric comedy without a house party and if it's going on while someone's parents are out of town, all the better.

It wasn't uncommon at all for pop-punk videos to have them. Hell, the next video I'm going to talk about is at a house party too. The video for "Make No Difference" could easily stand in as the last scene of any of the movies I mentioned in the last paragraph and no one would be the wiser. This is not a mistake, by having "Makes No Difference" take place at a wild house party, the record executives at Island Records were saying "You do this on your own time. You see this in the movies. Buy this because it is the accompaniment to this." and that worked amazingly. Though we weren't drinking yet, when my friends and I had parties, we would play Sum 41 and blink-182. I was on the lower end of their target demographic, but I just assumed that being a teenager basically entailed doing the things in Sum 41 videos. And I wasn't entirely wrong.

The characters that the band are are interesting to me too because that's who the record label was selling to me. As much as I liked the band's music, I would be lying if I said that the goofy cool-guy personas the band presented wasn't the main reason I was drawn to them. In "Makes No Difference" the band are pranksters, but they're also the coolest guys at the party. This evidenced by the video cutting from them being wild and crazy pranksters climbing around the house with watermelons, but then cutting right back to them playing music and the entire crowd watching them with interest. That is who I wanted to be. I wanted to be funny and dumb enough to do something crazy, but cool enough to hopefully makeout with a girl afterwards. Hell, that's still who I want to be.

Paul, Damien and I, having decided to form a band in elementary school, used to think out loud about which member of Sum 41 each of us would correspond to in our band. Those label execs sure did their job.

Last one, "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World:

This one is interesting because it is a great foil to "Makes No Difference". Both videos take place is the exact same place, but have a way different tone and message to them.

I mentioned in the last section that Sum 41 were my first "favourite band" (quickly replaced by NoFX), but "The Middle" was my first favourite song. The first time I heard the song was in the trailer for the, again, teen comedy The New Guy. Upon further inspection, the song doesn't appear in the film or on its official soundtrack, but I swear, cross my heart and hope to die, that it was in this trailer. When I heard the chorus of the song, it was the first time I had ever heard a song and thought "Yes. That is what I like." I knew that I liked that song and I knew I wanted to listen to more songs that sounded like it and that is exactly what I did. The song occupies a really special place in my life and still whenever I hear the intro I get wistful and get a little ping in my chest. Have I told you about how this song has the best guitar solo of all-time? I have probably told you about how this song has the best guitar solo of all-time.

Jimmy Eat World is a much different band than blink and Sum 41 though. Both of those bands were still fairly new. Dude Ranch was a big breakthrough for blink, but Enema of the State was certainly their first "big album" and Half Hour of Power, where "Makes No Difference" comes from, was Sum 41's first album (Or EP? I think if it's 10 songs or longer and more than 30 minutes it doesn't count as an EP guys). Jimmy Eat World had a significant amount of underground support and cred before hitting it huge with "The Middle". Clarity, the album that preceded Bleed American, was a landmark in 90's emo music and, while we're being subjective here, is a fucking masterpiece. Bleed American was the band's fourth album. While blink and Sum 41 were both trying to be pop-punk bands, Jimmy Eat World were instead a band who just happened to write a pop-punk song.

It's obvious when watching the video that the band isn't trying to be jokey like blink or Sum. They're still at a house party, but the band aren't the focus at all. Instead, we get a teenaged male protagonist who wanders around the party feeling out of place. The band is just in the background playing and don't interact with the partygoers at all. Since it's Jimmy Eat World, frontman Jim Adkins is covered in sweat. I read this as Jimmy Eat World trying to show that they are a "serious band". This is what we do. We play music. I'm sure that the label/director tried to get them to play in their underwear or something, but the band refused. That would be cool. Or hell, maybe the label is just trying to market them as a serious band. I will never know.

In "All the Small Things", nudity is used to comedic effect, with Tom and Mark trying to show as much skin as possible to get as many laughs as possible. Here, the nudity seems normal to me. Even though a party where everyone stripped down to their underwear would probably be fun, it would be pretty awkward. In the video for "The Middle" I find that the nudity draws me into the world of the video. It sets up the premise of the video and the short journey that our protagonist is about to go. Surprise, surprise, a Jimmy Eat World video is most tasteful than a blink-182 video.*

One can easily imagine how this video would have gone if it was made by blink. Jimmy Eat World separates themselves by including a love story in this one. In "Makes No Difference", Sum 41 are out of control pranksters who cause a ton of chaos at the party and when the protagonists of that video interacts with them, he drives a car through the front of his house. God that was a stupid sentence to type out. The protagonist of "The Middle" is instead more of a loner, which we know because he feels awkward about taking off his clothes at this party. Once, Jimmy Eat World is done playing their song, he discovers a girl going through the same predicament as him and they leave the party holding hands, feeling comfortable in themselves. It's almost like Jimmy Eat World was saying "Hey, we know we made a pop-punk song, but we're still emo. We Promise!" Also, the band is clothed, so that must mean they sympathize with him, right? I mean, "The Middle" has to have been a request for a pop-punk song by their label right? A sort of "Sure, we'll put out your emo record, but you gotta do us this solid" type of deal?

Because the more I think and write about this video, the more that I think it was supposed to be a "Makes No Difference" type of video for the label to profit off of, but Jimmy Eat World being a "serious band" threw a wrench in that plan.

Anyways, this is also one of my favourite music videos. Everything in it just seems to complement everything else so well. Granted, a bunch of that is tied up in my huge feelings of nostalgia for it, but still it just rules.

*Fun fact: Tom Delonge loves Jimmy Eat World and got them to play at his wedding.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Five Second Pose

When I write in this blog with regularity, pieces start to percolate a lot faster in mind. Generally, the more I write, the better my ideas to write about get. That makes sense, because I suppose that the more I write, the more I think subconsciously think about writing, thus making ideas for blog posts come together in a much better way. Those sentences seem fairly confusing. Do they make sense? I hope they make sense.

I've said things to that effect many times before on IMU here, so much so that I'm sure a post about my writing process now induces nausea among my two devoted readers. But there's also another funny thing that happens when I'm writing constantly: Some of my ideas suck.

This happens to everyone. Even the best artists produce bad work sometimes.

 (Being an author certainly constitutes being an artist, in some way for sure, especially since the second half of the Nineteenth Century. All artists are trying to do the same shit; some with paint, some with an instrument, some with a laptop keyboard. But writing this blog constitutes being an author in some minor way too, right? So therefore being the creator of this here blog makes me a (shitty, Gen Y) artist too, doesn't it? I ain't no one-trick pony. I play root note basslines in a punk band AND write incoherent blog posts.)

Every single one does. Your favourite painter has a notebook full of unfinished sketches, your favourite author a garbage can of crumpled up notes. What's weird about this blog is that all of my god-awful posts are right there beside my good ones. I guess what I gain by having a nice, visible place for my writing to exist, I lose by having my most half-assed efforts being equally as visible.

I started thinking about this after I put that post about Andrew W.K. up about two weeks ago. I think that that is a truly awful post. There's some sort of statement I'm trying to make about how great I think AWK's life philosophy is, but it gets lost in incoherent prose that skirts my main idea, but never really expresses it clearly. I thought about deleting that post, but I have a self-enforced rule that I am never to delete a post from this blog, no matter how embarrassing it is. You can check that now, look how much post-break up awfulness there is back there.

Brother, there's tons.

This lead me to create a 5-level ranking system for own posts on this blog:

5: You could not have written that blog any better Tim. You said exactly what you wanted to say. You even went to new places you hadn't planned on going while writing it. High five.

4. A great and enjoyable read. It came out looking just like you wanted it to. Good points!

3. Didn't quite get there, but still has a main idea and more or less resembles what you set out to write. Next time!

2. Well, you were trying to say something, I guess. At least you got that going for you.

1. You should probably delete this, but noooooooo, you have to stick to your principles.

Look at me, providing you with handy links there to understand my point. That's gotta move this post up from a 3 to a 4 at least! You know how much I cringed looking at that ALL video post? Fuck.

 Now, those examples are really just off the top of my head, and honestly I might give most of them a different score depending on my mood.

I really just started this thing as way to cover myself for the AWK post that I embarrassed about, so I'm not really sure what type of note to end this off on. One of the main topics of my thesis is the idea of failure and how society responds to it, so it's something that constantly on my mind in various capacities.

What's weird/neat/distinct about blogs is that all of my failures (poorly written/thought-out posts) are all right here on display. That's kind of the way the world works now too. Everyone is on display constantly through their various social media accounts and whatever else, so more and more every person is turning into a "this is me, take it or leave it" type of thing. That could be bad in a lot of ways, but it could also be great in a lot of ways and I'm not really sure which stance I would want to take on that issue.

I guess I'll end with one of the true principles of the world:

Fuckin' way she goes Rick.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hearts All Gone?

A definitive ranking of blink-182's discography:

1. Dude Ranch

An obvious choice. Front-to-back it has easily the strongest songs and has a very good balance of jokiness to seriousness, which is good because that balance actually became what killed the band later. Bonus points for nostalgia tied to Damien and I listening to it after swim team practice in like grade 6.

2. Enema of the State

Enema of the State has a few of blink's best songs, including their best-ever "Going Away to College". But the second half of the album kind of runs together. Also, if I'm being real, I can't stand "Adam's Song". The production is super slick and the harmonies are pretty fuckin' real, but it does get a little over the top at times.

3. They Came to Conquer...Uranus

Look at me, being a pop-punk hipster and putting a 3-song EP third. When you compare the quality of the songs here with Cheshire Cat and Buddha, the difference in quality is astounding. While they still had good songs sprinkled through the early shit, this definitely represents the band becoming the blink-182 that everyone eventually grew to love.

4. Take Off Your Pants and Jackets

This album starts off super fucking strong, with four bangers in a row. Then you get to "Short Story of a Lonely Guy" and are reminded that this band, especially Tom, can write bad songs. The second half of this album straight up sucks, save for a few songs, but that is made up for by the tried and true blink pop-punk formula that makes "Everytime I Look for You" and "The Rock Show" great.

5. Cheshire Cat

blink was still an extremely raw band on this release and that shows as most of the songs really blow, however, "Carousel", "M+M's", "Peggy Sue", and "Wasting Time" all fucking rule and show the promise of what was to come.

6. Buddha

Same thing about Cheshire Cat, as they're mostly the same songs, but this only has "Carousel", which makes this subordinate to its successor.

7. Self-Titled

This album really sucks. They tried to make a "mature" album and it comes off as completely hacky and the lyrics fucking terrible. I hated it when it came out and a year or so ago I thought "You know what, maybe it's actually okay and I was just being young and dumb." and found that it was even worse than I remembered. "Always" is a banger though.

8. Neighborhoods

I'll be honest, I have only heard two songs off of this album and they both blew. I can only assume that the rest of the album is a less-inspired Self-Titled made when the band was ten years past being culturally relevant.

Sure got negative at the end there man!

So Long Astoria

Well, I guess you always should do your research. On the topic of yesterday's blog post:

Skip to 9:00 to hear Kris Roe talk about the cover. I guess it's a little of column A and a little of column B! Clearly he has an appreciation for the original tone of the song, though I don't know that "Replacements sticker" or "Descendents sticker" carry the same weight as the line he actually used. The Replacements signed with a major and became a rock band, not that that's a bad thing, and the Descendents, while from the same early 80's LA scene as Black Flag, are more associated with pop-punk than the rebellion of hardcore. So I suppose he was just cycling through band names, not necessarily thinking about finding a perfect generational, cultural fit for "Deadhad".

C'est la vie.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

San Dimas High School Football Rules

This post is inspired by a chain reaction of events. This chain reaction has to do with pop-punk and American Pie.

The first link in this chain was reading this blog post. I would first like to say that the writer of that blog has a very good podcast called Sportsfeld about Toronto sports and it is one of my favourite ones to listen to. Cheap plug finished. I also have a certain affinity for the American Pie 2 soundtrack because that movie came out right as I was starting to get into music, which for me meant seeing blink-182, Sum 41 and Jimmy Eat World videos and thinking "Yes, this is what I like." This is because at the time, that style of music was extremely popular and obviously a summer teen movie is going to just be a collection of whatever is the most popular at the time. I was too young for my parents to allow me to see an R rated sec comedy, so it had a bit of a forbidden fruit appeal to it. All of this stewed together and made pop-punk seem like the coolest thing in the world to me.

(I chose those three videos because each of those are the first videos I remember seeing from each band. Also, holy shit have you ever noticed how much Travis just does not give a shit about being in the "All the Small Things" video?" Also, did I just watch all three of those videos? You bet. I hate to be "that guy", but it really does seem to me like the era of the music video that just gets stuck in your mind has passed. The most recent example I can think of is "Big Beast" by Killer Mike.

Could I write a separate blog post on just those three videos? Yes, I think I was just inspired to.)

So longest sidenote in IMU history aside, that blog by Jake Goldsbie inspired me to create my own playlist of that style of pop-punk, but stuff that wasn't included on the soundtrack. Which I will put here because I am so nice. I then listened to this soundtrack on the way to Value Village and when "The Boys of Summer" was playing I was struck by something which is the real meat of this post.

That is, the line "Out on the road today I saw a Black Flag sticker on a Cadillac".

The Ataris covered Don Henley's absolutely perfect song "The Boys of Summer" in 2003 and in addition to turn the sparse, synthy pop number into a pop-punk song, they also replaced "Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac" with their version above. If you think about it, "Black Flag" accomplishes the same thing as "Deadhead" and creates an interesting reading of the lyrics. In my mind, there is two ways to interpret this change, which I will now explain.

The first is that Ataris head-honcho Kris Roe put a lot of thought into this change. In this scenario, Roe is a huge fan of the Henley single (There's no way you can be a huge fan of all of his solo output because outside of this single it really does suck. Believe me, I tried.) and tried in earnest to add something that spoke to the original tone and story of the lyrics. "Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac" is meant to be an observation of how the counter-culture inevitably dies and is subsumed by the capitalistic mainstream. In this case, a 1960's hippy who we are to presume was at one time an anti-authority pacifist has now soldout and bought an expensive car. Though they still cling to their rebellious past, their need for commodities has now replaced their previous beliefs.

Taking that into account, the punk version of that sentiment could be a variety of bands (As is the case with hippies. "Mountain sticker on a Cadillac would work just as well, though it isn't as much of a cultural touchstone.), but Black Flag works perfectly. Roughly 3/10 hardcore fans have the Black Flag bars tattooed on them and the actual music of Black Flag, who really only put out three good releases, has been taken over by the idea of Black Flag representing early hardcore and thus teenaged angst, anger and rebellion. Just like The Ramones, people will now wear Black Flag t-shirts without listening to the band because they know that Black Flag is important and it is cool to wear a Black Flag shirt.

What type of punk would own a Cadillac? Are we meant to assume that Roe is singing about Travis Barker? With the last paragraph in mind, the line carries the exact same significance, but for a different generation. With pop-punk having locked-down a significant portion of the mainstream by 2003, the lyric represents Roe noting the disparity between punk's original world and intentions and the one that it existed in 2003.

If we take that reading of the line, then goddamn is it ever beautiful.

The second reading is much easier.

Kris Roe had no idea what he was doing. The Ataris were always kind of the shittier version of their 90's skate/pop-punk bretheren, so maybe they were just hopping on the "punk bands cover pop songs from 20 years earlier" trend and were simply the first ones to think of Don Henley. In this case, Kris Roe knows that punks think the Grateful Dead suck, so he replaces them with the first punk band he can think of, the almighty Black Flag. I remember when the band was promoting So Long Astoria, Roe was speaking about "The Saddest Song" from the album and said something along the lines of "On Limewire there's a song by No Use For a Name called 'The Saddest Song' that was always mislabeled as us, so we thought we should just write our own 'Saddest Song'."

That struck me as such a weird dumb, poseur thing to say, which makes think that the second reading really is an option. Then again, in "In This Diary" he says "All those nights we stayed up talking, listening to 80's songs... it still brings a smile to my face", so who knows?

But please let it be the first one, that makes it just so much better