Let's Rave On: Season Finale

The sort of journalism that goes into Let’s Rave On is really not a “summer” sort of thing. It’s pretty academic, and the entire feel of the column probably fits better with the fall and spring months when people are either in school or doing their hardest work, when their brains are burning more toast than usual. I don’t want to say it’s a difficult column to get through, but it’s not exactly Tarzan Dan’s Top 10 of the Week either.

Still, the column itself takes a modicum of effort more than I am able to really produce on a regular basis while I’m in my last year of college. Anyone who’s been here knows it’s difficult to fit in all the damn schoolwork, let alone breathing, eating, and sleeping. Spending 3-5 hours piecing together a thesis every week is something I can really only do for grades at the moment. The column itself will return as a column next summer.

That’s not to say I’m going away. Every other week you’ll still be able to read my Comparative Book Review column in the culture section. I will still be doing album reviews (as well as linking you to my live radio show every week).

But that’s really not all. I’m not actually stopping the Let’s Rave On so much as changing it’s format. Basically what I’m doing is stopping my constant ripping off of Chuck Klosterman and begin ripping off Charles Dickens. Every week, I’ll give you between 1,500 to 2,000 words of fiction, basically using the character that would have the sort of ideas presented in Let’s Rave On. It’ll be a continuing novel, and should be done just in time for me to start up doing regular columns again in the summer. So in addition to getting up-to-the-minute reports on television, movies, music, comic books, action figures, food, politics, and sports, you’ll also get fresh, free rock fiction every week here on Inside Pulse.

So consider this the season finale of the analysis section of Let’s Rave On. Consider next week chapter one of Let’s Rave On; The Novel. What sort of analysis did I offer in the last four months? Well, why don’t we take a small look back and see what I’ve put together.

1) That a band or artist really shouldn’t release more than one record if they only have one records’ worth of creative juice.

“Why encourage artists to have something new and (if only slightly) different to say on new recordings? Because not only does it ultimately produce better music (would you prefer two Coldplay albums or two Bright Eyes albums? Exactly) but it stops encouraging the existence of American Idol, since looking like a metrosexual clone singing the worst of the Elton John catalogue would cease to be the sincerest form of flattery”

2) That each genre (and ever sub-genre) can have a core of fans, which means that those people in the mall who only like top 40 blither represents a core of people, whether the indie snobs out there want to admit it or not.

“So, to summarize, Mallcore is the kind of music that’s both family friendly and immediately accessible, as well as the people who ONLY listen to it. If you listen to anything else (at least, more than you’d listen to mallcore music) then you’re not mallcore. That definition works fairly identically with hardcore, and with alternative rockcore, and countrycore, and metallicore (you know, those kids who seem to only ever listen to Metallica, and, on occasion, Apocalyptica). Theoretically, you can stick that core onto anything. Try it at home. Have fun. The formula is (whatever)core (core being the fanbase that lives and dies by whatever you put into the ‘whatever’ box).”

3) Just because your favorite band has a song on a tv show doesn’t mean they sold out. It used to mean that, sure, and in the future it might mean that again, but at this very moment it actually makes a lot of sense for your favorite band to make money this way instead of putting on some Gap jeans and saying their favorite song was something by Janet Jackson. Besides, they’re given artistic freedom and a different sort of word-of-mouth advertising (specifically the words and mouths of hot geek characters on prime time) so it’s all actually pretty fair. Get over it.

“Finally, what does this mean in the long run? Is it a good thing that television dramas are using independent music to promote the emotions they try and convey? Absolutely. I’d rather have the Kaiser Chiefs in the background of my favorite shows’ world than Nickelback any day, and I don’t think anybody would disagree with me. Is it a good thing that these bands are promoting themselves in this particular format? I really don’t know. On one hand, it opens them up to a huge audience in which they simply could not touch otherwise. On the other hand, many fans of Wilco are going to be really pissed off that the preppy girls at school are crying along with him now, too.”

4) Ipods are only useful if they’re yours. Walking around with someone else’s life soundtrack is confusing, distracting, and almost completely a bad idea. Ultimately, that says a lot about the isolation of our culture as a whole, but practically it just means that given a thousand choices of albums I’ve never heard of, I choose to spend all week listening to the two I have.

“This is why, for the first few days, I kept to the music that overlapped both collections. Even after I listened to some stuff that I didn’t own, I felt isolated, and realized that’s exactly how everyone who owns an ipod feels all the time. The advantages to having your own soundtrack all the time for every circumstance are significantly cut down when one realizes that they have to experience this soundtrack alone. The music isn’t above or around us. It doesn’t swell around every person when something climatic occurs. It’s in your ears and nowhere else. While in your head, the movie of your life is filled with this wonderful soundtrack. To everyone else around you though, you’re dancing and singing along to something they can’t experience.”

5) Categorization is ultimately a lazy effort, and if people just thought a little harder about what they liked instead of following the arrows at HMV everything would be a lot better.

“The problem here is not that there is no type of categorization system that will make everyone happy—there isn’t, and the sooner we all accept that, the easier this will be—but that we’re all so damn lazy. You want to know what Spoon sounds like? They sound like Spoon, not a mix of pop, punk, and mod. The Arcade Fire sound like The Arcade Fire. The Frames sound like The Frames. Nicole Kidman sounds like Nicole Kidman. We need to stop throwing labels on artists and bands and begin listening to them. We need to stop saying how much more punk Rise Against is compared to Good Charlotte and go back to saying that Rise Against is a better band than Good Charlotte because they sound like Rise Against and Good Charlotte sound like Good Charlotte, for pete’s sake.”

6) Everyone should write fiction about music. It’s so fun, as you’ll see in the coming months.

“The next hour felt like a montage more than work. You could break it down in 9 pictures, and have them all float around the front of the video camera over and over, and do that for several minutes. The first picture would be Jesse and I picking up a box or a piece of furniture off the Uhaul. At this point, Jesse asks me if I liked Alice Cooper or Motley Crue better. The second picture is us coming into the building, the sun behind left behind, and I tell him “Secret option C, David Bowie.” Jesse sounds surprised and says “They’re not even the same genre “”

7) You love country music, and you’ve always loved country music. The only reason you can’t seem to admit it is because you don’t really know what country music is.

“Classical music may be about what chords and structures are used when defining pieces into different categories, but modern music—on the whole, anyways—doesn’t. It’s defined by a plethora of vague terminologies that lack any central agreed definition, which is largely the reason that message boards exist. All modern music should really be defined by how it feels. Punk rock is not four guys jamming three chords into guitars and singing about how tough life is; it’s about desiring freedom from convention with no consequence, and after pointing out exactly why this is most people will agree with you that The clash are punk rock and Three Days Grace are not. What I’m suggesting is that perhaps country music should do the same. Instead of basing the definition on how the music is done, it should be changed to what the song stands for. In the place of contemporary twang and cloning should stand substance, meaning, and a very real idea of what country is and isn’t. I’m not saying that some artists claiming to be country aren’t (though fans of old country would certainly love to point some fingers towards one Toby Keith); what I’m suggesting is that maybe country music should stop being a cowboy-hat only country club.”

8) It is vitally important to have an artist that you can call ‘home’. This doesn’t necessarily have to be your favorite artist, but it has to be someone that does the same job that visiting the house you grew up in does; floods you with nostalgic comfort, fills you with topical wisdom, and tucks you in at night while holding your hair as you puke, though not necessarily all at the same time.

“And perhaps this is why we connect with this artist more than any other; It’s one of the few individual choices we get in this world. The cynic in all of us will always question other music. As music lovers, we do what all lovers do. We fall in and out of love with so many bands, and every aspect of their art affects our love. We forgive them far less than we do our ‘home’. And this is where our real homes come into play to the metaphor. Whether it be one’s parents or whoever raises us, the place we call home in life is forgivable for so much. We may not always want to be there (and hence you may not always want to listen to the Goo Goo Dolls) but when we do, it doesn’t disappoint. The music you call home is just as much a part of the idea of home in your mind as the place where you store all your shit.”

9) Don’t download stuff just because it’s there. In fact, don’t download stuff at all if you can help it. Take a bus (never a car) down to your local used CD shop and peruse. You’ll be much happier with yourself, because there’s so much more context in a real CD than digitized copies, and you’ll still be screwing the man.

“Here’s a line of thinking that might put this in better perspective. In order to be in possession of all 50 or so Radiohead albums, I could do two things. I could download them, wait four hours, seed it for netiquette karma, and burn them all to CD-Rs and be done with it. OR, I could break out the phone book, research every indie music store in town, visit them all, shop for hours, and find a couple of them. Afterwards, I’d plan a trip to Europe, armed with a general knowledge of where to find the good stuff, make a two week trip out of it, make some great friends, drink some good beer, spend a ridiculous sum of money on both accommodations and 45’s, return home, sell the book rights and have a hell of a story to tell for the rest of my life.”

10) We are at the cusp of a movement right now involving bands in large numbers making music about hope and other uplifting themes. This has never happened before, and might not ever happen again. I might also be the only one to ever tell you this, until Spin does a retrospective on what-could-have-been ten years from now.

“But even if it is just for the moment, and the idea of a huge rock band with a multitude of music inside it is fleeting, then I think we’ve found our proof of it’s real unique quality. As much as so many people loved Nirvana, there is certainly little love for their offspring, crowding the top 40 rock stations with thier songs about, uh, hating their life as rock stars, I guess. We already have one cling-on in Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and they’re indie, so I absolutely do not want to see MTV try their version of a big optimistic band. It would ruin it, and I’m glad that the major prerequisite for this music is to have more than six members, because Geffin will never think to pay all of them when they could have their Ashlee Simpson computer do it all by itself. Bands of this magnitude with the idea that music can and should be happier and full of something attainable and real will always be independent and proud of it.”

11) It’s important to write down all your random thoughts because you’ll never know when you have enough to put together in an internet column.

“I’m telling you this right now so that I can be one of the first to say I Told You So, but Wolf Parade, out of Montreal (not to be confused with Of Montreal) and releasing their first big LP in September is going to be very, very big.”

12) Go retro and make a girl a tape. If she doesn’t sleep with you, she’ll marry you. Or maybe she won’t. Sheesh. You think music can do that for you? That’s like Sprite and Basketball. Give her the tape though. Seriously. She’ll like it.

“A couple of weeks ago I got an email saying that this guy found a song particularly good because of a memory of his girlfriend. That’s what mixtapes are meant for, man. They’re meant to be a chronicle of moments that a relationship has had, or they’re meant to be a rocket, boosting into the orbit of new memories. More mixtapes are made out of love than out of anything else. Almost none are made out of hate (though that would be one bad ass calling card). New technologies don’t dilapidate the mixtape. No, they only broaden the spectrum of meaning that can be found in however many songs you select.”

13) Hip hop in 2005 (not in general!) Is the absolute equivalent to hair metal in 1987. It’s a fact that even the hip hop writers on this site are admitting (though not entirely in these words). A change is needed, and usually in the music industry when a change is needed, a change happens. The next year or so is going to be very exciting.

“think the point I’m trying to make is that when it comes to these two genres, the image is what sells the music, and that’s fundamentally wrong. Yes, hip hop imagery is patriarchal, medieval, and likely destroying the innocence of our youth, but it’s also getting in the way of the music. How do we expect any of them to write true art when they’re too busy singing about how much money they all make? Yes, every genre has an image, but only in hip hop and hair metal does the image direct the music, and not the other way around. There really aren’t too many grunge songs about grunge, and there aren’t too many emo songs about thick glasses and knitting. Hair metal songs aren’t usually about the clothing, per se, but it is about the attitude just as much as hip hop is. The only difference really is that hair metal mostly presented a positive attitude, while hip hop’s main images are mostly vice-oriented, but all that means is that they’re on opposite sides of the same teeter totter.”

14) Faith is a funny thing, but it’s also an essential thing in pop music and you need to have it if you’re ever going to deal with all the bullshit.

“The world is not getting worse, it is getting better, and don’t let anyone tell you different. It’s natural for every generation to think they’re the last one, for every childhood memory to seem golden, for every story of past history to seem so glorious. But there is, really, nothing greater than the possibilities of right now, right here, and nobody should throw that away to wax about the past. We have terrorists now but there have always been terrorists. There is racism now but it is receding and by all logic will be largely gone by the time you have great grandchildren. That is not a long time in the grand scheme of things. Women are not treated equal by a smaller percentage of the population every day. Poverty is endable for the first time in history. Religious extremism is the smallest it has ever been in history. More people go to school in this generation than any other. Keep your hands on the wheel, stay ahead of the storm.”

15) Truth is an even funnier thing, but in that it’s actually much more important than faith, because while faith is believing in the outer forces of pop music, truth is believing in the inner forces of yourself. To have a set of truths (or dogmas) relegated to pop music is to be a real fan.

“The next time you see a music video or hear something on the radio, take a second to see if you find what’s happening to be something honest. You don’t necessarily have to agree with the song or the artist, but see how much truth there appears to be in the song. Do you really believe what he or she is singing? It still won’t tell you what kind of person you are (our preference to what we stick in our ears can only give so much away about our character) but it might give you a second of reflection as to your definition of truth.”

16) Don’t watch music television (in any format) because they’ve got marketing down to an art and will reel you in and have you believing things you never even considered rational within a half hour.

“VH1 has the whole “Images Capture Lifetimes” down to a science. Just one split second of Ashlee Simpson in plaid pants doing a shimmy makes me immediately think of her lipsynching incident, which makes me think of her show (which was basically one long lipsynching incident) which makes me think of her sister and her show (both major lipsynching incidents…but America would forgive that girl for causing a nuclear holocaust) which makes me think of how easy it is to fool Americans, but more importantly makes me think of just how many conversations I was stuck in where Ashlee Fucking Simpson kept getting mentioned because people watch way too much goddamn television. The third time I saw that shimmy (out of probably a couple dozen times in the last four days) I had to vomit. For an hour.”

17) Surveyors in music know what you’ll write down on a card, but they also know exactly what you download and listen to at home, and they know this without letting you know that they know. The thing is, now you know, so you can actually manipulate what gets played on corporate radio simply by having a selection of songs in your download cache. Trippy, eh?

“The wonderful part about all this is that word of mouth actually means something now. Since we know that there’s a big brother out there watching everything we do, every file we share becomes relevant stock information. The more you share The Arcade Fire, the more radio stations will play it. The less you share Jessica Simpson, the less chance she’ll have another season of that reality show. Everyone’s voices are being heard by invisible companies collecting stock data to sell record companies, but hey, it’s working. And while this beer company is probably right in thinking that the Stones will outsell everyone in the concert season, it’s not like they came across that information by great detective work. Most of the survey answers in the rest of the email were just as “Duh” inspiring as the ones I’ve shown you. They have the journalistic integrity of Star magazine’s rumor mill and the clever puns of something even less holy, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong in any large way. They’re just choosing the direction of the most obvious right, which thankfully gets leers in the music community (and the reason there’s a backlash against that Coldplay album everyone anticipated so much).”

18) Not everyone gets off on cheesy R&B from the 70’s, and no matter what Eric over in wrestling says Barry White isn’t getting anyone with an IQ over 80 laid these days. Sure, most people couldn’t care less about music while screwing, but I don’t care about those people, because those people aren’t the kind of music fans I write for. I write for the music fan who does actually care about the song they hear right before they die, or when they have sex, or when they say ‘I love you’ for the first time. Not every guy is a bloody caveman, you know.

“Here’s my point. Your music and her music (or his music) might be completely different, and there might be no middle ground at all, and that’s a bad thing. What I’m here to do (and for the next three weeks, continue doing) is present you folks with some middle ground. This is a challenge to do something specifically romantic and generally great for the world at large. Here’s the scene; you both go into a music store, and pick out something you’ve either never heard of or only know because some internet columnist recommended it (I’ll get to that in a bit). You share the CD, much like a couple of 8 year old kids would share a comic book.”

19) An intelligent opinion regarding pop music is infallible, because there is no such thing as objectivity in pop music. There’s nothing out there that states in any official way that what the Beatles did was any better than what Tatu did. Nobody can really talk anybody into anything, and in that nobody can really be judged, or even wrong for that matter. In a sense, pop music is absolutely free of any law whatsoever.

“Pop culture is an intangible place where all opinions (as well as having no opinion) are correct. Think about that. So long as you’re not a complete idiot (a little education goes a long, long way in pop culture) it’s possible to always be right. Okay, sorry, what I should say instead is that it’s possible to always be not wrong. Facts can be refuted, but opinions can’t, and this does not happen in the “real world” where an opinion can be swayed by facts. I can’t tell you how many times people have argued with me about the apparent genius of Bob Dylan. They present me with a thousand facts about the guy, and they’re right. The facts of Bob Dylan add up to genius. But it doesn’t matter what I hear, because in my head he’s awful, especially when you compare him to Johnny Cash and Tom Waits—two guys who fit most of the criteria for why people think Bob Dylan is so great.”

***

Not bad for a summer column, eh? Anyways, thanks for reading. Hope you like the direction I’m taking it next week.

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