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The Music Issue/Rambling Rant

2003-09-02 - 8:48 a.m.

Right now, at the very moment I'm writing this, the receptionist in our office is playing "Underneath It All" by No Doubt.

I hate that song. I am so sick of Gwen Stefani that I hope the bleach that she inflicts on her hair finally seeps down deep enough to dissolve her vocal chords. I wonder if that poor girl even has any hair left.

I didn't used to hate the Gwen. I loved me some Gwen, when I was a teenager. I loved me some Gwen because I was one of the first people to listen to No Doubt. Granted, I was not one of those who was listening to them BEFORE Tragic Kingdom, but I only had to hear Spiderwebs, like, three times maybe before I was out the door and in the car and on my way to the CD store to buy my very own copy! So there! And that means I knew about all the other songs on the CD (like that goddamn, infernal, hell-born "Don't Speak"--hey Gwen, FOLLOW YOUR OWN ADVICE) before anyone else! I was ON THE EDGE, baby!

No, I wasn't, I know, I kid. But No Doubt was definitely one of the bands that went from kinda good to EGREGIOUSLY over-exposed, which meant that, whereas I once had their CD at the very front of my CD collection with Oasis and Alanis Morrisette, they were eventually relegated to the depths of the alphabetical listings, along with Oasis and Alanis Morrisette, come to think of it.

Yeah, I know. I LOVED Jagged Little Pill. I LOVED What's the Story Morning Glory. I LOVED Tragic Kingdom. I don't anymore. If I'm going to listen to British pop, it's going to be Pulp or Radiohead, or the-a-bit-too-ubiquitous Coldplay, even (when you start dating Gwyneth, your stock goes down). If the mood strikes me to listen to a woman dealing with problems (and I NEVER, EVER listen to that sort of music, ever) I go for the Tori or the Ani, followed by the Dar when I'm starting to feel better. And, well, I don't know if I listen to anything resembling No Doubt, anymore. They were barely ska then, and lord knows what they are now. But as you can see, the current tastes are more college-rock, more just to the left of mainstream, if nowhere near "the edge." Most of the artists I love barely get airplay. There's maybe one White Stripes or Hives song on the local rock station, but you only hear it once a day, if you're lucky. In fact, I can't remember the last time that I listened to the radio.

Part of that is the radio's fault. I can't find anything I want to listen to, and I'm not just talking about Aguispearapinkalake. They have their own stations that I never turned to even in high school. I'm thinking about what gets played on the stations I used to listen to. Music reminds me of xeroxing, in this regard. You have an original, then you make a copy, then you make a copy of the copy, and every time you copy it quality goes down. So, for example, let's say you like Green Day (which, I realize, are not original in and of themselves, but let's use them as a starting point; I know and love The Clash better, believe you me). They get xeroxed into Blink-182, which you still like. But then comes Sum 41, Good Charlotte, and all these other imbeciles. Put them on the radio with Creed (which really, really wants to be Pearl Jam and never, ever will be), Vanessa Carlton (She plays piano! That makes her like Tori! Oh wait, Tori also has more interesting lyrics and a better voice and oodles more soul and yes, is in fact a better piano player, so never mind), Linkin Park (Craaaaaaawling iiiiiiiiin my skiiiiiDROP DEAD, you tools), Avril Lavigne (somewhere, Kim Gordon, Kathleen Hanna, and the Deal sisters are getting ready to pop a cap or sixty in that pinhead), and perhaps worst of all, Dashboard Confessional (who is pretty much the male Jewel, and there's nothing more pathetic than that), and I pretty much view those 8 seconds between me taking out the Ella Fitzgerald and putting in the Velvet Underground as a small brush with the Dark Side.

And yet . . .

The other day, I grabbed a mix CD out of my case to play in the car. I used to make mix tapes like it was my job, and boy were they good. They were an art, and people wanted copies of my mix tapes. They had themes. They flowed neatly from one song to the next. Now I have mix CDs, many of which serve as little storehouses for songs that I liked off of albums or compilations that I didn't, or of stuff I've downloaded (and before you say anything, crashes and laptop theft have both made me swear off of keeping music in hard drives, so let me have my mix CDs). This one was full of stuff that I had loved in high school, along with more modern stuff. It was organized around a "dramatic" theme. Music with lots of sturm und drang. Since I was going to be driving for an hour, I figured what the heck.

Oh wow, was this some melodramatic music. Oh wow, did it describe silly situations. Oh wow, did I miss this music.

It began with 4 Non-Blondes: "And so I wake in the morning and I step outside and I take a deep breath and I GET REAL HIGH and I scream from the top of my lungs WHAT'S GOING ON!!!"

Some Bush: "I'm never alone. I'm alone all the time."

Fuel? Shimmer???: "She says that love is for fools that fall behind."

A classic song with a classic title, Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand: "If I die before I learn to speak can money pay for all the days I lived awake but half asleep."

Finishing up with some Smashing Pumpkins: "We'll crucify the insincere tonight!"

Those are some classic teenage lyrics. Classic, hopeless romantic, self-absorbed, idealistic, the world would be perfect if all these stupid grown ups would just fix the world and let me stay out past 1am lyrics. I wonder if the same lyrics are in all these Michelle Branch songs, and all these Staind songs, and I just can't hear them anymore. I think there's a window of time when these songs get in, and you attach memories to them, and you bond with people over them years later when you both know they're more than a little cheesy. Once that window is closed, anything that comes after, no matter how similar it is, or perhaps just tries to be, you just can't get into it the same way.

So the next time I go looking at diaryland profiles and find lyrics from POD or Lifehouse or some other crap band printed in someone's profile, I'm going to let it go. Because a lot of these peeps are kids. And I remember when I was singing along in the car to Collective Soul and The Wallflowers and yes, even Third Eye Blind. I was that kid. I think everyone should be that kid at some point, even if it's just for an hour on a stretch of highway. There's plenty of time for Beck and Pj Harvey later on.

Speaking of which, I'm going to go ahead and put on some Led Zeppelin now. The receptionist is playing "I'm Like a Bird" by that no-talent automaton Nelly Furtado, and that's the only thing I have in my office that'll drown her out.

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