Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dave Brubeck, 1920-2012

I think you reach a multi-tined fork in your developmental path somewhere around age 12 where you decide what kind of person you'd like to be. Deciding what kind of person you want to be is a very difficult process, and something that requires basically all of your time and attention. You need to figure out what you like and don't like, you need to choose what you think your hair should be, how tight you want your pants to fit - really serious stuff, to be sure. What you don't know, because you're 12, is that “who you are” isn't permanent, and not knowing that makes this seem even scarier. Imagine if you made this face and it really did stick. This could be you forever, so you don't want to fuck it up. I grew up in rural Massachusetts, and I decided at age 12 that the thing I wanted to be more than anything in the world was unbelievably pretentious. Obviously I've chosen to stick with that personality trait to this very day, but I had to work pretty hard for it.

You'd think that my desire to be high-brow might come from my parents being particularly low-brow, but you'd be wrong. My parents were firmly and decidedly no-brow. Their favorite song, movie and TV show are all the same thing, “whatever's on.” I'm the only person I know who had to buy Beatles albums because my parents didn't have any that I could listen to. I think my dad likes the movie Braveheart, but I wouldn't bet my life on it. I had to rebel, so I chose to rebel against my parents' utter blandness. I remember the first time I was ever allowed to roam around (a very safe, contained) area of Boston without a parent. I was 13 and I had just gotten a bunch of birthday money, so I went to Newbury Comics (that bastion of culture) and decided that since I was in a city, I would buy a jazz album. I had watched my first Woody Allen movie the night before, it was all happening so fast! I bought Bird and Diz, a collaboration between Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. I took my new CD and my new birthday Discman with the cool headphones that wrapped around the back of your head so you can wear a baseball cap over to the nearest Starbucks (VERY CULTURED, A+) where I ordered a latte (KEEP IT UP!!!!) and sat down with the latest issue of The Boston Phoenix (YOU ARE FUCKIN' NAILING THIS). I listened to the entire CD and fucking hated it so much. I just didn't get it. I spent the whole ride home thinking about how sad I was that I spent $19 on a CD that I hated. Jazz had betrayed me, but luckily I would see my first foreign film a few weeks later, so I forgot about the whole jazz fiasco.

By the time I was a senior in high school, I had the whole “unbelievably pretentious” thing down. I was really into Bob Dylan, I owned hardcover copies of books that weren't assigned for English class, I had even become a vegetarian. When I started looking at colleges, my dad decided we should go up to beautiful (???) Standish, ME so I could check out Saint Joseph's College of Maine. I had already pretty much decided that I wasn't going to go to any college with “Holy” or “Sacred” or “Ohio” or “Saint” in the name, but I figured we'd get to stay in Portland, and my aunt told me that Portland was the heroin capital of Maine. Then again, Portland is probably the a lot of things capital of Maine, just by sheer population. Then again again, Portland isn't even the state capital capital of Maine, that's Augusta. Whatever. When my dad informed me that I'd be doing all of the driving on this road trip, I took that as a cue to buy a bunch of new CDs that I could listen to on the trip. I decided to give jazz a try again, so I bought Time Out and Jazz Impressions of Japan by The Dave Brubeck Quartet. My dad slept for the entire trip up to Maine, which was probably in his best interest because I ended up listening to those two albums non-stop for the full five hours.

Eventually I would listen to other Dave Brubeck albums, but Time Out and Jazz Impressions of Japan are the ones I always find myself going back to. They're both on the list of records where I know every note like gospel, alongside albums like Pet Sounds, OK Computer, Revolver and Highway 61 Revisited. Obviously everyone knows “Take Five” and most people know “Blue Rondo a la Turk”, but all of Time Out deserves your attention. They remaster and rerelease it every eight minutes, but you don't need a special three disc set or whatever. I'm willing to bet you could get a used copy for less than five bucks at pretty much any decent record store in town. Jazz Impressions of Japan is a little harder to find because it doesn't have any of the big Brubeck standards, but just get it from iTunes, you jerk.

It's a good thing that Time Out keeps getting rereleased, because I've had to buy at least six copies that I can remember. The first one for the trip to Maine, the second when I got back (to give to my girlfriend), the third was when my first copy got scratched, which I replaced with the fourth copy after I lent that one to a college friend and then promptly moved away. (That one would eventually get lost in a flood with the rest of my CDs.) The fifth copy is on my bookshelf right now, and number six is a vinyl copy I have framed in my hallway. I don't listen to it every day like some kind of weirdo, I'm just comforted to know that it's in my home. This count does not include the time I made my friend Katie buy a copy when we were hanging out at Amoeba Records. Last I saw, that copy was in the pocket in the passenger-side door of her Ford Focus.

Dave Brubeck's death yesterday didn't come as a huge surprise - not that I was expecting it, but you know what I mean. He was very old. Still, it made me pretty sad. The next ten years will probably see the deaths of a lot of people I really admire, particularly musicians. I got a Facebook message today from my friend Melissa, the girl I lent the third Time Out to back in our sophomore year at Bridgewater State. She told me that she still has it, as well as my copy of Jazz Impressions of Japan, and she plays them when she has DJ gigs that require jazz music.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How to make a music video in less than two weeks for under $100, despite having absolutely no idea what you're doing.

When you go a month between essays for your pretend internet magazine column, you'd better have a damn good reason. I do! I just wrapped shooting on a music video for the supremely talented Piney Gir, who is coming out with a great new album called Geronimo! in like, two weeks or so. I'm so incredibly happy with the way this thing came out, especially considering how much I love Piney's music. It's weird working with someone whose work you enjoy so much. It also provided me with a great deal of anxiety and fear and depression, but so does everything else.

When you're a kid, you dream of working with people you admire. Catching the game-winning pass from Joe Montana. Playing drums for Spinal Tap. Editing one of Maureen Dowd's columns. I'm sure you had something similar in your life. It usually doesn't happen for most people because, y'know, you're probably not going to be in a situation where your job intersects with a famous person. You're not going to have to do some actuarial work for Bono. The odds just aren't in your favor. So when one of my favorite singers approached me to work on a project together, I eagerly agreed to help, despite having literally no background in anything even remotely artistic. I think that by agreeing to help, I was creating some sort of tacit lie. Luckily, nothing bad has ever come of lying to people in order to impress them, so I had nothing to worry about.

It all started about a little more than a year and a half ago. Piney Gir, like a lot of people, used her Facebook page to promote concerts and music videos and new songs and stuff – information that I, a fan, would want. So I added her as a friend, assuming that it would just lead to a bunch of posts about gigs and photos of Piney and her band. It turns out that she's actually a human person, and she uses Facebook the same way most people use Facebook. How strange. It all came to a head when Piney sent me a message saying she'd be coming out to LA – she lives in London, though she was born in Kansas – to go to a conference for her day job and maybe play some gigs at night. She asked if I knew any places to play or club promoters or whatever, which I totally do not. I'm barely cool enough to have a blog, never mind hang out with club promoters. I did tell her that I had a bunch of friends who were super talented filmmakers, and maybe I could talk some of them into making a music video. Piney got excited, and since I'm an idiot, I said “AND I CAN DIRECT IT!” I mean, sure. I've never done anything like this before, but how hard could it possibly be? I mean, Spike Jonze directs music videos, and I'm taller than he is, so, y'know.

After a few months of planning and all of that, I had a plan for a video - an homage to D.A. Pennebaker's short at the beginning of the Bob Dylan documentary Don't Look Back, because nobody had ever done that before – and she had a few cool gigs to play, so I could finally see her in concert. She even sent me a pre-mixed version of new album, six months before it got released so I could pick out a song. Everything was set! Nothing could go wrong! Then, of course, a volcano erupted in Iceland and all flights from Europe to the US were canceled. So that went wrong. All the excitement and build-up, only to be kicked in the dick by a volcano.

My natural response to an emotional letdown is to spiral into as deep and dark depression as one possibly can. I ended up not shooting the video. I ended up not really doing anything for a while. It hit me pretty hard, I guess. Luckily, Piney contacted me again in a few months. She was coming to LA again in late March of this year to record another album. She suggested we try for another music video, and since I had once again forgotten that I'm not the kind of person who makes music videos, I said “YEAH NO PROBLEM I'M AWESOME AT EVERYTHING!” which, again, what could go wrong?

This time there were no volcanoes or delays. Piney and her crew came to LA, recorded their album and played their gigs. They even took the time to go to a theme park with me and my wife. It was one of the most exciting and anxious weeks of my life. It's hard hanging out with someone that you're a fan of and not just turning into a pile of spaz. At least it is for me, maybe you're just really cool. I mean, I get that way when I see famous people I don't even like. I see Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at work all the time, and boy do I ever hate the Lakers, but seeing Kareem is so incredible that I just have to stare up in awe. He is so fucking tall.

So the conceit of the video is that it's going to be a bunch of sock puppets doing fun sock puppet things. Piney makes the puppets, and it's my job to direct them. This seems like a pretty natural fit for me, considering that my favorite TV show of all time was hosted by sock puppets. I have this great, hilarious idea for a Love Connection/Dating Game-type show where all the dates are dumb and horrible. The problem now is that I actually have to make this thing, and I have no idea where to start or what to do. I think I have to do a storyboard? Jeez, I'm really out of my element here. It's then that it hits me.

I have no fucking clue what I'm doing.

I'm such an asshole for thinking I could do this in the first place. I'm out of my depth by a great deal. My greatest fear – being exposed as a fraud – is about to come true. I went into another deep, lengthy depression. I guess I figured that if I just kept putting the project off, it would go away. This is something that I did all throughout school, and that went just fine. Oh, what's this? Sorry, I'm being handed something here at the desk. I see. Well, it turns out that I actually failed out of college because I never did any homework or projects or labs or anything, and I kept putting them off until my GPA dipped below 1.0 and Bridgewater State College told me to pack my shit and leave. Hm.

So I was faced with something similar here. Since I had no idea what to do, I wasn't going to do anything, and then I'd be a failure again. Fortunately for me, I was initially so excited about this project that I told a bunch of people about it and they kept asking me for progress reports. I finally remembered that instead of not doing it, I had the option of actually doing it. And once I had done it, it would be done. And once it was done, I never had to think about it again. Hooray! It took me five months to figure this out, because I am kinda dumb.

Similar to many heist movies, the best part of making this music video was assembling my team. I have a ton of very talented friends, and four of them came over to my apartment to help make this thing. Only one of them had ever used a camera before. We shot for a total of ten or so hours, most of which was spent building sets, adjusting lights and turning an old soy milk carton into a roller coaster car. Between the art supplies, film and pizza, I ended up making this video for about $100. Not bad for someone who has no idea what the fuck he's doing.

Piney loves the video. My friends love the video. Honestly, I love the video. I think it came out really well. This can be attributed to the fantastic editing of Patrick White, the arts and crafts skills of Valerie Johnson, Janet Kim and Kimberly Wu, and the sets that were put together by Aurora Nibley, to whom I am somehow married. Thanks everyone.

Having finished this is a huge relief for me. I never, ever have to think about it again, and everyone seems to like a thing that I did. It feels really good. Since finishing this project, I've started a few others. I've started painting because, I dunno, maybe I can paint? Who knows. I want to find out all of the things I'm good at, because being good at things makes me happy. I know this is an over-simplified way to look at things, but it's working. I'm happier than I've been in a long time. I might even want to make more sock puppet music videos in the future. In the meantime, I'm just going to promote this video a bunch. Next week I'll get back to writing mean things about music I used to like. Probably.

Here's the result.

And now, behind-the-scenes photos!

A very blurry photo of me and Piney after a gig. I am the blurry one on the right.

Josh Grimmer, slack-jawed idiot, pretends to be a director. Also pictured, Patrick White, Valerie Johnson and the arm of Janet Kim.

Just one of the many weird positions you need to hold as a sock puppeteer.

I am slowly becoming more sock puppet than man.

Kimberly Wu and I soar like majestic eagles!

Again, more sock puppet than man. Movie time!

Title cards were done with chalk and black poster board. The guy at the art supply store gave me a discount because I was a "professional." Joke's on him.

Thanks again to everyone who helped. You can pre-order Geronimo! on iTunes for $7.99, and you should absolutely do that. Outta Sight is going to be the next single. How excited am I? Very. Very excited.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What do you think was a more disappointing third work, Weezer's Green Album or Terminator: Rise of the Machines?

An imagined conversation between myself and a mysterious stranger. The date is Monday, May 14, 2001. Young Josh is approached by a shadowy figure, emerging from the mist. Also, Young Josh lives near mist, I guess.

Young Josh: Whoa!

Stranger: Hello.

Young Josh: Wh-who are you?

Stranger: That's not important right now. I need to warn you about something.

Young Josh: This is too weird.

Stranger: I know, it's a lot to handle right now, and it's about to get weirder. I don't have much time. The portal will be closing soon. Listen to me. This is so important. Weezer-

Young Josh: I love Weezer! Their new album comes out tomorrow and I can't wait. I'm gonna head down to Newbury Comics right as they open to buy it.

Stranger: Listen, Weezer fucking sucks.

Young Josh: Yeah right, their first two albums are awesome, and they've had so long to make this one, it must be good. Are you one of those assholes who doesn't like Pinkerton? That album is so underrated. I think it's better than the Blue Album.

Stranger: No, it's not that. Those albums used to be good.

Young Josh: They're still good.

Stranger: They won't be tomorrow.

Young Josh: What do you mean? Is the Green Album going to be so much better that it blows the first two out of the water? Because that's secretly what I've been hoping for, but I didn't want to jinx it.

Stranger: Not exactly. The Green Album is terrible. Like, really bad.

Young Josh: Yeah right.

Stranger: I'm telling you right now to not buy the album tomorrow. It's going to ruin Weezer for you forever. You're going to stop liking them as soon as you hear this record.

Young Josh: No, that's impossible! How do you know, did you get an advance copy or something? No. This album can't suck. It just can't.

The Stranger steps forward. It appears to be Young Josh, but without any joy in his heart. Even less than before, and there wasn't much. He had a pretty terrible time growing up, which is probably why he liked Weezer in the first place.

Young Josh: You-you can't be!

Old Josh: I'm you. From the future.

Young Josh: But, but, you look just like me! I aged well. Or poorly, I guess. I'm not very attractive, if that's what I look like.

Old Josh: It's true. I'm you from Wednesday, May 16, 2001.

Young Josh: That's... two days from now. But you look so sad.

Old Josh: Exactly. I'm you after listening to the new Weezer album. It's that bad.

Young Josh: No way.

Old Josh: Believe it. The album is so bad that it made me – by which I mean you - hate pretty much every other Weezer song. Especially the Blue Album. It's terrible.

Young Josh: I can't believe it. After Pinkerton? That album is a masterpiece!

Old Josh: I know! Pinkerton kicks so much ass, it's amazing. It's such a beautiful, heartfelt album. There's nothing like that on the Green Album.

Young Josh: Come on, some of the songs must be good, right? Some of them?

Old Josh: Yeah, I guess so. Island in the Sun, Crab and Photograph are really great pop songs, but nothing with any kind of musicianship. Something happened to this band, and I think they sold out.

Young Josh: That's so sad.

Old Josh: I know. And it's barely 28 minutes long. You're going to feel so ripped off. Just skip it altogether.

Young Josh: [sighing loudly] I guess I'll skip it, then. Thanks for saving me. I guess this means you'll cease to exist now, right?

Old Josh: I thought so, but it seems that I'm still here. What happened?

Suddenly another figure emerges from the portal. Did I mention there was a portal? That's how you go back through time, right? Anyhow, another figure! How exciting. Let's find out what he – OR SHE – has to say.

New Stranger: Bad news, buddy. You're not going anywhere.

Young Josh: You're-

Old Josh: It can't be!

Even Older Josh: I'm you, but from Tuesday, September 13, 2011. A few things. Weezer got progressively worse and worse, with more of their songs being two-and-a-half minute shitfests consisting of a hook and a talkbox solo, like they're fucking Zapp or something. They've released a new album every 18 or so months for the past decade, and they've poisoned their legacy. It used to be secretly cool to like Weezer, now it's unsecretly lame.

Both Younger Joshes: Fuck, really? Also, who is Zapp?

Even Older Josh: They did that song More Bounce to the Ounce, and yeah, really. Also, I couldn't help but overhear Wednesday Josh telling Monday Josh that the Blue Album sucks and Pinkerton is a masterpiece. Turns out we've been wrong for a decade now. The Blue Album is vastly superior. Pinkerton is lyrically creepy at every turn. Across the Sea is the very true story of Rivers Cuomo lusting after an underage Japanese girl. Butterfly is just about as precious as precious can be. It's terrible. Believe it or not, songs about adolescent sexual frustration don't hold up once you start getting laid regularly. Even the Blue Album has some songs about weird sexual possession. It's icky.

Old Josh: That sucks, but why do I still exist? I warned Monday Josh about what would happen to him, so I should disappear into the ether.

Even Older Josh: I hate to say it buddy, but you can't escape this album. You're going to spend the next year or so trying to convince yourself that you like this album. Oh, and those songs you thought you liked? They're bad. You'll find out soon enough.

Old Josh: Sheesh. Do you have any good news for me, at least? Does Rivers Cuomo at least get eaten by a bear at any point?

Even Older Josh: Nope. Oh, and here's a message from Josh from Monday, July 22, 2002. Avoid going to the Weezer concert in Mansfield. The show wasn't that good, and none of the girls you went with ended up going out with you. They all just liked you because you owned a car big enough to drive all of them to the show. They're going to end up leaving with some guy they met at the concert. You'll end up driving your smelliest friend – who you don't actually like – home, and your car will overheat in the parking lot.

Both Younger Joshes: Oh my God, we own a car?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Girls Like Boys Who Like Boys for Pele.

High school is the best time to develop affectations that will act as surrogates for a personality. Most of the time you meet someone cooler than you, and you just do what they do. I, like many others I'm sure, became a vegetarian to impress a girl. It didn't really work, but at least I had established myself as a human being. I was a Vegetarian, with an upper-case V. That let people know that I cared about animals, the environment, and impressing girls with tattoos. This lifestyle choice/affectation was something that stuck with me through high school and into college. I have never, in my entire life, dated a vegetarian. Not a single one. That didn't matter, though. I just wanted girls to know that I cared about things. Guys know that “caring about things” is the number one thing a woman looks for in a mate. That's why they find things that they care about – to trick people into thinking they care about things. In some cases it backfires, and they actually end up caring, but I digress.

I met a girl in seventh or eighth grade who cared about strong women playing the piano. When she asked me what kind of music I liked, I immediately lied and said Tori Amos. It seemed like the right play to call. What I did not expect – which, looking back, I should have totally expected – was for her to reply “Oh, I love Tori Amos. What's your favorite Tori Amos album?” What happened next I do not recall, but I'm pretty sure it ended with me running away shouting “I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM NOW! GOODBYE!” Right after school, I ran down to Spinnaker Records on Main Street in Hyannis and bought Under the Pink and Boys for Pele, the two cheapest Tori Amos albums in stock. I got home and found, to my great surprise, that I did not really like either of these albums. This was bad. I was supposed to call this girl the next night, and I figured she'd ask me all about Tori Amos. This was before Wikipedia, so cramming and faking my way through a conversation was out of the question. I had to Stockholm Syndrome my way through these albums. If I didn't like them now, Goddamnit, I would by tomorrow night.

After three or four listens, I found a dozen or so songs, maybe an hour's worth of music, that I liked. The tuneful songs were pretty good. The moaning and slamming on a piano songs, not so much. I put together a mix for myself, and then pored over it like a quarterback studying a playbook. The next night I called her, and we talked for a few hours. Tori Amos never came up. Unfortunately, I was 20 dollars into this ruse, so I was going to get 20 dollars worth of enjoyment out of Tori Amos' music. I listened and listened and listened, and finally convinced myself that I really liked it. I liked Tori Amos a lot. I liked Tori Amos so much that I bought all of her albums and a few live bootlegs and a couple of t-shirts. This happens to me a lot. I'll choose an affectation, then get way too into it. I became a vegetarian to impress one single girl who I never saw again after ninth grade, but I stuck with it until I was 20. I possess that rare quality known as “sticktoitiveness,” which is why I am such a good business leader in the 21st Century.

I abandoned Tori once she started getting all weird. Well, weirder. She released like, a dozen concept albums in a row. The first couple, Strange Little Girls and Scarlet's Walk, were pretty good. The former being a collection of cover songs and the latter about post-9/11 America. If you were a Real Serious Musician in 2002, you had to release an album about post-9/11 America, or ASCAP revoked your membership. Next came a handful of albums exploring her various personalities, each less coherent and cohesive than the last. I was not on board, so I checked out. I sort of dropped Tori Amos' catalog wholesale at that point. She poisoned her own well.

Having relistened to Under the Pink and Boys for Pele, I'm pretty much where I was the first time I listened to them. There are some really great, pleasing-but-still-edgy songs on each album, but much of it is very tough to slog through. As a service to you, my dear beloved reader, I have constructed an album consisting of six songs each from these two albums. Buy each of them individually on iTunes. It'll be cheaper than buying the two albums, and in this case, the parts are greater than the whole sum or whatever. You heard what I meant.

1: Pretty Good Year
2: Professional Widow
3: Caught a Lite Sneeze
4: God
5: Cornflake Girl
6: Past the Mission
7: Marianne
8: The Wrong Band
9: Talula
10: Little Amsterdam
11: Cloud On My Tongue
12: Putting the Damage On

Study this. Learn it, love it. Now all you need to do is go back in time to 1997, when girls everywhere cared about Tori Amos. Soon enough, you'll be dating a girl who's into spooky makeup and tongue piercings. You're welcome!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I'm having trouble coming up with a better name for this essay than "The Dookie Hits the Fan." Any ideas, guys?

I suppose if I'm going to write about all the music that I liked when I was younger, the best place to start would be the first album I ever bought. I'm always afraid to tell people that the first album I purchased was Dookie by Green Day, not because I'm embarrassed to have liked Green Day. Everyone, at one point in their lives or another, liked Green Day. I'm afraid that the moment I tell people that my first CD was Dookie, they'll know that I was born exactly at 6:21AM on May 4, 1985. Then again, I suppose the point of this blog is to date myself. It does have “high school” right in the name.

Anyhow, Dookie was released February 1, 1994, with an accompanying single and major label promotion. The album was played on every radio station in my town. By “every” I mean “the rock station AND the Top 40 station.” My tiny, nine-year-old brain was no match for this media bombardment. Advertising works on children. That, and the fact that every single person I knew who was even halfway cool owned a copy of Dookie. I didn't want to be the only kid in town who didn't know the non-radio songs. I'm not some kind of square-mo. Soon I started mowing lawns to save up and buy the record. It took a month to get the eleven dollars (plus tax), but I marched right down to the Strawberries Records on Barnstable Road and snatched it up as soon as I could. Neither the shop clerk nor my parents asked about the parental advisory sticker. Frank Zappa: 1, Tipper Gore: 0.

Dookie manifests itself in my memory as the back of a school bus. Every day, to and from Marstons Mills East Elementary. We'd all sit in the back, talking about whatever fourth graders talk about. Proust? Sure. Then a Green Day song would come on the radio, and we'd all stop and sing along. In my memory, it was everyone singing. In actuality, it was probably just six or seven of us. But that's still a lot of people, if you ask me.

The success of this album with elementary schoolers marked the end of Green Day's indie cred. You can't be cool as well as popular, you know. In hindsight, it's hilarious to think of Green Day fans being disgusted by the band's critical and commercial success. Spiritually similar to Dylan going electric, the “selling out” of Green Day was an unforgivable betrayal to the Old Guard of [folk/punk] that led to bigger and better things in the mainstream rock world. Much like how Bob Dylan's best album, Highway 61 Revisited, was a direct result of his transition to electric guitars, Green Day's best – and arguably only good album came as a result of cleaning up their instrumentation, hiring a professional producer and writing hookier songs. There's nothing wrong with pop music. Sometimes things are popular because they're good.

I've given this album a few listens over the past week. I'm fairly certain it's still good. With this particular album, I can't tell if it's good or not. I spent so much of my time listening to it as a kid, every single world and note and chord is burned into my psyche. It has to be good because it's such a part of my development as a human being. It turns out that I didn't even really need to buy the album again. It's just so etched on my auditory cortex that, despite having no musical talent whatsoever, I could probably perform this entire album through a series of doots, boops and da-bum-dums. I believe this is known as a capella.

Since I can't not like this album, let me say this: I do hate every album Dookie spawned. This album paved the way for the great pop punk boom of the 90's. Every Blink 182, Sum 41, NOFX, and Offspring. Worse yet, that paved the way for the ska punk wave. Thanks for nothing, Goldfinger. And then New Found Glory. And Fall Out Boy. And Good Charlotte. And then holy shit, if you thought the music got worse – which it did – the band names sucked even harder. “Forever the Sickest Kids.” “Cute is What We Aim For.” “Kids in Glass Houses.” “Panic! at the Disco.” “These Kids Wear Crowns.” Fuck each and every one of you bands. And the greatest plague of all, American Idiot, by *GASP* GREEN DAY. Quasi-political, fish-in-a-barrel-shooting, corporate corporate-protest rock.

You know what? I fucking hate Dookie and I fucking hate Green Day. Fucking sellouts. Rot in hell, you miserable pricks.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

High School, Musically

There was a time in my life where every moment of every day, I was tethered to a Sony Discman. From approximately 1997 all the way through 2005, it is likely that I was not listening to a word you said. It was used primarily to drown out the sound of my parents or teachers or church leaders. I can't really remember who, I wasn't paying attention. In any event, my musical development came at a time where music piracy was the most important thing in the world. Napster had blown up, and Justin Timberlake was being investigated by the feds, if memory serves. Internet radio was kind of, sort of, maybe a thing? None of us were really sure. There was a period where I though I was really into techno because I knew a place where there was a techno station online. That was the coolest thing I had ever participated in to that point. I was listening to music... on the internet! Since the internet is the future, and the future is cool, and this music was on the internet, this music had to be cool. It was not.

This new, unending fountain of music was a wonderful way to hear one or two songs, but this was before torrenting (by which I mean iTunes), so there were really only two ways to buy albums. Record stores and record clubs. The idea of a record club is so amazingly antiquated now. Columbia House was one of the greatest scams of all time. You'll recall – or not, if you're still in high school – the Columbia House ads in Rolling Stone, Time, et cetera. Buy ten CDs for only a penny, plus shipping. How exciting. The catch, of course, was that you need to buy a dozen CDs over the next two years at “full price,” which was usually something like eighteen dollars. Plus shipping. The large print giveth, as Tom Waits once said, and the small print taketh away. There were various other ways they scammed you, but that's of little relevance right now. I'm pretty sure those record club scams were deemed unconstitutional or anti-trustworthy or whatever. Ralph Nader and the Better Business Bureau. You get it. Before they were shut down, however, I managed to give Columbia House so much of my parents' money, it would make your head spin. I got so good at running that scam, it's not even funny. I'd convince my parents that they wanted to buy the full price CDs, and I got the dozen for a penny. I think I signed up using six different forms of my name. Josh Grimmer, Joshua Grimmer, Joshua R. Grimmer, Santos L. Halper, J. Robert Grimmer and O. Henry. Good for me. At one point, I had close to 1,000 CDs and zero girlfriends.

Music has always been the most important medium in my life. I'm not a good reader, and while I enjoy movies and television, that's just not how my brain likes to work. I am at my best when I am analyzing and consuming music. I judge a man by the content of his CD shelf, because that is the content of his character. One of the most important things you can do is to analyze and examine the content of your character regularly. For me, this means sorting through my CDs and figuring out what they say about me. It's very High Fidelity, but I don't have friends to do this with. Sometimes I try to talk about music with my wife, but she gets annoyed. Probably because I turn into a less interesting Chuck Klosterman. I work at a movie theatre, so I never really get to talk about music there. I just listen and analyze on my own, and that's where this blog comes in.

Last night, I listened to an album that was of great importance to me in high school - Everything Sux, by the Descendents. I was struck by how much I truly hated Everything Sux. I remember listening to it for a month straight when I first got it, now I never want to hear it again. Everything about it that I liked ten years ago just put me off. I figured, well, an album about arrested adolescence just doesn't work quite as well now that I'm an adult. But the first Violent Femmes album – an album that is rooted in perpetual teendom and teen angst - is still good, right? It must be. All those songs are great. Just like all the songs on Everything Sux. Shit. Does Violent Femmes suck? Man, I hope not. That's where all of this is going. The goal of this blog is to reexamine the music I liked in high school, and decide whether or not it's still good. I'm going to analyze the album both on its own merits, as well as the circumstances surrounding its role in my life. I guess this is going to be like Rob sorting his records autobiographically in the aforementioned High Fidelity, especially for the albums that remind me of my exes, which I'm sure will be most of them.

I have a feeling that this will more than likely be painful for me. I'm willing to bet the house that most of the music I stopped listening to isn't going to hold up. I'm sure there will be a few Smashing Pumpkins albums that will make me queasy. I can't wait to relive my Tori Amos/Ani DiFranco phase. I might have to devote an entire month to They Might Be Giants, and why I'm preemptively dreading John Henry. At this rate, I'm not even sure if Ben Folds Five is safe. On the other hand, while writing this essay I was reminded of a band called Dakota Suite whose music I kind of, sort of remember liking in tenth grade. I just bought their album Signal Hill on Amazon, and it's better than I remember. It's very Elliot Smith-y. I home time is as kind to the Apples in Stereo.