“I’m Gen X — I just sit on the sidelines and watch the world burn.” — Kenan Thompson (SNL skit)
With some bands, music reviewers’ consensus becomes so confused that it reads less as a critique, more as an ode to the asshole you hate yourself for loving.
We’re not talking mere mixed reviews. We’re talking about the useless gray truce you eventually get after yin and yang have violently disagreed— “useless” being the optimal word. Because at this point, the critical contingent’s no longer shedding light on the band, not even if confusion seems to be a congenital part of the band’s whole thing, as a person might argue it does with those over-the-top, ridiculous, cocksure, wretched, vampiric, undeniably talentednew gods known as Greta Van Fleet.
But then, critics’ say has historically meant little where it’s concerned those bands that struck the public like lightning: because with those bands — who cause the brightest flash and rumblin’est thunder — you can’t talk about them without talking about us.
My short story “Terror Proof,” which introduces two main characters in the fictional band from my novel-to-be, is entered in the “It’s Complicated” competition sponsored by Lit Up Magazine and the Writing Cooperative.
At eleven, my daughter has spent the past several years listening mostly to pop while landing somewhere between pale interest and monkish patience where it came to my classic rock. Don’t get me wrong. She’s always giggled at the Pink Floyd song with the timeless “do goody good bullshit” lyric. And smiled at how the Eagles’ lyric about riding up and down the highway, not seeing a goddamn thing, frequently lulls the devils of radio censorship into such a stupor they can’t do their dirty work. To her, though, classic rock sans the cussin’ has been a cupcake without frosting — just a motherfucking muffin.
Long ago I decided not to be that jerkface pushing my auditory agenda. Whatever her music of choice, no soapboxing about you kidses noise today. Having spent the last decade or so steeping in sounds of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, I could be at least a little objective about the past: some songs were great, others were fine-ish, others were the non-Disney Happy Meal toys of music — cheap plastic pleasure — from the kidses of yesterday. And moreover, what business was it of mine. The “respect their autonomy” credo inherited by this generation of parents isn’t a bad one as generational gospel truths go. Don’t push him into sports. Let her do what she wants with her hair. Don’t garden their playlists while they sleep.
I lay this groundwork before talking about the Foo Fighters’ Concrete and Gold album for two reasons. To establish
that the alluded-to musical eras I have loitered in were long. Looong. It’s taken me the better part of one decade to properly anthologize — and, to an extent, eulogize — three other decades. And in the grand scheme of things, it’s been only recently that I’ve gotten around to the few, the proud, the people committing rock and roll now. Forgive me, Fighters of Foo.
that I’d assumed all my classic rock, even at its most David-Gilmour-led-Pink-Floyd pastoral, was too hard or structurally unfamiliar for my daughter’s taste, so (not that it mattered . . .) I shouldn’t expect us to often be on the same page musically.
Re-posting an abbreviated version of this one, which I was fortunate enough to have featured in The Junction. The full essay now appears here.
It’s no good trying to say what went wrong with him.
By all appearances, Syd Barrett — original frontman of Pink Floyd — lost his mind. But whether he was schizophrenic as rumored or on the schizo spectrum or otherwise porous to effects of the psychoactive buffet of the day or once got hold of some diabolical drug in hippie drag or had a mood disorder with psychosis-mimicking features or was just a genius and fuck you if you can’t keep up, none of us know.
Hell, I don’t know and it wasn’t so long ago I saw the guy in Starbucks. Though — and here’s an important caveat to that and future notes — we do know about me.
My own beast of brain (schizoaffective disorder) doesn’t result in full-scale visions left and right, but when it crests, its sweet spot is intrusive daytime images roughly the clarity of hypnagogic hallucinations. Graphics of dialed-down opacity that last about as long as a John Irving double-semicolon sentence. So it isn’t only when one takes the form of a resurrected rock star that they tend to be distinguishable from the flesh-and-blood set.
To contextualize, then: I don’t mean I saw Syd Barrett but he said nothing illuminating because there was so much else to discuss (Roger Waters touring solo, the fickle zephyrs of Bitcoin, etc.) so not even I know. I mean I saw Syd Barrett recently so I’m a fucking loon, and not even that qualifies me to say what was what with him.
The data available on what was eating Syd Barrett at this point is vulnerable to compiler’s bias; my own information comes from qualified and unqualified corners of the web along with the biography Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd by Mark Blake.
Even sidelining the popular notion that Syd had, at minimum, a psychological predisposition that LSD acted on like a bank-vault explosive, madness is a good lens through which to review his album The Madcap Laughs and, specifically, “No Good Trying.”
Hi. I’m Merry, and I’m one of those people. Who makes the new year into something grander than an arbitrary demarcation that persists mainly so fiduciary bookkeeping has a frame of reference and so there’s something — anything — over which we as a breed don’t so disagree that we’re ready to deflate each other’s skulls with meat cleavers and/or meanness.
Calendars, clocks, and the belief that all other drivers are raccoon-ripped bags of refried garbage — by these remaining means are we united.
I know New Year’s is no big whoop, existentially speaking. This year, the fact is it coincidentally aligns with a point in my wee human life where the gunk which made that approximate period of time called 2018 suck ogre ass has been cleared away, my mental machinery recalibrated, the future planned with weird rationality.
Don’t worry; this isn’t a list of my personal goals. Most of which amount to “consistently do the useful shit I did inconsistently in 2018.” The rest of which amounts to “go to the doctor now that I’m insured again and use Nordic-c serum daily for that youthful fresh-faced glow.” This is just the part that pertains to music and writing and writing about music.
Basically, I’m going to do more of it, more insistently. For years I’ve been (to at least some degree of success) pursuing a line of writing that I’ve discovered I don’t actually enjoy that much. This year I care about carving out more of a place, within the greater marsh of rock journalism, based on my specific combination of interests — namely, music for music’s sake, funny things, and literature.
On that note, I’m working on the launch of a Medium-based publication. Her name and details will be revealed as soon as I stop fiddling with them. Her headquarters will be the corner table of the same Dunkin’ Donuts where I always work, because you can’t buy inspiration like you overhear here. For instance? Just heard some guy say, “I get such bad brain freeze, I have to apologize for everything I say.” Don’t you want to know more about that? Now I want to hear Dunkin’ frosty drinks name-checked the next time a celebrity apologizes for being dickish. “I’m sorry, but you have to understand that at the time I said those insensitive things, I had brain freeze.”
“. . . And the time you started the cult that required members to dress up as badgers in clown makeup and Abraham Lincoln hats and dance the Macarena backward while repenting for all the dairy they’ve ever consumed?”
“Look. Brain freeze does things to a man. Dark things.”
I’ve just gotten into Medium again after a long absence (the pre-internet patches of my brain can only keep up with the ins and outs of so many platforms), but I think it’s promising for what I want to do. If you’re a Medium person, please feel free to connect with me there: https://medium.com/@merrymercurial.
The publication-to-be is the big writing news of 2019 so far. In other news, I have current writing assignments involving Guns ’N’ Roses (who will never be big enough jerkholes to delete the points earned with “Sweet Child of Mine”), Skid Row (led by Sebastian Bach, the human man equivalent of a glitter-crusted blacklight-activated prom corsage), Butthole Surfers (the full-body cast for when your bruised soul needs a band-aid), and KISS (the dudes responsible for that time you were told to avoid the hell tunes spewed by Knights in Satan’s Service and then what you heard amounted to bubblegum party tracks and, that fast, you went from being afraid of Satan to being kind of embarrassed for the guy). Plus a bunch of new bands. Yaaaay!
I’m excited about all of it. And I’m excited to spend the rest of the year writing much too much too much about Dorothy and Greta Van Fleet and Syd Barrett and Disney soundtracks and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Hope your young 2019 similarly runneth over with enthusiasm. May the year be filled with good music, good writing, and lots of things that make you laugh on purpose.