Nobody likes you when you’re 23

Sometimes a dude will pop up on my Facebook newsfeed and I’ll think “Damn, what happened to this guy? I never see him. What does he do? This guy fell off.” Most of the time that’s just me arrogantly assuming that when I don’t see a person they pretty much cease to exist, but then again, some dudes have just fallen off. And I think I am one of them! Have I fallen off? I mean, I decided over a year ago to stop leaving my house, and it has been working out for me pretty well so far. But like…I didn’t mean to fall off. How do I get back on?

Every time I walk into a public bathroom and no one else is in there I think “fuck yeah. guess who isn’t washing his hands”

How does everyone feel about Natalie Portman introducing Zach Braff to the Shins? I think we can all agree that it’s one of the most embarrassing scenes in any movie, but I feel torn about it, because it’s embarrassing in such an exemplary way. I only ever saw Garden State once and I thought it was pretty lame, but even then, I appreciated how of its time it was. I think that that scene in particular is so ill-conceived that it ceases to be merely embarrassing and is instead legitimately iconic in its own stupid, stupid way. When I hear “New Slang” I’m like “Man, this is a big deal. This will never stop being a big deal.” That’s how I feel about it.

Over the summer I turned on 102.9 and caught the end of this song, which I’m sure I had heard before, yet never really processed. It may have been because I was making my lonely Sunday night drive back to Lancaster at the time and was therefore susceptible to be moved by even the most minorly righteous of jams, but this song got me pumped. I was a little disappointed to find out that I had sincerely enjoyed a Def Leppard song, but oh well: this song sounds huge.

Then last night driving into town I caught “Living on a Prayer” and it got me thinking about “arena rock” as a descriptor. Like, there are definitely musical conventions to arena rock, but when my brain tries to process that term, I think more about production than actual music. I don’t know how to describe what I mean on a technical level, but I mean, doesn’t this song sound like it could fill an arena? Doesn’t it just sound mammoth? Have you ever heard someone describe a band’s sound as “soaring” and trip out on the fact that they mean this band actually makes you feel like you’re flying? Can we get to a place of admiring the ambition of that and not dismissing it as “cheesy”?

When I was 14 I bought the Greatest Hits of Journey at the used book sale and my friends and I used to rock out to it while we were rehearsing for the school play. I had one friend who got so legitimately, wholeheartedly amped on Journey that he actually started to bug me, and I had to do my best to explain to him what irony was. He still holds this over my head to this day, and in some respects, he’s right. In 2004 my reference point for ironic consumption came entirely from Generation X (i.e- people for whom Journey and Def Leppard had had actual presence in their lives) and at the time I didn’t realize that clenching your fist and singing along to “Don’t Stop Believing” can’t possibly mean the same thing to someone who was born in 1990 as it does to someone born in 1975. There’s a fine line between self-awareness and outright irony and I think people my age are just strongly inclined toward the former. I can say that I actually love “Separate Ways,” and that I’m simultaneously aware of all the implications of that. It still makes me feel kind of weird though.

I know I just wrote about Descendents but I just realized that this spring marks the 10 year anniversary of me reading about them in Punk Planet and then purchasing this disc at Mad Platter. Time flies. This is a minor Descendents track but it’s still one of my favorites.

(Source: Spotify)

Notes on the Bob Mould autobiography, “See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody:”

  • Bob Mould is a god damn professional, kind of an egomaniac, and possibly a social operator. I mean a few things when I say he’s a professional, the most glaring being that he talks pretty openly about money and the unattractive ins and outs of the music business. This wouldn’t be weird coming from an artist with a more conventional background, but for someone who spent the first five years of his career playing DIY hardcore shows, it’s a little jarring (yet, simultaneously, kind of refreshing) how unapologetically he talks about his six-figure record advances. Additionally, he refers to the year 2002 as the lowest point of his career, simply because he did an album and tour to lukewarm reception. Clearly, this is someone with pretty high standards. Again, it’s cool, but it also betrays a lack of humility. Which leads to my claim that he’s an egomaniac: throughout the book, Bob  describes his music as leaving people completely agape and at a loss for words. A typical Bob anecdote is something like “I showed him the tapes I was working on and his jaw hit the floor,” or “I looked out into the audience and Greg Norton was standing there with his mouth hanging open.” He imparts this, as well as everything else regarding his music career, with such a lack of self-awareness and doubt that it makes him hard to relate to. Bob never really seems grateful or humbled by anything, which I guess is fine, considering that this is a truly gifted person, but it makes the 400 pages of “See a Little Light” hard to get through sometimes. The “social  operator”  thing is really minor: when Bob talks about getting to Minneapolis and going to his first show, he says something to the effect of “I looked for who I needed to know, who was making stuff happen.” This really irked me. I just know so many scumbags who operate in this way- who show up, scope out the scene, and base their relationships on who has the most capital. It also pissed me off to hear that Husker Du got on their first show by showing up unannounced at a local club and playing a set to the brunch crowd- the owner of the club put them on a show just to get them to stop playing. That’s not really even a punk move, it’s just kind of dick.

  • Bob Mould doesn’t fully understand what is good about Husker Du. Reading his account of the band is pretty disappointing, in that he doesn’t really have that much to say about it. His explanation of Zen Arcade is essentially “We decided to put out a double album because it would piss people off. We also decided to make the songs more melodic because we were kind of bored with playing punk. We put crystal meth in the coffee grounds and recorded it in 2 days. That’s kind of it, I guess.” Props to him for not trying to make the production of the album more of a thing than it was for the sake of validating the rock critic mythology surrounding that album but…I kind of wish he did? I’m more of a New Day Rising fan myself, and his account of that is more like “Spot wanted to move the soundboard three inches. What a dick move. We put this album out super fast just to prove that we could.” Considering that at its best moments, New Day Rising is an unearthly album, this is again, just disappointing.

  • Reading Bob’s matter-of-fact and one sided account of the band made me come to realize that the aforementioned unearthly qualities of the band really came more from Grant Hart.  I think they’re evenly matched songwriters, but Bob is more middling and consistent, whereas Grant Hart is a psychopath. Their songwriting styles are definitely reflective of their personalities. Bob talks about all of his inner turmoil and self-loathing throughout the book but to be honest, it all feels really middle class and evenly managed. The synopsis for the autobiography made Bob’s progression to the present day sound like a rise from the ashes, but really, Bob seems like a reasonably well-adjusted person. The guy’s “battle with alcoholism” concludes when he wakes up at age 25 and decides not to drink anymore and then never does again. He has two very long-term monogamous relationships and then enjoys some healthy promiscuity in his 40’s. Meanwhile, Grant Hart is fathering illegitimate children while on tour, getting kicked out of Patti Smith’s band, and doing heroin. He writes “Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill” when Bob writes “Watcha Drinkin?” Weirdly, this endures me to Grant Hart a little bit more. After reading this book, Grant Hart still has some mystery, whereas Bob has virtually none. Which makes it all the more frustrating that Bob seems completely unphased by Grant’s songwriting ability, not to mention completely dismissive of Greg Norton. I seriously can’t believe what a dick Bob is to Greg throughout the book. Granted, Greg Norton seems like kind of a dope, as illustrated by this video in which he draws out a really bad “running a restaurant is like being a musician” simile to an uncomfortable degree: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNf2VAjbmn0.

  • This is a minor point in relation to the book, but it was kind of irking me while I was reading. Look, I believe that Husker Du was a transformative and important band, just like everybody else. But I hate how people try to quantify that importance in terms of “influence.” This is the way that everyone talks about Husker Du ”without them, maybe we don’t have Nirvana. Maybe in the 90’s we don’t have pop songs with fuzz pedals.” Ok, the Nirvana thing is just really frustrating to me. For one thing, I find them really boring and unexceptional and I always have, but more than anything, I hate the myth which has been ascribed to them which is basically, that they re-legitimized rock music by “killing hair metal” (as if that shit didn’t have a fucking shelf life) and opened the floodgates for alternative music to have its moment in the mainstream, and that this was basically organic and a good thing. Doesn’t this kind of ignore the fact that alternative rock had had some kind of mainstream presence throughout the 80’s (see: the fact that Husker Du signed to Warner in 1986)? Do you ever wonder that maybe Nirvana wasn’t really pivotal because of how good they were but because they were solid careerists right out of the gate and that their forebears were just conflicted about those kinds of aspirations, which ultimately held them back?  Do you think that if Frank Black agreed to make conventional music videos and was as sexy as Kurt Cobain, FYE would be selling embroidered Pixies patches today? Does it ever occur to anyone that maybe Nirvana’s popularity was basically not that great of a thing because it ultimately just terminated in the popularity of Korn and Nickleback? Most importantly: does every shithead who tries to legitimize a formative 80’s punk band stop and think that Nirvana was really just a product of a regional scene and aesthetic and that maybe the fact that Dave Grohl listened to a fucking band once doesn’t automatically make said band important? If so, then why does every Husker Du by line imply that you should listen to them because hey, Nirvana?

  • There’s a chapter in the book where Bob Mould talks about being a creative consultant for the WCW, and there’s this one part where he talks about making a pitch to Hulk Hogan, and that totally blows my mind. Imagine those dudes talking together. Haha, it’s so weird.

(Source: Spotify)

Look the point that I’m trying to make is that no matter how hard you try you will never truly know whether or not you’re a muck person so you shouldn’t ever act like you know anything or that anything is owed to you. Ever ever ever ever.

Also I pretty much don’t believe in individual agency or in anyone’s ability to accurately perceive “right and wrong” even though I think those concepts objectively exist in some form that just isn’t fully available to us. That’s all I’m saying, ok.

Look

I’m not a Weezer fan

Not because I don’t like Weezer

But because I want more for myself

It’s ok to want more

Coming at you from the old alma mater.

Additional updates from Officeland

  • My mom got me this great Caspar David Friedrich calendar for Christmas, but I haven’t put it up yet. Since my first day at work, I’ve been convinced that I’m going to get fired, and I sort of have this vision in which the calendar is a talisman with the power to inspire my bosses to shitcan me. I just have this vision of hanging it up in the morning, getting fired in the afternoon, and then feeling the sting of humiliation as I take it down the same day. But today my boss called me a “real champ,” so I will most likely not get fired tomorrow. Maybe I’ll put the calendar up.
  • Part of the reason I’m so worried about getting fired is that I mess up a lot and have to ask my coworkers for help. Typically I’ll call someone over, start talking through the problem, then realize that I totally know what the answer is. When I apologize for wasting their time, my coworkers almost always respond with “Hey, don’t worry, it’s (day of the week).” I’ve heard this sentence used on every day of the week. Monday and Friday make the most sense, but Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday get folded into the mix because of their proximity (or lack thereof) to either Monday or Friday. In other words, my incompetence will always be excusable so long as it occurs on a day. This is what forgiveness feels like.
  • Today I listened to one of my co-workers talk about different kinds of yogurt for like 15 minutes.