Monday, August 3, 2015

Cool, Or Just Cranky?

U2 just finished a stretch of 8 shows in NYC. It's rare for me to regret missing a concert. I've seen plenty and with the rising cost of tickets and the inability to get good seats the traditional way, it all seems like more trouble than it's worth. Most of the time.

Some friends caught U2 on this Madison Square Garden run. Here are some quotes about the shows:

"Fucking amazing!"

"The band has two types of songs-epic and more epic."

"You forget just how good they are, especially after seeing them come out, no frills, and just open up with four straight rockers."

"Fuck these people! What? You don't like U2 because they gave you a free record? You're a dick!"

"I went twice already and I still need to go again."

These actual quotes are all from people I love and respect, and they are probably still gushing about these live shows. And then of course, Bruce shows up for the last hurrah. I'm sorry I missed it.

But this made me think of a favorite recurring topic of mine- the practice of disliking something based on something personal and usually irrational.

"The last good Stones record was Exile!"

"The last good Bruce record was "Darkness."

Possibly irrational. Definitely untrue.

A personal peeve, as you no doubt have read hundreds of times here, is the dismissal of Paul McCartney's solo career after "Band On The Run" because he wrote a silly love song called "Silly Love Songs," a great pop tune with a greater horn arrangement. (That last part is of course, up for debate, but that's how I feel about the song.)

Many things get my tights all twisted, but nothing rattles me more than the blanket statement. Whether political or simply "The Velvet Underground suck," I need more than that. If you're going on record, I want to know why and you better back it up with at the very least, one rational example. "They suck, that's why" is not an answer.

I'm guilty of this, occasionally.

I was a fan of Ryan Adams. I love "Heartbreaker" and "Gold" and "Jacksonville City Nights." But then for a stretch, it felt like Adams released 45 albums over the course of 5 years (not accurate, but that's my point) and I suddenly hated the guy. A new record would appear and I'd just roll my eyes and say "Ugh" to myself. I haven't listened to Ryan Adams in years. (Who is this helping?)

So two of the world's most beloved and most hated rock stars shared a stage on July 31st and while this should be monumental and a rock and roll dream to witness, I'd venture to say that 50% of the people who read about this the next day, gave a proverbial eyeroll with audible groan and quickly put on their low-fi punk Malaysian punk CD. (In related news, Paul McCartney joined the Alabama Shakes for a version of "Get Back" this weekend at Lollapalooza. See?)

It should come as no surprise, really, to see Bruce and Bono together. It's not the first time these two have shared a stage. Plus, Bruce has been popping up lately, which to me, means he is warming up in the bullpen, if you catch my drift. Fingers crossed.


Deep Purple appeared on "The Today Show" last week and played a solid version of "Smoke On The Water." Yes, it was strange, but the band sounded great and Ian Paice did not take part in the cooking segment. One friend quipped, "No Blackmore, no Lord, zzzzzzz." Irrational. Original-ish singer, bassist and drummer? That's not bad, and certainly more respectful than Stu Cook and Doug Clifford touring as CCR. The Who is not The Who you say? Singer and songwriter with the son of rock royalty on drums who was taught to play by Keith Moon? That's the fucking Who and they still kick ass in concert.

I've trashed the Stones a lot over the last ten years, mostly because of their touring. Expensive in a truly offensive way and they simply aren't sounding that good. But sooner than later, all of these people will just stop. No more. And that will stink to high heaven. It will hit you and hit you hard and then, because it's what we do, we'll revisit all the shit we said we didn't like and suddenly like it. 20 years in music retail, I've seen it happen time and time again.

(Record dealers with Lynn Anderson records, your window closes in two days.)


A friend and I were having a discussion about a  number or things, including career missteps. He brought up Francis Ford Coppola's "One From The Heart" and "Rumble Fish." I told him, while I recognize that neither are very good films, I do love them both, without an ounce of irony. He said, "You are irony free. It’s one of your charms."

I really don't think I have a high tolerance for music, film or theatre. (Leon Bridges, anyone?) But I do try to back myself up if I make bold statements, one way or the other. It makes me feel better about liking or disliking something. Plus, it makes me believe people believe me when I say something.

But I digress.

Do you have an irrational feeling, positive or negative, towards an artist?


Charlie Messing said...

Irrational? Good question. I hate Prince. I used to leave parties when they played something from "Purple Rain". "1999 is good", but I'd buy a The Time record in a minute, and I'd never buy a Prince record. We're in the grip of opposing forces, I suppose.

Jeff Matthews said...

Irrationally perhaps, I struggle with two widely dissimilar but immensely popular artists and for similar reasons. First, Billy Joel. Many people whose musical tastes I respect (and who also dislike Joel's later schmaltzy work) point to his first few albums as being so musically fresh and rave about the clever wordplay. What, they'd say, you don't like Captain Jack, The Entertainer, Angry Young Man? But you like the clever wordplay of artists like Elvis Costello? You're not being consistent! I have always found that Billy Joel's music feels rushed, on top of the beat, lacking dynamics. And I find his lyrics forced and smarmy. Too self-consciously witty, which is then of course not witty at all. I can't stand it. But the guy sells out MSG routinely.
Second, the late Warren Zevon. Everybody seems to love him - his songs are so funny, out-there, witty! Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner! Werewolves! Trader Vic's! I find the songs musically stale, and, just like Billy Joel, it all seems too self-consciously clever. Forced. But he's revered.
What am I missing?
There, that's my cranky for the day.

William Repsher said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with broad generalizations, unless it's your point to dig deeper and get into the roots of why you don't like something. Generally speaking, if I don't like something, I'm not going to try to make myself like it, and that goes for more than music. Hiphop is the obvious culprit for me: most of it, I can't stand, and no amount of "but listen, man, you haven't heard the really good underground stuff" or "but Kanye taps into the 'everyman' by grasping the college dropout within all of us" nonsense.

The cultural strongarming with this kind of music over the past two decades has been obnoxious ... thank you, critics and record company folks, afraid of losing your jobs! That said, when given chance to feel around and explore on my own, I've gotten into stuff like Madvillain and Quasimoto, more for their atmospherics and mood than anything to do with hiphop.

I recently expounded on Pet Sounds ... and I still don't think it's a great album! If you listen to what came just before and what came after ... it wasn't earth shaking. If you listen to Beach Boys Today and California Today, you can hear strains of what was to come in terms of the production and ballads. Afterwards, I've found a few dozen tracks that take those ideals creativity and advance them ... Holland is their best album, in my book (even with the nutty outro collage). People seem to think they put out Pet Sounds, the band hedged, Brian went "nuts" on Smile, canned the album, then they reverted to being a frilly pop band. Not true at all ... they grew from that point, and Brian losing his place helped the rest of the band more fully realize their talents.

I'm perfectly OK with people dismissing things I love with a "they suck" or "who cares" or "dad rock" or whatever cliched faux insult they can come up with. Nine times out of 10, I take one look at the person and think, "Thank God I have nothing in common with you!" Even if it's someone I respect, so what. Only opinions. Common knowledge has become a welcome and unwelcome proposition with rock music, but I guess this is how history gets written.

Sal Nunziato said...

@Jeff Matthews, I am a Billy Joel fan, oddly though, the three songs you mentioned (and I'd like to add Piano Man and Italian Restaurant)are exactly as you describe and what I dislike about the guy. Forced and "witty" and "clever." But, the pop tunes..."Only The Good Die Young," "Say Goodbye to Hollywood," "Uptown Girl," and really almost all of "Turnstiles," the great pastiches seem to work for me.

jeff said...

ok, maybe not an artist but a period? You remember those Time/Life 70s series and the Rhino series "Have a Nice Decade? I not only bought them all but I listen to them all the time (up to '75 when the disco started). "Everybody Plays the Fool" I must have heard that a thousand times when I was a teenager, and I needed it. "Brandy," Few songs are as evocative in my life as "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues" or "Me and You and Dog Named Boo" both about hitting the road in the early 1970s, which I did, and every time I hear them I am back again. Just as the weather started to warm up in the spring of '73 I started hearing "Me and Mrs. Jones" on Voice of America. I still get that spring time feel for it. Gilbert O'Sullivan, Three Dog Night, Edison Lighthouse, Sugarloaf, Vanity Faire, Hamilton, Joe Frank &Reynolds. Few songs were as direct about the generation, political gap as "Signs" by the Five Man Electrical Band. Most of these bands weren't even bands. Great songs? No. Except they are to me, even after 40 years.

William Repsher said...

Jeff, I just created a playlist on the iPod called "Childhood" that pretty much covers just that kind of music, to the nth degree, possibly the craziest, larges-spanning playlist of early-mid 70's trash you've ever heard, with every big ballad thrown in for measure, leaving off at "corporate rock" in the later 70's.

I can recognize a lot of it as absolute shit, but there's such a perverse kick to hearing it all in one place. I just heard "Love American Style" by The Cowsills on the list this morning, and something about that song just takes me back to that time, Barnabus Collins, Room 222, that whole vibe.

Pure nostalgia, and we are cursed by being kids from that time period. But there's no way I'm ever going to disown that music again (after wisely doing so as a young adult in the 80's).

soundsource said...

The Velvet Underground stuck and the Stones last good record was Some Girls.

cmealha said...

Pearl Jam with special emphasis on Eddie Veder. Maybe my least favorite vocalist ever. Their career was built on a single good riff and they've been riding that wave ever since. I despise them. Given that, I loved Veder's "Without You"

itsok2beright said...

Sometimes it's just the bands over-popularity that will pull me away. U2 is a great example. They are a great band with, as quoted, some epic tunes. But, their fan base swears they are the greatest band ever. I don't even believe they are the greatest band out of Ireland! So, yes, I irrationally refuse to bow down to them as everyone else does.

I would also put the Foo Fighters in my irrational dislike category. Their first release was just so atrocious that I refused to waste my time listening to or money buying anything else they put out. Obviously, they have gotten tremendously better over the years, but my irrational stubbornness prevents me from getting into them.

Bob Busby said...

In college a favorite pastime of mine was dealing with the often encountered (I felt irrational) derision of the Doobie Brothers. Time and time again at a party or wherever, I would surreptitiously put on a non-radio played cut say like Wheels of Fortune and then turn it up for instrumental portion featuring Skunk Baxter's awesome solo. Invariably the discerning critic would stop and say who is this? Followed by The Dobbie Brother's? Really? Then they always seemed to be annoyed as if I'd done something impolite. There were other bands too. Much fun for me.

Troy said...

I have an irrational dislike of Adele. So completely overplayed that it is painful for me to hear any of her songs - - ESPECIALLY 'Rumor Has It" - - on the radio. There was a stretch where it seemed I could not get away from her music if I tried and I now resent her for that. I'm sure she is quite talented and others will defend her music, but I cannot stand her.

I have a (possibly) irrational like of Bruce Hornsby's music, especially his live stuff with his band, The Noisemakers. I'm sure some will roll their eyes or scoff at that, but I just love to put it on and let it play for hours. I love the great interplay between the band members, a really tight ensemble.

Geoff Hoover said...

I like what you say about, Sal, about having a reason. Not just saying they suck because they suck. But I also think the whole like/dislike thing is totally irrational. It's like the old adage about love and hate are almost the same thing, its all passion one way or another and to dissect it is ultimately folly. For example the idea of one person said they don't like u2 because their fan base thinks they are are the greatest band ever, well what does the rolling stones fan base think? Or the Who? Or the Clash? Or the Beatles? That seems more like an excuse than a reason. Same with the Adele comment. I heard it too much. Of course you heard it too much, her record was the first good thing to be one the radio since the 80s. It's a slippery slope. I don't like the Beach Boys. I don't even know why I don' t like them. I just don't. They don't resonate for me. But thats ok, as long as someone likes them fine. I dont have to buy their records. I don't tear them down either.

A friend of mine recently made a Facebook post about inducting the NEW YORK DOLLS into the R&R HOF. That seems like a reasonable idea. But her friend, a guitarist in an old philly band called THe A's, said that should never happen because of David JoHansen releasing HOT HOT HOT as Buster Poindexter. That song, he said, was a crime against humanity. Well, sure it got overplayed, but IT WAS A HIT and for a guy who makes records and never had a hit, he shouldn't be such a dick about it. Not to mention that no one can control a piece or art or a book or a song once its released. If it becomes big and suddenly it seems smaltzy and awful because the people that like it are smaltzy and awful, well NO ONE can control it. So I tried to debate this guy for a little while on the pluses and minus of Buster. Because one song should not define this act. I mean the BP show is the on stage equivalent of Nock Tosches great book Unsung Heroes of Rock and Roll. It's brilliant and instructive and you hear things you may never have heard before that are the foundation of R&R. But to this one guitarist he could only see Buster as HOT HOT HOT and that isn't rational. It's passion. Which is uncontrollable.

Sal Nunziato said...

I had a discussion, which ultimately turned into an argument, with someone over the band Fountains Of Wayne. I had raved about their debut, which he hated. Then their follow-up was released in 1999 and he loved it. Swooning! To my ears, they are basically the same- two intelligent power pop records with killer melodies, lyrics and harmony. One isn't a folk record while the other is trip-hop. They are the fucking same, but this person got angry. It got ugly.

I think I would have accepted anything- "I don't like the production. The songs are too long. The drum sound is thin. I had cramps when I listened to it." Something other than, "Oh man, it sucks."

I understand "passion," Geoff Hoover, and I totally get how a band might not resonate. But sometimes it all seems transparent, like the passion was genuine on first go, but then got locked into a position so deep, it has no way to get out after years of running with it. You say something ofetn enough, you start to believe it.

William Repsher said...

Willing to bet "guitarist for The A's" is Rick DiFonzo! The guy's done pretty well for himself, backing Roger Waters and such. Not sure why The A's never made it big, but The Hooters did!

Anonymous said...

Hello, please remnains seated,

In my my my musical taste-buds...something happened to me and Elvis Costello after Armed Forces. I loved Armed Forces! Wore it out, as we used to say back when friction was a mechanical requirement for sound re-production. But after that...well, my brain started to perceive his voice as...what? I don't know...something stinky. Foul. Impolite, to steal a term from Bob Busby above. Not rational. I know he's terrific but...Sorry,'s not you, it's me.

Responses to above:
- I don't hate hiphop, but don't love it. Neutral. I see it as just NOT my generation. Like how my dad couldn't abide the Stones no matter what.
- I have turned around on Billy Joel. I now hear t hings in his songs...melody, chords structures, turns of phrases that just escaped me back when he was king.
- Jeff! your playlist is spot-on. I love that stuff. Hamilton,JFR will always remind me of being a kid summer in Queens.
- Sal..+1 for FOW


David Handelman said...

I have lots of visceral reactions to songs and sometimes artists. I can't stand Heart, for example. Bands like Rush and Journey totally bypassed me, though I now like the Soprano's finale song. I strongly disagree about Only the Good Die Young, I can't listen to more than a few bars. I think that U2 has suffered from being sanctimonious and self important (really, just Bono, right?) in ways that most big acts have not attempted. I went to see their IMAX concert film and I enjoyed it, but I dont feel compelled to shell out to see them live for some reason.

I was a longtime fighter against the "Bruce/Elvis/Neil Young/Stones/U2 hasn't had a good album since X, but I now am starting to think welll, yeah. A couple of stray songs here or there but nothing you'd ever give someone as an intro to their work.

To Jeff's point, musical taste is formed in a complex interaction with adolescence and it's hard to extrapolate "good" from "personally meaningful". I was kind of a latecometr to Dylan and now totally appreciate him -- in many of his guises - but I still dont have the same relationship to his work as if it had been ingrained At The Time. Etc.

Noam Sane said...

Agh, the Hooters. Their first independently-released record was so much fun. Irreverent and kind of nutty. Then they signed and became deeply unfun. It was sad to watch. They suddenly sounded like everything else, and predictably enough, got lost in the shuffle.

So where was I...

I have a probably irrational hate of Mayer/Mraz douche-rock, and the big-drum-at-the-front-of-the-stage-HEY-HO granola/folk syndrome. But you want specifics...

Billy Joel always gets a scowl from me, regardless of a few toons that are pretty great - An Innocent Man, fr'instance - because 99% of it just surface with nothing underneath. Probably irrational. Maybe not - remember "It just might might be a LOON-a-tic you're looking for!" Hey everybody, look at me, I'm CRA-ZAY! Barf. I keep seeing him in that skinny red tie video. Dipshit.

Styx. Fuck off Fauntleroy. But that's not irrational, is it?

I just heard some Richard Thompson on XM this morning, and wondered why I dislike his music so. I decided it was because there's never any sense of fun there. It's all so self-serious, maybe it's his vocal delivery.

Irrational likes, oh yeah. Sylvian/Japan, still ahead of his/their time. Nobody else gives a shit.

While I'm blathering, I saw the A's open for Utopia at the Philly Zoo in the early 80's. Great bill, great openers. This was after their self-titled record on Network, which is just full of great songs. Kick-ass!

Sal Nunziato said...

Songs versus records. As much as I despise the Grammys, mostly the people behind them, I do love that both categories exist-Best Song and Record Of The Year. Sometimes it is all about how the record is built, like "Only The Good Die Young." Yes I went to Catholic school, but it's not the lyrics that resonate with me. It's the lyrics and that acoustic guitar and the handclaps. All of it as one. Not sure I would love this song as a piano ballad. "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" makes me cringe, yet if it was written by Giovanni Bacciafongaluccio for a Broadway musical about "the neighborhood," I'd probably love it. From Billy Joel, I don't.

David Handelman said...

Funny Richard Thompson: Valerie, From Galway to Graceland, Tear-Stained Letter, Read About Love, I Feel So Good, Psycho Street, I Can't Wake Up to Save My Life

buzzbabyjesus said...

"Do you have an irrational feeling, positive or negative, towards an artist?"

Yeah, most of them.

Anything Should Happen said...

I'd love to spend more time on this Sal, but it's late and the net connection is wonky. I think you know mine. It's Paul Weller. It's not actually the music, it's the way everything gets fawned upon as though the wheel has been re-invented and it's 1954 and he's at Sun Studios.

If you listen to it, to these ears it's fairly pedestrian rock, to all and sundry, he takes rock to new heights.

It's irrational, but I detest the man.

FurryBootsCityBoy said...

Silly Love Songs is a fantastic pop song. Anyone who dismisses it is a posing twat. End of.

Anonymous said...

Really nothing to add other than to say... what a great discussion! My list changes daily, depending on my mood I suppose. It's great to find that others appear to dislike some music "just because." No good reason and, despite often good arguments as to why something doesn't belong in that category, I still don't like it. Keeps life interesting. I suppose the moral of the story is to not be critical of those who we may disagree with (or they with us). There's plenty for everyone.

Noam Sane said...

Richard Thompson could clone himself and do "Who's On First" and it would sound like a disturbed banker explaining compound interest.

mauijim said...

Was driving home from a Steely Dan concert when Eric Clapton came on the sat radio and the other guy's wife says to me, oh you don't like him. I played along and said, how did she know and she replied oh Ive heard you complain about him.Think I have every studio lp by him yet I take a bat to him upon every new release. I use to roll my eyes in the 90s when his Unplugged cd was played at the neighborhood TGIF parties but you know what, that cd is his most played album since Slowhand because there is passion in his performance Every lp has a spark in it think Same Old Blues on Behind the Sun. its why I still buy him but its so frustrating to see him offer such mediocre material.

Mark said...

Cool, or just Cranky? For the past 30+ years of I've settled on the notion that it's possible to respect some artists with accomplished bodies of work and still never want to hear the most well-known pieces of such artists ever ever ever again. For me some of the necessary-but-not-always-mandatory conditions for artist-avoidance are massive popularity, songs that become anthems, and songs rooted in time.

For example, I think Ian Hunter is a God, but I never want to hear All The Young Dudes again. Ever. Though I'm glad (for Hunter, Bowie and Mott) to see the track used in film and commercials and bring in bucks.

Anonymous said...

Richard Thompson is one of the funniest performers I have ever heard. His "banker's" voice is what lets him get away with, for instance, "Read About Love" and his genius/creepy Britney cover.

Michael Giltz said...

My irrational feelings are for prog-rock. I hate it so much I've never even listened to it, unless you count' Yes's "90125" (and who would?). I mock the idea of the rock and roll hall of fame "lacking" prog-rock artists. I find the song titles embarrassing, the album art embarrassing, the extended suites embarrassing. It all reeks of teenagers discovering some new territory and assuming that long and elaborate equals important. I've never listened to The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway or most Procol Harum or Yes or Alan Parsons Project (if they're even prog-rock) any of the rest. It's just so juvenile and I'm not 14 years old. (And I love sci-fi and fantasy so I should be down with their faux-Tolkien or Asimovian concepts.) Still, I sometimes get the sneaking suspicion I should actually LISTEN to it before making judgment. But then I see those album covers and those song titles and I cringe.

Shaughn Ziech said...

I thought Venus and Mars, Wings At The Speed of Sound, Tug of War were all very good to great albums, parts of Back To The Egg (especially Old Siam Sir), London Town and McCartney II are superior. Any work of his will have good music, his current band is awesome on state, especially the drummer.

I am just grateful we can still see these bands, I have seen McCartney twice, just saw Brian Wilson, welcome back the real Van Halen, etc.

I call it adult music for adults, the kids are not sophisticated enough now to get these things, especially old prog music, then again, not their fault, they are spoon fed crap by Kidz Bop, Nick and Disney.

Charlie Carr said...

Funny, the question asked about irrational feelings about an artist and most folks are giving well thought-out reasons behind their feelings. Sticking with irrational (baseless, unfounded, not-rational): I like Phish - mostly because I want to like Phish. I don't like Queen and I don't like any Elton John after Tumbleweed Connection.

Nancy McClelland said...

My wife dislikes Jackson Browne so much, any artist she feels does not have enough variety in their music....they are "another Jackson Browne". Me? I can think of whole
genres of music I reject out of hand...but an artist? Nah. You can always sneak some-
thing into my playlist, yes, including the genres I profess to hate. If ya like it, ya like it...