“You should know by now that punk is sober, and meant to be taken really seriously. No, really, rocknroll is all about having the best time possible while you’re on this stupid planet, so why not shut the fuck up and have a good time, you silly little pathetic wet blankets.” –Todd Killings, Horizontal Action #11
So I wrote this column initially as a sequel to the “Bad Form in Music” essay I painstakingly composed for Wendy Norton’s “What We Do Is Secret” fanzine, and while it’s no doubt a tad insightful and guaranteed to wrench out the gutyuks from all you twitty-twatty doctrinaire garage nerds, I changed my mind about sending it out.
The reasons for not sharing it right now are simple. For starters, I’m having too much fun to care one way or the other about what’s going on with bands not worth the internet newsprint. My first novel is coming out (and if you’re the least bit interested, you can pre-order it here, and you can come to the Empty Bottle for the book release party on Thursday, December 15th, to be MC’d by my hippie poet 2nd cousin Rainbow Song Leaf…also featuring the Krunchies and 2 other BIG NAMES IN LIGHTS to be announced shortly), the second Functional Blackouts record is coming out soon, I have a (gosh) really swell girlfriend, and unlike almost all of you, I love my fucking job.
This is my leisure time, and I’m trying to live up to the aforementioned HA aesthetic, and all the laffs and good times I’ve had lately and in the past few years is worth kajillions more than all the yakkity yack over NOTHING, and besides, IT ISN’T REAL ANYWAY. Or, more to the point, it’s only as real as you care to make it. The less of a real (rather than virtual) life you lead, the more any of this talk talk matters. It’s why I’m still friends with The Ponys (if you really must know). It’s why you jerks who make a big production of “hating” me still try to come into my home after shows at the Blackout over rumors of me having a party. It’s why you jerks who make a big production of “hating” me stand there in the rockclub like zombies in my presence while I’m drinking beer with friends, laughing and drinking and farting. It’s why you jerks who make a big production of “hating” me wanna discuss the color of the dress shirt I’m wearing when we’re in the same room together.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. “Look at me, I hate stuff. Grumble grimble grumble grimble bitchnmoan.” Way to go, champ. Now, if you’ll excuse me, if you’re not gonna lighten up and not take this shit so seriously, allow me to do it for you. If you can’t smile as you go by, give me a big ol’ internet middle finger. I’ll be sure to grin like a hyena and raise a can of Sparks in your direction. Cheers, brah!
So, in the immortal words of The Tonys: “C’mon!”
Okay, but wait…ya know…I am gonna share just one of these Bad Form rants, if only because whenever this happens, it really sucks the fun out of a show, due to how annoying it is and how thoroughly unoriginal. Here it is (ahem!):
Breaking “the fourth wall” by jumping into the audience. This move, wherein the singer, guitarist, or bass player jumps into the audience in an attempt to freak their shit right the fuck out, was exciting back when Iggy Pop did it in 1969, but now, what? THIRTY-SIX YEARS LATER?!? It’s nothing but stupid and annoying. Whenever that bass player in the Observers pulls that shit, I always wish somebody would smack his stupid face with a brick. That stage is there for a reason: For the performers to entertain. The place in front of the stage is there for a reason: For the audience to either dance, shake their heads in rhythm to the music, or stand there bored waiting for the next band to play. Your breaking of the fourth wall is no longer a transcendent punk rock blurring of Life and Art; no, rather, it’s one of the most hackneyed moves you can pull on your audience, and no, it doesn’t make your band any better. That takes, oh, I don’t know…maybe…writing and playing good songs?
Besides, when these jokers jump off the stage like that, 9 times outta 10, alls they do is stand there and make rock faces, as if they’re “kuhrazy, man!” If you must leave the stage during your set, tackle people, chew on glass, ducttape a dead rat to your chest like Jamie in the Piranhas once did…don’t just stand there as if jumping into the audience is enough.
The only time the Breaking of the Fourth Wall is acceptable is when a drummer does it, because it’s unexpected. Drummers are expected to just sit in the back and smirk like Charlie Watts, so when they leap out from behind their kit and move into the audience, that’s at least interesting, if not Good Form Incarnate.
(Note: Like most rules in life, the above does not apply to Mister Chris Treater. He can do whatever the hell he wants, and I’m thoroughly entertained each time.)
Okay, now that we’ve had our fun, and now that we’re conscious of the stupidity of Breaking the Proverbial Fourth Wall, let’s devote the rest of our happy little column to extolling the virtues of Everybody’s Favorite Band.
Of course, I’m talking about the Rotten Fruits.
Criminal IQ recently released the Fruits’ first EP, and the critical response has been rather hostile. Hilariously hostile. What’s wrong—are you guys…homophobic or something? Don’t like songs about skinhead boys? Don’t care to hear tunes about what goes on in the back rooms of gay bars?
“No,” sez you, “I just think they suck.”
Well…you may very well be right. When I said “extol the virtues” of the Rotten Fruits, by that I mean the bigger picture of “extolling the virtues” of Darius and Criminal IQ for having the guts to put this thing out in the face of such critical and popular disdain. And I’m not just saying that because Darius has made me a millionaire from my music. I’m saying it because he honestly doesn’t give a fuck if you like what he puts out or not, and that’s pretty damned refreshing in this other-obsessed garridge world.
Yeah…granted…I’ll give you this: The Rotten Fruits are awful. But so are the Busy Signals. (“Boo! Hey! Out of order, Cozzie!”) So are the Hunches. (“Uhhhwhuh?!? No way, dude! Wrong again!”) So are the Reatards. (“Okay: I quit. This guy’s sacreligious, mang.”) So are the Functional Blackouts. (“Okay, well, I agree with that one…”)
So is every single band reviewed in this and all previous ish’s of TB. It’s all awful. The recordings are terrible. The music’s sloppily executed. The singer can’t sing. The drummer’s whiter than white. It’s all the work of rank amateurs. We’ve all heard different variations of these song structures for like 50 years now.
It’s like it’s all one big reveling in mediocrity, but it’s such an entertaining, not boring (unlike the rest of the USA), passionate, teenspirtied mediocrity, it’s fantastic. Almost all of it. Even the Rotten Fruits.
It’s all a matter of subjective taste and degree. To your grandparents probably (and the word’s “probably,” kids, and not “prolly,” so quit trying to be clever with your misspellings…sheesh), all the abovenamed bands sound exactly the same to their untrained ears. We can distinguish, and some things fit more into our “refined” tastes than others. Some need to be told by reviews, reviewers, and self-appointed tastemakers. Some people claim to not give a shit and just like what they like (and they’re the worst conformists among us), and some people actually don’t give a shit and just like what they like. The former are truly hilarious, and the latter is embodied in one Darius Hurley.
The Rotten Fruits are a mess. The singer sounds like a “Laff-a-Lympics” cartoon character sucking down a helium balloon. The music tumbles and crumbles along like a big gay short bus rolling off a cliff…devolving into ironic takes on ska (which is an ironic take in itself). They can’t play, not even by the rudimentary standards approved by You, the Discerning Fan. It’s punk, but not our punk, and not just because it’s about gay stuff. Despite this, it’s hilariously entertaining, and if ever there was a song that needed to be written for the first half of this crummy decade, it’s “Fuck Media Faggots,” all about the sudden chic of homosinuality on TV through crap like “Will and Grace” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” But yeah…the Rotten Fruits are a mess.
And yet…Darius and Criminal IQ saw fit to subject the world to a record from this musical combo. Why? The world could survive without it. Some would be happy if the record never existed. Some question the direction of Criminal IQ.
Why? Why? Why? Simple: Darius liked it. That’s it. End of story.
Tons of labels out there now seem awfully concerned with Winning the Secret Club Popularity Contest. It’s not to say they’re not interested in putting out good music, but they’re not as focused on putting out what THEY THEMSELVES like so much as putting out what they think the garagepunk apparatchik trendoids will wanna yank their crank over. Criminal IQ, on the other hand, likes what it likes, and in true “indie” (a term losing as much meaning in the culture as “punk” and “alternative” has) form, follows their own instincts of what constitutes “great” music, and screw the rest of you.
It’s why Criminal IQ has gotten some comparisons to Dangerhouse here and there, and this same kind of self-reliant thinking is what made SST so great. I have no idea if anybody’s gonna care about Criminal IQ in 20 years, or if we’ll be more concerned with getting out of our cities drowned in dysentery-infested waters from super-hurricanes and putting out gigantic forest fires and fighting Christian rednecks in a balkanized America, but I’d like to think so. While the other labels might just sound like quaint relics of “simpler” times, here’s hoping Criminal IQ transcends the shitheap and stands the test of time as the Pinnacle of the Mediocre.
That’s it. Until next time, I’ll see ya at the hottub!
Contact Anonymous Goy: the bcshowwithbc-at-hotmail.com
To read past installments of Anonymous Goy go here.
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