Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Vain In Vain; Strummer Joe dies; The Younger Yawns

From The Younger:

To say that the media has been effusive in their praise of recently departed Clash founder Strummer Joe is a serious understatement. Hopefully there is still time for Time to get him nominated for Person Of the Year. I can’t turn on the TV or open a newspaper without being bombarded with cloying gush about how brilliant the Clash were or what a Master Genius (12 allowed per year) Strummer Joe was. To wit (from the Star Tribune): “The songs of the Clash railed against apathy, powerlessness, police brutality, American Cultural Domination (caps mine), and poseurs of all sorts”.

Hey Star Tribune, the poseur was Strummer Joe and punk music in general.

Another: “The band’s ‘London Calling’ is widely regarded as one of the most important rock albums of all time.”


Am I the only one that does not look for music to be “Important”? I want music that excites my senses—I can’t imagine relaxing with a cocktail and Frank’s Songs For Swingin’ Lovers and thinking “Yeah, this is one important record”. Give me groove goddammit. Give me excellent musicians at the peak of their craft. Give me someone who can paint a picture with their words without being overbearing. Give me a vocalist who can convey what they are feeling through their God-given ability to sing in tune and with power. Keep your teenage Take On The World to yourself. Punk is music for teenagers. Hear me adults? Adults USED to listen to adult music but that died with rock n’ roll (of which punk is just an offshoot, not some other genre as it pretends to be…SIDE NOTE: I’d rather listen to every Foghat, Boston and Toto record ever made than to have to sit though one side of a Clash record ).

I was listening to more fawning yesterday on NPR (including one question from a woozy host: “How will Strummer’s death affect modern music?”) and the Music Authority they had on said that basically the Clash were braveandgoodandsmartandstrident because they called their record “Sandinista” in an era “…where the Regan white house had labeled the Sandinistas to be a dangerous communist regime.” Right. Reagan made them commies out of whole cloth and the brave punks were Telling It Like It Was.

What irks me about critics and fans of punk is that these people earnestly believe this is the music of the smart set. I’m convinced that critics have to start using terms like “important” to describe music (MUSIC!) because they are desperately trying to imbue their own lives with importance because they live in a malaise of despair, nihilism, cynicism and leftist politics (see John Bream). When a band comes along that echoes their dark take on this life they are hailed as Jesus Incarnate.
Those that read these influential critics merely follow suit because they too consider themselves smart (I’ll bet 5 grand Janine Garofalo has every Clash record).

I’d like to ask fans of this genre one question: do you feel joy from listening to some disaffected, post-modern, art-school-dropout English wanker rail against capitalism and Mean People? Does that bring joy to you? Does it? How can you feel anything but hatred from listening to hatred?

Great quote from the man himself: “If you aint thinkin’ about man and God and law, then you aint thinkin’ about nothin’” This from the son of a foreign service officer who was raised in excellent schools. You see, dropping your G’s makes you more authentic.
This is an almost comical level of self-importance and pretension.

Has their ever been a more musically correct band than the Clash? Or a more musically correct form of music than punk? The way the media and every critic imaginable has embraced this mostly poorly played, juvenile, snotty lifestyle-in-a-can punk BS is remarkable. Apparently, the younger generation has indeed listened to their boomer elders in embracing punk as bands like Sum 41 and Good Charlotte carry on with the tired clich├ęs and worn-out riffs (albeit with better hooks and Avril Lavingne can skate8r n my driveway any day).

Punks like Strummer Joe always claimed that they were the sort of “Anti-hippies” but I see many more similarities than differences: 1. The belief in being “Authentic” to the point of establishing conformist rules of behavior (punk is simply another lifestyle-in-a-can and has always been). 2. Dismissal of normal healthy living (healthy people don’t die at age 50) as a bourgeois conceit. 3. The infantile notion that there are Powerful Forces at work in the world to oppress the smart truth-seekers who “Get it”.

Well I get it and I think its crap. It will be interesting to see how the media treats the death of a real music legend like George Jones when he’s gone. Do you think we will see his picture and death notice on the front page of the Star Tribune?