Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Omnibus Blog Post 1: Heavy vs. Light

I noticed recently that I'm drawn to extremes in music. The stuff I like -- and by that, I mean the stuff I really like, the stuff I'm obsessed about -- is usually either really heavy or really light. On the one hand, we have stuff like Zeppelin, Sabbath, Kiss (see: Omnibus Blog Post 2, coming soon), the Cult, Wolfmother, Jet. On the other, things like the Free Design, yr. various Yacht Rock groups, Joe Raposo, Carpenters, certain Beach Boys albums, whatever. Heavy as an anvil, couldn't possibly be heavy enough, or so light it's in danger of floating away into the stratosphere. Extremes.

I've also noticed recently that nowadays, you can't really get either. Oh, there's a couple (literally just a couple!) of bands doing Really Heavy -- particularly Wolfmother, they're nicely heavy, and really really good. And a couple bands doing Really Light, too (though I'm hard pressed to name 'em -- certainly nobody doing the Carpenters, or something that blissfully airy). But for the most part, everything's straight down the fucking middle. Think of a band like -- I dunno, Modest Mouse. Good band, I suppose, but they're Middle of the Road in every possible way in the old-school use of the term. Straight down the middle. And safe. Very, very safe. Good songwriters, I'm sure, but they're just kind of...the same. All the time. Not fast, not slow, not hard, not light, just THERE.

And that's why I hate everything nowadays, I think. And not just music, but everything. It's not just that people are AFRAID of extremes, though they clearly are -- "we want to," goes the logic, "appeal to a majority of people, and the way to do that is to never go too far in any direction, to play to the widest tastes, to offend nobody." This goes for every artistic media, from movies to television to music to whatever -- and hell, even in politics and conversation and fashion and everything. Can't be too heavy. Too light. Too theatrical. Too big. Too flashy. Too gay. Too whatever.

But it goes beyond simple fear -- it's almost like people are embarrassed of extremes. Like -- okay, let's do this. Imagine you're in a club and a band is getting on stage. They've got makeup on, and are wearing -- I dunno, purple velvet jumpsuits and feather boas. And they light into music that's loud and heavy and they posture all over the stage. What do you think? What's your first reaction? Ten bucks it's to get embarrassed and laugh.

But I mean -- double-you tee eff? That's cool, isn't it? When did we stop desiring that? Are we afraid that expressing an extreme means it'll reveal something about you? Provoke strong emotion? Strength or weakness?

What's weird is even when artists these days GO extreme -- think of, say, Marilyn Manson -- it seems so half-assed in some way. His music wasn't terribly extreme, for one thing -- it was second-rate watered down Nine Inch Nails. And all he was doing was adding more cock and blood to something Alice Cooper had done already. It was a real sort of SAFE extreme. Like climbing up onto a diving board, yelling "Hey, look at me, I'm going OUT THERE!" and then tiptoeing up to the edge and then climbing down.

And the end result is that there's no band that provokes the kind of SLAVERING ADMIRATION AND ADULATION that groups used to, y'know? Like -- can you imagine 30, 40 years down the line being a part of the Modest Mouse Army? The Daughtry Army? I dunno. I just feel like lack of extremes also means lack of enthusiasm. You like. you don't love.

So, y'know, that's my challenge to you, artists. Go balls out. Do something risky, big, splashy, stupid, loud, quiet, long, super-short. Do something that goes to an extreme, and don't feel like you gotta slide it straight down the middle. That's all.

16 comments:

MissTrixi said...

Remember our discussion about 'Vertigo' the other night? When we agreed that if that film came out today, the test audience would have boo'ed the ending out of existence. Art now seems to be manipulated by the masses. The web allows so many arm chair critics out there, a larger audience of middle of the road thinkers is reached, and is also far more vocal. This, in effect, makes one afraid to take risks in fear of what the masses may say.

The only genre that is not diluted by mass criticism is comedy, where a loud reaction is what is desired by the artist. Negative or positive, the want noise. A heckler allows the performer to show their quick wit and comedic prowess, a roar of laughter is their reward.

I'm with you Jonny. Go running to that diving board and cannonball right next to that group slathering on the sunblock 50. Drench them in your ice cold creativity.

xo

Jon Hunt said...

That is all absolutely astute and correct.

Jon Hunt said...

Although it does leave the question of Dane Cook echoing out there...

MissTrixi said...

Dane Cook is that one pool near campus, full of sorority brats and football players. It's still crowded, but the water is only luke warm.

xo
Trix

Jon Hunt said...

Daughtry is that muddy puddle in the middle of a field where all the barefoot country children go to play, and each of 'em has a stalk of grass in his dirty, unbrushed teeth.

Jeff M. said...

I think in some ways this is going to be more prevalent in a post-modern, PC driven world. Since the only thing that is a forbidden sin is "intolerance", while on the surface that should lead to more openness in discussion if you are truly safe, what ends up happening is "thought police" type of mentality -- which reduces the ability to have legitimate discourse. Think about "All in the Family", or even "Roseanne". Could you imagine either of those on TV now? Those would never fly because there would be too much chance of someone being "offended". And while we may have become more "open" to some things that used to be taboo, in a sexual or a profane sense, we actually are more closed to ideas and open discourse today for fear of hurting someone's feelings.

MrDigs said...

Dude, this is a manifesto! I'm on board! Stand for something. We're all bankrupt, tossed to the side people with a need to shout I AM SOMEBODY... so when did everyone get on this imaginary middle ground road to nowhere?

laughingmood said...

Lady Gaga man. She gets it

Jon Hunt said...

Lady Gaga TOTALLY gets it. You're absolutely right, Chris.

LAP said...

It's interesting because I believe we connect with music for all sorts of reasons, but I feel like people's reactions to performances are always really visceral, and that should work in the favor of extremes. Here in Mpls, where we've been praised for our audiences, but the first thing I noticed when I got to start going to see bands play live, was being shocked that no one would be dancing, they would barely even clap sometimes- even for popular bands. I always hoped that beneath the facade people were being moved beyond their verbal approval.

What you said, and what Trix added is so much food for thought- even if you can't embrace the extreme, it's worth it to throw yourself into life a little more, amp it up.
I don't how being nondescript got to be so hip, because being glamorous and special is more fun by definition.

Nick said...

And Lady GaGa was justly rewarded for it, thank the stars! You know I'm with you on this Jon--playing in the middle of the road just gets you run over.

Prince Gomolvilas said...

When I saw this post's title, I thought it was going to be about menstruation.

I am sorely disappointed.

Jon Hunt said...

Sorry, Prince, next time I swear I'll blog about "that special woman time."

Ashley said...

A lot of newer music is pretty disposable. It's good for a few listens and then it gets shelved.

I mean there's a lot of music from my generation that I DO like, but it really doesn't have the lasting potential that, oh, say, the beach boys have.

I can't think of anything made in the last 10 years that has left an impression on me.

Heck, lately, I've listened to more hip hop, just because that's more refreshing than what passes for rock 'n' roll these days. It's got balls.

Anonymous said...

yes.. thank you for this thread!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!