Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On Weird Music, Part 2

So last time I left you all wondering “this kid clearly thinks Taylor Swift is a) awesome and b) weird music.” Part A is true. Part B is not. Fear not loyal (hah!) readers.

Let's take a step back and go back to high school. As most kids did, I grew up idolizing the rock and roll stars of my parents' generation, thinking that they were not only the bees' knees, but that they were only thing really worth delving into. I honestly didn't delve much into music from later than 1995 other than some metal (Tool, System of a Down). I still thought I was fucking cool (knowing full well that a) I wasn't and b) no one else thought I was). That said Bob Dylan bored me (and still does), Jimi Hendrix was too much for me and Nirvana didn't really register until like the summer after 9th grade. So I was basically just pumping The Clash, Madness, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Ramons, The Sex Pistols, The Grateful Dead, Creedence, Crosby Stills Nash and Young until around 10th grade.

In 8th grade I had discovered Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral and that had a huge impact on me. I couldn't believe the outright and blatant sexuality and perversity of the album. It was dark, depressing and scary. From the pulsing, throbbing synths, to the crass lyrics and the excruciating noise buildup in “Hurt,” this was brand-new sonic territory for me and it instantly became a favorite.

In 9th grade this awesome punk rock girl came to our school and we instantly bonded over feelings of alienation from the majority of the school. She quickly became a staple in our group of misfits and nerds. She gave me all this awesome music that I instantly fell in love with: The Adicts, Dead Kennedys, X-Ray Spex, The Stooges, amongst others. This was also brand-new territory for me. The last three are still amongst my favorites and regularly get spins (if you can call it that), especially X-Ray Spex. X-Ray Spex had this incredible energy and Poly Styrene's vocals are so shrill and angsty, yet verging on soulful that I just couldn't get enough. It's really a shame they only released one full-length.

It was also in 9th grade that I got my first dose of hardcore punk. Another punk rock girl who later became another of my closest friends was also wearing Leftöver Crack t shirts and was always talking about them. So I went out and got their first album. I HATED IT. I couldn't deal. It was fucking scary. So much noise. So much anger. What was going on. I loved the Sex Pistols, I loved the Stooges. Why was this so different. I thought it was punk rock. I wasn't wrong. I just wasn't aware of what punk meant then. When I came back to it around 12th grade I was hooked. It's raw, it's all over the place. It's got classical interludes, death metal breakdowns, hilarious samples, real anarcho-punk grit and surprisingly great musicianship. It's almost the perfect hardcore album for me in that it's not just “loud fast” but “loud, fast, and smart.” Smart lyrically, smart instrumentally; a very thoughtful album that I can't tell if it was meant to be smart or just ended up that way.

11th and 12th grade things started changing. I discovered indie music for the first time. Of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Walkmen, The Strokes, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party. The big names sure, but for me this, again, was brand new territory. It wasn't all for me (and still isn't), but I do love a great indie pop album. And Neutral Milk Hotel routinely brings me to tears. It's beautiful stuff. Interpol too was a huge influence on me. Their first album was just such a great New York album. Made me feel at home somehow. It was dark, but well-crafted. Of Montreal would later greatly influence my pop sensibilities, especially during sophomore year of college and the year after college. Satanic Panic in the Attic and Sunlandic Twins are great psych pop albums.

But we STILL haven't really gotten to the crux of all this. More next time, kiddies.

Coming up: Throbbing Gristle and Kraftwerk; How Experimental Music Changed My Life.

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