I strive to be fair in my work, I really do. Except for when I don’t, and I’m not.
Meaning, there’s a handful of musical acts for which I have no love. All I have for them is contempt, which I lamely try to carve into humor. It’s best that I come clean about it, to put an end to wondering why I don’t mention some bands at all. Ever.
It was hate at first sight.
The first time I saw a Godsmack sticker, I fell madly in hate with them.
On sight, their name made me groan. It could only mean one of three things.
- Heroin powerful enough for God
- A play on the British slang word “gobsmack”
- OMG you guise, these dudes are so hardcore they could smack God (lower case)
It sure worked on dull high-schoolers like a charm, whatever it meant. Entertainment Weekly called it “nü-metal”, which became a convenient synonym for “shit I will never listen to”. I can’t even tell the groups apart; is this the one with the masks? Or the dude with the all-black eyes? Who gives a fuck? Obviously no one involved in the production. I didn’t even notice I’d been confusing them with “Godflesh” until I wrote this page. Goddamn.
Marilyn Manson was the kiss-off for me as far as guys wearing make-up went. What’s your average Godsmack song about, being frustrated over a girl? Maybe the jocks laugh at you because of your eyeliner and “evil clown” outfit. There’s such a thing as balance, you know. Ever notice that the most “extreme” rock bands are the ones that eventually go away forever?
SYSTEM OF A DOWN
I’ve actually heard this band, and it sounded just as I expected; like total shit. There is no sense of flow, build/release, or cohesion, meaning SOAD sounds inferior to metal pioneers like Blind Idiot God and Slayer. In ten more years, people will rage on the SOAD vocalist’s voice like they do now with Eddie Vedder. A phony mode used by corporate outfits to sell records to dumb teenagers, in clothing outlets. I’m not saying that’s what Pearl Jam is, but SOAD? Absolutely.
I don’t believe you can have a working knowledge of classic punk and metal, and still enjoy System of a Down. Every time I say their name aloud, it comes out “Syndrome of a Down”. It’s not a good name for a band, a movie, or anything that’s been thought out.
If you’re a guy, and you openly state that you listen to Lady Gaga, expect mocking laughter from yours truly. Why would you say that out loud? No girl is going to be impressed. There’s no legitimate reason for a straight man to listen to that music. None.
It’s like when I’m hanging out with some guys, and one decides to proffer the confession “I don’t like big tits.” To which I generally reply, “you are a gay man.” Nothing wrong with being gay, but tossing out a random comment about how some boobies are too big for you, in front of a bunch of dudes, definitely means that you are. Maybe you don’t like big tits, but it’s more about why you would bring that up.
Guys who claim to like Lady Gaga are trying to fuck girls who do. There is no other reason. Gay guys dig her because of her style and outfits, and her involvement in LGBT issues. Again; nothing wrong with that, but it’s all based in trends. Yes, even the LGBT stuff. Its acceptance in the mainstream fluctuates, based on political climates, and not everyone agrees that the last two letters should be included. For example, imagine conflating the civil rights history of black people, with that of Mexicans (both being minority populations in America). Sparks an argument or two, yes?
Well, imagine if you were born gay, and also, you’re not 100% cool with people who pay large sums of money to surgically change their sex. After all, who’s more “right”? And who pays? Who’s more accepting of themselves? Who’s more “sane”? And what if you don’t think bisexuality exists in men? How does one half-way a cock, exactly, and how would that be tantamount to the struggles lesbians have endured for acceptance and understanding?
Notice how I haven’t written one word about Lady Gaga’s music. I have nothing to say about it. It appeals to me in no way whatsoever. Plus, during one of the worst periods of my life, she was carried by musclemen in what even my casual friends could see was a giant rip-off of Mike the Pod, complete with seam, for an awards show or some such. I know, it was a coincidence. That didn’t keep me from having a fucking meltdown. Believe me, schizophrenia makes full exceptions for things like that.
One of my favorite musicians in the history of the world is Wendy Carlos, for her soundtrack to TRON, which stands as a paragon of film music to this day. I’ve listened to her every week, for decades. I often think about writing an article about female film scorers, with Wendy as a significant part. Then, I remember…
…she used to be Walter.
This sinks my original article idea, but technically, I like a transgendered artist. I don’t really want to point it out, not for fear of embarrassment, but because it’s my understanding that Carlos is not super chatty on the matter. I came to know her as “Wendy Carlos”, even though I was also aware of Walter Carlos albums, around the same time. I probably assumed they were brother and sister and thought nothing more of it. They still are, kinda!
My dad attempted to breach the subject, carefully, when I was 11. I had gotten wind of Divine’s shit-eating act, in Pink Flamingos. Dad supported the urban legend that this is what killed Divine, and described him as a “300-pound transsexual”. All of this only whetted my appetite for John Waters movies, none of which were disappointing. (Here’s your barometer: the more Divine, the better.)
Because of my frequent visits to Rocky Horror Picture Show as a New Jersey teen, I associated “transsexual” with Tim Curry’s Frank N. Furter. I don’t think this is an unfair connection. Furter is pretty cool, even though he’s a hysterical murderer from outer space. I remember watching him and thinking, “man, life would be so much easier if I was gay.” Seriously, RHPS is the litmus test. If you see it in its entirety in a packed theater, and you don’t come out of the closet, you aren’t gay. If you notice Nell Campbell and Susan Sarandon at all, you are scientifically heterosexual. It’s fact.
Really; I hate musicals, and I adore RHPS. It literally has something for everyone. That’s why there’s a shiny beefcake fondling Susan Sarandon’s boobs, and Meat Loaf as a fat biker rolling around with/on Little Nell. That’s why people still listen to the soundtrack, both men and women, gays and straights, for 40 years running. No other musical has ever pulled that off.
That’s the sort of thing somebody like Lady Gaga should be striving to produce. Not a pale imitation, or a remake, but a production that meets the same emotional and cerebral needs for the listener. The stimulation that comes from witty lyrics sung by a well-tuned voice. A musical combo that features a broad range of timbre and depth, plus the chops that touring builds. ACTUAL TALENT ON DISPLAY, which is the reason for any of this nonsense in the first place. I don’t care how successful Lady Gaga is, or how much money she makes. No force in the universe will ever make me care. In 40 years, no one will remember her made-up name.
Which, if Queen’s “Radio Gaga” was called something else, would’ve followed suit. Human nature abhors a conceptual vacuum. Music feels insultingly safe right now because for generations, producers have been chasing the last success and hiring musicians for that purpose alone. Rappers try to top the last hit that made money. Frank Zappa wrote about the soul-sucking horror of performing in a lounge band for food; name one contemporary musician who struggles to create like that. Name one.
There ain’t none. That kind of artistic pioneer spirit has been cast to the far fringes. David Letterman used to have fringe people on his show; shoot, so did The Daily Show, in the early going. But in case you haven’t noticed, in the past few years, Hollywood formed their own bloc, the better to corrupt elections and destroy candidates. It extends to people like Lady Gaga. That’s why she gets to be in the news, as a sort of ersatz expert on queer matters, whenever the media wants to deal with such things. When they don’t, and this inevitably happens, all of the sudden no one’s listening anymore. Nobody realizes that everything came from the media, top to bottom, artist and critic.
That’s why you never hear any real talent when you walk into a store or mall. Real talent places all the importance on one person. Corporations don’t like that, because unlike them, people die. Who will draw Mickey Mouse, now that Walt Disney is dead? Who will sing this song the way we want to hear it, now that Laura Nyro is gone?
That’s why as far as fame is concerned, real talent has a snowball’s chance in hell.