Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Five Stages of an Indie Music Snob Accepting Pop-Culture Acceptance of His Music, OR, Why The O.C. is a Double Edged Sword

So this past weekend i was at a BBQ at Cranford, NJ's own John and Jessica Buonocore. A good time was had by all, but early in the party something struck me. As i was downing my first beer of the afternoon, i heard some music coming from inside. The chords sounded familiar, and by the end of the song i fully recognized it: "Popular Mechanics for Lovers" by Beulah.

Stage 1: Elation:

This is a great song! The tune is very catchy, the lyrics are top notch, and some good falsetto vocals get me every single time. How awesome is it that in a totally unexpected place i get to hear this great song.

Stage 2 : Confusion:

Now, while the Buonocores are very nice people who have good taste in friends (obviously), champagne, relish-burgers and houses, i had never known them to be big fans of recently disbanded, John Vanderslice befriending San Francisco-based indie rock. So i asked John, "Are you playing a Beulah CD?" To which he replied "No, its an OC Mix CD."

Stage 3 : Rage


Even worse is their inclusion on their latest "Mix" of a Sufjan Stevens song. Sufjan was totally my 'i know 100x more about music than you' card for the last 18 months or so. Not only do i own all of his records (btw, you can preorder the new one and get it almost a month before the street date - go to Sufjan.com and poke around the Asthmatic Kitty section), but i've seen the guy thrice, taken a photo with him, and i own a vinyl copy of one of his albums. This was my guy i turned everyone on to (when Ed Kelly, Eileen Nagle, Erin Averill, Dan D'Ippolito, and I all agree on an artist, you know he's great), threw on every mix i made, and generally talked up to everyone i met. Not only that, but the song they used on the O.C. is about Jesus. And it was used in a love scene. Talk about killing the mood...

Stage 4: Rationalization

Well, even though i don't like the idea of teeny boppers digging on my music, its great that someone like John could hear a Beulah or a Sufjan song and then go out and explore more. Who knows? Maybe he bought the OC Mix through Amazon, and since Beulah records at Tiny Telephone studios, it'll suggest to him that he should get a Spoon album, and through Spoon he finds other Merge artists like Destroyer, which leads him to go buy an old Bowie album, and now John is practically Lester Fucking Bangs.

Or maybe some teeny bop emo fuck who is all into Taking Back Sunday will hear Death Cab for Cutie and discover something is out there that doesn't involve whiny screams over distorted power chords. And that will lead him to the Postal Service, and obviously, to enlightenment.

Stage 5 : Acceptance

Even though i like to think that bands i like exist in the Brian/Internet/College Radio bubble, occasionally these bands break out. The reason i flip out when people start catching on to these bands is because there is something special about being 100 people in a room hearing someone playing a banjo. And its like finding a long lost brother when you see a car on the highway with a WFMU bumper sticker, or see a guy sporting a Sounds Familyre button on his messenger bag. These are little things that say "hey - you're in on the secret club too! Nanu nanu!"

Not only that, but bands when they get a certain taste of success, many times start compromising their music and losing what made them special in the first place until they become parodies of themselves (see all 2000s Weezer albums, the new Spoon album, even to a certain extent the last two Pixies albums, even though those are better than your mom). It is nice to a see a slow, steady progression of an artist, someone like Pavement, who's fans kept growing and growing steadily, and each album sold more than the one before it. But with Pavement, it was never "let's make a pop record and forgo the silly lyrics." They adapted and changed, but only to pursue their own muse (detractors of Terror Twilight will surely argue with me over this, but that album is incredible. Better songs does not equal selling out!). Also, Pavement disbanded quietly and set course on solo careers before becoming bad. Note to all bands out there: break up before you suck. Then you'll enter the realm of immortals like the Beatles, Pixies, Pavement, Nirvana, and The Clash (let's just ignore Cut the Crap, shall we?)

Luckily, the artist that spawned all this, Beulah, has already called it quits, so the O.C. won't be ruining their discography anytime soon. But if this new Sufjan album has O.C. written all over it, i'll be pissed. I don't see how it can though, with some song titles being 3 sentences long, the fact that there are lots of reed instruments, oddball percussion and banjo on the album, and the fact that it is 2/50ths of his ambitious "The Fifty States" project - can you really sell out when you are making an opus about Illinois?


At 5:44 PM, Blogger Eileen said...

Wow! I'm impressed! Not only was that a real rant but it was something I can actually relate to. I know this is hard to believe, but while I found many great artists during the days of Dawson's Creek's awesome music, much of the weird stuff I liked was played on there and I got all mad that other people would know MY stuff.

And I was thoroughly confused by Marissa being grumpy (and hungry) about Ryan (somebody give that girl a sandwich!) while Sufjan played in the background. There were various scenes that used that song, including the aforementioned love scene by Brian. But I have to agree, I'll be glad if someone finds out how great Sufjan is from The OC. Even if it some "teeny bopper emo fuck." Man I hate emo kids.

At 11:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you hate The OC, you'll love MTV's Laguna Beach: The Real OC. I watched a little bit of a marathon on Memorial Day and it made me feel so bad about myself, that I killed myself twice.

Matt P

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Erin said...

I agree that I was excited to read an actual rant-something I can argue with :)
I would think you'd be happy "good" music was spreading everywhere.
And I was a little suprised that you included me in that list about Sufjan stevens since I really have no opionon on him and never claimed to like him-in fact I would say in response to the one song I have heard, as I once stated to BVG passive aggresively, he's not all that and a bag of chips.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger BVS said...

Erin, you said once that you "really really like" the song "Romulus" that i put on your most recent mix, and then last week at the Beer BQ you said "i LOVE this song" when "All Good Naysayers, Speak Up! Or Forever Hold Your Peace!" came on my iPod, which i believe i put on a previous mix i made you. For you to LOVE a song, i thought that would mean that you enjoy the artist. Maybe that is just me.

Plus, i'm for spreading, not exploitation, of good music. There is a difference

At 10:53 AM, Blogger Erin said...

I dn't remember the first comment, but I'll agree to the second, damn you for remembering every little thing I say


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