Monday, April 18, 2011

The "Thing Thing"

Last year in Vancouver we played in a bar that had a chap working behind that bar and that chap had a tattooed scrotum. 

This didn't come out immediately of course. We had to get to know him first. After our show, as sometimes happens, we hung around and drank until the early hours of the morning. That was when the tattoo came up. It's probably in bad taste to post it here, but, what the hey, it's the sort of thing you just can't describe so:


Anyway, it turns out that the guy with the tattoo plays in a band and they are on Nickelback's label. 

On their first meeting with Chad from Nickelback he sat them down at a big conference table. They were talking music, Chad was leaning back in his chair and the conversation is flowing. Chad says all of a sudden, "You guys hungry? Who's hungry? Who feels like eating?"

"Oh..yeah, sure, why not," they say politely.

Chad more or less snaps his fingers and his assistant comes in. Chad hands him a one hundred dollar note and says, "Hey, go and get us...twenty cheeseburgers." That's right, twenty.

"Ah, we're vegetarians," says one of the band.

Chad pays no heed and continues talking music. In no time the assistant is back and Chad upends the bag and pours all the cheeseburgers on the table and instructs the band to just go for it. That's just the way Chad rolls. 


You see, Chad likes his fast food. Actually, it's sort of a badge of honour, because before he ever made it he used to work behind the counter in McDonalds. Now Chad has made it he can buy as much of that shit as he wants.

In fact, sometimes Chad is hanging out with friends having a good time he'll say
"Anyone hungry? Whose hungry? Who feels like eating?
Then he'll say "Who wants to do the Thing Thing?"

Him and his friends will get in Chad's car and drive down to McDonalds - the same McDonalds where he used to work before he hit the big time. Chad will waltz into that McDonalds and say, "Gimme The Thing Thing"

The "Thing Thing" is what Chad calls it when you order one of every single item on the McDonalds menu. Every single thing. A small coke, A medium coke, A large coke. A small fries, A medium fries, A large fries. Et cetera. The whole menu.

Yep. Chad orders the Thing Thing, pays for it all and then him and his friends eat it. 

Keep your overpriced watches, Maseratis and champagne. Keep your bullshit status symbols.

When it comes to celebrating your success, Chad from Nickelback is the king. The king with The Thing Thing. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Rebecca Black Is Better Than Your Band

The question of authenticity is a curly one. A lot of criticism leveled at any band or artist is that they're not authentic. That their motivations are suspect. That their intention is not to express themselves, but to sell records. 

Fair enough.

I demand the same from any musician I listen to. I want to know what I'm hearing is expression, not a sales pitch. Otherwise what's the point? 

I think it was Brian Eno who said that the last challenge a modern artist has is to convince the audience that his or her art is genuine. 

This is certainly true in music currently labelled "alternative".  When I watch this music I see an overwhelming amount of energy spent on appearing authentic. Guitar just messy enough to appear unplanned. Drums engineered painstakingly to sound like a lounge room recording while still having all the ballsy kick of a  Black Eyed Peas dance floor hit.

Don't get me wrong...I love these guys, they just look the part.

Much of this alternative music is just as sales-driven as any mainstream pop. The difference is pop doesn't try and disguise its motives. It earnestly strives to connect with as many people as possible. It doesn't hold itself up as high art. 

Both are constructed in the same way, framed in identical three and a half minute song structures. In other words, it's all just pop music. The difference is, one branch of pop is preoccupied with proving how totally not-pop it is. 

Which brings me to Rebecca Black and her viral hit "Friday."

Rebecca Black is a thirteen year old girl who like many other thirteen year olds dreams of being a pop star. Her song "Friday,"  is so transparent it may as well be about a thirteen year old girl who dreams of being a pop star, rather than ...partying, partying, fun, fun, fun, fun.  

"I'm a negative creep! I'm a negative creep! I'm a negative creep and I'm stoned!"

Millions of people around the world are sharing this tune (73 million (?!) at last count). They are sneering at it, ridiculing it and comparing it to the "authentic" artists they listen to. 

But when I watch "Friday" I see something that is so lacking in self-consciousness that it is refreshing. It's clumsy, it's pure, it's naive, and it's joyful. It's the kind of music people make when they don't know any better. It reminds me of making music when I was thirteen years old. In a word it's authentic. Not even the vanity label her parents paid to produce it could disguise the truth of it.

One thing is for sure: it's way more authentic than the work of a lot of musicians currently shitting on it.

Do I think it's clever or insightful or relevant to me? Fuck no. I never need to hear it again. But I'm not thirteen.  

And there is not a single shot of a laundromat in the whole clip.

"It's know...we're hot but we have to still do our own washing?"