Friday, September 30, 2005
On The Subjectivity of Shitty Music

My next-door neighbor has appalling taste in music.

Now, look, I'm not one to make blanket statements like that, especially where matters of taste are concerned. Personally, I think music nazis are a scourge on humanity -- and yeah, I say that having been the victim of several. One guy in particular used to play a taunting game in the car when listening to the radio. We'd be driving along, and some song that everybody on earth knows would come on, and he'd start in with the quizzing:

"Who is this? Do you know who did this song?"


"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure."

"You're sure you don't know?"

"I'm completely certain."

"Come on, everybody knows this song... do you know who it is?"

"No, fuck off."

"You really don't know whoooo played this?"

"If you don't stop, I'm dumping your ass right here on Ventura."

"Just think hard... whoooooooooooo is it?"

Which is about when I'd break off the turn-signal lever and jam it into his eyehole. No, not really -- that's when he'd start laughing at me and announce self-assuredly that it was (to grasp an example out of the air, not that this particular song was in any way involved in an especially traumatic round of taunting) "Who Are You" by... well, yes.

Repeat this little routine for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Roxy Music, Pete Seeger, Journey (yes, Journey), Blue Oyster Cult, etc. etc., ad fucking nauseam every goddamn day the entire time we were in Los Angeles, and you might begin to understand why I dislike the social pressure of popular music appreciation. It wasn't that I didn't know the songs, I just never bothered filling the "by" field in the database inside my head, and that's doubly true of just about anything from the 70s. Apart from the truly ubiquitous names (rhymes with Smeatles), my rock awareness pretty much begins in 1978 in New York and San Francisco. And even then it's patchy at best.

Wait... where the hell was I going with this? Oh, right, the neighbor.

Anyway, as I was saying, I'm not big on holding other people to my personal taste in music, although I happen to think my taste is reasonably good, if still mostly untutored. But this crap that's coming through my wall is just obnoxiously bad. For the last two mornings I have awoken to some godawful Windham Hill - Enya hybrid kind of thing, all floaty, sustained chords and flutes and ethereal vocals. One track this morning was uptempo rock played on a harp -- and I'm here to tell you, there's a damn good reason why harps are not normally associated with rock and roll.

The point is, there are some things I think we can generally agree are objectively bad: Michael Bolton, Billy Ray Cyrus, Celine Dion, Rod Stewart. (Maybe that last one is just me, but I hate him with a passion I can barely contain, and I think you should, too.) And I feel confident in saying that the stuff my neighbor has been playing in the mornings -- whatever the fuck it is -- unequivocally qualifies for the list. I don't know how this kid can bear to listen to it, especially first thing in the morning.

As for my own bad taste in music, I'm currently enthralled with this guy. I'm a little ashamed of that -- not because he's not good (I think he's great) but because I strongly suspect that it's the cultural displacement that I'm really responding to; I dig the unexpectedness of it. And yeah, he's singing about god and stuff, but not in a shitty, derivative "Christian rock" way, more in an early-U2 kind of way. (I don't know why, but genuinely good popular songs about god make me feel pleasurably self-conscious, a lot like I did when I was seven, playing at Sarah Wright's house, doing dirty things with her Barbies... I didn't really understand why it made me feel funny, but I knew I liked it; and I liked it even more for knowing I wasn't supposed to.) I don't even like reggae very much, but this guy rocks my face off.

Also -- just by way of bending this post back around on itself -- I'm also currently very enthusiastic about Four Tet and especially this song -- which is funny, y'see, because it makes prominent use a harp. Which I guess makes me something like a hypocrite.
10:28 PM ::
Amy :: permalink