2006 in Music: Only Cream And Bastids Rise To The Top.
I'll confess this right now and get it out of the way: I have a weakness for cheesey music magazines - especially the "Year End" issues of said cheesey music magazines. It's not even because these mags write so much about bands I hold dear, because usually they don't. It's just that I can't look away from the train wrecks that magazines like Spin, Rolling Stone and Blender love to report on ad nauseum. What better way to pass a 4 hour plane ride than to read about how the Yeah Yeah Yeahs all hate each other now or that Jenny Lewis really doesn't want to be reminded again and again and again about how she played Shelley Long's daughter in Troop Beverly Hills (yeah, yeah, I didn't link the musicians or mags but come on, everyone knows who they are and Shelley Long's oeuvre really needs a boost). But after the giddy thrill of reading the music industry's equivalent of People or In Touch slowly wears off I find myself becoming more and more depressed with the kind of bands that get coverage in the mainstream music press.
The other day I was perusing the guilty pleasure, Year End issue of Spin to see yet another blurb about eye makeup and hair product abusers, Panic! At The Disco (thank heaven for small favors they were not being lauded in the top 40 albums of the year list). I had encountered the deluge of hype around this band in countless mags, blogs and on wheat-pasted posters screaming at me from the plywood structures surrounding various construction zones up and down Market Street but had managed to avoid hearing a note of their music thus far. After seeing press tidbit #2396 I decided to go listen to them and find out what the deal was all about. I didn't expect to like them but I figured with all the reports of crazy outfits, A Clockwork Orange-esque makeup, dancing girls and other circus-y accoutrement, I expected the tunes to at least irritate me with their attempts to shock and entertain. But oh, how wrong I was. I clicked on over to their Myspace page only to have my ears - "assaulted" isn't the right word because they didn't even have that much punch - irked by what sounded like some triple-watered down Fallout Boy emo-by-numbers with a dash of bargain basement pop punk (which is not saying much, considering how lackluster Fallout Boy is to begin with, in spite of their attempts to clever us all to death with mile long song titles). Shouldn't there be some accordion or glockenspiel or spooky Farfisa or even some fucking hand claps? Why bother to put out the effort to slather on enough makeup to cause a drag queen to weep at the excess and surround yourself with goth-sideshow hoo-ha when all you're playing is oh-so-slightly left-of-center bar rock? Is all the pomp and circumstance supposed to distract us from how crap your music is? I am asking this honestly: how is this shit so insanely popular? Whose dick is being sucked daily? Even possibly hourly?
I know I shouldn't be shocked. I mean, none of this is new. It's not as if boring, middle of the road and marginally talented bands/musicians/performers with an over-the-top image just started getting the world's attention after decades of solely focusing on the gifted and innovative or anything. But that doesn't mean it isn't still as infuriating as it always was. I live in San Francisco, a city teeming with fucking fantastic bands and musicians, very few of whom ever get recognition beyond local weeklies and Bay Area blogs. Why pay attention to Excuses For Skipping when you could be tossing your $15 at the next My Chemical Romance CD with 25 corresponding shirts available only at Hot Topic? Who cares about Hard Place when Gwen Stefani has another solo album full of random samples from Broadway musicals and horrifyingly dull talk-singing? Is the only solution to turn into the next "Music From Tonight's Episode of One Tree Hill Was Brought To You By _________" phenomenon of the minute or pray to be picked to be on the next season of The O.C. (and hi, by the way, I wouldn't encourage anyone to turn offers like that down, cuz at least you get some money for doing what you love)?
And yeah, it's just plain unfair and my little rant isn't doing anything to change the situation. I just wish I could put on a hot pink Ninja outfit (like I'd settle for basic black) and sneak into the bedrooms of thousands of teenagers and slip some better music into their collections while they sleep. Or maybe I can just hope that some kids, like me at 14, are reading the teeny-tiny blurbs in magazines like Spin that lead me them to discover a lesser-known but truly awesome band that may never grace the mag's cover but will change their lives forever. At the very least it could save them from ever buying another Panic! At The Disco CD and then I could rest a little easier every night that the world isn't completely falling into a vortex of total suck.