Baby Carriage Full of Beercans: For Those About To Rock, I Salute You, But...

Baby Carriage Full of Beercans

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Location: New York, New York, United States

There's nothing sadder than an aging hipster. That's why I've been so uncool all these years.

Monday, March 22

For Those About To Rock, I Salute You, But...

To keep this as short as possible (and therefore less boring), I'll cut to the chase: I have 700 "albums" on CD, vinyl and cassette. Way more than half of these are rock and fall into the usual subgenres like classic, indie, punk, metal, etc. You get the picture: very anglophile. For the most part, I'd say all of it is "weird" or at least "quirky," if not "offensive." Something a small-framed, artsy white boy can get into.

Throughout my 20's, I'd go through these phases where I'd think I was just plain bored of music. It was hard to find anything weirder than I already had, hard to find anything more rocking, it was just plain hard to find anything interesting anymore and rock music seemed more and more like the same old thing over and over again with a new spin and less heart. Or, maybe I was just getting old.

When Twee Pop came out, I was all over it like a fly on shit. I got over it. I didn't have the "issues" other people had with bands like Andrew WK, White Stripes, The Strokes, The Vines (and now Jet), but the thrill just didn't last for me long, either. Not because the bands are "sucky copycats," like music snobs might say, but just because I'd heard something similar before and I was already tired of it before the new spin was put on it. So, by that measuring stick, even the originators would have to be "sucky." But, they're not. Sometimes, it's just time to broaden your horizons and try something new.

About 5 years ago, I bought this Mozart fortepiano CD on a whim for $4. I had heard about the "Mozart Effect" and thought it might be good background music while I worked. Not long after this purchase, I had spent a couple hundred more on classical music, snatching up as many different composers as I could. I soon learned that it wasn't always wise to research music on the internet, since the written word does not do classical music justice unless you are actually already familiar with classical music, which I wasn't. I bought some Mahler and Rachmaninov that were disappointing (especially since they were 2 choices where I actually opted to shell out more than $18), but the great thing is that I'm not bored of them yet. If anything, they've grown on me rather than growing tiresome like so many other rock purchases I've made.

My 2 favorite composers so far have turned out to be kind of a surprise to me-- Bach and Mozart. This was a surprise to me simply because I've always liked music that a lot of people describe as "weird" and here I am a fan of the 2 biggest names in classical music. I can honestly say, though, at least I'm not a big fan of Beethoven's 9 Symphonies (although I wish I could afford Gardener's sped-up version)-- or ANY symphonies, for that matter-- and, also too and furthermore, I happen to really dislike at least half of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" (but I think that might be just because I hear it on TV during the holidays). And, yes, I'll admit: my other favorites would have to be Vivaldi, Schubert, Chopin and Tchaikovsky. Predictable? I don't know. There's too much out there to know what the hell to buy!

Although those mentioned above are my "favorite composers" (whatever that means), I would have to say that my favorite disc for thorough and active listening is Messian's "Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps (Quartet for the End of Time)". I swear I have heard this weirdly beautiful music in movies before (and I am suspecting Ingmar Bergman at the top of the list). This music was created in prison using whatever instruments were available: violin, cello, clarinette and piano. This odd mix, combined with Messian's "bird song" teeters like a bird on a wire between creepy and innocent. It has the unnerving feeling of both cinema and cartoons: serious and playful, like watching a curious kitty tangle with dangerous Christmas lights.

But, I have been focusing on Bach the most lately. I love the cello suites, the organ, piano... hell, I even like it when he has fat ladies singing in a foreign language!

There's lots of sound to enjoy over and over with nothing to groove to. Thank god for nothing to groove to.

Now, here's where it gets weird. Pay attention. Don't leave me as soon as you get disgusted! Imagine my surprise... when I found.... an article online.... discussing the simple fact that Phish are big fans of Bach and their music is based off the idea of a FUGUE! It makes so much sense if you know what a fugue is! I never noticed it before, but there it is! These 4 music geeks met at Goddard and basically created a style of spontaneous "rock" music, for lack of a better term, that has it's foundations in Bach and the fugue (and just about every other style of music they could squeeze in there!).

How did I find this article? Quite simply, all of a sudden, out of the blue, I really started to like the few Phish albums that I had dared to purchase over the years (about 3 in 10 years). I got more and more interested in Phish and, in the last 3 years, I have bought up ALL of their studio albums -- about 10 in 3 years! (This was around the same time I was getting into classical music and realizing that I really love Bach!)

I just discovered this Phish article TODAY and was pleasantly amused and surprised! For the last few months, especially, I had been thinking that it's rather odd to have to describe my musical tastes as being "mostly into classical and Phish," but it turns out I'm right on! I really thought the two styles of music were a big, ridiculous clash (and maybe they are), but I also just discovered that Trey (guitarist from Phish) is releasing his 4th or 5th solo album in April that is all classical music! ...Nice.

Ya know, it's reeeaaaally easy to put down Phish. Lord knows I did for years, even though I've been a casual listener of Phish for the last 12 years or so (I would say, "I like 'em, but I hate 'em," with a wink). Unless you're really familiar with Phish's material, something about them just seems geeky and lame. And maybe it is. I don't really care. It takes hours of patience to even get through an eighth of their material. But, any band that can change focus so drastically on every single album and still make a cohesive "style" out of real jazz/gospel/bebop/real blues/bluegrass/acid rock/real funk (the black kind)/acapella, etc. all wrapped around a Bach-inspired "fugue" style of intricate musicianship is okay in my book. Zappa's got nothing on these guys.

I just recently discovered the LIVE PHISH series and am saddened to think of how much money I will spend on this series. Twice a year, the band releases 3 full shows as a digitally-remastered 3 or 4 disc album. That's 6 live albums a year at $18 - $30 a piece. The sound is unbelievably flawless for a live recording straight to 2 channel DAT. And, to my surprise, all those stinky hippies were right in college: "Phish is meant to be listened to live, man!" The studio albums, as great as they ARE, are sort of like a "formal introduction" to the real deal... and that is weird, my friend. This band got HUGE on their unlicensed bootleg CASSETTE TAPES a full decade before they actually started releasing the material in a proper digitally remastered format! They are the first band to make a fortune off live concerts while simultaneously allowing the free trade of bootleg recording at each and every venue. Not only do they encourage live taping, they remaster soundboard DAT's for the "phans" and use the profits for charity... and they are STILL multi-millionaires several times over! This "stupid little band" from my hometown whereabouts who I thought would wash up and dry out long ago! I wish I had paid more attention in the beginning, because this grassroots campaign has proven to be truly astounding. This "family" network grew to gigantic proportions under the media's radar-- possibly the largest largely ignored movement in recent history?

This band must have sold their soul to the devil because I can not believe they can spontaneously do this stuff night after night, 3 - 4 hours a night, and make it so drastically different each time. It's not like they're fucking around, either. It's not like they "jam" in one key and they just happen to fall into something that gels for a few minutes. Not at all, that's the stuff other "jam bands" do. Not Phish. This shit sounds like they're cutting a brand new studio album that they've rehearsed for weeks. In other words: flawless! I mean, if this band sucks, then every other band on earth must be sub-suck by a few generations, because I haven't heard this quality musicianship ANYWHERE else in my 700 album collection (except for the Classical, of course).

It's hilarious to me, that after years of being casually amused by this "stupid hippy" band from my hometown area, I have finally come to see them for what they are: as Rolling Stone called them, "The Most Important Band of The 90's"... which is pretty funny, because I remember a time when Rolling Stone made fun of them, too (circa 1993, "A Picture of Nectar" album review).

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