MODERN BASEBALL AS A synecdoche FOR MY RELATIONSHIP TO EMO AS A GENRE IN THE YEAR 2017

Modern Baseball remind me of everything good about being seventeen, and I hate how much that makes me love them. This is the nostalgic music of my youth. Whatever wave of emo they are is my classic rock revival. Here are some guys my age making music inspired by what we were both listening to in middle school and high school.

I saw them last fall. They were the first opening act playing before The Front Bottoms and Brand New. I was sitting in the first row of the balcony at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium. The room was half full at best, and they were so small below me. I really dug their set. They didn’t play my favorite song of theirs, and I don’t remember anything smart or cute or funny they said, but I fell a little bit more in love, a fact I deeply resent.

I wouldn’t say they’re good. I just love them with my whole heart. They’re derivative, and their lyrics have some oddly phrased mazes, and their voices are the worst kind of emo boy whining. I’m not sure how to describe the guitar tone, but it’s kind of shrill, and the overall effect can be kind of discordant in a bad way. These are things that make me love them. These are things I didn’t know I was missing in my life until they came around.

I’ve been trying to write about what Modern Baseball mean to me for about a year now, and I still haven’t figured it out. But it’s time to put what I’ve come up with out in the universe, as a snapshot of my relationship, to be updated with further developments.

I have to start by explaining emo, and my relationship to it, which isn’t a simple proposition. I went through a phase where I considered emo deeply uncool. Something fun, I guess, fine pop music, but unessential, less meaningful than the other things I had discovered, absolutely lesser. I was a terrible snob, but I’m a lot better now. I can can be into all kinds of pretentious weird shit and hold onto the most formative music of my youth.

There’s this whole gang of “emo” bands that were incredibly popular when I was a teenager. I get confused about what wave they’re supposed to be, so let’s just call them Peak Emo, like Peak Oil. That was emo’s mainstream high, the most emo possible. I’m not calling it Peak Emo was the best (though that argument could be made), but because at this point there was maximum emo saturation in the world. There was this moment when Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Panic! at the Disco, and many others were a huge deal. There was a style: swoopy bangs, lots of eyeliner, shopping at Hot Topic — a sound: glossy punk pop with confessional lyrics and odd imagery — and a moment: my life, approximately age 13-18. These bands toured together, and were on the same labels, and all seemed connected. They shared an audience and an aesthetic. I was the perfect age to get caught up in this storm.

The first rock concert I went to was Panic! at the Disco. I was in seventh grade, and it was the Nothing Rhymes with Circus Tour, with all of the dancers, the queerbaiting almost kiss, and Ryan Ross’s infamous rose vest. It was beautiful.

A lot of Peak Emo bands still exist in some form, but the moment is over. Panic is just Brendon Urie doing his thing, making pop music and weird tentacle music videos. I respect that, but there isn’t the same cultural relevancy anymore. I more or less can’t listen to post-reunion Fall Out Boy. My Chemical Romance aren’t around as a band, but those guys are, making horror punk and comics for strange humans. Emo isn’t a thing that gets talked about much anymore. It was a trend that’s faded away. Music for teenage girls who grew up and aren’t supposed to need it anymore.

Someday, somebody, possibly me, is going to write a long re-evaluation of these bands as an important part of rock’n’roll music. Someday, we’re going to understand that Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, and From Under a Cork Tree, and probably a couple other albums are classics, that they should make our lists of essential listening. Somebody, somebody, is going to write something really embarrassing about how important those bans are to them. Possibly that’s what I’m doing right now. Those bands are so important to me. I don’t know what I can do to make you understand.

I’m not going to say that they saved my life. There are a lot of people who say that about MCR, and I love those people, and I love MCR, but that wasn’t my experience. They didn’t keep me alive, but they defined what my life was in some important ways. They continue to inform what my life is. They shaped me in profound ways that are hard to explain because I internalized this shit at such a young age. I don’t know who I’d be if I hadn’t listened to these bands when I did, and I am incredibly grateful for their influence.

God, that sounds so pathetic. That sounds so emo. Fuck.

Enough about that — it’s 2017, and I was lecturing about Modern Baseball.

(Part of proving that something was important is showing that it influenced what came next. Being influential is in itself an achievement, leaving aside the merit of what was influenced.)

Modern Baseball are not a good band. I love them with my entire heart. The more I consider it, the more certain I am that both of those things are true. Modern Baseball are definitely not good, but I care about them more than so many artists that are objectively much better. Modern Baseball mean so much to me.

I really can’t figure out how to explain this, which makes writing an essay about it kind of a terrible idea, but I do know that this is an important thought that I want to share with everyone. Modern Baseball matter. An incredible amount. Unreasonably so.

I’m listening to Modern Baseball’s latest album again, for maybe the fifty-seventh time, maybe the eighty-sixth, maybe the three thousand and twelfth. The first half dozen times I didn’t like it nearly as well as their old stuff, and even after it started to break through, I was still deeply skeptical about it’s overall quality. I’m still not sure. I just know it’s something I listen to a lot because I like the way listening to it makes me feel. It doesn’t make me feel good exactly, that’s definitely a simplification, maybe downright wrong. It doesn’t make me feel good, but it makes the rest of my room sound like the inside of my head, and that might be the best thing an album can do.

This isn’t a lyrical phenomena, not really. Like, we’ll get to the lyrics, I got to the lyrics eventually, but this phenomena is operating on other more accessible levels. This is what rock music is supposed to sound like to me in the year 2017.

It isn’t the most interesting thing, but that’s the point. They aren’t really trying anything new. This isn’t experimental, isn’t pushing any boundaries, isn’t making me question what rock music can or should be. At the same time it isn’t obnoxiously referential, isn’t trying to be retro or some shit. They’re just doing their thing, which is good and firm. They’re four young men with instruments making noise and singing about feelings. They are Modern Baseball, and it’s not great, except for how it’s perfect.

I just realized, that I should possibly explain some basic facts about Modern Baseball. They’re a band from Philadelphia, or at least they were. They’re on hiatus now, and who knows what that means. Their first album, Sports, is very uneven, but it’s only half an hour, and they were very young. It still has something, a spark of something worth pursuing. Their second album, You’re Gonna Miss It All, is a gem, and I will explain why in a bit. I didn’t like their third, and possibly final album Holy Ghost, but now I love it. I cannot tell you what has changed about me to make that happen, but it feels important.

They have two singer/songwriters, Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald. I cannot tell their voices apart unless I try really hard, or I’ve seen the music video, and even then I have a hard time keeping them straight. They both have reedy emo boy voices, and sing about similar things. Their bass player looks like Martin Starr’s character in Freaks and Geeks — I mean this as a compliment. Their drummer is older, and sometimes sings too, but in like, a screamo way, like how Pete Wentz sometimes sings on Fall Out Boy songs. If you want to learn actual things about the band, this video about the recording of their last album is very good.

I don’t actually know a whole lot about these dudes. I’ve considered following them on twitter, doing something to make them more like humans, but I sort of like the distance. It’s useful, considering I can only give their band backhanded compliments. So much of my enjoyment of their thing is the idea that these guys are my peers, that we’re about the same age, and responding to a similar sort of cultural experiences, and if that isn’t true, I don’t really want to find out.

I am not trying to tell you about Modern Baseball the humans. I am barely trying to tell you about Modern Baseball the band. I’m trying to tell you about Modern Baseball the experience. This is about me, and various phenomena that exist only in my head, not four dudes in Philly. They abbreviate their band to MoBo, which I think looks stupid, and am not doing, even though it would mean I would have to type less.

I should talk about the lyrics, but I don’t know where to start. My love for this band is not literary. There are no lines that have really stuck with me. I can sing along to a song that’s playing, but couldn’t parrot the words back without the melody as a guide. My favorite thing is how ordinary, dull, and specific things are.

Their strengths as lyricists is a sort of nostalgia for the recent past. Their lyrics are full of stories about things that happened, and how those days felt, and they include a lot of small observations that aren’t really exciting, which make their stories seem real, because if a writer was coming up with details to throw in they’d pick something more interesting. I love the quotidian beauty in their storytelling.

But as soon as I say it, that seems wrong — I love the quotidian beauty in their songwriting, but putting it like that is wrong, it makes it into something it isn’t, makes it into a literary device. Modern Baseball’s lyrics are at once effortless and incredibly self conscious, a combination that shouldn’t be possible, let alone work as well as it does. There’s a tremendous amount of anxiety here, which is relatable, in an unfortunate way. Like, oh, I don’t want to be analyzing myself so heavily, but at least I’m not alone in my misery, there’s some good rock songs about feeling this way. Or maybe not good rock songs, but greatly relatable rock songs, which may be more valuable.  

There are plenty of good rock bands, a lot of absolutely great rock bands, but none of them make me feel like this, I don’t feel as reflected in any of those other, maybe better bands. The idea of doing a track-by-track breakdown of You’re Gonna Miss It All sounds Really Extra, but also, like, so is everything that I’m doing, and it might be fruitful. This is the Modern Baseball album I fell for, it’s what drew me in, it’s what I’m most likely to put on if I find myself missing them. I don’t even know if it’s their best album — I’m pretty sure Holy Ghost is more mature sonically and lyrically, a stronger more cohesive album. But maybe I don’t want strong cohesive and mature from Modern Baseball. Maybe I just want You’re Gonna Miss It All, whatever “it all” is — maybe my life before I got semi-obsessed with this band?

I will now undertake a close reading. If you want to listen along it’s on all the streaming places, or bandcamp. I’m not going to make any effort to differentiate the songwriters. There are differences — Brendan has more wordplay, Jake has more storytelling. But they’re more similar than different, and I don’t know what would be gained by reading them as the work of two creators, when my goal is to articulate something about the overall affect of the band.

Somedays the first track, “Fine, Great,” is my favorite Modern Baseball song. It’s such a strong opening lyric, “I hate worrying about the future / Because all of my current problems are based around the past.” I feel that. “Based around the past,” is such an awkward phrasing, but I sort of adore it — it works. It’s a song about awkwardness, and worrying, and lying to yourself and other people. No wonder why I like it so much!

“Broken Cash Machine” gets stuck in my head, and I don’t like it. It has this simple, relentless, annoying guitar riff, that I can’t really describe right, but oh does it get on my nerves, which is good! It’s incessant! The big question in the chorus is, “hey why did I do that / why does everything collapse / even when it’s glued together.” Dudes. If I knew, I would let you know. Damn fine question.

Both these songs also do a thing where they repeat lyrics, but add the word “fuck” to a line they’ve already sung before, for added emphasis. “All my fucking problems are based around the past.” I think this is juvenile and pretty stupid, but also, I love it? A lot? It’s so in character of the whole situations described by the songs. I don’t think this is an intentional style thing, I don’t think they stepped back and were like, hey, if we swear for emphasis that will show how actually unsure of a place this lyric is coming from. I think they just felt like swearing for emphasis, because that’s fun. The authenticity just slays me. I feel it so strongly. I’m living for it.

“Rock Bottom” is a remarkably romantic song considering the title. Maybe it isn’t supposed to be romantic? It’s a perverse sort of millennial romanticism. This is romance for my generation, a declaration that, “There’s no good reason why I should leave your bed tomorrow / We can watch planet earth and brainstorm tattoos.” I know that doesn’t sound like much, but also, it’s perfect. This is The Modern Baseball Phenomena — it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s perfect. Yes, let’s ignore our responsibilities, let’s ignore our illnesses, let’s lie in bed and watch stoner television and imaging about adding art to our bodies that we can’t actually afford. I ache for it.

“Apartment” does this fabulous thing, where it starts slow, and sets a scene, and then offers a rush of words and social anxiety. Slowly, “I looked in your direction for excessive inspection,” and the the hurried panic, “And I could not muster the courage to say a single word.” And then the song rocks out. This is a prime example of the specific storytelling I like so much about their lyrics. I fully believe that this is based off a couple of nights that actually happened, it feels like such a lived in memory. It could all be made up, but why would someone make up a story this mundane? Mundane is a good thing. It makes me think of José Esteban Muñoz’s idea about quotidian utopia, but I’m not going to find a quote from a smart person book for my essay about Modern Baseball. It’s a song about small things. When he finally does gather his nerve, all he asks is, “I was wondering if, maybe, you wanted to hang out tonight / We could make dinner or something.” Not even get dinner, make dinner. Nothing fancy, but people have to eat, right? That sounds so nice — just a simple moment. It’s such a small thing to ask for, and yet the nervousness he has to get through to reach the point where he can ask is so much, which makes the smallness of the ask all the more beautiful.

I don’t have anything to say about “The Old Gospel Choir.” I don’t really understand the title. “Sharp as a tack, but in the sense that I’m not smart, just a prick,” is a solid gold line though. I really don’t have anything to say about, “Notes.” It’s a nice quieter moment in the middle of the album I guess.

“Charlie Black” has another great first line — “I’m pretty good at feeling sorry for myself.” And it’s got an almost killer chorus, with all the “woah-oh-oh”s. It’s a really solid song, a foot tapping song, a pogoing in your living room song. It’s really good, but never quite gets to the next level, because it’s still a Modern Baseball song. There’s something almost restrained in the very texture of the song, something that stops it from kicking into another gear and reaching it’s full potential. I did not intend for that description to be a metaphor for the millennial experience, but like. That wouldn’t be wrong.

I did not realize there was a song called “Timmy Bowers” on the album. It is a very short song — they’re all very short songs. Twelve tracks in twenty-nine minutes! Now that’s what I call punk!

“Going to Bed” is the longest song on the album, at three minutes and five seconds. It’s an oddly jaunty little tune about having to deal with terrible people. Very millennial. The lines, “I’ll admit I’m in the same boat / Caught between my adolescent safety net / And where the world wants me to be,” is a Big Feel. That’s millennial speak for a little bit too close for comfort. Fortunately the rest of the song is goofy enough to laugh it off and keep going.

“Your Graduation” is an honestly awesome story song, and one of the best tracks of the album. It’s a good wordy moody emo song with jam-packed verses and big choruses. There’s even a shouty bit! Totally epic. The graduation in question is, I believe, a high school graduation, presented here as something that still feels recent, just far enough away to produce nostalgia. Complicated nostalgia — like, hey, maybe things weren’t great back then, but it was familiar. The shouty part asks the listener to, “Remember all those countless nights / When I told you I love you / And to never forget it.” There’s something to hold onto, a memory to cling to. But then the very next line, the last line of the shouty part, is “Oh, just forget it.” It’s an abortive attempt at nostalgia, grasping towards it before giving up.

I was struggling to articulate exactly what it is that makes this song hit the way it does, and found myself rewatching the music video, hoping for inspiration. It isn’t a great video (they aren’t a great band!) but it captures something, the image of being unable to communicate to the person sitting next to you. He’s frozen, unable to respond, unable to walk away, unable to talk about his problems, stuck. But that’s almost alright, as a state of being, because there’s something else — the band. The petrified one-sided conversation is intercut with typical music video performance video, which is probably intended to be its own thing, but I don’t want to do that. Taken together there is the petrification, a hopeless nostalgia, that is ultimately abandoned because there is also the band. He lets the person he’s singing to walk away. It’s a frustrated song, but the ultimate decision is to move on, as much as that hurts. It’s about trying to grow, and how much that hurts sometimes.

Or maybe I stared at the lyrics too long, looking for something deeper, and that’s a lot of bullshit. But hey, literary analysis is just bullshitting with conviction. I listened to this song at least seven times in the process of writing the last two paragraphs, and I have very few regrets.

“Two Good Things” is just about perfect. All of the words sound good together. The first lines are, “Trying hard not to look like I’m trying that hard / Failing miserably at everything including that.” The last lines are, “Just walking in circles, replaying high school songs in my head / Because it’s better than lying awake” explains so much about what I love about Modern Baseball. Because I know that feeling, and it’s terrible, and inescapable, and not the worst thing really. It’s frustrating, but survivable. There gets to be a point where replaying high school songs don’t have the same power, they’ve been worn into oblivion. And they’ll gain their power back again, but you need to let them rest, and listen to something else for a while, something that offers the same comfort, but something that hasn’t been rattling around in your head for almost a decade now. Modern Baseball does that for me. In between the first and last lines are a lot of other lines that I like a lot too.

“Pothole” is the soft quiet end to the album. I like the way you can hear his hand moving up and down the neck of the guitar. It gets on my nerves, but I like it. It’s amatuerish and intimate, while the strings in the background is the band at their most polished, a contradiction living in the recording. It trails off, into nothing. The album is over. You’re Gonna Miss It All. Twelve tracks. Twenty-nine minutes.

That isn’t very long. I shouldn’t have written anything specific, I should have ordered you to pull it up and listen to it and come back to me in twenty-nine minutes with your own opinions. Except like, fuck your opinions, this is about my relationship to Modern Baseball as band/concept/way of life.

I don’t know what else there is to say. By now, you either get it, or you don’t. Hell knows I sure don’t understand. There’s this band that sounds like everything I need in my life, but they aren’t that good, and I don’t like telling other people how much I like them, because it makes me seem crazy, and like, I say a lot of shit that might make me seem crazy, but this seems more personal. This semi-shitty defunct “emo” band says so much about my life. Too much. Much too much, it’s overwhelming, I can’t stand it.

I love it. This contradiction is key to emo as a genre — the feeling of loving something so much that it hurts, loving things that cause you pain, holding onto things that hurt you for reasons you can’t really make sense of, and holding onto that confusion, and loving it too. To quote the American proto-emo poet Stephen Crane, “I like it / Because it is bitter / And because it is my heart.”

I don’t know where to go from here. Modern Baseball might never release another note of music. Would I be okay with that? I don’t know. Will I keep coming back to these albums years from now, will they make me think of the years between graduating college and starting grad school, the same way Panic!’s first album is an aural montage of everything I didn’t hate about seventh grade? Or will they fade out of rotation, songs showing up on shuffle only to get skipped past, unless I’m doing the dishes or driving, and can’t swipe onto the next track.

Venture into prophesy — ten years from now, they play a reunion show at First Ave, and I have to talk Gus into going with me. I’ll be thirty-five, the boys on the stage will be thirty-something, not boys, but grown men, still singing songs about high school romances, and I’ll be a grown woman singing along. Standing in the cold after the show, waiting for the train home, tired feet, but too much adrenaline to sit still. Thrilled, but exhausted and anxious to get back to whatever’s waiting for us at home, a babysitter or a cat who thinks we were gone too long, and should feed her dinner again. I can picture it.

Or maybe I forget all about them. Maybe I move on, and they move on, and we all forget about this thing that happened. It’s hard to say. Right now I’m still living through the uncertain years, and Modern Baseball is the perfect soundtrack for that.

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_______ future

There’s this thing I remember reading somewhere, probably in Please Kill Me, about how punk rock came out of nuclear anxiety. I can’t remember who was talking, maybe Richard Hell or Dee Dee Ramone, but it could have been anyone, and I can’t check because my copy is home in Chicago, and I’m home in Minneapolis. The story is that this dude remembers growing up, hiding under his desk in school, knowing that it wouldn’t actually make a difference, and that his teacher was full of shit, and couldn’t protect them at all. The generation that started punk rock was the first to grow up with that nuclear anxiety for as long as they can remember. (I’m not actually sure if that’s right, I think the post-war Beatles generation would have hid too, but this is the argument this dude was making, talking about his own life, and I’m not interesting in fact checking experiential knowledge.)

Apparently the idea of authority being useless in the face of the end of the world shaped the young psyches necessary to make punk rock. I find that compelling. I think about this all the time.

If punk rock comes from the idea that the world could end at any moment and there’s nothing the people can do about it, then what comes from forty years worth of generations of that?

I think of nuclear anxiety as something that belongs in the past. It went out of fashion after the Cold War, and is only just now being revived. What do the creative fruits of nuclear anxiety look like in 2017?

I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out. It’s the curse, to live in interesting times. I would like to feel more confident that world war three will not begin tomorrow, but I’ll take this because it’s all I have.

Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past by Simon Reynolds

Folks, I can’t ever remember being this pissed off at a book without knowing exactly what I’m mad about. Reynolds is doing a lot of different things here, and a lot of them are WRONG, and I don’t even know why he felt like this was an argument worth making.

Honestly, I’m not sure if he does either? He wrote the introduction before the body of the book, and it had a lot of questions he was going to poke at, and I don’t think he ever reached a satisfying conclusion. That doesn’t mean the project was a waste of time — he brought up a lot of interesting ideas throughout. But the whole argument is so incredibly flawed I want to chuck the book across the room, or maybe through the screen from my seventh floor window, but it’s a library book, so I’ll stop myself.

I really respect Reynolds as a writer. His book on post-punk is an exhaustive guide to a scattered genre. His book on rave is similarly in depth, to the point where I still haven’t finished it because I kept on finding three new songs I loved and then putting it down for a while. It’s sitting on the floor in my parents house in Minneapolis, and I’ll finish it at some point, I’m sure. I bring up these two books not just to explain why I started reading a book that upset me, but also because I think the movements covered in these books say a lot about Reynold’s perspective as a critic. He grew up listening to post-punk, which responded to punk’s incitement by going in about ten thousand different weird direction. And then he was into rave, which moved very fast, always onto the next thing, always moving. And now he thinks that there isn’t anything new.

That’s WRONG.

There are new things.

I realize this book came out in 2011, and some of my examples are later than that, but not all of them, and the point stands. There are lots of new things.

He doesn’t seem to finds newness in rap music, which is baffling. I guess Kanye West’s more expansive albums came out after this book, but he was still around. Kendrick wasn’t around then, but like. The possibility for him was.

One of my favorite corners of hip-hop is the corner where rap music mixes with indie rock. Reynolds would probably say this isn’t new, because it’s just blending two different genres, but I’d disagree. At their best like Why? or Buck 65 becomes more than the sum of influences, into something new and stunning. I heard “The Hollows” for the first time at an all ages show at a cafe in Hopkins when I was fourteen, and I’d never heard anything quite like it, and it still sounds fresh.

He mentions grime, but dismisses it for not being big enough? Which is a bad reason to dismiss something. Maybe it’s because I’m American, but how can you not think grime sounds new? It takes the basic idea of rap music but transports it into a different culture.

Newness for him seems to be all about sound, not about the people making it, which is the kind of thing a straight white man would say. Perfume Genius sounds fresh to my ears, but also the thoroughly queer perspective makes feels revolutionary. Against Me! are making close to the same kind of punk rock they were making ten years ago, and it wasn’t all that revolutionary then, but having Laura Jane Grace on stage shouting about her journey as a trans woman feels huge.

He doesn’t seem captured by the way music is becoming more global. M.I.A. doesn’t count because she samples things he recognizes? Which seems like bullshit. I don’t know what he’d make of Swet Shop boys, whose last album was one of the freshest things I heard in 2016.

Was there really nothing new like this in 2011? I doubt it.

My major critique of his post-punk book would be the omission of American hardcore, and he seems to still not get that it was a thing, or think that it was all subsumed into college rock that became mainstream after grunge, or mellowed into indie, or something. Or maybe he just doesn’t find it interesting, but the newest sounding rock music I’ve listened to lately has been like, Bomb! The Music Industry and Jeff Rosenstock’s solo stuff, which does expand punk’s palate in certain ways, and also has ideas about how the music business itself should change. That sort of revolutionary spirit stays new.

Reynolds doesn’t understand the scale of fragmentation of culture by the internet. He’s looking for a new mass movement. I’m not sure that’s possible. The internet is full of all these different corners where people are doing new weird little things. There might not be another huge new thing. And honestly that’s fine? I’m a punk, I’m prone to assuming that mass culture is mostly boring. More specifically, I’m an American punk, and punk was never really successfully here, not like it was in England. Sure, it kind of broke through with grunge, and after that Green Day and emo and stuff got big, but punk was not a pivotal split in American music the way he seems to understand it. Maybe it was in England, but not here.

(There is an argument to be made, about whether emo, by taking the bones of pop punk and shining them to a high gloss, is something new. I’d find this particularly intriguing with Panic! at the Disco, and how their first album drew in both dance music and burlesque, but Reynolds would probably disagree.)

This is the kind of book a man writes when he enters middle age and is disappointed by the world not catering to his expectations. Which yes, that can be a very disappointing sensation, all my ships are rare pair ships, and there are not nearly enough space adventures about lesbians. But most people wouldn’t write a four hundred page book complaining about it. (To be fair, maybe a quarter of it is whining, the rest of it a very interesting look at people looking at the past. I liked a lot of the book. Just not the central thesis.)

He just wants to hear something new. It’s all about him. I think that’s a tremendously dull way to think about music.

Everything is new to someone. Simon Reynolds is a music critic, who spends all his time listening to stuff, who has a professional responsibility to be familiar with the classics and keep up with the latest releases. He gets to dedicate a lot of time and money and energy into this. Most people, even people who like music a lot, are not that way. Have a bit of chill dude. Sorry that what people are putting out now are not exciting and future looking enough for you. That’s rough.

The whole book makes him come off as an old curmudgeon who’s disappointed by what young people are doing. He’s also an audiophile, which is a terrible thing to be. Yes, I agree, records sound great, but in giving up sound and presence for accessing all the music I could possibly want a moment’s notice because I have spotify on my phone is a great deal.

I’m trying to come up with a conclusion here, but I’m just so frustrated. This is not a good argument, and it doesn’t even seem like he’s completely convinced himself, and really, I feel bad for the dude. I wish he could enjoy things that aren’t super innovative and futuristic without getting all conflicted and having to write 400 page long books. Like, yeah, the Strokes sound a lot like the Velvet Underground, but they’re good, alright? I enjoy them. Enjoying things that are obviously in debt to the past is not the danger Reynolds seems to be making it into. Not a good argument. I’m just so tired.

the song “nausea” by jeff rosenstock instead of actually explaining myself

so I haven’t been blogging. idk. it was the election, and then I took the GRE, and then I was busy finishing grad school applications, and the election had still happened, and I didn’t have a lot of energy to tell you all my thoughts about books. it wasn’t just here, I gave up my two fancy pretending to be a real writer guest blog things. not that I was ever very good at those. I guess I missed it.

I think it’s good for me? not telling you about books necessarily, but having a space where I make myself put words out in the world. and telling you about books too. I’ve almost only ready theory or books with spaceships this year. a few exceptions, but mostly spaceships. lots of star wars novels. that’s something I wasn’t expecting.

I might go back and tell you about everything I’ve read and seen since I stopped blogging regularly. I might try to write more about music. I move to Chicago for school in a week and a half, and I start my master’s at the end of the month, so maybe I won’t have any time for anything. but writing here is good for me.

I have this theory about writing, that it’s good, because it’s an output, and it’s a processing device, and even if you’re writing about something totally different than the life stuff you need to be processing, even if you’re writing fan fiction about Wedge Antilles, you’re still doing the work of processing, of turning things into words, and it’s good for you. or at least it’s good for me? the act of writing makes me feel better, and it has very little to do with what it is I’m actually writing.

if I felt up to writing anything coherent, I’d try to explain my feelings about Bomb the Music Industry! which I have been listening to non-stop for days now. I went and saw Jeff Rosenstock play last week. it was the funnest thing, to go to a punk show in the suburbs with my best friend, who doesn’t really like punk shows, or suburbs, or that much noise. it was amazing. I still haven’t figured out what I’m trying to say. something something not carrying how it looks, making a fool of yourself, fugazi, yadda yadda, so hot on a summer nigh, nobody followed the rules on the wall about not crowd surfing.

the important thing is the act of writing, not the words. the important thing is the act of processing, not words. the important thing is the shouting, not the words. I don’t actually believe that, but sometimes it is a good thing to hold onto as a process philosophy, and sometimes the important things is the process, and not the words.

Rain the Color Blue With a Little Red In It


This was super fun. The Trylon showed it last month as part of the ongoing Sound Unseen series, which features films that involve music. This was a remake of Prince’s Purple Rain, set in Africa. It’s in Tamajeq, which does not have a word for purple, hence the title. It’s super great. The way it translated the story into a different setting was so spot on. It’s very much it’s own thing, and my friend who had never seen Purple Rain had a great time watching it, but I also had a really great time seeing how it followed the different beats of the original. The music was incredible. Mdou Moctar is in the Prince role, and he’s a great guitar player, and really good at looking cool on stage. I went in knowing nothing about this sort of music, or the scene the story is set in, but it does a great job explaining what the world is like, and why Moctar’s music is special.

Since Prince died, echoes of him have been all over Minneapolis as the Cities mourn one of our idols. It’s really incredible to see how far his influence has traveled, and what his story can mean to people so far away. It’s a super great movie, and I’d recommend it to fans of Prince, people who like good music, and people who like sweet movies about following your creative dreams.

important Queerness

Last night I saw Grant Hard play in Loring Park, and it was really amazing. At the start of the show he kept on interrupting the Current DJ who was introducing him, being a punk, mocking the sponsor. He told the crowd that the popcorn was free — it wasn’t. He had a conversation with someone up the hill about rent in some building in Saint Paul. He sounded really good.

When I got home I was still having a lot of feelings, so I decided to start on the biography of Hüsker Dü that I’d picked up awhile ago. I got about three paragraphs into the introduction before I had to put it down in a rage. In Hüsker Dü: the Story of the Noise Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock Andrew Earles very straightforwardly explains what he’s trying to do, which is to cement Hüsker Dü’s importance. I’m there for this argument, I agree. But then he writes, “The fact is Hart’s and Mould’s sexuality has absolutely nothing to do with why this band is important.”

Fuck that.

The fact that Bob Mound and Grant Hart were queer men in a punk band through the 80s is incredibly important. Their very presence in the macho hardcore scene is worth remarking on. While they weren’t loudly out during this time, they weren’t deeply closeted either, it wasn’t a secret. Throughout the 80s queer people became increasingly visible, but often as stereotypes. Hart and Mould are a reminder that queer people look all sorts of different ways and act all sorts of different ways. Some of them like disco, some of them create revolutionary punk bands.

Hüsker Dü were revolutionary. There is an argument to be made for their importance that looks at the music and nothing else. Adding the songwriters’ sexuality to the mix is just another layer to their importance and their legacy.

Earles argument seems to be that Hüsker Dü’s influence needs to be recognised (though he may be headed somewhere else, I only got three paragraphs in). He cares about their legacy, and the people they inspired. To say Hart and Mould’s sexuality doesn’t matter is disregarding a huge part of their legacy.

I love Hüsker Dü for their music. And I love that they’re from my cities. And I love that they’re queer.

It is incredibly important to me, and a lot of other queer people, to see queer singers in a punk rock band. If they were straight I wouldn’t love them as much. Sexuality isn’t a huge part of their music, but it’s a part of how their audience engages with them. Maybe not as much when they were an active band, but today their sexuality is an important part of their legacy, and to write it off is near sighted and near insensitive.

Hüsker Dü didn’t really make music about being queer, but they were. “Whatever” is embedded in the concept of Zen Arcade, but it feels like a song about being a queer kid talking to their parents. There’s a queer reading present in their music, which I am not interested in ignoring.

I understand the point Earles was trying to make. He was explaining that it wasn’t going to be full of juicy gossip or speculation of whether anyone slept together. He was explaining that he was going to stick to the music, not the interpersonal drama, which apparently sexuality is to him.

I don’t know, but I bet Earles is straight. Sexuality doesn’t seem important when yours is never remarked upon. Sexuality doesn’t seem important when you can assume all the singers in your favorite bands have the same orientation as you.

Grant Hart was in a revolutionary punk band, and has a fascinating solo career — his most recent release was a long concept album about Paradise Lost, which sounds like a terrible idea, but is actually fantastic. Last night he played some old Hüsker’s songs, and stuff from different eras of his solo career, and it was all great, and it would have been a fun night of music no matter much. But it meant more to me because Grant Hart is queer like me. His legacy isn’t just about punk rock, not just about the Minneapolis music scene, it’s about his queerness.

Watching Grant Hart play in Loring Park last night was an incredible experience, in part because Loring Park is a queer space. I was sitting on a hill, watching my idols play music, in the same park that hosts Pride. It meant a lot to me as a queer young person to sit on a hill listen to an older queer person play music. That there is a history to Loring Park, a legacy of queerness that Hart is a part of, and so am I. That is so incredibly important. More than importance, it makes me feel better about the world.

I’m going to read the rest of the book, eventually. I’ve heard good things about it, and I really do love the band, and want to learn more about them. There’s a fair chance I stop being mad at the author. But wow, that was not a good note to start on.

middle school jams

it’s getting close to two in the morning, and I’m listening to Stadium Arcadium, which is objectively a Bad album, but it does have some damn good songs. It’s far too long — anything that takes up two CDs is simply too long, even if it’s all good music that’s too much music at once. And this is not all good music! some of it is the opposite of good, and a fair chunk of it is mediocre. but like, “Dani California,” that’s a tune. it was on the radio a couple weeks ago, and we were watching music videos earlier tonight, and I remembered that it had a great one. that was one of the first music videos I ever remember watching. I was in middle school, and we were using laptops for something, and the school had youtube blocked, but not google video. I definitely didn’t get all of the references at the time, but it was still pretty entertaining. I want to make a playlist of all my middle school jams. this era of Red Hot Chili Peppers is the furthest outlier from what I’m into now, what I’m the least likely to admit to digging. I own my emo stage of Panic! and their ilk. I have no shame about Green Day being my punk rock gateway drug. Death Cab, the Killers, Franz Ferdinand were all signs of what was to come, things that fit in with my current listening if they come up on shuffle. I don’t know what to make of this Chili Peppers album. back then the Cities still had an alt rock station, which I listened to more than the Current. it played the singles off this album all the time. there was a summer where I swear to god every second song was either “crazy” or “steady as she goes.” it wasn’t a bad summer at all. Drive 1-0-5. they played some good stuff. and then, like, fucking Guster or whatever. stuff that I can’t call good, but does have a certain nostalgic appeal. it’s not shame I’m feeling, but just — I know better now, alright? I need you to trust me, I really do know better, I make better decisions than this. I mean, the evidence might contrary, what with the listening to Stadium Arcadium when I really should be sleeping. but I swear, most of the time I listen to much cooler shit in the middle of the night. this is just a throwback. a lot of the stuff from my life is stuff I’d never want to return to in a million years, I was kind of miserable back then. but this is a decent song. it made me happier when I was in like seventh grade? I don’t want to google the year. I bought the CD from the Borders on Snelling. it’s all just a throwback. I’m not going back there — that Borders hasn’t existed for four years now. this song can still make me happy now, if I let it.