The Future of the Left, Pitchfork, and Fair Fights

Well, first there was this, which I found a little disappointing and a lot unsurprising. But then there was this, which is everything Andy Falkous says it is in the pre-script (“lame, self-serving, and immature”) but is also spot-fucking-on and hilarious.

What we’re talking about today, if you have not been able to guess, is the best album of 2012 so far (and probably the whole year): The Plot Against Common Sense, by one of my favorite current bands, Future of the Left. There’s not much for me to say about the album itself; I was predisposed to love it and, true to form, I love it. I love it more every time I hear it. I love it on a level somewhat approaching my affection for London Calling and if you’ve read this blog at all over the last four years, you know I do not make that statement lightly (an odd aside: a classmate of mine at the School of Social Work once opined that it was “boring” to say that London Calling is your favorite album. At the time, I didn’t know what to say to that because London Calling is genuinely my favorite album. I kinda get where he was coming from – there are like five or six records that people always say are their favorite and that can get tedious. But if saying London Calling is my favorite album is boring, I’m boring. I never claimed to be otherwise).

So rather than repeating myself by counting the ways in which I love The Plot Against Common Sense or the Future of the Left in general, I thought I’d spend some time discussing Ian Cohen’s Pitchfork review, which I found kind of fascinating. I wholeheartedly disagree with Cohen about this album (and most albums) but, hard as this is to admit, I can muster a little empathy for the guy. Like Cohen, I vomit my opinion about music onto the internet, which can sometimes provoke a barrage of mean-spirited and often misspelled comments. It’s the price of doing business (a business for which Cohen is paid and I am not, a fact which somewhat mitigates my sympathy for that particular devil) and it’s fine, but it can get a little exhausting because it only rarely happens that several people provide you feedback because they also loved a record that you love. And by “only rarely,” I mean “never.”

But Cohen, apart from misunderstanding the meanings of several Future of the Left songs (point of needless pride: I had thought since first hearing it that “Polymers are Forever” was about oceanic pollution and, according to Mr. Falkous, I was generally correct in thinking so. Yay me), made a couple of statements in his review that I would have found funny if they weren’t so irritating. First, there is the assertion that Andy Falkous is engaging in “unfair fights” against various targets. Setting aside the fact that it is totally fair (and necessary) to take aim at Trustafarians (“Sorry Dad, I Was Late for the Riots”), I’m curious as to why Ian Cohen thinks Falkous should pick fair fights.

There is a brilliant instructor at Portland State University who, leading a workshop on anti-oppressive practice (that’s “AOP” to those of us in the all-powerful social work/industrial complex), pointed out that many young students, when they start to learn about ways to combat oppression and injustice, approach these issues with a hammer when they should be using tweezers. I wrote this down at the time because I recognize my own tendency to use a hammer when I should be more subtle, but I took the note like so: “When doing AOP, don’t use a hammer when you should use tweezers. When writing punk songs, by all means, use the fucking hammer!” Now, I’m not entirely sure Andy Falkous and his bandmates view themselves as a punk band, but it is my humble opinion that they embody that spirit better than pretty much every other band going right now (if you suggest to me, dear readers, that Blink-182 is a punk band, I will find you. And I will hurt you).

The point here is that Andy Falkous has no business picking fair fights, much less a duty. Hell, “Common People” isn’t fair and it was, according to the corporate-slick writers at Pitchfork, the second-best song of the 1990s (they were wrong about that, by the way: “Common People,” for my money, is far and away the best song of the 1990s). And, just like Future of the Left, I don’t want Pulp to be “fair.” I want them to use a hammer while I’m out there doing my job with the fucking tweezers! Jarvis Cocker, dog bless him, is still being wonderfully unfair and if he ever stops, I’ll probably stop listening to him. But it’s not like Future of the Left was all that fair prior to The Plot Against Common Sense. How fair is the suggestion that we “reimagine God as just a mental illness” (“The Hope That House Built,” from Travels with Myself and Another)? How fair is “Fuck the Countryside Alliance” from Curses? If you want “fair” songs, listen to John Mayer or Jack Johnson or any of those other hack white guys who can write you a thousand songs about how everything is going to be all right. But don’t bring your concept of fairness to my Future of the Left albums; I like them just the way they are.

The second thing Cohen did to piss me off was start a sentence with the following assertion: “It’s a shame Falkous is playing to the cheap seats on The Plot Against Common Sense.” Fuck you, Ian! Not everyone gets the VIP access at Coachella, you classist dickhole. Some of us can only afford the cheap seats (and, more often, many of us can’t even afford that so we listen to our favorite records at home or with friends, wondering what it would be like to have the same access to music that so-called indie luminaries like the good folks at Pitchfork enjoy) and your implication that music needs to be dumbed down for our (apparently) limited comprehension is equal parts smug and ignorant.

I read Cohen’s review before I heard The Plot Against Common Sense (there’s that ease-of-access thing again. I couldn’t quite snag an advanced copy from up here in my “cheap seat”) and my first thought was, “I will probably adore this album.” And here I am, adoring it.

A Sound that Turns the Mountains into Sand

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I did not mince words the last time I reviewed a Screaming Females record and I do not intend to mince them now. First off, Marissa Paternoster is the best guitar player playing guitar right now. Feel free to disagree with me, but do it on your own blog. Here at Bollocks! HQ (which, sadly, has been oft-neglected since I started grad school), we’re building statues of Marissa Paternoster and then using Screaming Females albums to blow them to bits. Because who has room for statues in their office?

But it’s not just Ms. Paternoster who makes the Screaming Females so fucking awesome. Drummer Jarrett Dougherty and bassist Michael Abbate make up a formidable (and underrated) rhythm section and the cumulative effect of the trio’s playing is, to borrow a phrase from “Doom 84,” “a sound that turns the mountains into sand.” As a band, they keep getting tighter (the intro to “Red Hand” is a sinister blast of dance/funk, like an awesome nightmare version of Franz Ferdinand), which goes a long way toward explaining why I’ve not been able to stop listening to their new album, Ugly, long enough to sit down and write about it.

Ugly was produced by Steve Albini, who shares my disdain of nostalgia (although my favorite quote about nostalgia comes not from Mr. Albini but from Don DeLillo, one of America’s best writers: “Nostalgia is a product of dissatisfaction and rage. It’s a settling of grievances between the present and the past. The more powerful the nostalgia, the closer you come to violence. War is the form nostalgia takes when men are hard-pressed to say something good about their country.” You should read White Noise) and also said one of the funniest things I’ve ever read about Lady Gaga. Not that Steve Albini is going to give a shit what I think about the new Screaming Females record or Steve Albini or nostalgia. It’s part of what I like about the guy.

But you must give some kind of a shit (or at least halfway decent fart? Perhaps a tinker’s damn?) about what I think about the new Screaming Females album or you wouldn’t be reading this. What I think is that Ugly is simultaneously the best Screaming Females album and one that would propel them to wider success if there was any goddamn justice in this world (I won’t say there is no justice because there occasionally is but I’m comfortable saying there’s not nearly enough justice in this country, especially if you’re a person of color).

From opener “It All Means Nothing” to closing ballad “It’s Nice,” the band tears through each song like a lion  tearing the flesh of the slowest wildebeest (I initially didn’t spell that word correctly & had to look it up. You learn something gnu every day) in the herd. Paternoster’s guitar gets a lot of press when people talk about the Screaming Females, but Ugly finds her at her finest vocally too, although not everyone is gonna find her voice as awesome as I do. She can be a little strident, and plenty snarly, but when she is, she reminds me a lot of Kathleen Hanna on “Double Dare Ya” or Poly Styrene on “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” or Andy Falkous on pretty much every Future of the Left album (I am excited as hell about their new album, The Plot Against Common Sense and I want you to be too. So pre-order it here, will ya? *Update: You can listen to the new Future of the Left record here. Believe me when I tell you that it is fucking great). Paternoster also croons a bit on Ugly (especially on “It’s Nice”) and “Leave It All Up to Me” features some fantastic harmonies. The strongest melody is probably on “Crow’s Nest,” which features the most joyfully infectious guitar riff I’ve heard since Built to Spill’s “Conventional Wisdom.”

Lyrically, Ugly gets into some dark territory (the sorta-title-track, “Something Ugly,” has a refrain of, “Put Mama on the phone/ I’m afraid to die alone,” for instance) – there’s torture (“Red Hand” and “Expire”) and loss of faith (Paternoster sings, “All my faith just keeps me ill” on “Tell Me No”),  but there are also some lines, particularly in “It All Means Nothing,” that strike me as addressing Paternoster’s feelings about what our society seems to want from its musical leading ladies. Probably the best line on the album comes within its first chorus: “I’m on a mission to smash the mirror/ get myself off the scale.” I hear in that, whether Paternoster intends it or not, an indictment of the way art is sucked out of music in the process of turning songs into marketable products. And when the song becomes a marketable product, the singer does too – but the options for what kind of products female singers are allowed to be are limited. Read any of the mountains of stories about Kelly Clarkson’s weight if you don’t believe me. Marissa Paternoster does not fit the mold of a woman who will sell a billion albums and wow the red carpet folks at the Grammys and I, for one, could not be happier about it.

But the bottom line here is this: loud rock music is something that is easy to do really badly and so the feat accomplished by the Screaming Females on Ugly (and their other albums) is not to be underestimated. In a time of Nickelbacks and My Chemical Romances, they have made a triumphant-yet-unassuming rock record that runs rings around its better-known competition.

Well, Here We Are. Again.

Hey, this is still a thing. I’m not reviewing the new Future of the Left single today–

No. Wait. I can totally review “Sheena is a T-Shirt Salesman” today. It’s fucking awesome. But really, I just put that picture up because I am looking forward to the new Future of the Left album, The Plot Against Common Sense, the way good Christian kids look forward to Christmas.

I gotta say, it’s good to be back here writing stuff for Bollocks!. I’ve tried to keep this blog going through my first year of grad school, but the desire to pass my classes and a general laziness have kept me from being very productive. Spring term is, so far, a little more manageable than the first two terms were, so I think I can get Bollocks! back to its former glory for the summer. We’ll see.

What’s been going on since my last actual post, way back in December? Well, a lot of folks have posted comments on things, which means people are still reading my little blarg. That is, as always, pretty humbling. Some of those comments have been a little on the shitty side, but this is the internet and I don’t have any illusions about the nature of interweb comments. I’ll let this suffice: by my recollection, I have been called a faggot only two times since I started this blog in 2008. One time, it was by a Kid Rock fan and the other time was by a George Thorogood fan who didn’t like what I had to say about “Bad to the Bone”. I approved these comments because I am in favor of free speech, even if it is grammatically terrible hate speech that was probably written by dudes who have had more than one go-round of their freshman and/or sophomore year of high school. I don’t believe that banning the language these idiots use is going to stop them from being bigoted idiots and the smug, not-quite-a-good-social-worker part of me likes highlighting the intellectual vacuousness of people who like George Thorogood enough to defend him on a blog that not-quite nobody reads. Being hated by folks who love Thorogood and Kid Rock pleases me almost as much as being hated by Ted Nugent would please me. Because fuck Ted Nugent.

But enough of the negative stuff. I realize that we’re rapidly approaching the middle of 2012 and I never really got around to telling you explicitly what my favorite albums were in 2011. I’m not sure I can even remember, apart from Sound Kapital by the Handsome Furs. What a great mix of pop and politics. “Serve the People” is the song from 2011 that I wish, more than any other, I had written. I listen to it maybe once a day, and Sound Kapital enjoys a spot in my listening rotation typically reserved for albums like London Calling or the new Screaming Females record.

Speaking of the new Screaming Females record: I know this post is not a proper review of music in any way, but those are coming soon. For the time being, here are two albums I probably won’t shut the fuck up about all year: Ugly by the aforementioned Screaming Females and Break It Yourself by Andrew Bird. Those two albums are pretty radically different, but they are both amazing in their own right. I’m also working on a long-gestating entry in The Worst Songs I Have Ever Heard and I’m thinking of reviving the Summer of Badass Women because I didn’t get to talk about nearly enough badass women last year. For instance, do you know who Hazel Dickens was? If not, you will soon. Because she was badass.

Coldplay Sucks: Thoughts On the Musical Year 2011

Well, it’s near enough to the end of the year that some folks who write about music are starting to crap out their annual lists of the best music of 2011. While Pitchfork has yet to weigh in (I hear they’re in the midst of a terrible decimal shortage), the good people at Rolling Stone have declared, presumably on behalf of your parents, that Adele’s 21 is the best album of 2011. Now, I have nothing against Adele; I have heard “Rolling in the Deep” roughly 14,000 times this year and I kinda get why people like her. But I can’t shake the feeling that her success is a sad omen that middle class, middle-aged white people have found someone whose music allows them to say they like “soulful” music without ever having to listen to a black person again. Is that fair? Of course not. But if you want fair, watch baseball. This is the internet, dammit.

And what’s the fucking deal with listing the top 50 albums in a given year anyway? Isn’t that just a cheap way of keeping yourself from making hard decisions about ranking the music to which you listen? I’m all for not ranking your music, by the way; that’s why we here at Bollocks! have a proud tradition of openly mocking Pitchfork’s pretentious decimal system. If you can’t tell how I feel about an album by reading what I wrote, maybe you need to log a few hours in night school. And so what if some other asshole thinks Wild Flag’s totally amazing debut is only the 9th best album of 2011? I can still think it’s forever tied for first with TV On the Radio’s Nine Types of Light and the Handsome Furs’ Sound Kapital, two albums that don’t show up nearly enough on the year-end lists that I’ve read (TV On the Radio was #17 on Rolling Stone’s list and the Handsome Furs were not included).

So far this year, I haven’t seen the Onion A.V. Club’s list of the best music. But then, they don’t think any albums were important this year. Maybe that’s true. I don’t know. I don’t think you can always spot an important album when it first comes out. My beloved London Calling was panned by critics in the U.K. when it was released and I regard it is a very important album indeed. Then again, I think we all think differently about what albums are important; to some of the kids I work with, emo “music” is vitally important. No joke – it helps some kids feel like maybe they shouldn’t cut on themselves or try to die before they’re twenty. Now, I happen to think emo is almost hilariously bad music, but I’m not going to deny its importance to some needy kids, as long as they don’t try to convince me it’ll change my life.

Here’s another realization I’ve had in the last twelve months: Coldplay sucks. I know many people out there like Coldplay and that’s fine. Stop reading this if you think it’ll be upsetting. No one here is going to try to “fix you.”

I’m not saying Coldplay is the worst band I’ve ever heard. I just think they suck. And here, in a roundabout way, is what that means: since moving back to Portland, I’ve discovered that my favorite local radio station, 94.7 FM, has basically become just another repetitive, dull station that plays the same twenty songs over and over (excluding the occasional weekend programming that emphasizes a slightly wider variety of artists). That discovery was easy to make because I drive around a lot for work and have been kind of terrible about bringing CDs with me lately. So it happened, over the course of a day, that I heard the new Coldplay single like seven times (what’s it called? Something about paradise. Who cares?). Listening to it, I had the thought that Chris Martin and company probably own some decent albums and they clearly have some idea of what awesome music might sound like. But they are absolutely incapable of actually making awesome music.  Even the melody for this stupid single is hackneyed as hell and Martin delivers it the way a gnat might deliver you a ton of bricks. It’s a clunky, forced affair and I can tune it out easily enough but lately, I have spent a good deal of time wondering how a band that bad at the act of playing music actually became famous. Say what you want about those emo bands some of my clients are into, but nothing I’ve heard from them is as monumentally stupid, lyrically speaking, as “Yellow.” Or “Fix You,” which is about as artful as a bottle of Nyquil.

I want to discuss more music that I liked from 2011 (because I liked a lot of music this year) and I will a little later. Zac, Justin, and I have started a promising email argument about the best music of the year and, while it will in no way end up as a countdown of the 50 best albums of the year, I think it will be pretty hilarious since, so far, it’s mostly been a fun excuse to call each other names and fully revel in the fact that, while a lot of stuff matters a lot, music criticism certainly doesn’t. So don’t sweat it if you like Coldplay or emo (or even “screamo”) – you can find plenty of people who agree with you and, as long as I’m around, at least one person who disagrees.

Rumors of Our Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated (Possibly by the Illuminati)

Why hello there. Did ya miss me? It’s okay to lie.

I haven’t been blogging as much the last couple months because I’ve been going to graduate school for social work, which means I’ve been basically learning how to help people. And, although it might pain us all to admit it, helping people is waaaaaay more important than writing about music. But now I’m on winter break and can start doing really unimportant things like playing Orcs Must Die! and listening to (and writing about) music with the same obsessive glee that spawned this here blarg to begin with.

We’ll get into some year-end madness fairly soon, although what that will look like is still being determined by our general level of ambition. I had the thought today, while Zac, Justin and I were arguing via email about the best albums of the year, that it might be fun to have a drunken podcast wherein we do in person what we did via email. Don’t get too excited – the idea of a Bollocks! podcast has been bandied about before with less-than-tangible results. I’m just saying it’s a thing that might be fun. Like turning on the news without hearing the words “Newt” and “Gingrich” so fucking much. That asshole said Palestinians are an “invented” people. Guess what? Americans are an invented people. As soon as you name your nation and call yourself a member of that nation, you’re part of an invented people. But I can’t expect Na-Ginga (credit for that nickname, I believe, goes to David Letterman) to understand that because he’s a fucking moron.

Speaking of fucking morons (yeah, that’s how I chose to segue back to music talk. You did miss me, didn’t you?), you may recall from last year’s epic, two-part Bollocks! Awards that I handed out an award for being the biggest asshole in music. Well, I don’t know if we’ll do the awards again this year (I think we might), so I thought I’d hand one award out now, just in case. I am completely not surprised at all to be handing the John Mayer Award for Being a Shamelessly Stupid Prat to Korn’s Jonathan Davis.

By now, you’ve probably heard that Davis thinks Barack Obama is “an Illuminati puppet,” which is a pretty good assertion to make if you’re in a band that hasn’t been relevant in twelve years (or good, um, ever) and you need to spark a minor controversy in order to move some units. It’s not even worth debating the (ahem) “facts” of Davis’s statement because to do so might release collateral retardation upon the general public. I’ll just leave it at this: Davis asserts that Obama has made America “the worst it’s ever been,” which is just the sort of thing you might expect to hear from a privileged, wealthy, white rock (ahem ahem) musician. Or, you know, Glenn Beck. I guess Mr. Korn is unaware of how African Americans have been treated throughout this country’s history, or that there was a Great Depression. Look: if you really think things in this country are the worst they’ve ever been and you’re just sitting around making shitty (ahem ahem ahem) dubstep-influenced albums, you should maybe get your priorities in order.

The fact that Davis wrote a song called “Illuminati” to make the assertion that Barack Obama is an Illuminati puppet means one of two things, both of which are pretty bad. One, it means Davis really believes in all that conspiracy bullshit about the Illuminati and that he thinks exposing Obama through (shitty) song is going to blow the lid off of said conspiracy. Or, more likely, Davis wants to sound all anti-establishment and is too fucking lazy to actually find some policy positions with which to disagree with our president. To be clear, I don’t think everyone should like Obama – honestly, I’ve got more important shit to do than worry about whether you voted for the guy I voted for. But Davis’s pseudo-political crap is so mind-bogglingly stupid that the best thing I can hope for is that he’s just a whore and not an idiot.

But Jonathan Davis isn’t done being stupid to promote Korn’s new The Path of Totality. In addition to claiming that Barack Obama is being controlled by… who the fuck are the Illuminati anyway?

Whatever. Who cares?

Anyway, in addition to claiming the dumbest shit you’ve ever heard about Barack Obama, Jonathan Davis has now decided that Korn invented dubstep. I don’t know much about dubstep, but I’m pretty sure Korn didn’t invent it. In fact, I’m pretty sure Korn never invented anything. All they ever did was mix together a bunch of different flavors of mostly rock music and they did that impressively badly. All of their songs sound, to me anyway, like a gorilla trying to rape one of its own turds. To say they invented any genre of music is like buying a box of cake mix, mixing it with feces, and claiming you invented cake.

So for being dumb on a positively Mayer-esque level, the Illuminati and I proud to present Korn’s Jonathan Davis with the freshly-invented John Mayer Award for Being a Shamelessly Stupid Prat.

It’s good to be back.

 

What Means W.A.R.?

I know everyone’s got their genitals out for the Kanye West/Jay-Z collaboration, Watch the Throne, but I haven’t even listened to it yet. I’m not saying I won’t like it, mind you – I’ve already found some surprisingly good hip-hop this year and I dug the hell out of Kanye’s last album . I just haven’t made time for Kanye and Mr. Beyoncé and I don’t know if I will for quite some time. I know they’ll get plenty of critical love (the most absurd thing about Pitchfork’s review? Writer Tom Breihan’s confession that he liked Ocean’s Twelve, a movie that crawled so far up its own ass that it couldn’t help but vomit up a shit-stinking, infuriatingly indulgent-yet-lazy-as-fuck ending that makes my eyes want to bleed just thinking about it) and move plenty of units and, even if I love Watch the Throne, I know Jay-Z and Kanye West couldn’t give less of a shit what I think about their album. And rightfully so.

I’m guessing Pharoahe Monch, being a fairly astute dude, also doesn’t give a rat’s ass what I think of his music so I’ll start my review of W.A.R. (which stands for We Are Renegades. I know. I know. But just bear with me, will ya?) with my own confession (in case you couldn’t tell already, there’s no chance that I’m about to admit to liking Ocean’s Twelve): I bought W.A.R. on the first day it was available in Amazon’s digital store because I fucking loved Pharoahe Monch’s 2007 album, Desire. Sorry, that’s not the confession. My confession is that I avoided listening to W.A.R. for months – months – because one song features a collaboration with Citizen Cope, a guy who manages to marry (in a predictably unsuccessful and cringe-inducing fashion) a strong desire to be Bob Dylan to an equally strong desire to be Chuck D. Before I’d heard even a single beat of Pharoahe Monch’s new album, it had inadvertently reminded me that Citizen Cope is allowed to make music for a living in an economy where some people have no job at all. So I shunned W.A.R. for a while, fearing the worst.

Which was, admittedly, a dumb thing to do.

Citizen Cope’s (thankfully non-rapping) cameo on W.A.R. is not great, but Cope avoids fucking up the entire album and that’s the nicest thing I’m ever going to write about him (unless he announces his retirement from music tomorrow). Goofy abbreviated title notwithstanding, W.A.R. is always good and often great, which is in accordance with my expectations for Pharoahe Monch, who I think might be one of the most underrated rappers working right now (by his own admission, on “Calculated Amalgamation,” Monch claims to have “raised the bar so high/ the bar’s afraid to look down”).

There’s a loose sort of concept behind W.A.R. that has something to do with some soldier in 2023 finding some hidden information in Afghanistan that reveals the nefarious plot of some ill-defined evil organization that presumably started the war (and maybe some other wars) in order to facilitate that most dreaded of all conspiracy tropes, the one-world government that just totally oppresses the shit out of everyone. You can completely ignore this concept while listening to W.A.R. and you’ll do just fine. In fact, Monch spends more of the album at war with mainstream hip-hop (both in sound and fashion – at one point during album highlight “Let My People Go,” he admonishes the hip-hop youth to pull their pants up) than anything else, which is just fine with me.

The thing I’ve loved most about Pharoahe Monch since the first time I heard him is his voice, both as a writer and the actual vocal tone of his rhymes. Dude’s voice sounds like a hot, buttered saxophone and, whether he’s delivering a bare-knuckled verbal beatdown to an inferior MC or preaching about the understandably uneasy relationship African-Americans still have with our police and/or government, his rhymes are compelling, intense, and sometimes just fucking hilarious. There are a couple great guest performances, most notably by Living Colour’s Vernon Reid, Jill Scott, and Ms. Jean Grae who is the second highest ranking member of my Make Another Fucking Album Already! Club (behind Santigold). Grae’s verse on “Assassins” is phenomenal and it’s just one of the ways in which W.A.R. overcomes its wonky concept and guest shot from Citizen Cope.

Should I have known better than to doubt Pharoahe Monch’s greatness, even given the presence of the aforementioned dopey Cope? Probably. But, assuming your reading comprehension is above about a first grade level, you’ve probably gleaned by now that W.A.R. is far from perfect, even if CC is the album’s most glaring weak spot. The concept, though easily ignored, isn’t even half baked and if there’s one thing I like more than an easy to ignore, half-assed concept, it’s the lack of such bullshit in the first place. The actual songs on W.A.R. are just fine on their own, especially for people who dug Desire as much as I did. But without its wisp of a concept, W.A.R. would simply be a collection of funk, soul, and gospel-tinged, wonderfully old-school rap tunes from a guy whose skills easily eclipse those of his better-known peers. And I think that would certainly be enough.

The Worst Songs I Have Ever Heard #13: “My Best Friend’s Brother”

Yesterday, when I was listening to Shabazz Palaces’ rather remarkable new album on Spotify, my enjoyment of Ishamel Butler’s spaced out hip-hop was interrupted by a commercial for a song by someone with the unlikely name of Victoria Justice. That song was called “My Best Friend’s Brother” and I alluded to it in my review of Black Up knowing full well that it was going to end up here eventually. Because without a doubt, “My Best Friend’s Brother” is one of the worst songs I have ever heard. I don’t know who Victoria Justice is, but I do know that she needs to be stopped.

And yes, I’m well aware that this music isn’t being made for people like me (that is, people who have any kind of discerning taste whatsoever), but Spotify clearly isn’t aware of that fact because they fucking advertised this piece of shit right into my earholes when I was trying to listen to some groovy, laid back hip-hop. So if this makes your tween-ager weep, blame Spotify. And then stop letting your fucking kids read Bollocks!.

“My Best Friend’s Brother” starts off with the kind of produced-until-lifeless synth and guitar riffs (over programmed drums, no less) that have backed every teenage pop track since Britney first demanded that you hit her, baby, one more time. It’s a formula that has been vile since its inception but it’s hardly the most stupefying thing about this particular song.

The thing I find the most baffling about “My Best Friend’s Brother” is its central premise. I just don’t see what’s so taboo about having the hots for your best friend’s sibling. If Ms. Justice was jonesing for her best friend’s boyfriend (or girlfriend maybe), I could see a conflict. But it’s not like Justice’s best friend is fucking her own brother, so what’s the problem? Is the brother in question a notorious brute who likes to beat the shit out of women (the song says he’s a “punk rock drummer” but I’m guessing Victoria Justice and I disagree vehemently about who is and who is not a punk rock drummer)? The song never bothers to say why exactly Justice’s best friend would object to the relationship, which makes Justice’s love seem about as forbidden as brushing your teeth.

And of course, the video has a stupid fucking dance that goes along with the chorus and said dance actually features a part where Justice motions for the hearer of her dirty little secret to keep mum about it in front of her best friend! So if you watch the video, you will see Victoria Justice attempting to be coy, in a completely Disney-fied way, about something that really doesn’t need to be a secret to begin with and then punching a truck-sized hole (with a dance!) in her own secret plot.

I get that a lot of this teenage Disney shit (I know, because the internet just told me, that “My Best Friend’s Brother” is from something called Victorious, which is a Nickelodeon show, but you get what I mean here) is fundamentally retarded but before you suggest that it shouldn’t matter to me as a functional, devilishly handsome adult with diverse interests and tastes, let me tell you why it should matter to all of us. The underlying message of the success of your Miley Cyruses (who is herself no stranger to our Worst Songs feature), Hillary Duffs, and Victoria Justices is that our kids are fucking stupid. At this juncture, it’s pointless to debate whether they were fucking stupid from the outset or if it is in fact a culture that allows not only Miley Cyrus but her bemulleted scumbag of a father to be (ahem) successful (ahem ahem) musicians that has made them (and perhaps all of us) fucking stupid. Many of us (well, many of you, parents) accept as an immutable fact the idea that our kids will like low-quality dreck when it comes to music (and movies and television) and that it’s just dandy to allow them to consume this shit so long as they keep their mouths shut and bring home a fridge-worthy homework assignment once in a while. But let me ask you this: would you let your kid consume cheeseburgers or Chocodiles with the same degree of passivity? I mean, clearly some of you would because we have an obesity epidemic in this country. But surely most of you (I’d like to think only good parents read Bollocks!. I happen to know a few awesome ones who do) would not allow your kid to consume terrible food the same way they consume culture that is absolutely designed to keep them tugging your pant leg for newest cutesy bullshit to be burned to disc. So I have to ask: why don’t we care about our kids’ cultural consumption as much as we do about their caloric consumption?

It seems to me that we’re only fighting half the battle if we’re working so hard to get our kids to exercise and eat right and then allowing them to poison their brains with shit like “My Best Friend’s Brother.” What good is a healthy body if it houses a mind turned to sludge by auto-tuned, assembly-line music that’s created to get you to tune into (and buy the shitty trademarked merchandise of) vapid, thoughtless television shows? And if you think your kid is somehow incapable of “getting” better music than can be found on Victorious or Hanna fucking Montana, then you’re implying that you agree with Disney and Nickelodeon and Mattel and most major record labels that your kid is fucking stupid. But hey; maybe your kid is fucking stupid. I don’t know. But it seems like exposing them to stuff like “My Best Friend’s Brother” is only gonna make it worse.

And yes, of course, this is ‘Merica and we have a constitutional right to be completely fucking stupid but if you find yourself using that defense for our most inexcusable cultural excesses, I don’t know that you’ve got anything worth defending. We’ve spent the last two hundred years finding better, faster ways to become physically, emotionally, and intellectually unhealthy and it hasn’t exactly borne us any useful fruit. For those of you who want a better future for your kids, why not start by making sure that your kids are just as culturally fit as they are physically fit? Why not create higher demand for intelligent, artful children’s culture (it exists, you know. Read a Shel Silverstein book) instead of relying on cable networks to pump our kids full of brain-dead crap like “My Best Friend’s Brother”? We can do this, America. We’re like the 23rd or 24th best country in the world and we can do anything if we put our minds to it!