Sunday, August 06, 2006

Five well-known bands I've just never been that into

1) The Who

When I first heard The Who, I hated their singer. What a waste of a good band, I thought. Three fine musicians and Roger Daltry, Mr. Screechy Rock And Roll Annoyance. Oh well, I told myself, one can’t enjoy everything in this life. After making a few desultory, failed attempts to tolerate his vocalizings, I resolved to ignore The Who. But, still, a perverse part of me felt that this was unjust. I felt that, as a music dork, I really should enjoy The Who. How could I possibly trumpet my rock snob status while, at the same time, secretly cringing every time another one of my kind put “Pinball Wizard” on the hi-fi? Obviously, I was just faking a love of music. If I loved music, it seemed natural that I would also have to love The Who.

And so I tried. I tried my hardest to enjoy The Who. I made myself stomach every one of Roger Daltry’s bloodcurdling screams and histrionic howls. I told myself that this was good for me. Eventually, that wretched voice would come to sound as holy as the bells of St. Peter’s and I’d never again have to worry whether my tastes were truly superior. I gave them chance after chance after chance and, after something like three million chances, Roger Daltry’s voice still sucked. So I gave up. And I’m happier for it.

2) Pink Floyd

It does not make me proud to say it, but I own several Pink Floyd albums. And by albums, I mean albums. On vinyl and everything. My second-hand copy of The Wall smells so much like skunky weed that I imagine the guy who owned it before me must have sorted several thousand acres on the gatefold. Trust me, the sleeve alone could give you a contact high. Even this, however, is not enough to make listening to that album a pleasant experience. Or any other Pink Floyd album, for that matter.

3) The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys, in their heyday, were perhaps America’s finest pop music group. They tested boundaries while maintaining a simple, accessible, joyous sound. They pulled off an impressive feat: they challenged their audience with genuine art that went down as easy as the sweetest ear candy. Brian Wilson is a genius. Pet Sounds is one of the best albums ever recorded.

But I don’t care. None of that makes me want to listen to them. They’re just not my thing. Sorry.

4) The Pixies

Many people with taste and discernment adore The Pixies. I can’t understand why. To me, The Pixies are okay in small doses, but really nothing to get excited over. Their big accomplishment, as far as I can tell, is in bridging the gap between the artsy-hardcore and pop-oriented college rock scenes. In essence, they make loud and noisy rock that you can sing along with. This takes talent, of course, and The Pixies had tons and tons of it, but the style they came up with leaves me cold. Because of this, listening to an entire Pixies album is something I’ve never been able to accomplish. The songs all start to sound the same, the cryptic lyrics begin to feel meaningless, and the incessant buzzing of their guitars becomes unpleasant to endure. They have their moments—“Monkey’s Gone To Heaven”, from Doolittle, for example—but these just make their usual post-punk monotony seem even more frustrating. For a few seconds at least, I can understand how great this band must be to the people who “get” them, and it irritates me that I’m not in that elect circle. That feeling passes quickly, though, and then I’m just bored again.

5) The Grateful Dead

Actually, saying that I’ve “never been that into” the Grateful Dead is a vast understatement. It is perhaps more accurate to say that I “absolutely loathe” the Grateful Dead. Because I do. I cannot mince words here: the Grateful Dead fill my heart with such contempt and unhappiness that even the shortest snipped of one of their least-offensive songs can send me spiraling into a vortex of disgust and rage. I exaggerate, of course, but only a little.

I’m not sure exactly what it is about the Grateful Dead that set me off so much. Perhaps it is their love of “jamming”. In this, I may well be a hypocrite. After all, I consider improvisation just fine and dandy when Miles Davis or Horace Silver or Wayne Shorter do it, but when Jerry Garcia and crew get into the zone and start making that unpleasant plinking noise of theirs, I want to tear out my eardrums and squash them. I can feel joy in the way the jazz greats stretched ideas out, I can detect a genuine attempt to communicate their love of the music with the audience. When the Grateful Dead does it, however, all I hear is self-indulgence and stoned languor.

There must be a Grateful Dead gene that allows people to like this stuff. Because it seems like there’s a small, select group for whom their music makes sense. Those folks like it a whole lot (many of them so much so that they’re willing to buy the same songs in slightly-different 45-minute forms several dozen times over), while the rest of the universe will never figure it out.

But I will say this: they’re a lot more tolerable that the fucking Dave Matthews Band. Don’t even get me started on that shit.