27 Jan 2012

The importance of being earnest (not)

The 'sell-out' is a peculiar modern construct. I use the term 'modern' loosely, but it's hard to sometimes remember that a sell-out is really just a formerly unsuccessful person who has recently done quite well for himself. And it's a term that's usually applied to individuals in the field of what's referred to as 'the arts'. A successful doctor is just a successful doctor. An indie rock band that works its way up to playing U2-sized arenas on the other hand has somehow sold out.

And it's always a particular type of person that cares for these classifications. I look around, and none of my schoolmates who used to discuss music with me for hours on end actually give a shit anymore. They're sensible enough to acknowledge that if something's visually/ aurally appealing, it's probably a good investment to make sure the artist makes a few bob out of it so he can make more cool shit again. Stuff they can pick up at one of Tesco's 8000 convenient locations, along with their groceries. Stuff the Mrs. won't mind on the stereo on the drive back home, stuff that won't wake up Junior, dozing contentedly in the back of their brand new SUV, paid for by that timely -and no doubt, well-deserved- promotion.

People like me on the other hand, we tend to get stuck. We tend to travel and temp and drift and meander when everybody else was working their assess off to be able to afford travel and meandering later. Till one day, we realize the meandering has become kind of a routine, just another 9-5 gig without the dental plan. Because nothing really is that temporary. Ultimately, everything you do becomes you. Do nothing, and well...you do the math. It's all quicksand.  It swallows you whole. Once you've had that realization, you start taking stock. Let's see: nothing there, nothing here, nothing anywhere else, and suddenly, we find that all we have left is an inflated sense of integrity, of keeping it real, of keeping real an 'it' that was entirely imagined and not at all real to begin with. The hallucinatory fug of a teenage mind and too many chemicals.

Still. There's always formerly-indie bands to thumb our noses at. It's our way of blaming school friends for moving on, for growing up. It's how we chastise our parents for letting us make our own decisions. When a 27 year old, beer-bellied, nicotine-stained, single man talks passionately and loudly about the sad demise of guitar music, you should know it's not the music he's mad  about. That's not chart music he's angry at, or Adam Sandler movies. He's just a poor general who's only just looked back and realized his men have all fallen by the wayside. The enemy is now a civilian, and all those battles he thought he'd won were as Pyrrhic as they come. The war, my friend, the war is lost. So do him a favour and just let him loathe himself in peace. Buy him a Big Mac, tuck some loose change in his pocket. Because someone's gotta pay for those sleeping pills.  

*Image (Jack Black as Barry in High Fidelity) courtesy: Andy Whitman 

               I fought the law - The Clash 


Mrs. One Day said...

Jason Newsted, formerly of Metallica, said something once about selling out that I thought was both genius and humorous. He said when people say that Metallica has sold out he says, "Yes, we sold out. Every seat in the house.", or something like that.

It would be more meaningful if Metallica hadn't, in fact, sold out. What I mean by that is that they changed their music in order to sell more albums. They made it softer, sweeter and quite frankly they made it shit.

I have no issue with bands trying to make more money and reach a larger audience as long as they stay true to themselves.

red dirt girl said...

in a strange way, i think the poem that i just posted echoes your thoughts here ... on the flip side of success and SUV's and end of the year bonuses.

square pegs will never fit into round holes no matter how hard we try to pummel them into shape.


icyhighs said...

Hi Mrs. One Day: Anything that references Metallica is ace in my book. Though I'm not quite sure they sold out per se -gotta remember they lost Mustaine in '83, then Cliff Burton later, all of which understandably changed their musical direction. Newsted -despite all his flaws- was key to And Justice For All which was a perfectly reasonable album. I prefer to think they mellowed out, grew older, tired of their own sound. At least up to the point of Re-load. Even S&M and the Garage double were perfectly good albums in their own right. St. Anger and Death Magnetic were just shit, but they hired a shit bassist. And Bob Rock is a bit of a parasite.

icyhighs said...

Hiyya Red, I just read it and it just went over my head despite your telling me what its about! Going to give it another go once this hangover goes away. Got into a fight last night(I asked for it, unfortunately) and I either bumped my head somewhere or this is the worst hangover in the history of hangovers.

Workingdan said...

Personally, I don't see a damn thing wrong with selling out. The cost of living these days is just downright insane! My wife and I both work full time and we still struggle to put food on the table.

Society has forced us all to fall victim to greed. I'm not a greedy person but Goddammit, I want to keep a roof over my head and food on the table. I'm trying like hell to find ways to bring in more money just to survive. If that means selling out, then so be it! I'd do anything to look out for my family.

And in reference to Mrs. One Day's comment...Metallica fucking rocks! That is until the new bassist came along. Reload was their final stop for being kick ass. And I don't think they ever sold out. Like you said, they were just getting old. Nothing wrong with a new sound so long as it still rocks. People just weren't accustomed to the new sound coming from Metallica and so they labeled them as sell-outs.

icyHighs said...

Well said, Dannyboy!