Of Processed Cheese and Modern Rock:
Bitchy Spice Goes Postal on "American" Music (Moon Ska Records)
By: Bernadette Giacomazzo
Americans love homogenity. And, for the most part, none of us deny that. I mean, let's be honest -- this is the only country in the world where we can find McDonalds on every street corner. I find it interesting that the colonists broke away from England -- fought a war with them, damn it! -- because they wanted diversity, and now, 222 years later(which is pretty young, when you consider some civilizations are thousands upon thousands of years old), there's about as much breadth here as in a box of nails.
But for what it's worth, we're a consistent lot, us Yanks. Yes, we don't deny that we can't drink java unless it comes straight from the source -- Starbucks, that is -- and we keep up with this image of homogenity with our music...because American music hasn't been avant-garde ANYTHING since the 1960s, and even then most of the airwaves were polluted with some British band or another(the most influential bands in the world -- The Beatles and the Rolling Stones -- are both British, in case you've been listening to too much Third Eye Blind to know the difference).
Alright, sure, there are EXCEPTIONS -- everything from the Velvet Underground to the Doors back in the day, to Ani DiFranco and Soul Coughing today -- but for the most part, pop/modern rock/AM gold radio plays the same damn songs by the same damn artists fifteen times a day, three days a week, for five months at a time. Frankly, we're in an artistic funk. I can't even tell the difference between Matchbox 20 and the Wallflowers anymore.
Now, since I'm not bound by contract to any major label and/or magazine(freelancing RULES, kids!), I don't have to play dumb reporter like Spin's idiot-savant, Sean Landers. I don't have to profess my love to the artist whose A&R wo/man is helping me put Cabernet Sauvignon on the table every night at dinner.
So sit back, kids. Watch and learn. See how a REAL writer works.
Let's first get into this self-proclaimed "women in rock":
Oh please! Just look at what we have out there -- Merideth Brooks, the bappiest, boppiest bitch ever!, who recently got her just desserts at a Stones concert when she was pelted with bottles and cans; the Spice Girls, who, I'm convinced, are really Britian's way of getting back at us for giving them disco and New Kids on the Block(after they gave us the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, Blur, the Verve, Transvision Vamp, Jamiroquai, XTC, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Public Image Limited, David Bowie...); and of course, Gwen Stefani. My FUCKING hero. All those years of hiding the fact that I'm a woman -- though that became increasingly difficult as my brain increased exponentially -- all those years of feminism-this-and-feminism-that, to learn that I now have a choice -- a choice! Can you bloody STAND it?! A CHOICE! -- to be either a skank, a media whore, or "just a girl". Who better to look up to than Gwen FUCKING Stefani? Oh, yeah -- Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco -- they've got NOTHING on this bitch.
And what the hell is up with festival-this-and-festival-that? Okay, I admit the idea is nice -- a bunch of bands with a common interest banding together and sharing a common artistic interface -- but after a while, the capitalist scheme behind it can really, well, get on your balls, to be frank. The Tibetian Freedom Concert is perhaps the only "festival" left that has half an ounce of credibility. I have to give a shout out to my paisans The Beastie Boys for that one.
But Lollapalooza? Puh-lease! Even Perry Farrell doesn't want to be reminded of THAT one.
The Surge Festival(though I'm sincerely hoping that this is an anomaly exclusive to Pittsburgh, because I don't want to see my native New Yorkers suffering like dogs through this one)? Hey, kids, listen up -- if a local band does not have a record deal, even with the smallest of indie companies, THERE'S A REASON. And chances are, it's because, in a word, THEY SUCK. Or, it's because THEY HAVE SHITTY ATTITUDES -- which, if we're talking about Pittsburgh local bands, is most likely the case -- but if you don't believe me, check out the modern rock newspaper, free to the general public, put out every month or so. In it, the editor-in-chief thrashes the bands and the patrons alike because, after speaking with some uppity-up over at a big-name record company, he discovered that NO MAJOR LABEL will sign Pittsburgh bands because they have egos bigger than their bank accounts.
(I can attest for that personally -- there's one local band, whose name I won't mention here [only to say that if you replace the first letter of their name with the first letter of my name, you will get the name of a band signed on the Trauma/Interscope label], whom I saw at a local club not too long ago. I went, not because I wanted to see another local band [believe me, I didn't], but because I wanted to give this band a little exposure -- you know, submit a review to this magazine and to a few other mags I write for so that MAYBE this band could gain popularity on more than just a local level. But after the show, this band acted like they were HOT SHIT. You would think that they were, well, the band with a "B" instead of a "P". Being a Nu Yawka who doesn't put up with ANYONE's shit -- let alone the rantings of a band that really was COLD PISS -- I instead reviewed an album by a prominent electronica artist's uncle. Since then, I've heard NOTHING of this band -- and I DO read a lot -- so maybe there is, indeed, a Goddess. Anyway...)
And oh! The LILITH FAIR?! Okay, kudos to Sarah Maclachlan for this amazing idea. I've got to give credit where it's due. But if we lived in an ideal modern rock world, this wouldn't be necessary. Even so, the artists signed -- especially last year -- are about as diverse as a loaf of Wonder bread.
(And don't give me this "feminism" diatribe, okay? BELIEVE ME, I know feminist when I see it -- I studied well in the Gloria Steinem/Germaine Greer vein of thought -- and this, my dears, is NOT feminist...)
Sarah Maclachlan -- phenomenal. Natalie Merchant -- excellent. Sheryl Crow-- great. Fiona Apple -- very good. Tracy Chapman -- good. Lisa Loeb -- I'll live. But JEWEL? THE CARDIGANS? MERIDETH BROOKS? COME ON! Where's Missy Elliot(though, in fairness, she's being signed this year, along with another one of my favorites, Erykah Badu)? Where's Tori Amos? Where's Alanis Morrisette? Where's Cyndi Lauper(don't laugh -- her new album is amazing)? Where's Stevie Nicks? Where's Patti Smith? Where's Courtney Love? Where's ANI DIFRANCO, for fuck's sake? Where's the CUJONES of women in rock? I mean, "women rockers" ARE NOT all the "folkie-Deadhead-next-door" types! You know, WOMEN can ROCK(and RAP, too, let's not forget RAP) with the "boys"...and send them home with their tails between their legs! (On another note -- I personally like Ani's idea of a "festival" -- the Rolling Thunder Pussy Review -- now THAT'S something I'd blow 60 of my hard-earned dollars for!)
Bottom line: You have a Sheryl Crow, and that's great, but stick it in the copy machine and you get Lisa Loeb, then stick that copy into the copy machine and you get Jewel(after I kill that Stefani bitch, she's next, believe me...), and stick THAT copy into the machine...the resolution starts to go down after a while, you know? No matter how juicy the technology, the copies can never look(or, in this case, sound)as good as the original.
Finally, I don't think I need to get into the details of the homogenity of "modern rock radio". No, when one Third Eye Blind song sounds like two Matchbox 20(or, as a friend referred to them, Fourth Eye Blind)songs, which sound like three Wallflowers songs, which sound like four Verve Pipe songs...get Puff Daddy in here, somebody!...you start to wonder. It all sounds like one big loaf of processed cheese -- and even THAT goes down easy compared to Fourth Eye Blind's(uh, I mean Matchbox 20's) new single "Real World". Hoo, boy. The lousiest study in sociology that MTV could offer the world becomes Another Bad Creation. If only they could just GO AWAY! Radio killed the radio star, THAT's for sure!
Well, kids, I feel better now. And if I could offer one piece of advice -- buy an ARTIST's album, would ya? If you're just after the cheap thrill of what sounds good at the moment -- and it isn't much, believe me -- it's going to leave a bad taste in your mouth. Kinda like when you don't brush your teeth after 69ing with a one-night stand.
So consider "modern rock" -- the Matchbox 20's, the Third Eye Blind's, the Wallflowers', and the Gwen Stefani's of the world -- as just that: a one night stand. Get yourself some protection -- invest in REAL music.