Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Automotive Archaeology

Lately I've been sifting through old music. It's been a lot of fun and it wouldn't have come about if I hadn't decided to clean my car. During my half-assed effort--the ultimate result of which was a single small bag of trash and an allergic reaction to the dust--I happened upon a black rectangular object. Made to resemble leather and sealed with a zipper, it opened like a book to reveal these astonishing silver discs. They were all the same size and bore the same small hole in the middle. They had different designs printed on them. Some were even covered completely with colored paper. The sight of these discs--glittering relics of a bygone era--aroused some kind of primal ancestral memory, and I carried them hooting like an Australopithecus to my PC. I put them in the slot where DVDs go and music started playing.

Yes, these artifacts were Compact Discs containing musical content in digital format! Specifically, CDs I'd bought back in high school and the first year of college. They hadn't been in my car that whole time, but they'd been there since I took rooms at The Humboldt and they'd lain untouched for years before that. Just paging through them was a fun trip down memory lane. Some things you outgrow, like normal adults outgrow "Spongebob Squarepants." Some things you don't, like how Christina Ricci's body never did catch up to her head. My point is this: people change. In high school, you are not the person you end up being. You are a person of whom your future self would be deeply ashamed, if your future self didn't protectively scrub away the most embarrassing memories over time. For example, my father denies all but the most cursory knowledge of his own life before the age of 18. Anyway, here are my thoughts on what I found in that CD book.

Rammstein: Sehnsucht
Staring me in the face as I opened the book. What a way to start. First, this album's cover and liner art are brutal. I don't even want to post them because they're so unpleasant. You can look them up. Second, this album affected my life in subtle ways that continue to this day. It's German industrial metal with German lyrics, so it kindled an interest in the German language. At the same time, I was entering high school and had to pick a language. I had a friend who was taking German, and once you added the potential of further Rammstein exploration the right decision became clear. So I started taking German, which led to years of study both in high school and college. It also led to some of my fondest high school memories. Your life wasn't any better; shut up. Frau Comenetz, who experienced life much as I imagine hummingbirds do. The senior-year rendition of Wagner's entire 14-hour "Ring Cycle" in 22 minutes in front of hundreds of people--it's a long and ridiculous tale leading to one of my life's greatest triumphs. I'll spare you. Finally, my friend in German class (Adrian) is an awesome dude who keeps it real despite being an old fat married bastard.

It's not as though this particular Rammstein album made these things happen. But by any estimation it was a life-altering purchase. Also, it's a fucking amazing CD. Every single song is good--this turned out to be a recurring theme with Rammstein. Even if you don't like metal, you have to admit "Du Hast" was a kickin' tune. Well, that's not even close to their best song and Sehnsucht is not even close to their best album. I have gotten away from my point and begun slobbering; I will preserve what's left of my dignity and move on. But seriously, incredible band.

Marylin Manson: Mechanical Animals
I won't apologize. I still listen to this album; what of it? Marylin Manson is a reasonably talented entertainer who by some accident of birth happens to be an insufferable bastard. Whereas most stars go crazy in their youths and fly straight as adults (assuming they survive and don't blow ALL their cash), Manson took the Memento approach. As a youngster he was supremely focused and devoted to music. Then he got obscenely wealthy and began to believe that he was actually an important human being. This is usually a bad move; if you realize you are important, you are already a douchebag. Then cocaine, which by most accounts is one sam-heck of a drug, happened. You can fill in the rest, but it involved several marriages and engagements to a series of beautiful women who would rather be with a goddamned freak for his money than a reasonable guy. The story ends with a "greatest hits" album called Lest We Forget. Which isn't even a joke.

Mechanical Animals, things being as they are, is great. It represents his glam-rock phase, so he's trying to make music people might actually want to listen to. It's something of a departure. This album is cheesy in the same way that most entertainment directed at teenagers is cheesy. It's overwrought and juvenile. But how many people do you know who adore shows as fucking skull-imploding as "Smallville." Ugh. As for the CD, just about every track is good in one way or another, and Marylin Manson is like Lady Gaga: underneath all the ridiculous bullshit is a nugget of legitimate talent. We should appreciate it for what it is. Speaking of which, Lady Gaga has a prime set-up to follow Manson's life arc. She should be careful.

Rob Zombie: Hellbilly Deluxe
Rob Zombie is amazing. He's all about giving his fans what they want. What they want is a 45-year-old dude dressed as a murderous undead hobo--an unholy chimera of Charles Manson, a trainyard vagrant and a revenant Bret Michaels. Which is pretty cool, though I don't want to be in the same room as it. The Halloween theme of his image and music and album cover art (pictured at right and awesomely cheesy) aren't for everyone. But it's not as though he takes himself seriously or ever did. If you really can't get past the raw dumbassery of songs named "Living Dead Girl," I guess I can't condemn you for it.

Another important point: this album marks the effective end of Rob Zombie's career as a force for awesome. He made two more full-length albums and they are both so offensively bad that I never even made it through a full listen. Mr. Zombie has since focused on his career directing movies of questionable taste and quality. Among them are House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, both featuring a villainous mass murderer named "Dr. Satan." He's a little like Dr. Horrible, only without the slightest trace of humor or irony or melody. Finally, Rob Zombie has the special distinction of being Spider One's actual brother. Spider One is the singer for Powerman 5000, a band which ceased to be relevant to reasonable people in about 2001 but which I adore to this day because I have a disease that causes me to passionately enjoy shitty music. I'm just kidding, there's no such disease. It's as fake as a millionaire's sex addiction rehab stint.

The reality is that some music is simply too awesome for most people to enjoy. It should be accepted without too much argument that huge numbers of people enjoy really shitty music--your Maroon 5s, your Ben Folds 5s, your 5 For Fightings. It follows logically that huge numbers of people would therefore despise amazing music, and that's what we're looking at here with Rob Zombie. Q and Check and E and Mate and D.

1 comment:


    just big boned. my bones are filled with ice cream and pasta.