Friday, January 28, 2011

Soundtrack to Destruction

It's amazing how hearing one song brings back a flood of memories ...

I had just turned 18.  There were three of us.  I was in the passenger seat.  One friend in the back seat, one friend driving.  The needle was buried.  The country road was a blur.  The cop was gaining on us.

At the rate we were going, we'd soon be dead.  That was a certainty.  I told the driver to forget it.  Pull over.  Stop.

The idea was to slow down, pull off to the shoulder and stop.  The lights from the cruiser behind us were filling the car with that sick red and blue.  We were beat.  We knew it.  Slow down.  Stop.

It didn't quite work that way, though.

The brakes were tapped.  Maybe.  Maybe they were slammed on.  It didn't matter.  They locked.  We skidded back and forth on the road, the tires screaming as they tore across the asphalt.  I don't know at what point we went onto the roof.  All I knew was that I heard the crunch of metal and heard glass shatter and then there was a boulder the front of the car slammed into and for some reason weeds were growing down from where the sky used to be.

That's when I realized we were like a turtle on its back in the desert.

When all was said and done, we stood outside the car, waiting to be loaded into the police car.  A fire crew was busy spraying water onto the car.  You could smell burning rubber and gasoline, though there was no fire.

And under the sound of that fire hose?  The Exploited's Live at the Whitehouse.  It had been playing throughout the chase, and it keep playing when we were sliding (later we found out it was 96 feet), on the roof.  And now, with the car being saturated lest it catch on fire, it was still going strong.

If you ever have heard The Exploited, it makes perfect sense for it to be a soundtrack to a police chase.  Don't forget the chaos, indeed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

One Too Many Lousy Records

Back in the days of the Dead Kennedys, singer Jello Biafra warbled that the sales slump that had hit the music industry was due to "one too many lousy records."  He was right on.  The music industry, which continues that downward spiral into extinction, blames illegal downloading, the Internet, and terrorism (I made that last one up, but you can blame terrorism for everything these days and get away with it).  The one thing the music industry doesn't blame, however, is "one too many lousy records."

Pirates have done their share of damage to artists and the record industry.  While I will shed no tears if the major labels go under, I do feel for the artists (even the ones I don't like) for their income loss.  Nobody wants to work for free, including the people who think they are entitled to free music simply because they have an Internet connection.

One can't ignore that there are "one too many lousy records" out there, though.  The music industry would never agree with that.  After all, if spokespeople came out and said that the product sucks, they can't really blame anyone other than themselves, and then everyone gets to question the industry's business model even more than they do now.  The truth of the matter is, however, that I've heard quite a bit of what the industry passes off as "good music" (it comes with the territory), and it is cookie-cutter garbage that would have never gotten a major label deal in healthier times.  Pop music has always sucked, but these days it isn't even trying to be good.  In fact, it seems very happy sounding like everything that has come before it ... and that cuts across genres.

Consistently putting out garbage will eventually cause your sales to fall, and now that online sales have declined (gasp!), the record industry is once again scrambling to place the blame anywhere other than itself.  But, really, how can the music industry blame the consumer when it produces acts like Rhianna and Justin Bieber (hot on the newly forged Social 50 chart), which sound just like everything that has come before them?  Katy Perry is fresh and exciting in what decade?  And if you go toward the bottom of the charts it's even worse.  Of course, there are anomalies, but those are anomalies.  What the industry presents as its brightest are nothing more than rehashes and clones delivered as The Next Big Thing and Cutting Edge.  Yawn.  Taylor Swift a genius?  No.  Eminem was the biggest-selling artist of 2010.  While I have no problems with him other than the fact that his music doesn't move me (I do appreciate the artistry involved), he's not exactly new, and he hasn't been on the cusp of cutting edge in years.

The music industry is stale, well past its primes.  Even its mainstays like U2 are showing their age.  And as for what it brands as rebellion these days ... wow.  Parents of teenagers everywhere have nothing to worry about.

So here's a toast to lousy records and declining sales.  Let the entertainers go back to their jobs at the Gap, and let the true artists sign to smaller labels or even go the DIY route.  Let the industry sputter and cough, and I'll help pull out the IV.  Let it die in its own piss-soaked bed of greed and contempt for an audience it never fully understood.  Or maybe it understood it all too well, and that is why it is in this situation in the first place.  When you act the thief, you attract the thieves, and when you release shit eventually people smell it.

Let's hope next year's sales are just as dismal.