Friday, November 7, 2008

Where cheap plastic disposable crap still matters...

Remember, remember the 5th of November: Today is a brand new day for our country. It is also Guy Fawkes Day (if you don’t know who he is or have not read/watched V for Vendetta, please do some googling/ netflixing/ trekking to Austin Books some time today). Today you get a break from my fascist regime to bask in the joy and glory. Write whatever you want.

The great raconteur, Corbin Harwell, when asked why he owned so many albums, responded in the most logical manner possible.
-Because I'm not always gonna work in a record store.

I'm reminded of the scene in Die Hard when German terrorist/exceptional thief Hans Grueber paraphrases Plutarch's Life of Alexander. Surveying the architectural model in the executive conference room at the Nakatomi Tower, he says "...and Alexander wept he saw the breadth of his kingdom, for he knew there were no more worlds left to conquer." The benefits of a classical education. I have to make due with the internet.

I bring this point up because I fear that I have come to a crucial crossraods in my life. Nothing earth shaking, at least for the less obsessive of mortals, but life defining nonetheless. I fear that I may have reached my saturation point for new music. And frankly, that just bums me the frak out. Since 1987, I have prided myself on being three steps or more ahead of the game, throwing off the musical bell curve of the general populace and changing directions faster than Beck (he really only has two directions: Sometimes he's somber and sometimes he makes fun of Black people. and that's it. He just spends his career going back and forth.) Almost fifteen years in music retail has given me the opportunity to indulge my every musical whim, enabling me to become exceedingly well versed in topics as diverse as Brazilian Tropicalia, pre-Punk American Garage Rock, Grime, Memphis Soul, Memphis Power Pop, American Power Pop, Gulf Coast Swamp Pop and dozens of other specific musical distinctions that most everyone else on the face of the planet could give two shits about. To most everyone else, including Billy Joel, it's still just Rock And Roll. And that's just peachy. It's all just noise. Joyous beautiful noise.

But my brain is full. Or maybe I just have plenty of toys to play with and I don't like what's being sold to the kids nowadays. The epiphany of sorts came during a Mountain Goats show last week (nothing drives home the reality of no longer working at a record store like hearing the reaction, "who are the Mountain Goats?") It wasn't the Mountain Goats. They were excellent. It was the opener, Kaki King. I'm not sure at what point the internal monologue machine went into overdrive, spouting off lines like "Are you fucking serious?" and "You're shitting me" and "Where's Ashton?" It was like being in the middle of an Andy Kaufman performance, minus the funny part.

If you aren't familiar with Kaki King, she's an acoustic guitar instrumentalist, with a virtuosic finger tapping technique. She also happens to be an exceptionally cute and exceptionally tiny girl. Which I suspect goes a fair way toward making up for the fact that she can't sing in key to save her life. And while this has never been a handicap for anyone in the angry punk/metal/rock school of music, Kaki King is decidedly narry of those. Oh, she may shake her tiny fists in rage and say "Fuck" on stage a lot, but I'm not buying it. No, Kaki King is far less Amphetamine Reptile Records, or even SubPop (classic OR current). Ms. King is decidedly more of the Windham Hill Records variety. At a certain point in American music, Windham Hill was the premier New Age record label, home to the definitive New Age group Mannheim Steamroller (The fact that the record label was originally funded by the profits from the 70's novelty song "Convoy" is another story for another day). Also on the label was an acoustic instrumentalist, with a virtuosic finger tapping technique named Michael Hedges. He played the exact type of slap tappy plink plunky hippy dippy guitar that you expact from someone on a new age label. Which is pretty much the same type of music that Kaki King plays. The only difference is that after eight albums, Hedges died in a car wreck and is thus far only remembered by aging guitar nerds (right here) and New Age fans. Meanwhile from the moment she debuted in 2003, Kaki King was annointed as the new sound of guitar. Sorry, ain't buying it.

And here's why. I could seriously give a shit that Kaki King plays Hedges style New Age guitar. It's just that hipsters aren't supposed to like this shit. And if you ask them, they'll probably tell you that they would never listen hippy New Age guitar instrumentals. But that's exactly what Kaki King plays. At one point, she tried to ROCK. And rock she did. She rocked exactly like Eric Johnson, another hippy dippy guitar rock instrumentalist. And hipsters, most definitely don't listen to Eric Johnson. Especially Austin hipsters, since he happens to be from here, and there's nothing Austin hipsters hate more than successful local musicians that don't play indie rock. As to the singing, when there was any, it was flat. Not terrible. Just flat.

Which brings me to my real point. I want out. I know too much. Literally. Not in the sense that the knowledge in my head has become a liability (though I suspect it has), but in the sense that there is simply too much useless information taking up space in my brain. During the above rant, I consulted the internet for reference exactly once. To look up the correct spelling of Mannheim Steamroller. The rest off it came pouring directly out of my fevered ego. Kaki King. Michael Hedges. Eric Johnson. Convoy. Tropicalia. This is the shit that I rant about, I realize that even I don't care about my opinions. Nor should anybody. If you wanna like Kaki King, then Bully for you. Ain't nothing gonna break my stride. Nobody gonna slow me down, oh no. I got to keep on moving. And so should everybody else. You like Medesky Martin and Wood? Awesome. Can't stand them myself, but I can just go fuck myself. Wanna know a secret? I can't stand Pavement. Or Yo La Tengo. Or the any Wilco album after Summer Teeth. So what?

I'm throwing in the towel. I'm done trying to keep up with the kids. I'll only get more frustrated. I'm just going to move into my cave with my Al Green records and be better off for it.

No seriously.

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