Thursday, November 02, 2006

DOES IDIOCY LEND AN EDGE TO YOUR WORK AS A NEWSPAPER POP MUSIC JOURNALIST?

Often the daily newspaper contains stories about pop music acts so howlingly awful they serve as unintended comedy. In other words, no one came make up stuff as funny as a reporter lacking any funnybone dealing with an act whose pompous image begs it not to be taken seriously.

In this case, today's Los Angeles Times' Weekend arts preview contained an interview with the semi-marginal "indie punk" band known as Say Anything, which -- as it turns out -- is an appropriate label.

"Don't Get Comfortable Around Them," is the title of the piece by August Brown, setting the reader up with the idea that the band has edgy wisdom to convey, a premise unintentionally blown in the very first paragraph.

"The first single off Say Anything's major label debut is . . . 'Alive With the Glory of Love,' is about having sex in a concentration camp. Over doo-wop harmonies and buzz-saw guitars, the band's 22-year-old frontman and songwriter Max Bemis shouts, 'When I watch you, I want to do you right where you're standing . . . right in plain view of the whole ghetto.' When Bemis plays it live, thousands of teenagers in the mosh pit . . . join him on the song's bridge, when he sings, 'I'll make you say: Our Treblinka is alive with the glory of love!"

Now DD has no doubt that some teenagers -- perhaps more than a few -- can be convinced to sing along with lyrics that make Kiss' '70's odes to blow jobs and cunnilingus seem resplendent with the deepest meanings of human erotic love. Kids are like that. And you really don't want to know precisely what all the hard rock bands in my record collection sound like.

But one expects a little more from a newspaper reporter. Like recognition that some people just cry out to have the tar wailed out of them in print, if only as a good-natured diversion for readers who aren't all simpletons.

And I regularly did this at the Morning Call newspaper in the Eighties in features and a column called "Nightclubbing." (See here and here for examples.)

In other words, if the local sodden festival promoter came into the office bubbling over with ridiculous news about her latest big-day-out in Bath, PA, in which it was said the local criminal motorcycle gang would provide security, it was perfectly fine to slyly mention Altamont in the very next paragraph. Subsequent letters to the editor and the reaction of local authorities tended to add color and depth to the reporting.

But Dick Destiny digresses slightly. That type of reporting doesn't exist so much anymore, often relegated to the fringes or solely the domain of the Internet. Instead, you get loads and loads of articles about feebs like Say Anything, intelligence-insulting affairs which cry out for a heavy backhand that can no longer be applied because it's alleged to be upsetting and destructive to the idea that art should always be taken seriously. And that superciliousness, in any form, is bad.

In any case, Brown's article on Say Anything continues on about Bemis, the kid who sings about having glorious sex in Treblinka, suffering from sporadic mental illness.

"It makes me question things, like the thin line between sanity and insanity," says the artist. Hmm, the font of wisdom that makes small brooks to flow.

"But in a style of rock based on authentic emotional volatility, might Bemis' mental illness lend an extra edge to his public image as a talented but wounded song-writer?" asks the Times reporter.

Uh, no. I think he blew that with the "Our Treblinka is alive with the glory of love" line.

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