Saturday, June 23, 2007

WARMEST GREETINGS FROM DOLTSVILLE: Enjoy our fairy tales but don't overstay your welcome

On Tuesday DD was enjoying the endless summer in Santa Barbara, unable to bring you the usual news that the LA Times Calendar section had delivered more to insult the intelligence when considering pop music.

"It used to be about women, booze, and jobs," wrote some editor in a subhed on E1. "But honky-tonk dudes see times are changing."

Caught red-handed treating readers likes rubes again.

"Brad Paisley wants you and his wife to know that his willingness to hold her handbag while she shops for post-pregnancy dresses at Bebe doesn't mean he won't put it down later and go shoot a deer," wrote Ann Powers.

Hold a handbag! Hoo! Shoot a deer! Can't get away from the latter with Miranda Lambert in heavy rotation.

Powers informs readers Paisley is a New and Sensitive Country Man, somehow missing the dirty jokes about fat and/or ugly women at the end of his new CD. Indeed, if any reader took even half-seriously what was written about Paisley's Fifth Gear CD for the newspaper, they came away with no idea that it's a good to excellent country album, one that doesn't take itself too seriously, rocking with plentiful squealing licks from Paisley's guitar.

This would would almost be OK as the lead-in to a good joke at the artist's expense if the Times had a sense of humor when it came to reporting on country music, a genre that cries out for laughs and a serrated edge of superciliousness.

But the Times has very little, if any, of either.

So far the next twenty graphs or so you get an essay and ersatz concrete trend piece on an illusory moral transformation in country music superstar men, complete with instruction on how it's being carried out.

Management skills, apparently. Could you think of a more stupid claim? No, of course not.

So imagine the next assertions as if delivered by a professor of pop psychology during an elective course you regret having signed up for.

"If Paisley is a New Man using management skills to modify conventions, Toby Keith is his opposite -- a proud Neanderthal who would never hold a handbag, though he might swipe one in a pinch ... Keith's attitude recalls another high profile blusterer: Tony Soprano. Like Tony, Keith's characters expose the violence inherent in old school masculinity ... Clearly Keith knows that to live by wielding power is to know that others wield power over you."

A few weeks ago, readers were asked to swallow a different heap of horsecrap accompanying Miranda Lambert's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend CD.

In this case, the gun-toting, white tail deer-shooting, scumbag-drilling young redneck gal was full of twangy and tangy rebellion. Good girl!

As has been said before, Times entertainment writers are snobs. And so they can't be direct, everything having to be dressed up in some artificial and elaborate prepared script, made to persuade readers that some Philosopher's Stone has transformed lead into gold.

In this way, a literally "shitty" heavy metal band like Cattle Decapitation, one with unpublishable album art of a cow defecating human remains and song titles like "Extracted Pus, Mistaken for Yogurt and Gargled" and "Colon-Blo" was alleged to be an example of "Metal -- growing up, speaking out." (Originally a wire story, no one with an actual shred of common sense would have run such a thing.)

So in like manner, country music -- fresh from Doltsville, the place you couldn't get away from fast enough, is changing.

Is it, now?

DD tunes into CMT (Country Music Television) semi-regularly and has been following its Top 20.

Eric Church's "Guys Like Me" from the album Sinners Like Me -- one of the selections in the current hit parade -- is a good song to wipe one's feet upon while exploring the concept of reality and change in modern country.

Church sing he's glad girls, the "like you" in the verse -- a mostly offscreen college-going ideal -- love him -- "guys like me" -- the town grease-monkey. Church is happy "girls like you" prefer "guys like me" to the "trust-fund" boys rubbing up against 'em at university. It's a class war, with the lump victorious. At the climax a "girl like you" comes out from under the sports car, in her underwear, stained with motor oil.

It would have been good to have mixed in a laugh track.

However, since there is none, back in the real world, DD puts the script into revision.

Here, Mr. Church, "guys like you" get "Dear John" letters -- or maybe not any letter at all -- from the crush who goes off to collij and discovers it's a whole lot better that Doltsville. Plus the booze is more plentiful.

"Guys like you" join the Army and are sent to Iraq, where you are maimed while on patrol. Scratch the beauty from under the car, wearing only lingerie. (Don't send money. For you, man, it's free.)

"Broke down, beaten and busted (Once Again)."

Still, everyone likes fairy tales and bull is the linqua franca of countless good pop tunes.

However, CMT and its version of modern country music is exceptional in this regard. In this special place, the USA isn't anything remotely like our country. On CMTUSA, the Dukes of Hazzard are always on television. Vehicles are always the General Lee, heavy trucks and sporty cars from Sixties-Seventies Detroit. The weak are not routinely victimized, beatings go unseen, there is nothing close to real rage and the national image isn't in tatters.

Rent the Dixie Chicks' documentary, Shut Up & Sing, and you'll note the great divide. Dismay grows in the singers as they realize all their former fans really were hots on from Doltsville. And that while such fans alleged to like Natalie Maines' feistiness, it was only sanctioned within a narrow superficial framework of that twangy tangy rebellion for which country music women are lauded.

Punished for committing no crime other than being awkwardly spontaneous while the nation was working itself into a good kill frenzy, Maines & Co. proved what you might have already known: Doltsville is filled with lots and lots and lots of, hmmmm, intolerant dolts.

CMT, by definition, is an empty-headed place where one can go to escape all friction and dissonance, where many musicians sing wistfully of hometowns, never mind that most of 'em were probably not looked fondly after when they left to make it in Nashville.

The network even has a contest aimed at finding the number one Doltsville. Viewers are to send in clips from camera phones and the best Doltsville of all (of course, it's not called that) will be selected and a special made for fall viewing.

Naturally, with most of the content from CMT, the more crap you believe, the better off you are.

Which brings us to Miranda Lambert's "Famous in a Small Town," a single now airing on CMT. It's given us the shot-the-first-deer-in-season meme, an event to land you in the pages of the local Daily Crapper. Here are some song ideas free from DD: "I've Pellets in My Backside Blues (Again)" and "So Excited (I Shot My Dog.)"

On the CD player, "Famous In a Small Town" is a medium tempo train, rocking with the winningest of melodies. And if you don't pay attention to the trash about being seventeen in tiny town being the same as TV fame, you'll be all right. Better, though, is "Dry Town," which Lambert didn't write. It's about being desperate for a drink, something with which you'll actually be able to relate. Its jaunty thumping rhythm is great.

Welcome to Doltsville. DD was here. Hey, let's go hang at the gas station and piss in the back stairwell to Eric Church.


Cattle Decapitation.

Two syllable words too big in Doltsville.


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