Dave Matthews and the Golden Calf

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Dave, when he read my blog.

Those of you who read these scholarly posts may have picked up a certain distaste for the gentleman to the left over there.  More than likely you have had one of two reactions: a) you have pumped your fist in the air above your head and cheered me on, or b) you have felt a little sorry for the poor sod, sensed that I am just another merciless critic, hiding behind my computer and loquaciously getting even with all of the pricks in junior high that were more popular than I was (which was mostly everybody if I had to be precise). Honestly, I am still bitter about junior high but that is not why I pick on Dave Matthews.  Here is the weird thing: I really have nothing against Dave Matthews (except his dancing, which is not so much reprehensible but utterly clownish and therefore absolutely hilarious). To me he is like unsalted butter – flavorless, textureless. People say, “Dude, what’s there not to like about Dave Matthews? His band kicks ass!” To which I say, “Exactly!” What is there not to like? And therein lies the problem.  Dave Matthews, to me, is a symbol for all that is wrong with the current music industry.  Notice that I did not say music scene. Dave Matthews is like the golden calf that Aaron threw together when Moses took his ill-fated trip up to the tippy top of Sinai. They had nothing cool to worship, so they frikken’ made something! Like the golden calf, most popular music is all bling and no substance.  Now all of that is just fine until the masses get duped into believing that the statue is God.  The calf does not challenge one to be a better, more open minded, deeper person.  It allows you to remain exactly who you are comfortable being.

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Dave as Calf.

I remember playing “O Superman”, Laurie Anderson’s first 12″ single, for a couple of friends an eon or so ago.  They listened for a minute and said something akin to this: “You call this music? She’s not even singing.  There’s no melody.  This is weird!” If memory serves, I was forced to remove the record from the turntable.  Which was fine with me as they had a shitty needle anyway. But I remember thinking to myself, what the hell is wrong with people?  Here’s an artist pushing the boundaries of musical expression, experimenting with new structures and sounds, defying classification, and I’m forced to remove the record to make way for the latest dreck from Eddie Rabbitt and witness the self-satisfied look of placated contentment plastered across the visage of someone suckling from the mother’s milk of top ten radio. My feeling was not so much angry or resentful, elitist or smug, but hurt. I was not trying to offend anyone’s sensibilities.  Far from it.  I had brought this new music to my friends with absolute Love!  That little record had rocked my world and I wanted more than anything to share the experience.  So understand this:  When I write these blog posts and rail against the machine, it is out of love – love for the artists that continually take risks, love for the infinite human capacity towards creativity, and love for you, dear reader, for opening your ears to music that challenges the norm, that bucks the system… music that deserves and needs support!  Laurie Anderson says in O Superman:

When love is gone, there’s always justice.
And when justice is gone, there’s always force.
And when force is gone, there’s always Mom. Hi Mom!

Isn’t that a great line?  The humor, the depth, it’s all there.  Eddie Rabbitt says:
Well I love a rainy night 
I love to hear the thunder
Watch the lightning
When it lights up the sky
You know it makes me feel good
Isn’t that crap? C’mon, please, just admit it.  That song was #8 on the Billboard Charts in 1981, the same year O Superman was released. It was played on the radio every five minutes.  It was inescapable.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard Laurie Anderson on the radio.  Methinks that all kinds of folks out there are under the impression that songs are on the radio because people like them.  Thus, public taste governs radio airplay.  I am firmly convinced that it is precisely the opposite.  The radio plays it, therefore the people like it.
Imagine a world where all radio was like college radio.  Would record sales shift? You’re damn tootin’ they would!  If Dave Matthews and John Mayer were regulated to some static-y radio station so far down the dial that your carpal tunnel acted up just getting there, then I sincerely doubt that they would be household names.  Here is my plea:
Listen to something new.  If you don’t know how to find something new, go back and check out any one of my earlier posts. Find something you’ve never heard of.  Relax and really listen.  The artist created it because they thought it was beautiful. Find that beauty.  Relish it.  Try this every day.  Challenge yourself and your conceptions of beauty.  Why should you do this? Because it is good for the soul.  You may decide to say, “Fuck you, lacunamusic man. Fuck you and all of your blathering on about art.  I like Dave Matthews and there’s nothing you can say or do to change my opinion. So there!”  To that I say, fine.  Shun my love. You’ll be sorry when I’m dead.  (That’s something that my grandmother used to say to me when I was  kid. It’s very effective.)
Something else my grandmother used to say.  After quietly watching some musical performance on TV she’d mutter to herself, “Ah, they’re only clappin’ ’cause it’s over.”  My grandma was a smart lady.
For your first listening assignment:

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