Addressing the ever-shrinking credibility of rock journalism since 2007. With a sasquatch.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Deep Cuts From Bloggy's Vault: Lo-Fi

Daniel Johnston - Hi, How Are You?
When an artist comes along, like lo-fi pioneer Daniel Johnston, who has a sincere connection to goofy, heartfelt music - the load gets lighter for everyone. You realize, quickly, that dreaming of brooding in a sea of flickering lighter flames (screeching "Rrrr-owwund here") is not important. The love of what got you into music, in the first place, is important. Manufactured angst, with nothing connected to it but frat boy machismo or mama's boy melodrama - isn't required.

The tendency in the music industry is to take itself too seriously. Uninspired rock bands Creed and Blink 182 have a commitment to an "image" greater than the commitment to their music. In Blink 182's "First Date" the lyrics are: "do you like my stupid hair? would you guess that I didn't know what to wear?" These are shallow Pop bands in disguise, groups that crank out sulky, vapid songs for an insulated middle-class audience* that wants something unimportant to mourn and rage against.

In Lo-Fi, there was no uniform or image - the music had to do all the work. Lo-fi was independently produced as an off-shoot of garage rock. It was mostly traded in cassette format in the 1980's and became the foundation for "Alt" music in the 1990's. Lo-Fi followed no formula dealing with personal issues and unique arrangments rather than verse-chorus-verse anthems to big hair, margaritas and leather pants.

Daniel Johnston, beginning in Texas in the early 1980's, at his brightest: was crazy. He was bi-polar, alienated, childish, simple-minded and uncomfortable in every situation except when he was talking about or making music. %90, of his hundreds of songs, sound exactly the same. But his whining, nasal vocal commitment to upbeat sincere lyrics that dealt with fawning over the Beatle's work ethic, suicides of talented friends, and "never letting the sun set on a grievance" are a unique perspective on unavoidable problems everyone faces.

Daniel Johnston - I Had Lost My Mind.mp3

* = It's fine to be middle-class. It doesn't mean you are stupid or uncool. But Blink 182's First Date "jitters" can't compete with "Fuck you, I won't do what you told me", a Rage Against the Machine lyric calling for real social and political change. There are two distinct levels of talent here. If 21st boy bands have tattoos and green hair this doesn't make them anything more than another corporate creation crooning about meaningless crap.

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