One of a Kind

One of a Kind” was recorded about a year ago. I note this for a couple reasons: first, as a confession that I didn’t generate any new product this week, and second, as a matter of self-defense; while I am certainly a dork in many ways, I actually wrote the lyric “I write in my blog” before going and starting my own blog.

I’m posting it this week because I’m feeling sort of gloomy and November-esque, and this song suits my mood. And also because, a year later, the lyrics strike me as a pretty frank critique of one of contemporary hipster society’s most persistent archetypes: the Content-Based Male (CBM). CBMs hide huge helpings of solipsism and narcissism behind their mastery of culture. While CBMs in caveman times may have boasted directly of their personal attributes, a contemporary CBM instead snows his nearest and dearest with a deluge of music, film, and literature arcana. While keeping his vulnerability (and personality, for that matter) under lock-and-key, he substitutes a solar system of cultural references, from which the adoring listener (and you’d better be ready to listen!) divines the contours of a cultural superman.

After a couple beers, I often can’t resist bemoaning the extent to which the internet has given everyone the opportunity to create his own perfectly-manicured personal space, to which the real world could never measure up. Amazon recommends books based on what you’ve already consumed and rated, just as eMusic and Pandora will do for music, just as Netflix will do for films. So now, you can assemble your media dream team without even involving another human being! I won’t even get into the effects of MySpace, Facebook, and blogs here, but I’m scared of the cumulative fallout. What will this do to the human capacity for compromise, or the ability to coexist in a loving relationship with another person? With each passing year, will we retreat deeper and deeper into our perfect Cave of Good Taste, surrounded only by what our robot tastemakers tell us is the best of everything?

As you’ve probably guessed, I consider myself a member of the CBM Club. It’s something I wrestle with, something that kind of grosses me out. At the same time, I love Netflix, and I love eMusic. (And, lest we forget, I have my own blog.) On a good day, I love people, too.

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Comments
14 Responses to “One of a Kind”
  1. detholz says:

    The first song you’ve penned (that I’ve heard, anyway) that might benefit from a campfire, toasted marshmallows and a Martin Backpacker…

    An instant campfire classic! Well done. EXTREMELY catchy, btw.

    (Dig the keywords, too.)

  2. The Bubble King says:

    When people build a library of knowledge for show and not for interest, it’s usually pretty transparent. That kinda stuff just needs to be let go. Life can be reduced to more simple thinking. Simple thinking on basic aspects of existence help people most. The key to defeating any anxiety is not waging a war on the perceived cause of the anxiety, but saying “who cares?” and rising above it.

    I just try to find what I like. I try to just listen to my own thoughts about it. That’s why I’m not much of an outspoken media critic. It’s also why I’ve abhored media reviews since I was 14 or so. I give stuff the benefit of the doubt, and assume that if, for instance, a recording was made… it was done so out of the goodness of someone’s spirit. Maybe I can glean something from that, maybe not. Unless it’s particularly insulting to the profession, I don’t feel a need to criticize. Instead I just see whatever good I can in it.

    As such, I’m rarely truly disappointed by works of media. They’re either “good” or “really good.” Or, at worst, they just lose my interest. Nothing gained, nothing lost. I personally just see it as an opportunity to investigate, and see if there’s something I can like in an unexpected form. It’s perhaps one reason I get annoyed when fans of some artist or another behave as if that artist owes it to them to maintain a creative path that is in accordance with that particular fan’s preconceived notions of what constitutes good. Examples that come to mind from mainstream rock would be Metallica and Smashing Pumpkins. Come on people, these are just some dudes trying to make something interesting, and then something else interesting. Check it out, and leave your agenda at home. Find out if it’s something you might like, otherwise just let it go to the folks that do like it. No one benefits from your pointless anger or complaints.

    It’s like one pessimist publishes their bitchy crap, and then a legion of people feel that if they dissent from that opinion, they risk appearing undiscerning or uninformed. Big deal. I didn’t even know 90% of the band names from this year’s Lollapalooza schedule. I survived.

    And yeah, the robots. What can you do? Those Amazon suggestions are just based on the decisions of other people, so I guess it’s slightly humanized. Usually I don’t bother to investigate. The most useful part of those things is that if you’re unaware that someone you like has released something new, sometimes Amazon writes to say “people who bought the last album by the guy also pre-ordered the new one” to which I say “new one, eh? cool.”

    And the Netflix thing… since I tend to rate most things pretty high (rarely do I hate a movie), it just tells me the never ending list of movies I’d like to see. No problem. Actually, half the time, it’s just reminding me to watch movies I meant to see already. And not because I wanted to show off how many movies I’ve seen, but just cuz I thought it looked neat!

    The bottom line is, you gotta just let things flow. Humanity will sort itself out, or it won’t. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Earth is destroyed? Is that really all that important? We’re all living on borrowed time anyway.

    So next time you’ve had a few beers, perhaps consider just singin’ in the street, or playing a prank, or going swimming.

    Nice tune.

  3. Abraham says:

    detholz: thank you very much!! oddly enough, I had Martin Backpacker himself bound and gagged on the kitchen counter while I was recording this song, and then let him go once I was finished. it was very inspirational.

    bubble king: well said! it’s definitely something to strive for. I’m way more tightly wound than you are, methinks, but every day I try to untie one knot. I, by contrast, was completely in love with rock criticism when I was 14. in fact, I wanted to be a rock critic myself before I ever wanted to be a musician.

  4. The Bubble King says:

    Aye, well I think we’re all in the knot-untying phase in some way or another. This has been a long process for me, I know that.

    Interesting that you loved rock criticism so much. I think I was so opinionated, and loved my own take on things so much that I was so easily pissed off when I read reviews of stuff. I remember in 12th grade, some underclassman wrote a review for our school paper (which no one read) of the Hum album “Downward Is Heavenward” which I had purchased on release day and was in love with that year. He treated it kind of ho-humishly, and claimed that one of the songs featured the singer “talking” over monotonous music. Firstly, he was technically incorrect, because “talking” would imply he wasn’t actually registering notes with his voice, and he was. Secondly, that song was, for me, a perfect emotive high point (or, in essence, low point, due to its solemnity) on the record. It expressed a lot with very little.

    Boy I just wanted to punch that kid in the face. Instead I wrote him some e-mails. He replied with some garbage about liking the album, but having a duty to write about it in a way that addressed the concerns of the average student of our school. I was kinda thinking “what about loving music made you want to find a way to boil it down, and remove the interestingness in order to tell less interested people about it?”

    But I suppose I’ve always been a bleeding heart romantic when it comes to the creative arts.

    I still don’t tend to talk much music with people in general. I mean, I like the reactions I naturally have to a work of art. And when I let others influence that, it feels like that natural connection is then out of balance. You know?

    Anyhow, I feel like anything that makes one uneasy can be fixed if one can make themself feel ok about the end of the world. If one can relax about the end of the world, then what can’t one relax about? For me, thinking about the generation of the universe, and the evolution of life has helped me to realize that we are only a snapshot, and we shouldn’t worry so much about anything. Easier said than done, of course, but it’s a good point to reflect on, I find.

  5. Abraham says:

    agreed about reflecting on the end of the world. I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said. I was a high-school rock critic too, but I was more of the school of “I’m-gonna-force-my-opinion-on-you-despite-or-even-because-you-probably-disagree” than the school of trying to represent the average consumer.

  6. Judah says:

    This goes straight to my 52 teeth canon. Stones-y ballad with sharper lyrics.

  7. Abraham says:

    hey, that’s great! thanks judah!

  8. Judah says:

    I feel like that was a lamely terse (if complimentary) posting on my part. To elaborate, the “Wild Horses” feel is part of what I like, but it’s also the soulful, world-weary low-register singing. It’s one of those things you don’t realize you miss from a singer with a broad range and sonic palette until you hear it for the first time in awhile (think Elvis Costello). I’ve just cued up a not-entirely-unrelated favorite from the PS+Platonics days, “Stolen Goods.”

  9. The Bubble King says:

    Oddly, I can identify with that feeling of wanting to be the rock critic, telling everyone what’s what. I definitely had a lot of that feeling back then. I think for me it was like “let me tell you about how you’re all morons for listening to Matchbox 20, when there’s such awesome stuff out there if you dig below the surface… but it’s probably over your heads anyway.”

    But over the years, reading reviews of records I thought were great, written by people who apparently just didn’t care for them… it kinda felt like “shouldn’t they have let someone who GETS this record write the review?” I mean, I think the idea of having some dope you’ve never met tell you if a record sucks or not so you don’t waste your money is pretty lame. It’s like I was getting at before… what’s the point of the pessimism? So where that’s concerned, it seems like record reviewers should only review stuff they like… so as to become a spokesman for why a certain record is neat.

    I seem to have noticed a trend… a lot of various acts over the years have reached super-stardom with a hit single or two among what is otherwise a vast and eclectic catalog. And eventually that next album or two comes out, and the critics don’t care for it, and it doesn’t get jammed at the frathouse or the local bar so much, and that fringe of “fans” disappears from that act’s actual fan-base. So then this perception comes about that the band is a “has-been” or something. But if you ask the band, they usually have a feeling more like “This is great. We now have filtered our fan-base back down to people who actually like us, and aren’t just looking for the flavor of the week, yet those other idiots bought enough of our records that we’re set for life, and can just make music in peace for the rest of our days without having to work at 7 Eleven!”

    I guess the bottom line for me is that music is such an emotive and personal experience, it’s just hard to think of magazines, newspapers and web-columns as having an appropriate place in that.

    And like Frank Zappa once said “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

  10. Abraham says:

    judah: thanks for taking me back in the wayback machine with your stolen goods reference! that was definitely…. a time and place. yeah, I love those stones ballads… angie is great too.

    b king: right on! yes, I think most pessimistic rock criticism is born of insecurity. but… it’s an insecurity that I recognize as my own (at least periodically), and for that reason, I think I’ll always kind of have a soft spot for it. that zappa quote is indeed a classic!

  11. Andy says:

    I really enjoy this blog and the entire concept of it. I need to start a similar project, if only to motivate myself to actually write something.

  12. Abraham says:

    thank you kindly, andy! yes, sometimes it’s a positive motivator, other times it hangs around your neck like a lead toilet. but, it is what it is! looking forward to playing with you in bloomington!

  13. Frodus says:

    HONEST PRAISE, THE GREAT MOTIVATOR!

  14. Abraham says:

    isn’t that why the good lawd made the internet?

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