Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Words We Say And The Words I Hear

A clearinghouse of the things in my head that have to do with presentation. Two, then I'm off. Lady Gaga's self-designation as a geek and Ryan McKenney of Trap Them.

The original title of this was: James, stop being insecure about Gaga being a geek. That's really about the size of it. But some background is important.

Gaga calls herself a nerd or geek on her latest record and that sent me for a loop. I tend not to think of an artist that's gone diamond (10 million copies sold) as being a geek. That seems counter intuitive. That kind of colossal success is antithetical to geekdom, or so I'm trained to think. Geekness has definite boundaries and borders to me. I think of it as outsider culture, or at least a fashionably unreasonable focus on a particular piece of culture.

Of course I'm wrong. But I'm getting there.

Joss Whedon has a relentlessly positive online fanbase. Want to know how many of them watched Firefly when it came out? Answer: Significantly less than 10 million.

Gaga got my friends talking about Degas and threw straight up Starcraft, C&C and Dune references in her sprawling, gargantuan video featuring another hugely successful female solo artist/singer about girls going dancing and ignoring men calling them on their cell phones. Also: She could have thrown Dance Dance Revolution references in there and that would have been just as useful to her point. Games are still games and a geek thing even if they're not about killing people. More to the point: If Vin Diesel is one of us, then how the fuck is Gaga not? Vin Diesel is the ultimate dumb jock actor and this is a guy that played tons of Dungeons and Dragons and still talks about it. Plus, the guy's got his own videogame studio.

Point is: Because of her success, I don't think of her as a geek. I'm wrong in that. Her eccentricities have not been sandpapered out, but instead amplified, sometimes literally. She has turned those eccentricities and occasionally bizarre behavior into something incredibly profitable figuratively and literally. Figuratively in that she is perhaps the biggest female pop singer around with a message of tolerance, love and solidarity and literally in that she makes shitloads of money.

...and I'm still thinking of geek as a positive designation.

Second part: Ryan McKenney of Trap Them. I've talked about Mr. McKenney and the band he's in before, and man, seeing them live reinforces to me just how amazing they are. Short version is thrash metal bang your head wait queens of the stone age part oh shit hurricane of hydrocholric acid. Trap Them, ladies and gents.

Their new record, Darker Handcraft, is really good. But again: Language of thrash metal. You're not meant to be in awe of Darker Handcraft, you're meant to be murdered by it. I saw them live and at one point I was genuinely terrified when I realized one of my earplugs had fallen out. In between songs, he didn't talk that much except to say, yes, I've got anti-social tendencies despite the fact that I'm a frontman for a metal band and...I don't believe I have anything to say. I'm not an teacher or a [something else, it escapes me.], so I'm not going to say anything.

These statements he makes are all true, in that yes, he yells for a metal band, he is not a teacher but the conclusion is wrongheaded. Teachers and educators generally are not the only people who have wisdom. Even if they did, though, there's a slightly less straightforward one: People came here because they wanted to see your band, because they heard your band, liked it and want to hear more of it and are, presumably, far more willing to listen to what you have to say than the average person.

The point is, you can have something to say without being a teacher or educator and dude should give himself more credit. It's not merely in what he yells that shows it, but what he's a) able to say with it and b) has a series of paintings (the link goes to Fucking Viva, by the way) based on his lyrics. Most of it is Pollock influenced, features black, red and white and I suppose I could talk about the merits of the paintings themselves, but there's this: I can't think of many other lyricists that have a strong enough vision of words in their heads that they literally paint each song.

That, I think, speaks far better and more eloquently than his peers and contemporaries.

From the new Wonder Years LP, Suburbia I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing. Play loud and wait for the three part harmony. Also, those racing guitar leads!

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