Nobody Calls Me a Space Cowboy, a Gangster of Love, or Maurice
I’ve been kind of busy over the last couple of weeks, what with school, extracurricular crap and an absurd amount of time spent playing videogames. Rather than explain any of this –because it’s cold outside and I don’t want to get what I wrote out of my car- I’m just going to jump right into the old routine.
Channel-surfing the other night, I happened upon MTV, which is a rare occasion, given that the vast majority of what they run on that channel is representative of the “vast wasteland” Newton Minnow foresaw. However, while I was watching, I happened to see hot chicks, which are nothing new to MTV, and then I saw the Neptunes, and so I stopped surfing for a moment, thinking to myself, “This must be that side-project I was reading about.” And I watched the video, and it’s got an enormous turntable, dancing women, the band and no visible plot whatsoever (which shouldn’t even be pointed out, because ‘plot in music video’ is explicitly a David Fincher motif, and should not be attempted by amateurs).
But I digress. It seems to me that the music video has rarely been an art-form unto itself. After all, the 80’s brought out some absolutely fantastic videos, such as A-Ha’s “Take On Me” or Warrant’s “Cherry Pie.” Okay, that second one’s a joke, but it’s an indisputable fact that “Take On Me” is one of those videos that –to this day- shows what music videos are capable of, and yet all but maybe a half-dozen videos a year (that actually get aired, mind you) ever bother to attempt to appeal to the more lucid members of the audience. Of course, this is because MTV knows their audience better than anyone, and they’d probably be the first ones to tell you that no member of their audience is lucid at any time, least of all while watching MTV; that they are exactly what Timothy Leary was talking about with that “Turn on, tune in, drop out” thing.
Not long after, I saw the Jet video for “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” and I just watched it going, “This isn’t much of a video, and it’s not even fucked-up,” which was the redeeming quality of Beck’s “Loser” video. After contemplating this for a while, I realized that I wasn’t really watching the video anymore, and that I was lost in some kind of introspection regarding why it was that the channel was still on, and yet I was still tuned in, and it wasn’t because I kept thinking, “It’s the iPod song!” The answer’s quite simple:
I was there for the groove. Both of these songs have fairly standard videos (although Jet’s video isn’t as polished, nor do I remember any dancing women), which is something that generally just makes me tune out. But both songs are built on grooves that border on addictive, which probably explains why Apple picked “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” for its iPod commercials. And then I started thinking, what is it about this groove, this riff, that makes the song as catchy as it is?
*The bass and drum combo at the beginning of the song is reminiscent of the opening to Golden Earring’s “Radar Love.”
* As though that basis in the 70’s wasn’t enough, the subsequent riff that basically drives the song is like an adaptation of Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life.”
* And if you listen really hard, you can hear just a touch of The Knack’s “My Sharona.”
* The line "c'mon and get your kicks, now you don't need that money when you look like that, do ya honey" sounds like something you'd expect from pretty much any AC/DC song.
You can’t deny the fact that these guys don’t sound anything like that horrific “Nu-Metal” crap -which is even worse than the “Old-Metal” crap- that the recording industry is trying to pass off as rock and roll these days. And, going back to cite the video for just a moment, I saw two things: One, I saw a Flying V guitar, which could have been either a Gibson or a Dean. Two, the guys aren’t very good-looking, which flies in the face of everything that MTV stands for; because the only way you can get on MTV and be ugly is if you’re very, very angry (read: Papa Roach).
All in all, I’m still trying to decide whether Jet (and this song in particular) is more reminiscent of the punk movement (which I’m inclined to deny, given that they play way more than three chords per song, and the structure of the song is more complex), the British Invasion of the Sixties, the Eighties’ return of rock (Van Halen, AC/DC), and we know that we can just toss out the Alternative Rock movement of the early-to-mid Nineties
My conclusion let me to listen to their song “Cold Hard Bitch,” and that one answered all of my musical questions: It starts out sounding just like virtually any AC/DC song, then kicks over to The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and then plays somewhere between the two for the remainder of the song, although the chorus almost begs the ghost of Bon Scott to show up and sing backup.
I don’t know. Thinking about and then writing this just seemed like a nice way to spend an hour, since it raises the possibility that rock and roll –performed by people under the age of forty, at least- isn’t dead after all. I mean, sure, I’m totally ignoring the White Stripes. the Strokes, the Darkness. the Vines, the Hives, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, or any of the other bands I could think of here, but that would've made for an even longer post that I don't particularly feel like writing, and I'm quite sure you don't feel like reading.
In the meatime, until I post again, go read Jim Derogatis, the best rock critic on earth.