Now I’m no madman but that’s insanity

I am particularly interested in the relationship between mainstream media and alternative music. Often in a film or television program I find myself shocked by some of the references to relatively obscure bands that have been slipped in. There is normally one of three reasons for this. The production may be trying to earn some indie credibility, which is normally not a wise move, as the reference will pass over the heads of the main audience, whilst fans of the music will scoff the attempts to integrate two differing sub-cultures. One Tree Hill, that bastion of teenage enlightenment, is chief among the perpetrators of this particular crime. Another reason is in an attempt to flesh out a particular character, a technique that is often mis-used, leading to clichéd geeky misfits that gawkily and unrealistically litter TV screens of self-consciously “offbeat” films. The final reason is the only one that is always forgivable, and that is because the script-writer wanted to offer a little something to his fellow fans. This is the only reason of the three that is a personal touch, rather than being in a misguided attempt to get some credibility amongst those who would otherwise avoid mushy, corny audiovisual entertainment.

Sorry but… c’mon. Audiovisual entertainment. That IS the best way to describe anything ever.

I usually find, however, that the name that is dropped is more interesting than the reason behind the namedrop. In 500 Days of Summer (just to let you know, me and pretentious parentheses do not a good combination make), the two main characters meet over a shared love of The Smiths. A poignant scene involves the guy trying to attract the attention of the girl by playing “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”, which she appears oblivious to, (side note: guys, this is the number 1 trick in flirting with indie girls. And so long as they’re smart enough and you’re picky enough with your lyrics, it will work. Girls, we know you’re not oblivious, so stop using the excuse that this tactic is impersonal and creepy and just accept that it melts your heart).

It’s interesting that 25 years on The Smiths are still the go-to name when it comes to musically announcing the indie sensibilities of your piece of work (although, admittedly, 500 Days of Summer actually announced this by playing Regina Spektor’s “Us” over the opening credits). Alongside Radiohead, who pop up in Vanilla Sky, Californication and (more deliciously) South Park, The Smiths are the band most writers will fit in because they are a combination of both incredibly well known and off-the-wall, at least in terms of music normally heard.

However, more recently I’ve noticed a trend towards the less widely known bands, and not just in an attempt to earn some obscurist points either. A few months ago I borrowed Wilco’s A Ghost Is Born, and though it felt too cold to me, like it was trying to force itself into a style it didn’t belong in, I eventually got round to buying Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and it started to make sense. And then, maybe because I have been looking for it, I have noticed a sudden upsurge in references to them. From Seth Rogen tentatively inviting a girl to a Wilco concert in Funny People to an overuse in Skins, they seem to be popping up everywhere. I think I’ve lost count of the number of times Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’s iconic cover has appeared in the background to some internet video or student-type show.

The amount of Wilco-listening I have performed since this series of coincidences first took shape has slowly risen to a peak. I have ordered the new self-titled album from Amazon, and I’m starting to consider that my “Wilco-blog” should be left until after I’ve given that a nice listen. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is unfolding its myriad beauties to me. It is an album that is capable of many things, from Heavy Metal Drummer’s simplistic beauties, to ultimate laid-back tracks such as Kamera and War on War. Though there aren’t any tracks that give me chills I can have a good time listening to it, and I’ll definitely be humming a few of the tunes at 2am.

Anyway, this blog was going to be about Wilco, but I’m not sure what more to say on the matter, and I ended up making the intro last half the blog. This may be because I was getting angry at girls again, I can’t say for sure. As an male indie music blogger, I’m sure you would’ve been pretty disappointed if I didn’t whine about chicks at least once. I’ll move on shall I?

My top 20 albums of the decade list is not complete, but I have expanded it to 25, so that it will include excess Muse, and also to allow the great War Stories vs Psyence Fiction debate to rage on. I know which side of the line I fall, and I know that a lot of people disagree. I will also, rather than just list it, go the whole way and devote a blog to breaking down the list and giving short reviews of each album. Because I am skilled like that.

So anyway, I’ll see ya there partner. Bye for now.


About Alex Pavitt
I work in the field of emotion. My tools are instinctual feelings and my laptop is the medium between my brain and the outside world. I deconstruct and rebuild. I imagine. I steal other people's lyrics because somtimes, my own words aren't enough. I spend all of my time somewhere inside my head. I worship Douglas Adams, and in the back of my mind I am always painfully aware that I will never be as good as him or, for that matter, anybody else.

7 Responses to Now I’m no madman but that’s insanity

  1. Tom says:

    i think a wilco reference in funny people is more to do with this kind of idea that there is a culture for people to understand that reference. A kind of student culture that people, especially in the media, seem to think is on the rise, but sensible people know does not exist. In fact it seems to be the only reason why i havent listened to much wilco yet, because i dont want to be part of this media spearheaded culture. I guess i want to save my dignity for music that i find on my own and reaches me on a personal level. Not music that i saw a poster of in the background of a movie… I wont start on the very title of indie fan (or whatever) that is being thrown around everywhere…. I just think people should start thinking for themselves. It has always bugged me when music is associated to a trend (because i am sure we can admit, that is all it is) it belittles the music, it takes away any credibility and leaves the music, or the band, or the album as a souless carcass, all of them lined up, each with a different seriel number to tell them apart… These days its about pretending a band is ‘obscure’ and that being enough… There is little talk of the music anymore. for some reason that irrelevant… no, as long as a band is obscure (whatever that means) that will satisfy a certain degree of people, as shallow as those who follow the music in the charts……

    • Alex Pavitt says:

      I was trying to get across the point that though most references are designed to appeal to a reportedly growing (whether it actually is or not) “indie” community. However, it seemed that the Funny People name-drop seemed more to be an aside by the writers than an attempt to catch the student culture wave. Its like me dropping Radiohead into my writing. It isn’t to appeal to anything in particular, its just because i love Radiohead.
      I realise now how many times i used the word obscure in this blog, and it worries me slightly. I agree that there’s a form of reverse-psychology going on with popularity these days, but that doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the music, and it doesn’t influence my beforehand opinion of the artist in question. Or at least it doesn’t on a conscious level…

      • Tom says:

        I am glad that you have a certain amount of control over the music you choose to listen to, and i am glad that it works for you… i agree that there is a certain misinformed ‘alternative’ crowd who give in to the ‘reverse-psychology’ (as you put it) and it just seems that those kind of people will never truly enjoy music, because it doesnt really seem to be music that they are looking for…

  2. Tom says:

    Oh yeah.
    i put it to you that to broaden our musical horizons.
    i have started work on my top 25 list. and once both are compiled we switch, and listen to each others.

    what do you think…..

    great blog, by the way….

    • Alex Pavitt says:

      And I put it to you that you will have heard all of my top 25. Which at the moment is a top 27.
      Actually, I recall you saying you haven’t heard My Morning Jacket’s Z, which is going on there. So that’s a nice 1 new album you’ll be hearing. Nice idea tho. I look forward to my portion of DJ Shadow and Boards of Canada.
      Thank you for the nice comments

      • Tom says:

        my list is not going to be as good as a 90’s list would be… and in terms of dj shadow and boards of canada, they are not gonna be as high as i would like them, because ‘endtroducing’ and ‘music has the right to children’ were released in the 90’s… so you will probably be getting ‘the private press’ and ‘geogaddi’ which are both good, but not as life changing as the aforementioned albums… still, my list is far from finished…. i presume out deadline is december…

        oh and i look forward to listening to ‘z’. which i will save for when your list is published…

  3. Geogaddi!!!
    Aaand I’m done.

    *shuts door*

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