Tag Archives: music

Down Under


A colleague of mine regularly parks over the lines in the parking lot.

I’d post a picture, but I wouldn’t want to be accused of internet shaming them. Suffice it to say, it’s bad enough and regular enough for me to notice it and hold a slow-burning grudge over the matter.

I mean, you park a couple inches over the line now and then … that’s one thing. But you park with the parking spot line going straight down the center line of your car, no — you either did that on purpose or you’re making zero effort at all to pay attention, either of which is absolutely unacceptable. And yeah, okay, I park in one of the hidden side lots at the school, and there’s maybe eight or nine cars back there in an 80-spot lot, so it’s not like anybody is clamoring for the spaces, or even like anybody is parking on top of each other. We all, by unspoken agreement, leave at least a space between our cars, for some reason.

But no, this coworker regularly parks over the line in flagrant disregard for society. I see you, rule-breaker. And I hate you.

But the other morning I saw said co-worker pulling in to park (over the line, as usual). Said co-worker was playing their music exceptionally loud. (Too loud, if you ask me, and I’m glad to say it in that get-off-my-lawn tone I’m getting too good at lately.) Which really should’ve made me even madder.

But they were blasting Men at Work’s Down Under, and on a list of songs it’s okay to blast in your car at my age, this one is near the top of the charts. (Not as high as Africa, of course, but we won’t quibble.)

And, hearing that music, I hated them a little less that day.

A little.

Because who can maintain a grudge when listening to that song?

Incidentally, I’d never seen the music video before, and if you haven’t, well, do yourself a favor.


I Finally Get Radiohead


The new Lego movie has a funny moment (I should say, it has dozens if not hundreds of laugh-out-loud funny moments — seriously, if your kids want to go see it, do yourself a favor and take them — but this one in particular has lodged in my grey matter) at the end of the second act. It’s your classic all-is-lost moment, with the heroes (no spoilers) THROWN into a situation that seems ultimately beyond recovery. BOXed in. No way out.

Because it’s the Lego franchise, and the Lego franchise is nothing if not ridiculous and snarky and meta at every possible turn, with fourth-wall breaks and winks-and-nods to the audience on every page, the characters break into song at their plight. They negate the ubiquitous “Everything is Awesome” theme and lament that “Everything’s Not Awesome.” Of course, this is the turning point — “not awesome” is okay, they realize, everything can’t be awesome all the time, etc, etc. But during the song, before that turn, one of the characters claims that “I finally get Radiohead.” My wife, hearing that, turned to me with a chortle: I was, once upon a time, quite a big fan of Radiohead. (Back in the days of mixtapes and mix CDs, I made one for my wife on which half of the tracks were by Radiohead. I don’t remember her exact response — it was over a decade [help!] ago — but it was something along the lines of “I like it, it’s great, but … are you okay??”)

Flash back to my college days, when my good friend who introduced me to the band was doing so by explaining, “yeah, Radiohead is that weird kind of band that’s great to listen to when you’re feeling down. Somehow it can really make you feel better, but sometimes it makes you want to slit your wrists.” I mean, just look at this album art.

Yeah, I screenshotted the display on my phone rather than pull the real album art.

I haven’t actually listened to Radiohead in some time, but, of all things, The Lego Movie 2 has me wondering why. I’m cranking it right now as I reminisce a bit, and, damn. The emotions are high, and it ain’t just nostalgia. They’re a weird sound — more so the more recent the recording, it seems — but no matter the era, there’s a sort of delightful melancholy about their music and lyrics. Somehow, it is both uplifting and depressing at the same time. It’s the odd track from them that doesn’t juxtapose mood and tone — either the words are happy and hopeful against a somber melody, or the words are a march to the noose while the tune is jaunty. This is a band, after all, that stopped playing their biggest commercial hit, Creep, precisely because it was too poppy. And it’s a great song! Listen to the melody, and it belongs right there with the mindlessest upbeat pop songs of the 90s, but the lyrics tell another story:

I wish I were special 

but I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo

what the hell am I doing here

I don’t belong here.

Then there’s the flipside, one of my favorites, Pyramid Song, (pictured above!) which sounds as dire and dreadful as anything you could imagine, but centers on the delightful mantra:

There was nothing to fear, nothing dark.

And I used to listen to Radiohead all the time, just constantly. Walking to class, driving to work, while working, falling asleep … Radiohead was the soundtrack of that time in my life. All the same, I never (at the time) thought of the music as particularly depressing. I guess it just reflected what I was feeling at the time, which was the more or less typical disillusionment and disdain for all things of an introverted college kid. Now, of course, I view it differently. Sure, we go through phases in our lives, and our tastes change as we get older — I can’t tell you the last time I listened to Iron Maiden for example, which I’m sure brings my parents no shortage of joy, because that’s ALL I listened to from ages 15-18 — but I think it’s more than tastes. I’m listening to it now and digging it hard. Rather, I think it’s that Radiohead no longer feels like a reflection of me.

I think about the music I listen to these days and … well, basically all of it is devoid of much emotional content. It’s either airy and ethereal (for writing or reading) or intense and repetitive (for exercising) or poppy and vacuous (when I just want to turn my brain off). And I listen to music differently now, too, than I did in my Radiohead days — I focused on the music more, I internalized it, I identified with it. Now, mostly, I want to ignore it; just allowing it to set a mood. It’s a means to an end, setting the mood for something else I’m doing, rather than an end in itself. I usually steer away from lyrics because lyrics demand concentration. I don’t want to focus on my music, I want it in the background. Setting a mood. Not taking up mental real estate.

So, what? I don’t listen to emotionally charged music. What’s the issue?

I can’t help but wonder. It was while listening to that particular soundtrack during that particular part of my life that I had the first creative ideas that really caught fire for me. Radiohead — and other artists less, what, ignorable, like my current fare? — were the background music as I wrote the play that would later become a novel, and dozens of sketches that, okay, are currently collecting dust, but were arguably part of my current trajectory (minus the last couple fallow months, that is).

It seems, then, not unreasonable to think that an infusion of the same kind of soundtrack might turn the creative screws again, in much the same way as it did once upon a time.

The question, though, is one of time. Hours in the day are fixed, and listening to music like Radiohead isn’t quite as mindless as what I like lately. Do I have the time to engage in active listening like that at the expense of other things I could be doing? And/or, by indulging in such music, do I encourage myself to sink into a depression (because that’s what I now recognize that part of my life as, even if I didn’t know it at the time)?

Well, there I go spinning myself in circles again. I’ll end this with another lyric that seems fitting given the spiral Radiohead has put me into:

Hey man, slow down. Idiot, slow down.

I dunno. I think I owe it to myself to give Radiohead and bands like them a chance again, as an experiment in creativity if nothing else.


Drums and Beats


The word for the day is March, and the only thing that came to mind was time marches on. Which is the annoyingly obvious sort of platitude that I both love and love to hate. I thought, well, I could write on that particular platitude, but it would turn into the meandering nothing that I’m trying, of late, to avoid around here.

Then I went for a run, and after my podcast ran out – which they tend to do when you run 7 miles – (Last Podcast on the Left’s recent offering on L Ron Hubbard, for the curious) I figured I’d crank some tunes, which, I’m pretty certain, is what the kids are saying these days. And as my feet pounded away, it struck me – there I was, kind of sort of marching to the beats of several drummers. AWOLnation. Flock of Seagulls. Fiona Apple. Glitch Mob. Lindsey Sterling. Radiohead. Ed Sheeran. Duran Duran. The Beastie Boys. Twenty One Pilots. Depeche Mode. Regina Spektor. The Foo Fighters. (What is a Foo anyway, and why does it need fighting? Or are they fighting for the Foo?)
And I thought to myself: once upon a time, I had a musical identity.

I could shop in just one aisle of the record shop (and there I feel time marching on again – I haven’t bought a physical cd at a physical record store in, I dunno, a decade? Two?) My musical tastes started and ended with hard rock  and heavy metal. Iron Maiden, Metallica, Guns ‘n Roses, Megadeth. I was that guy, in that group, listening to that music. Long hair, leather jacket. I listened to exactly one radio station. All this – music at the heart of all – was no small part of my identity.

These days? I have a dozen radio presets and it doesn’t feel like enough (though that’s an indictment more perhaps of the advertisement quotient). Dozens of Playlists and stations on Spotify and Pandora that I flip through like the pages of a well-loved book. Even in my personal collection – music I feel strongly enough about to pay for it (unheard of!) – there is no such thing as a favorite artist, favorite song. One day I can’t get enough of a track, the next I’m aggressively skipping it, impatient even at its opening notes.

Love it one day, hate it the next.

Which leaves me all the time marching to the beats of lots of different drummers.

Which is probably just as well; no sense in being the same way all the time. As Shakespeare said by way of Hamlet, “suit the action to the word, the word to the action… but use all gently.”

Use all gently. A little bit of everything when the time is right.

As time marches on.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results. This week? Maybe not so productive.


Postmodern Jukebox


Stumbling across Orkestra Obsolete‘s hauntingly awesome (hauntsome?) cover of Blue Monday the other day led me into one of those internet rabbit holes.

You know the kind. You start off clicking off on a link about the recent extinction of bees and six hours later you come to and the lights have been turned off, the sun has descended, you smell funny, and your screen is covered in open tabs on everything from UFO conspiracy theories to the pollenation patterns of South Australian cacti.

TVTropes is lousy for this stuff, as I’ve mentioned before. But YouTube is pretty horrendous for it as well.

Anyway, it was Orkestra Obsolete‘s video yesterday (and Glenavailable’s comment) that put me in mind of the meta-retro soundtrack of BioShock Infinite, featuring such gems as Soft Cell’s Tainted Love, REM’s Shiny Happy People, and Tears for Fears’ Everybody Wants to Rule the World (my personal favorite). These iconic tracks were re-recorded in the style of the early twentieth century, and they are brilliant, making an already excellent game that much more memorable.

So I was re-listening to some of those tracks and that’s when the bottom of the rabbit hole dropped out from under me, because that’s when I discovered PostModern Jukebox. (Turns out that the guy who does the piano on those BioShock tracks started this group.)

How have I been living my life and not knowing about this? They take the best (and worst) pop music of the last couple decades and fling it back in time to the era of lounge lizards and doo-wop girls and … well.

It’s awesome.

If you’re not familiar, you owe it to yourself to go check it out.

Here’s one of my all-time favorite songs, which is now even more all-time favoritey:

And if you were already familiar, you owe me a fargoing explanation for not cluing me in to this before now.

YOU’RE WELCOME.


Orkestra Obsolete


80’s new wave? Old-timey and homemade instruments? Vaguely creepy dudes in tuxedoes and masks? Yes please!

I love this so much.


%d bloggers like this: