March 17, 2010

Mock the pretentious

As a musician, you're bound to meet a lot of 'interesting' and 'alternative' people. While most 'interesting' people are great and fun to be with, we all know that some of them are just plain annoying. And incredibly pretentious. Imagine then, that you're not only a musician, but even a 'alternative' or 'indie' musician - you surely must be regularly dealing with masses of annoying 'alternative'/'interesting' people – both amongst your social network/scene and amongst your own fans. And it really seems like this is frustrating certain musicians a lot, at least judging by the lyrics of the six songs I'm presenting you today.

What kind of 'alternative' people really get on the nerves of the songwriters of Beck, CSS, Eels, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, of Montreal and Wilco? Let's find out, and let's indulge in some of the most sarcastic and satiric song lyrics out there, filled with genuine contempt and strong suppressed pent-up annoyance which must have been built up over a considerable period of time.

Beck seems to have (had) a major frustration with a vegetarian, wannabe poet 'alternative'/hippy lady in his life:

mp3: Beck - Nitemare Hippy Girl
yo, she's bustin' out onto the scene
with nightmare bogus poetry
she's cooking salad for breakfast
she's got tofu the size of Texas
she's a witness to her own glory
she's a never-ending story

CSS's LuĂ­sa Hanae Matsushita (aka Lovefoxxx) has a background as an illustrator and fashion designer, before she moved on to music and became world famous as the lead singer of indie rock / synthpop band CSS. Apparently she left the fashion world because she was completely sick of the people in that particular industry. In the following lyrics however, she leaves the fashion world's many annoying people alone, and instead kicks the same direction as Beck - towards people with no real talent who're full of themselves.

mp3: CSS - Art Bitch
I poo on a plate and get it published on visionaire
I have no port-fo-lee-o
Cuz i only show
Where there's free al-co-hol

For a biting, sarcastic and spiteful critique of the fashion industry's superficiality, though, you have to look no further than Eels' "Fashion Awards". One of frontman Mr. E's beautiful 3-minute acoustic guitar and string based beauties, the track sounds quite harmless and harmonious until you start paying attention to the hilarious lyrics:

mp3: Eels - Fashion Awards
let's go down to the fashion show
with all the pretty people that you don't know
we'll sit down in the velvet chairs
we'll hand awards out for best hair
and if we don't win one well then
we'll blow off our heads in despair
we'll blow off our heads in despair

Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in my opinion does one of her greatest vocal performances of all time in the track "Art Star" off one of their early EPs. She switches naturally between loud and intense screaming, innocent and cutesy humming and ridiculing monologues mimicking young and hip artists:

mp3: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Art Star
I got a dealer in Tokyo
I got a rep in Paris
I got an agent in Cologne
Shit, I got a gallery in New York
It's a madhouse, this modern life

Kevin Barnes of of Montreal has apparently had it with elitist snobs who pride themselves so highly on knowing all 'high culture' authors/composers/directors 'worth knowing' and look with contempt at anyone who can't namedrop and/or enjoy them. While the highly cultivated Barnes himself makes countless references to painters, directors, authors and more in his band's song lyrics, he makes it very clear in the sarcastic "Art Snob Solutions" that he doesn't want to be perceived as one of those jerks who think they're superior because of their 'cultural capital'.

mp3: of Montreal - Art Snob Solutions
Come on artists, the day is here!
And your mission is very clear
Put an end to the bourgeoisie
And death to everyone who's never heard of me

Similarly, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy also seems annoyed at people who feel superior for knowing/namedropping the right artists. In "The Late Greats", however, he targets his mockery specifically at indie music fans. Enjoying music that's not considered part of the 'mainstream' is all well and good, but making it a major point to avoid music that is in any way known to the general public, or even deliberately and consistently picking music that's "so indie that they'll never play it on the radio", is pretty pretentious.

While Wilco made music throughout the 90s, their real breakthrough didn't come before 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. "The Late Greats" is a track from the first album they made after having 'become famous', 2004s A Ghost Is Born and I'm sure it must have been meant as a tongue-in-cheek mockery of some of their 'former fans' who chose to distance themselves from the 90s 'unknown' alternative band once it started having some real success and publicity. Judging by Tweedy's mockery, he can't have been very sad to see these people go.

mp3: Wilco - The Late Greats
The best band will never get signed
K-Settes starring Butcher's Blind
Are so good, you won't ever know
They never even played a show
You can't hear 'em on the radio
The best song will never get sung
The best laugh never leaves your lungs
So good, you won't ever know
I never hear it on the radio
Can't hear it on the radio

No comments: