Editorials

CH-CH-CH-CHANGES: WHY BANDS YOU LIKE START SUCKING: PART 3 OF 6: INSPIRATION MASTURBATION (A.K.A. “ROOFTOP SYNDROME”)

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walk hard

Alright, I’ll admit it: I’m a lazy guy.

I’m the kind of person who will take a job and work as infrequently and minimally as possible (were you wondering why Part 3 took so fricken’ long after Part 1 and Part 2?). I use a lot of big words on my applications and key phrases like “people-person” and “success-oriented” (second to only to the ever popular “failure-oriented”). In other words, I’m a music journalist through and through.

In the music world we lazy, uninspired writers love to curmudgeon bands for being similarly lazy … and of course, uninspired. Sitting atop our glorious thrones of self-granted influence, we, with all our forum-crawling, shit-kicking expertise criticize what we probably couldn’t do any better ourselves.

But the fact is, there are plenty of decent — and even very good — bands that are more than happy to spend an entire career ignoring our occasionally constructive criticism. After all, not every band has to break new ground to be worth your time. But what happens when groups really do take such jabs to heart?

Perhaps they grow weary of seeing college thesaurus words like “insipid” and “hackneyed” light up their reviews. Maybe trying to be Alice in Chains or Tool just got boring. Whatever the case, they went back to school, studied a little Eastern philosophy, and now have all these aboriginal dudes bongo-ing on their tracks. Problem solved … right?

aboriginal (Onset footage of 30 Seconds to Mars’ new single “Asian Teenager”)

There exists a certain Irish band (a certain Irish band that isn’t Primordial … ) that, over the course of a few decades, through their subversive lyrical content and powerhouse vocals came to embody a generation’s spirit of rebellion and won the hearts of everyone and their grandmas too.

I’ve never much liked U2, but you know, Coldplay and “Dave” weren’t always around to tranquillize the public, and the sheer universality of their sound made them a fertile influence for a number of alternative artists to come.

So let’s say your band isn’t content to get all happy and sappy and certainly isn’t interested in cock-mongering. No, you’re looking to expand your horizons, reach for the stars, (design the skyline… ?) — it’s high time you showed the world just how inspirational you can be!

Here’s the problem: you’ve spent your entire career venting personal issues, failed relationships, and “the perils of being in 3D;”

and now you’re gonna’ sing to us about climbing Everest and seizing the day?

Anyone who doesn’t think Ben Kenney has brought anything to the table — skip to 00:58.

You’re gonna actually pretend that you didn’t once name your songs after nerdy Sega games:

and that you were always into Flock of Seagulls haircuts and “broadcasting the liberation” (to moody scene kids):

and that you can get away without having anything original or provocative to say as long as you sing real breathy on a sunsetting rooftop with lots of people dramatically riding bicycles in your videos?

I don’t think so.

But more immediately, 30 Seconds to Mars is a band for the people — or so they’ve become. On 2009’s most recent step in their evolution of trying to be U2, the group utilized their fan base in a remarkable way — by having them sing on every dern track.

I’ll admit it, it’s pretty cool when a band holds their followers in such esteem, that they’re willing to invest them in their own work, but I simply don’t feel that 30 Seconds to Mars took their fan involvement far enough. Why have your diehards go Kidz Bop on every song when you could involve them in a way that is truly meaningful? That’s what my band is doing — our next album called More Inspiring Than Scott Stapp’s Unbuttoned Shirt Blowing in the Wind on Mount Sinai While Receiving a Revised Version of the Ten Commandments will be entirely written, recorded, and funded by our fans and will be available sometime within the next ten years. Keep an eye out for it!

Kidding aside (or am I?), why do rock bands think they need to mean everything to everyone? You’re three albums into your career and if mass appeal hasn’t kicked in yet, you’re suddenly a failure? ’90s arena rock was an anomaly; hell, the ’90s were an anomaly. Live, Fuel, and Tonic were pretty awesome back in the day; they were the stuff that sing-alongs (and VH1) were made for, but how much relevance do they have today? The qualifications for mass appeal in the rock world have changed so drastically that what worked for U2 and what made them huge decades ago doesn’t really apply anymore. If it did we wouldn’t be seeing trainwrecks like this:

Incubus will still be big anyway because they made it at the right time, and they’re Incubus. But trying to be the most inspiring band on the block doesn’t really lend itself to mass appeal. If a group is genuinely inspiring, chances are they’re going to turn off about as many people as they turn on and having a unique voice isn’t that unique if Bono had it 25 years ago.

-BS

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