3/05/2012

Rant - Carry On Wayward Son




I seem to have developed a secondary musical taste.

Yes, it’s a strange thing to say. Normally when one talks about developing a secondary anything they’re usually referring to some bizarre mutation: secondary organs, secondary limbs, or any other biological redundancy that might result from proximity to Chernobyl. I’ve never been off this continent, let alone within range of Ukraine, and so I’m unable to link this newly discovered tangential fondness to the ill effects of radiation, but it’s a mutation nevertheless.

This offshoot takes the form of a list of roughly 30 songs, most of them hit singles from late ’70s/early ’80s arena rock bands named after places (Asia, Europe, Kansas, etc.). The rest consists of power ballads from various one hit wonders. One might glance at this list and see nothing more than a “Best of” compilation covering a roughly 15 year period from 1976 to 1991, but it’s actually wholly remarkable in that just a few years ago I wouldn’t have admitted to liking even half of these songs. Hell, forget admitting: a few years ago I couldn’t stand any of these songs.

I’m not trying to say my musical tastes are superior in any way. My iTunes library includes, among other similarly questionable works, the original score to Punisher: War Zone. I’ve also previously established how some plain and seemingly inoffensive hit singles are actually darkly sophisticated, so I’m not averse to giving these tunes their proper dues. But the fact is I’ve come to unironically embrace songs I’ve previously scorned not in spite of what used to turn me off about them—excessive synthesizers, overproduction, lyrical and thematic cheesiness—but because of them. Keep in mind I don’t at all feel ashamed; I might be many things, but a hipster I am not. I’m more surprised by my liking them than anything else.


Yet if asked, I wouldn’t place any of these songs or artists alongside my favourites. They probably wouldn’t even make a top 20 list. I seriously can’t mix them with my established musical preferences: they feel completely separate from anything else I like. I somehow enjoy them independently and in completely different ways than I do my established favourite songs. Most people wouldn’t have given a second or even a first thought to this, but anyone who frequents this site probably realizes I’m not most people. It has haunted me.

And then a couple nights ago, it came to me: the unifying theme, the single, unbreakable thread weaving all of these artists and songs together. “Carry On Wayward Son,” “Black Velvet,” “The Final Countdown”… if you put me in charge of assembling a movie soundtrack, every single one of these tunes would end up playing in the background at every scene set in a bar. Every one.

Also, every one of these bands looks the same.

They’re all perfect for the job: they feature catchy hooks, are pushed forward by driving, unbroken rhythms, are instantly recognizable and yet won’t distract from the immediate action or dialogue, and have been around long enough that there’s near universal recognition and, by extension, welcoming familiarity. You might think, “Hey, that’s Journey on the loudspeakers,” before returning your attention to whatever humorous/heartbreaking/game-changing conversation the characters might be engaged in. They’re perfect. My eclectic taste isn’t just some quirk; it’s a vocation.

So, in conclusion, it all boils down to this: someone needs to put me in a music supervisory position and fast.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Hysterical. Well written.