Salad days

posted: 14 August, 2008

On the Terminal Boredom messageboard, someone started a brilliant thread, asking about 'The first time you ever heard Minor Threat'.  The brilliant thing about it is everyone's heard Minor Threat - at least everyone who would be reading Terminal Boredom - and apart from a few naysayers, everyone remembers this moment and the impact it had on them.  Except me.

It's really easy for me to fall into nostalgic reveries about my adolescence, when I discovering things that seemed secret and life-changing all the time.  I'll try to avoid that here, but I did post about the first time I heard of Minor Threat, which actually predated my actual hearing them by a few years.  To quote myself:

7th grade, a friend of my family's has died and I'm at the funeral home in St. Clairsville, OH.  I'm downstairs in the lounge of the funeral home where people are smoking, and there's this incredibly obese metal guy in a suit, but I can still tell he's metal.  He's there for another funeral home viewing (as there were 2 or 3 in the place), and we're talking and I tell him I'm into metal (which at the time for me is MTV stuff like black album-era Metallica, etc.)  He says Metallica is his favorite metal band but his second favorite is Minor Threat, but I think he's saying Minor Fret which makes me think they're a total shredding Yngvie Malmstein-kinda thing.  So I thought they were tech metal called Minor Fret up until I actually heard them, which was probably 2 years later on a mix tape or something.

This I remember more than when I actually did hear their music.  Lately I've been talking with friends about the change brought by the Internet regarding how accessible things are - today, any kid could download "In My Eyes" in less time than the song itself lasts and make their own assessment - but it wasn't that easy then, of course.  No shit, Fail - but --

I realise now that back in these times -- when I would read descriptions of music in lieu of actually hearing it -- these textual descriptions influenced my tastes and artistic direction, often moreso than the music itself.

In this era of accessibility - an era that I still occasionally fear may end due to a Net Neutrality meltdown, a Draconian copyright enforcement or maybe just an environmental dark age - the treasure at the end of the map is nothing special anymore.  Because language generally fails to describe music, it creates a layer of abstraction that opens more possibilities in the imagination.  I still enjoy reading descriptions of music and find the music often disappointing, or different, compared to the luxurious gateways painted by the prose.  

Here's an example: 

a percise collage of beautiful sound made with more instruments then a parrot could handle, such as Plastic guitar, bass, clarinet, banjo, optigon/organ,egg slicer, ratchets, broken toys, fan motors, whirliegigs, glasses, tape loops..etc. poor rabbits quickly hide when they see the red head with the twitching eye play his tunes with more then 34 hands at the same time, this could be the soundtrack for some seriously fucked up road circus, dead rabbits crawl out of a lazy elephants hat while a sad tapeloop of a rotting harmonium plays your uncle vomits fave cough sirup tap dance blur, oozing for some romantic noise crackles, the nostalgia of the banana fish days putss him down in his cough again wheeping like a black cat on an attic in new jersey!

This is Dennis Tyfus, describing the new Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase LP on his label Ultra Eczema.   I haven't heard the album yet, though I want to.  The description makes me want to stop writing here and get back to my own recording projects.  Dennis (who is a great writer though will probably never appear in a Norton anthology) has made me imagine something grotesque, beautiful and carnivalesque, soaked in the whimsy of experimentation through a damaged vision.  It's this idea of 'play' that still excites and keeps me engaged with experimental/surreal/weird/whatever music. 

I was going to go on about Minor Threat actually but I've let myself get sidetracked, and I'll end this here. There's plenty of time for that in the future.

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