Monitor Down

The music blog that doesn’t want to hear itself

Posts Tagged ‘joy division

So You Think Nirvana Sucks…

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nirvanaPeople can say some pretty stupid things online. Maybe it’s the anonymity, maybe it’s just a spur-of-the-moment thought immortalized forever on a message board. Some of them are understandable, given circumstances. OK, your brain farted and spat out that retarded statement, and now you’re feeling better. Alright.

But sometimes, the things people say can cause great need for release of frustration. Some of them can make you want to steal a car and ram it into a shopping mall, or grab the next person to walk past you and shove his face into a tree trunk. For example, I’ve heard, more than once, someone who is supposedly into rock music say they hate Nirvana, and that Nirvana sucks. This is utterly berserk. Listen up, pinhead.

First of all, the words “hate” and “sucks” are oversimplified ways to express discontent with something. People use them when they don’t know how else to identify or explain what they don’t like about something. And don’t get me wrong, there is much not to like about Nirvana. (Big hint: It’s designed that way.) But to say Nirvana “sucks” and that you “hate” them is entirely missing the point, like saying “man, Casablanca is so damn sappy,” or “why does Van Gogh paint so many sunflowers?” Let me explain.
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Apparently, Commercial Covers Don’t Always Have to Suck

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acdcOn occasion, I will be in some department store or other where I am exposed to the business side of pop culture. This basically means music that serves as background fill, creating a comfortable, mindless soundtrack that makes people more inclined to shop. And usually, what I hear irritates me beyond words (though I tried to express it once, here).

However, a recent event managed to re-open my judgment on commercial pop covers, and I’ve realized something rather interesting: The commercialization of music doesn’t always have to involve the dumbing down of obscure, artistically challenging songs. It can go both ways.

This occurred to me in the sale section of a slightly upscale clothing store, where my discerning eardrums were introduced to a vaguely funky, jazz-style version of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” Sounds awful, I know. But hold on.

It was performed by a female vocalist, with some combination of keyboards and horns fleshing out the main chord progression, and a broken-down beat that almost entirely avoided the main beat of the song. The whole thing barely resembled the original at all. In fact, it took a few bars for me to positively identify it. And I would even say … I wasn’t pissed off about it. (Side note: I tried to find it on YouTube to no avail, but here’s a goofy, lamer jazz version of it by Tom Gaebel and Jazzkantine, to give you some idea.)

I’d like to contrast this experience with an earlier one, the example I hinted at earlier. This was the Killers’ hipster-pop version of Joy Division’s “Shadowplay.” Hearing that cover brought my blood to a boil instantly, and here’s why: The original version of “Shadowplay” isn’t supposed to be perfect. It’s not meant to be readily absorbed by people who don’t “get” music, or serve as the backdrop to a mindless club atmosphere — and it’s certainly not intended to be the soundtrack to a Forever 21. (I realize this might sound elitist and snobby. It is.)

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Written by Peter Kimmich

March 13, 2009 at 1:33 pm