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December 11, 2007 7:29 AM   Subscribe

This AskMe post has made me lose my faith in humanity, and I desperately need to spew bile about that.

SWEET GOD, please tell me that there are not people like this in the world? People that assume, as their default behaviour, that they should follow all the petty rules in some crappy call center and make the jobs of their underlings even more crappy than they already are?

Tell me that there aren't really people that want to advise this person that "you should spend less time worrying about the rules and more time trying to get your team to add value to the company"?

Add value to the company? No, no, please don't tell me that this is how people really think? Make it go away, I can't accept that the world is like this, and even if the world is like this can MetaFilter at least not be like this?
posted by Meatbomb to Bugs at 7:29 AM (453 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

There are people like this. There are people like this on Metafilter. There are also people that live in yurts and people that work in bakeries and people that buy Celine Dion albums and people that hike the Appalachian Trail. There are all kinds of people dude.
posted by ND¢ at 7:39 AM on December 11, 2007 [21 favorites]


Wait, what? You find it surprising that some people take their jobs seriously? What are you, 14?
posted by Plutor at 7:40 AM on December 11, 2007 [8 favorites]


Dramatic much, Meatbomb? The poster has a job to do and needs advice on how to do it well. The person was said to commit a "grave" offense, and I'm going to give our poster the benefit of the doubt that he knows the difference between a petty offense and a grave one. So, we're doing what we can to help. Life isn't black and white. This callout, however, was definitely a bad idea.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:41 AM on December 11, 2007 [5 favorites]


And this, further down:

Your job is to make people feel human and to get them to perform like robots.


No, this cannot be allowed to happen. All call centers must be closed.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:41 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


TPS: I had to make this callout, because the comments I made were inappropriate for the AskMe thread. As far as I understand it, I am doing the right thing.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:43 AM on December 11, 2007


Or maybe I'm misreading your complaint. Are you surprised by the asker? Or the underlings? Neither strike me as especially surprising, considering I.. uh.. have ever been employed.
posted by Plutor at 7:43 AM on December 11, 2007


Wait… you’re complaining on Metatalk about the existence of call centers?

You should start a thread about airplane food next.
posted by bondcliff at 7:45 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I had to make this callout

No, you didn't.
posted by grouse at 7:45 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Meatbomb has lost his innocence. Poor Meatbomb.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:46 AM on December 11, 2007


bondcliff: "You should start a thread about airplane food next."

And what's up with gas stations, amirite!
posted by Plutor at 7:46 AM on December 11, 2007


A while back someone had posted an article about the emotional toll it takes on one to work in a call center. Sorry to derail this MeTa, but does anyone know of any other writing or studies on it? Whether spending all day talking to people who want nothing from you other than to FIX THIS NOW causes a personality change or lasting psychological effects? I did call center work for 5 years at various companies and I still can't stand to hear a phone ring or have people ask me a series of questions or for help for something or to do something for them that they can't be arsed to do on their own.
posted by pieoverdone at 7:46 AM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


TPS: I had to make this callout, because the comments I made were inappropriate for the AskMe thread. As far as I understand it, I am doing the right thing.

This is the least bad place for it, definitely. But it's not clear to me here if you have any purpose at all here that's metafilter related or if you just feeling like hollerin', and as much as it may feel like it some place, Metatalk isn't specifically for undirected hollerin'.

No, this cannot be allowed to happen. All call centers must be closed.

I'm not sure that's a viable approach to the problem.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:48 AM on December 11, 2007


Some people's lives are all about crappy choices. While I personally subscribe to the belief that if we all start refusing every "rock and a hard place" crappy choice things will improve dramatically and rapidly, conflicting opinions on what constitutes a crappy choice complicate matters substantially.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:48 AM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure that's a viable approach to the problem.

Oh I disagree. It sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
posted by Skorgu at 7:50 AM on December 11, 2007


LOUD NOISES!
posted by Kwine at 7:50 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


jessamyn: "While I personally subscribe to the belief that if we all start refusing every "rock and a hard place" crappy choice things will improve dramatically and rapidly..."

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
posted by Plutor at 7:51 AM on December 11, 2007 [5 favorites]


Thank you for your metatalk post! Your metatalk post is important to us! All of our vituperitive assholes are currently busy but your metatalk post has been placed in a queue and will be dealt with by the first available snide, arrogant harpy! *TALL AND TAN AND YOUNG AND LOVELY THE GIRL FROM IPANEMA GOES WALKING AND WHEN SHE PASSES EACH ONE THAT SHE PASSES GOES AH! WHEN SHE WALKS SHE'S LIKE A SAMBA THAT SWINGS SO COOL AND SWAYS SO GENTLE THAT WHEN SHE PASSES EACH ONE-* Thank you for your metatalk post! Your metatalk post is important to us! All of our ...
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:53 AM on December 11, 2007 [94 favorites]


as much as it may feel like it some place

MetaFilter: feel like it some place.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:55 AM on December 11, 2007


I don't agree with this particular MeTa callout overall, but hey, as long as we're here:

Flout: To show contempt for; scorn: flout a law; behavior that flouted convention.

Flaunt: To exhibit ostentatiously or shamelessly: flaunts his knowledge.

Example: "By noting how several people flouted the correct usage of 'flaunt' in that thread, I am flaunting my superior intellect."

It's a fairly common mistake, but still: The More You Know™
posted by pineapple at 7:59 AM on December 11, 2007 [7 favorites]


MetaTalk: Conflicting opinions on what constitutes a crappy choice.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:01 AM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


This is what makes you lose your faith in humanity? Please...
posted by pupdog at 8:01 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

I have a different belief about listening to people who quote Rush lyrics. It's related to the other one.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:02 AM on December 11, 2007 [15 favorites]


Grow up. In the real world, people have to do all sorts of things they don't like. In your moral calculus, you'd rather be dead than working in a call center. The people who work there obviously have not come to the same conclusions.

It's also hard to fault people for following the rules when their salary and chances for promotion are directly linked to it.

I'm so very sorry that it causes you so much pain to think of the poor beleaguered call center workers.

for the love of pete, don't tell this guy about Malaysian sweatshops. It'll blow his fucking mind.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:05 AM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


people that buy Celine Dion albums

this is true, I've seen this
posted by poppo at 8:05 AM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


jessamyn: "I have a different belief about listening to people who quote Rush lyrics. It's related to the other one."

Just because I quoted it in a high-pitched Getty Lee voice doesn't make it wrong.
posted by Plutor at 8:07 AM on December 11, 2007


Meatbomb: SWEET GOD, please tell me that there are not people like this in the world? People that assume, as their default behaviour, that they should follow all the petty rules in some crappy call center and make the jobs of their underlings even more crappy than they already are?

No. There are people who work in call centers and like the companies they work for. I'm one of them. And if anybody on my team used bad language or hung up on someone they were talking to (the asker doesn't say what, but it sounds pretty heinous) then they'd be putting the entire company at risk of lawsuit, and jeopardizing all of our jobs. Really. So I'd rather they were fired.

Tell me that there aren't really people that want to advise this person that "you should spend less time worrying about the rules and more time trying to get your team to add value to the company"?

There are people in that thread who feel like the person in question shouldn't be fired if they're holding up the team, even if they have broken the rules. I get the feeling you do too, so I wonder why you're upset that people say this.

Add value to the company? No, no, please don't tell me that this is how people really think? Make it go away, I can't accept that the world is like this, and even if the world is like this can MetaFilter at least not be like this?

Unfortunately, the world is like this. I hate it too. But, friend, the people in that thread were talking corporate-speak because that's the only way for the asker to convince anyone else or to conceptualize it for them. Their motivation was clearly justice in the workplace, which is a good motivation.

Where the hell do you work that you don't even have to think about this? Can you recommend me for a job there, please?
posted by koeselitz at 8:08 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


This AskMe post has made me lose my faith in humanity, and I desperately need to spew bile about that.

Funny, because a number of your AskMes have caused a similar reaction in me, albeit by degrees less dramatic.
posted by amro at 8:10 AM on December 11, 2007


Meatbomb, didn't you get the memo?
posted by slimepuppy at 8:10 AM on December 11, 2007


We can't all be a "homeless Nomad," whatever that means.

I've worked plenty of call center jobs, and you know what I liked most about them? There was absolutely no danger of them ever becoming important to me. It's just work, and then you go home and do whatever you want. The average college professor cannot say the same thing.

The people you're acting concerned about probably don't like their jobs very much, but they're really fine without your concern.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:14 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


For these decisions, we simply need to do is put aside the alienation and get on with the fascination. You know, the real relation, i.e. the underlying theme.
posted by horsewithnoname at 8:15 AM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


Add value to the company? No, no, please don't tell me that this is how people really think?

Yeah. Add value to the company. What the hell do you think your paycheck (assuming you have a job) is for? Do you think it's a gift for just being you?
posted by rocket88 at 8:17 AM on December 11, 2007 [8 favorites]


Meatbomb definitely needs one of those hug things.

And it's Geddy, not Getty.
posted by JanetLand at 8:19 AM on December 11, 2007


Whether spending all day talking to people who want nothing from you other than to FIX THIS NOW causes a personality change or lasting psychological effects?

You have all read my borderline psychotic comments, right? My ranting and my ravings, my overt and my subtle threats against the bodies and minds of those around me.

You've seen my desire to burn this world to nothing more than a charred cinder, then salt the remains to ensure that no life will ever flourish here again...

...

Apropos of nothing, I work in a call center.
posted by quin at 8:23 AM on December 11, 2007 [6 favorites]


Yeah, tell us what you do to pay for your life, Meatbomb, and let us judge you for it.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:24 AM on December 11, 2007


Meatbomb, didn't you get the memo?
You mean the TPS report?
posted by mullacc at 8:25 AM on December 11, 2007


It always amazes me on Metafilter how many people will enthusiastically agree with the big guy over the little guy, and how many people like rules qua rules.
posted by klangklangston at 8:26 AM on December 11, 2007 [9 favorites]


If you guys would stop focusing on me and my shortcomings, and devote your energies to stopping the people who want us to be like this, the world could be a better place. But I guess it is easier to just tell me to grow up.

Those of you who think this question and this situation are unremarkable, you are getting the world you agree to live in.

Where the hell do you work that you don't even have to think about this?

I work somewhere where people are trusted, respected, and don't have to abide by petty rules. People are more important than companies' profits. Does that make me some kind of freak? Huh.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:27 AM on December 11, 2007 [6 favorites]


What a bad MetaTalk post this is...
posted by sciurus at 8:28 AM on December 11, 2007


If it's really upsetting you so much you should read a quote from This guy's profile.

"How may I serve you? There is nothing you need be ashamed of, and I love you unconditionally."
posted by bondcliff at 8:30 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I work somewhere where people are trusted, respected, and don't have to abide by petty rules. People are more important than companies' profits. Does that make me some kind of freak? Huh.

I wouldn't say it makes you a freak. I would say it makes you lucky, and that to twist "Wow, I'm really lucky that I have the opportunity to choose where I work, a luxury that clearly not everyone enjoys," into "Anyone who doesn't get to choose a kum-ba-yah professional environment where everyone is equally respected and appreciated for the snowflakes they are, is stupid, crappy, contributing to the continuing crisis, and deserving of my bile spewing, SWEET GOD"

...is probably not the most helpful or socially constructive way to go about it.

Choosing to twist it from "wow I'm lucky" into "you're a crappy double-speaking automaton who has shattered my faith in humanity" publicly... what did you think would happen there? it seems that MeTas which are a variation on "[MeFi User X / Social Convention Y] is soooo stoopid, amirite?" don't historically end well, and are pretty classic GYOB territory.

But, I'm just happy I got a place to niggle over flaunt/flout, so I don't care.
posted by pineapple at 8:39 AM on December 11, 2007 [13 favorites]


Those of you who think this question and this situation are unremarkable, you are getting the world you agree to live in.

It's not a case of getting it, it's a case of seeing it for what it is and always has been. The asker sounds like an authoritarian douche to me. You're surprised there are authoritarian douches in the world? When have there not been?

And thank you pineapple. I was far more outraged about the decline of humanity in general by the flaunt/flout thing. People who misuse words should be sentenced to work for that call center guy.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:40 AM on December 11, 2007


Back to the FRIGGIN' Future!
posted by blue_beetle at 8:43 AM on December 11, 2007


I work somewhere where people are trusted, respected, and don't have to abide by petty rules.

But the question remains: Do you add value to your employer?
posted by rocket88 at 8:44 AM on December 11, 2007


If you guys would stop focusing on me and my shortcomings, and devote your energies to stopping the people who want us to be like this, the world could be a better place. But I guess it is easier to just tell me to grow up.

I'm sorry, I really don't mean to be a jerk here, but didn't you Ask once about how to start a cult, and get a mail-order bride?

Why does it bug you so much that other people also want other people to do things?
posted by zebra3 at 8:46 AM on December 11, 2007


I work somewhere where people are trusted, respected, and don't have to abide by petty rules.

So do I, but JESUS is my co-pilot. Rock on.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:47 AM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


"Not hanging up on someone" doesn't seem like a particularly petty rule in a place whose only business is "being on the phone with people".

I mean, I used to work in a call center, and it was a little soul-killing. But considering how much I hate automated phone systems where I'm forced to talk to a robot, it seems like a better tactic to just be kind to people in call centers, and have them be kind to me, than setting up call centers where employees are free to hang up on whomever they don't like.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:48 AM on December 11, 2007


If you truly want to fight this, you at least have to tell us how, you know give us some sort of game plan. Otherwise you're just talking about change without doing anything and I will have to relegate you to hippie status.

It's not that I dislike hippies per se; I loved Bonnaroo. It's just my eyes sort of glaze over when theres a lot of talk about "the unfairness" caused by some corporate/government oppressor without any real solutions being proposed.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 8:55 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


This must be at least one component of Google's justification of the microscopically smooth seamlessness which forces clients and customers to rely on users' groups to deal with any problem.
posted by jamjam at 8:55 AM on December 11, 2007


This will wittler.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:58 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I am in the same boat as you Meatbomb. I work at a great place that lets me come in when I want to, leave when I want, and basically do what I want when I am here. However, I have also worked in call centers, and it sucked. I know that there are people in the world that not only want to obey every rule that they come across, but that take some perverse joy in making others do that too. Knowing that there are people like that out there does not cause me to lose my faith in humanity, it makes me glad for the people in my life that aren't like that. And as for taking the time to stop people that want to make others follow meaningless rules, I can't do anything to stop them other than what I am already doing: not letting them do that to me.
posted by ND¢ at 8:58 AM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


if you're surprised by the fact that call centers operate that way, you must live on some remote island -- call centers are a shit job at the very end of the food chain of jobs that don't require physical labor exactly because of that -- it's a tough, merciless business and if you work there you should know that. if the guy needs to fire someone someone because they take breaks that are too long or minor stuff like that, so be it -- that's why it's a bad job after all.

moving furniture or working in a mortally hot, smelly restaurant kitchen or unloading trucks at dawn is, I can assure you, physically harder than taking phone calls for a living.

but yes, working at a call center is certainly a shit job, there's no way around it. leave the poster alone
posted by matteo at 9:00 AM on December 11, 2007


Meatbomb writes "I work somewhere where people are trusted, respected, and don't have to abide by petty rules."

Uh, the guy is going to get fired for not doing his job. Apparently, that's heinous. Because you work somewhere where they won't fire you even if you don't do your job.

Guess who is The Man in this situation, Meatbomb. YOU are.
posted by Bugbread at 9:03 AM on December 11, 2007 [5 favorites]


I work somewhere where people are trusted, respected, and don't have to abide by petty rules. People are more important than companies' profits.

I don't think many people would disagree with you on whether or not petty rules are a good thing to have to abide by. Petty rules are by description petty, and pettiness sucks.

Not all rules are petty, though. The big rule in the question, for example, seems to be "don't hang up on a customer in the middle of a call". That's not petty, that's the core of the business. There are whole chapters any competent call center manager (and experienced phone tech) could write on exactly when and why and how a call should and shouldn't be terminated if there's something unusual and Not Right going on over the phone. "Just hang up without warning" is not one of those solutions.

I think it's fair to say that a decent workplace is somewhere where people are trusted and respected and can be expected to abide by the practical rules of the job; and where as a token of mutual trust and respect, violations of those rules are dealt with on a personal and attentive level with the goal of finding the best outcome for all involved.

I don't think call centers in general do a stellar job of being that kind of place. By virtue of them being generally low-paying, little-training, high turnover production jobs—something not unique to call centers and not something that can just be brushed away by a principled statement that That's Not Good—they're going to suffer from a degree of depressed morale pretty much by default. One of the consequences of that is that the bottom tier employees, the folks on the phone doing the grunt work, don't tend to have a hell of a lot of desire to be good employees, or to take a reasoned or sympathetic eye to company policies or rules, and so what is in theory a pretty reasonable set of rules gets elevated by the culture of embittered grievance to the level of petty and unreasonable. It sucks from both sides of the fence.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:03 AM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


It's worth noting that the asker included the question "am I being unreasonable?" in the question. Just like those fascist assholes always do, right?
posted by Bookhouse at 9:03 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


"you should spend less time worrying about the rules and more time trying to get your team to add value to the company"?

I worked at CSCO from 1991 through 2000, during which time our stock price went from (split adjusted) $0.50 to $80.00. During that time many pointless arguments were cut short with the question "Is this making the stock price go up?"

Myself and many other people spent 9 years of our lives adding value to our company, and I can't say that any of us regret it.

There's a lot of money to be made off of stock, and even call center workers are part of ESPP.
posted by tkolar at 9:05 AM on December 11, 2007


A while back someone had posted an article about the emotional toll it takes on one to work in a call center.

Here's that thread in case anyone cares to read it.
posted by NoMich at 9:08 AM on December 11, 2007


This MetaTalk post has made me lose all faith in the (closed) tag.
posted by cillit bang at 9:09 AM on December 11, 2007 [7 favorites]


Meatbomb: If you guys would stop focusing on me and my shortcomings, and devote your energies to stopping the people who want us to be like this [link to sketch of pods from The Matrix], the world could be a better place. But I guess it is easier to just tell me to grow up.

Here's where I start to think that this callout has a 50% chance of being a total joke. The Matrix? That's the best metaphor you can think of for corporate unhappiness in the modern world? I'm more concerned with people who want my life to be like this, personally.

I work somewhere where people are trusted, respected, and don't have to abide by petty rules. People are more important than companies' profits. Does that make me some kind of freak? Huh.

Wow. You work where there's no oversight, people are allowed to do anything they damned well please, and, even if they willfully do things to piss customers off and hurt the company publicly, they're allowed to just continue without any kind of discipline? What an awesome place. Let me know if they still make enough money to keep paying you five years from now.

Look, I feel as deeply as you the injustice inherent in the system. I'm the guy that should be off somewhere writing my thesis on Homer's Odyssey and reading Aristotle and Avicenna, and here I am with a headset and tie calling people and trying to sell them internet marketing. But it's not nearly so black and white as you're acting like it is.
posted by koeselitz at 9:09 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


In defense of Meatbomb I don't think he was talking about "don't hang up on people" as part of the petty rules. If you read the post it's clear that there is a very thick and detailed rulebook at the call center in question, and that the poster's preference was to follow it to the letter.
posted by tkolar at 9:10 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I hate corporate douche-cookies as much as anyone, but that thread isn't a target deserving your contempt.

Managers who focus on petty rules are one of the aspects of low level corporate work that make them suck so hard. A number of the comments suggested that the original poster find a better approach to managing his team. Perhaps the best way for the manager to take on his role is to, "spend less time worrying about the rules and more time trying to get your team to add value to the company". What is so distasteful about that? By doing so the manager is fulfilling his responsibility to the company and being appropriately respectful towards his team members. Company profits are pretty important if everyone wants to keep having a job.

I also have to agree with klangklangston though,

"It always amazes me on Metafilter how many people will enthusiastically agree with the big guy over the little guy, and how many people like rules qua rules."

So true. Nothing pointed it out to me as clearly as this thread.
posted by BigSky at 9:12 AM on December 11, 2007


Whatever the merits of this thread or lack thereof, it occurs to me to note that I have quite a lot of sympathy for (what I read as) Meatbomb's compassion for our fellow workbots and his or her inherent dislike of this particular ugly and rigid nook of the work-a-day world. As such, I should gladly buy Meatbomb a beer. This is not a criticism of the AskMe-er in question, natch.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:15 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: It always amazes me on Metafilter how many people will enthusiastically agree with the big guy over the little guy, and how many people like rules qua rules.

What the hell are you talking about? In a call center, the honorable team lead who cares about treating people right on the phone is the little guy, believe me. The asker was entirely in the right, and I doubt that anybody who thinks otherwise has ever actually worked in a call center.

Or are you saying you'd rather have to talk to a guy who'll hang up on you the next time you call your insurance agency or cell phone provider?
posted by koeselitz at 9:15 AM on December 11, 2007


So do I, but JESUS is my co-pilot. Rock on.

God damn but this internet website is run by a bunch of hippies.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:18 AM on December 11, 2007


TheOnlyCoolTim writes "God damn but this internet website is run by a bunch of hippies."

If you post a self-link, they'll shut your account down.

Mathowie, Cortex, and Jessamyn are The Man.
posted by Bugbread at 9:21 AM on December 11, 2007


I have been punched in the stomach, and I desperately need to spew bile.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:22 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


JeremiahBritt: If you truly want to fight this, you at least have to tell us how, you know give us some sort of game plan.

Well, for starters, that guy who is thinking of firing the poor schmuck should stop reading his rulebook, and stop thinking like that. If his boss gives him any trouble, he should convince his boss that it's OK to hang up when a customer is really rude, that eating at the desks isn't as important as it's made out to be, and his boss should convince her boss and so on up the chain.

If all call centers follow this simple plan, they will start to become acceptable places to work, and rude people will stop being jerks to people at call centers because they will always get hung up on.

But maybe I've played my hand too soon, and this thread will not spark a spontaneous uprising against the Man as I had originally hoped. I only fear that if these sensible ideas are brushed aside the eventual solution will be a more violent and radical one.

koeslitz: I think it is possible to be joking and dead serious at the same time. I am not about to cut off my hand over this situation, but no I am not just trying to do performance art to entertain you either. The AskMe question, and many of the comments, made me sad and angry that people have to work in such dehumanizing circumstances and that so many people think that's absolutely normal and OK.

I'll stop digging now.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:26 AM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


So I work in big telecom, I've helped build a couple of companies that, due to the nature of the business, required there be call centers. In my experience, working with call centers both in the states and outside of it, they generally aren't a place that I would personally choose to work in again. I did it when I was coming up in my career and it was unpleasant.

Call centers are a unique part of the service industry. The transition of economies to service driven products means that there are lots of them and probably, until AVR/IVR gets more traction, their numbers will continue to grow. Call centers themselves generally are time driven, the employees clock in and clock out for generally most of their tasks a day. This is usually via the phone system or a desktop application that is tied to the phone system that watches how their time is spent. Because of this integration employees are constantly tracked as to what time goes where to bring further improvements to the business process.

I would agree with MB that working in many call centers with how they treat their employees is not something that I would find a rich and rewarding experience, there might be people out there who would enjoy it. there might also be people out there who would rather be working in a call center than swinging a hammer or flipping burgers or any number of jobs. However, it's a job, the only way to improve the working conditions are to get the folks organized, innovate in a different technical area, or convince management that humans really don't appreciate being tracked to the last second as to when they went to the can and came out of it.

Regarding the management. Well, to varying degrees of success, they are responsible for managing the business and it's resources. Most people are absolutely horrible at managing, myself included. However, the business generally wouldn't run if it weren't for a few people trying to drag it kicking and screaming in to order. Maybe the OP is one of those folks, possibly he's just trying to figure out how to be a manager, which you know, takes quite a bit of time, generally years in fact. The OP is trying to manage resources with little to no training or experience in an industry which doesn't exactly encourage personal freedoms or generally value employees for their individual contributions, with a team that generally didn't wave the company flag around in terms of following the HR handbook. He's got a tough job, and probably is just realizing what he got himself in to. Cut him a little bit of a break, no one figures this out their first go round.
posted by iamabot at 9:34 AM on December 11, 2007


Meatbomb writes "The AskMe question, and many of the comments, made me sad and angry that people have to work in such dehumanizing circumstances and that so many people think that's absolutely normal and OK."

I'm sorry that we live in the real world and don't get to live in your little oasis. I'm sure Marie Antoinette was also sad and angry that the villagers lived hand to mouth and found that world normal. How much better it would be if the villagers lived hand to mouth and yet thought that living in a palace was normal.
posted by Bugbread at 9:35 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


rude people will stop being jerks to people at call centers because they will always get hung up on.

This is 100 percent incorrect. Rude people will never stop being jerks. We cannot ever, ever, EVER hope for this. The history of human religion and ethics has been thousands of years of "Hey maybe we could stop being jerks to each other?" which is almost universally met by a bunch of people going "Okay, sounds good, OH WAIT JK LOLCRUSADES!!!!1!"

With the correct assumption that customers will always be assholes -- which many will be, always, no matter what -- companies have to base their responses on how best to cope with those assholes in a way that won't escalate matters. Hanging up escalates matters, because it pisses off the asshole customer even more.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:35 AM on December 11, 2007 [10 favorites]


You know what, Meatbomb? Most people who say things like what you've been saying without any trace of irony smoke enough weed to chill the fuck out occasionally. Give that a try instead of posting callouts like this one or the entire text of the Treaty of Westphalia or whatever crap you decide to post next time.

Those of you who think this question and this situation are unremarkable, you are getting the world you agree to live in.

No, we just all have too much of our own shit to deal with to worry about whether or not we're tacitly endorsing every instance of workplace drudgery in the world by not engaging in what you seem to believe is a form of activism by whining in metatalk.
posted by shmegegge at 9:38 AM on December 11, 2007


Meatbomb... over here. I want to tell you something....

SHHHHH, be quiet! stop screaming and waving your arms like that. They'll see you. Just act natural while we slooooowwwwly walk over into this corner where the cameras can't see us. Dude. If you don't stop with the shrieking, you're gonna get us all in big trouble. I know what you saw was horrible, but trust me, it can get a lot worse.

I know I seem a little paranoid....but they're watching...always watching.

Ok, you calm now? I'm going to tell you this, and I don't want you to freak out. if you start screaming again, I'm going to punch you. Maybe you're not ready to hear this....But I been in your shoes, man. You build a nice cozy cocoon around you that reflects how you think the world should work. You meet like-minded folks who reinforce your concept of how the world works, what's right, what's wrong, where all the pieces fit...it's a good thing, right? Then every once in a while something comes along and just glitches everything up. Out of nowhere someone comes along, and behaves in a way that's not only odd, but completely at odds with how you've figured things should work. It's like you finally figure out the laws of gravity, and then one day you drop a cup, and instead of falling to the ground, it just floats there for a second, and then turns into a giant snake and eats your eyeballs.

Freaky isn't it. But you're not crazy. It's just that the Simulators that broadcast the reality into our brains, well...they used to have these things called "channels". See, you could change these channel thingies, and see different stuff.

You could choose.

You're getting a little shaky there, friend. Need a drink of water or something? I know this is a tough pill to swallow. But it's not as bad as you think. See, the channel thing got to be a bit tricky. People would just sith there all day, flipping through the channels, not really watching anything. Too much choice equaled not choosing at all. So the Masters got rid of the channels. Who are the masters? Oh....I couldn't tell you that. Trust me, you're better off not knowing. Just know that they're not as smart as they think they are. See...they didn't really get rid of the channels, they just took the knobs off. So the simulators sometimes get jostled, and you see someone else's channel for a second. It's no big deal. Happens to everyone.

My dad's channel got out of whack the other day, and he saw two men kissing. Freaked him right out. He gave his simulator a good whack, and everything went back to normal. Looks like your set switched to the CorporateChannel for a sec. Scary Shit on that channel. Best to just ignore it. Every once in a while I watch it, because sometimes they show where all the money is hidden. But it gives me nightmares, so I mostly avoid it these days. See, it's not so bad really. If you find the spot where the knob used to be, you can fiddle with it a bit, and see all kinds of crazy stuff. Just don't let on that you know or they'll come and give you one of the new sets. The new simulators are Hi-Def, surround sound, 3-D, realer than real...but no channels on those bad boys. I hear the old simulators used to have this thing called an "off button" but that's probably just an urban legend.

Now go back to your pod. And for god's sake....Try and act normal. Whatever that means.
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:38 AM on December 11, 2007 [12 favorites]


SWEET GOD, please tell me that there are not mean bosses, dishonest employees, pension fund swindlers, vengeful ex-lovers, schoolyard bullies, lying politicians, corrupt governmental agencies, child abusers, rapists, and murderers in the world?

It's all true, I'm afraid. Oh, and get this -- many companies have rules they expect employees to follow!

--SWEET GOD
posted by pardonyou? at 9:40 AM on December 11, 2007


Greg Nog writes "With the correct assumption that customers will always be assholes -- which many will be, always, no matter what -- companies have to base their responses on how best to cope with those assholes in a way that won't escalate matters."

I think it would be great if there were a required year or half-year of national conscription, not to the army, but to a base level service industry. Make everyone work flipping burgers or in a call-center for 6 months. Then, when their time is up, tattoo on their hand "remember how your six months felt".
posted by Bugbread at 9:42 AM on December 11, 2007 [8 favorites]


If his boss gives him any trouble, he should convince his boss that it's OK to hang up when a customer is really rude, that eating at the desks isn't as important as it's made out to be, and his boss should convince her boss and so on up the chain.

You're missing something key if you think that the question of whether and how to disengage with a really rude customer over the phone isn't on the table and in the manual and part of whatever (probably too-brief in many cases) training the phone techs have had. The question didn't by my reading seem to suggest that there was a defensible issue of a rude customer's call handled under duress; that's not something that's likely to be considered a no-questions fireable violation so much an edge case that might need some retraining.

So to "convince his boss that it's OK to hang up when a customer is really rude" feels way off base. It feels like fantasyland stuff, when butted up again practical call center experience, which a number of people reacting to your post here have actually had in significant quantity.

Eating at desks? I'm right there with you. But I've never seen anyone get fired for eating at their desk, and I've never met anyone who felt so strongly about eating at their desk that they quit their job over that and that preciesly. So it doesn't pass the sniff test for me, and I think conflating something like basic job-one customer call handling, say, with the open question of eating at desks and whether the Folks Upstairs will flex on it is a big problem if the employees are actually after reasonable flexibility and mutual respect.

God damn but this internet website is run by a bunch of hippies.

Ravenous, bloodthirsty hippies.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:42 AM on December 11, 2007


I'm with Meatbomb here. Not only are the petty rules (those unrelated to performing the job function successfully) dehumanizing, they don't "add value" when they result in a good employee being canned.

But at least people answering the question tried to reason with the asker about whether following every rule was the right choice in the big picture.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:42 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


That choice/not to choose lyric is the one my brother always trucks out when we laugh about how sophomoric Rush songs are. I usually respond, "aaand salesmen!" or "Shopping malls!" Lee's lyrics rival Debbie Harry's in their banality.

But hell, I thought Get Smart was profound when I was ten, so if a bunch of middle schoolers find deep thoughts in Geddy's lyrics, more power to 'em.
posted by breezeway at 9:42 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


shmegegge writes "Most people who say things like what you've been saying without any trace of irony smoke enough weed to chill the fuck out occasionally. Give that a try instead of posting callouts like this one or the entire text of the Treaty of Westphalia or whatever crap you decide to post next time. "

Dude. You just told Meatbomb to smoke some weed. Meatbomb. Have you seen his AskMefi history? Do a google on "meatbomb marijuana site:ask.metafilter.com". Seriously. Go do it. Telling Meatbomb to smoke up is like advising cortex to maybe take up a musical instrument, or Matt to consider riding a bicycle from time to time.
posted by Bugbread at 9:46 AM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


CONFORM OR BE CAST OUT
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:47 AM on December 11, 2007


"What the hell are you talking about? In a call center, the honorable team lead who cares about treating people right on the phone is the little guy, believe me. The asker was entirely in the right, and I doubt that anybody who thinks otherwise has ever actually worked in a call center.

Or are you saying you'd rather have to talk to a guy who'll hang up on you the next time you call your insurance agency or cell phone provider?"

Dude, did you read the same question as I did? The call was "dropped," which is ambiguous language. The OP is trying to enforce rules that the previous supervisor didn't, and doesn't seem to have any rationale aside from "This is how people manage others—rules."

So spare me your pieties about the honorable team lead, because this ain't then and this ain't you. This is a clueless despot looking at a corporate policy that will, if followed to the letter, likely result in harm to the company and to the people working below our Anonymous tool.

As far as being hung up upon, I'd much prefer that to having to wait through forty-five minutes of automated phone trees every time I call my cable company. I've had my call dropped a couple of times and it sucks, but it's not nearly as important as having someone on the phone who can think critically, who can navigate a bureaucracy (sometimes bending rules), and who can get me what I want when I'm on the phone, thereby minimizing my wasting my time on the phone. If encouraging that sort of employee costs a couple of dropped calls, well, then, I'm willing to take that cost.
posted by klangklangston at 9:59 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


breezeway writes "Lee's lyrics rival Debbie Harry's in their banality."

Well, as far as I know, they're Peart's lyrics, Geddy just sings them.
posted by Bugbread at 10:01 AM on December 11, 2007


But at least people answering the question tried to reason with the asker about whether following every rule was the right choice in the big picture.

That is true, plus some clarification was missing. How did she 'accidentally' find a dropped call? In what manner was the call dropped? Is rigid adherence to the rules being monitored by her boss. Are people bringing food to their desk because they aren't allowed lunch breaks, which is not terribly uncommon in call centres? There's enough information to state that working in a call center completely sucks, but not enough specifics and context for us to help the poster make a decision.
posted by pieoverdone at 10:02 AM on December 11, 2007


"I think it would be great if there were a required year or half-year of national conscription, not to the army, but to a base level service industry. Make everyone work flipping burgers or in a call-center for 6 months. Then, when their time is up, tattoo on their hand "remember how your six months felt"."

I've proposed this in the past, with a general "shit job" draft. I also think that at the end of their time, people should have to know how to mop a fucking floor properly in order to get out.

But it would cut down on the condescension from children of privilege and hopefully encourage some broader humanity in Americans.
posted by klangklangston at 10:03 AM on December 11, 2007 [7 favorites]


What color is the sky in your world, anyway?
posted by pupdog at 10:04 AM on December 11, 2007


THIS IS SIMPLE. CALL CENTRE WORKERS WHO HANG UP ON YOU ARE SCUM AND NEED SACKED.
posted by bonaldi at 10:04 AM on December 11, 2007


klangklangston writes "The OP is trying to enforce rules that the previous supervisor didn't, and doesn't seem to have any rationale aside from 'This is how people manage others—rules.' "

Well, he does mention that "their former leader never implemented them nor shared the rationale behind them. (My explanations fall on deaf ears since being able to get away with murder before I came along must mean the rules are flexible and I'm not.)" (emphasis mine), so while he doesn't give the rationales in the AskMe, it appears he does have rationale. They may suck, they may be good. I really don't know, so I'm neither going to attack them nor defend them. But you have to admit that, weak or strong though they may be, they do at least exist. If you're willing to deny that, then we may as well just deny that the guy really is a manager, or really works in a call center, or really has an employee that may get fired.

klangklangston writes "This is a clueless despot looking at a corporate policy that will, if followed to the letter, likely result in harm to the company and to the people working below our Anonymous tool."

Here's a little rule of thumb: a despot doesn't do things like ask advice online. A despot is a ruler with absolute, unlimited power. I'm not getting that vibe. Again, I'm not saying that the asker is totally in the green. Just that he's not the evil tyrant some are making him out to be.
posted by Bugbread at 10:08 AM on December 11, 2007


Do we need to bring up last names here, Mr. Meger?

As for the Sins Against the Corporation committed by the Meatbomber, my own work experience includes relatively inconsequential jobs at two companies that ultimately went out of business and I take pride that, in my small way, I was working to add value to both the companies even while the assholes in charge were not (and on a couple occasions acted counter to company policy to do so - luckily never getting caught or else I'd have paid dearly for my principles - but then, if I were really being true to my principles I would not have been working for either employer). This is Life in Corporate America. Right now, I am dealing with the contradiction of earning money writing for an entity half-owned by one of the corporations the WGA is striking against; but then, I am actually directly paid by the other half-owner, which happens to be one of the Metafilter community's least-favorite corporations.

Also, I take pride in having never worked in a call center, but in college, I worked part-time as a Phone Screener for radio talk shows and there may be no phone-based jobs that require more diplomacy, willing receipt of abuse, general dishonesty and psychological manipulation. And that was in the pre-Limbaugh era. I've had a bit of a phone-phobia ever since, and have a lot of sympathy for all telephone-based workers, but not a lot of respect.

Obviously, Meatbomb's work experience has been so un-typically positive that he can register large amounts of outrage at the inhumanity of more 'normal' workplaces. I envy him.
posted by wendell at 10:09 AM on December 11, 2007


I think it would be great if there were a required year or half-year of national conscription, not to the army, but to a base level service industry

I've proposed this in the past, with a general "shit job" draft

For a couple of guys passing themselves off as fighting for the little guy, you two have some pretty draconian and authoritarian ideas.
posted by rocket88 at 10:19 AM on December 11, 2007


JanetLand: "And it's Geddy, not Getty."

That's not half as embarrassing as the time I thought Gentry Lee was in Rush.
posted by Plutor at 10:23 AM on December 11, 2007


"For a couple of guys passing themselves off as fighting for the little guy, you two have some pretty draconian and authoritarian ideas."

For someone who snarks on the internet, you don't seem to have a very good grasp on what "draconian" or "authoritarian" means, nor a seeming ability to evaluate the seriousness of ideas.

"Here's a little rule of thumb: a despot doesn't do things like ask advice online."

They do if they're clueless, or if they're looking for reassurance about their petty behavior.

"so while he doesn't give the rationales in the AskMe, it appears he does have rationale."

I didn't deny that they existed, I denied that they had any larger cognition behind them than Rulz is Rulz. A bad rationale is not a rationale, and I don't see any evidence in the text of a good rationale (which is what's required to persuade people to do their jobs well).
posted by klangklangston at 10:26 AM on December 11, 2007


Lee's lyrics rival Debbie Harry's in their banality.

Rush's drummer, Neil Peart (English Ph.D.), write lyrics for Rush -- not Geddy. I actually rip on him for his lousy tempo/meter more than anything, but he broke a lot of new ground as both a drummer and a lyricist. Listen to pop lyrics someday -- the bar is pretty low. Peart is no [INSERT FAVORITE POET], but, given context, his lyrics are *much* better, more thought-provoking than average. Perhaps Bruce Springsteen is more to your liking?

Also, the line Geddy sings as, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." is written as "If you choose not to decide, you still haven't made a choice." in the liner notes. (I like Geddy's version better.)

Anyhow, nevermind all that. Here, let me make things right for you:

BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!
BORN IN THE USA!!!

Ah, heavenly.
posted by LordSludge at 10:27 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


How did she 'accidentally' find a dropped call?

The likeliest explanation is that she was monitoring the audio when the drop happened. Random, fairly heavy spot-monitoring of calls is a common tool in call center management. Pretty much the tool, really; nothing else lets you know how a phone tech is dealing with customers and with challenging situations better than hearing them doing their jobs. What you want to hear is people doing excellent, uneventful work for callers, obviously: no stress for the reps, no trouble for the customers, everybody is happy.

But you get angry or uncooperative or creepy or uncommunicative or inaudible folks on the other end of the line, just as a matter of course. Being able to listen to how a phone tech handles those situations and give them immediate constructive feedback when they struggle, or praise when the hit the nail on the head, or just support when they grit their teeth through a shitty interaction that was not their fault: that's one of the most important jobs that the supervisory folks have.

And then, now and then, you hear someone just fuck up. Whether it's a string of bad mistakes, or a failure to contain a really awful call, or sometimes even a blatant abandonment of basic phone policy, it's pretty awful, and being able to catch that awfulness when it happens—in the best case, while it's happening so you can interject and repair the situation, but that's not always possible—is pretty key, too.

My read on the question is that what happened is this last case. That, whether it was a call going really badly or just a bizarre "fuck this noise" drop of the handset (and the lack of details about the former make me suspect it was more the latter), it was a case of someone being caught red-handed during routine audio monitoring.

(Or maybe not caught, if it was a genuine phone-service issue that nuked the call—again, not something I'd expect to even be a did-he-or-didn't-he question if the call had been a scorcher before the disconnect. But I'm speculating, I know.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:29 AM on December 11, 2007


rocket88 writes "For a couple of guys passing themselves off as fighting for the little guy, you two have some pretty draconian and authoritarian ideas."

I'm not passing myself off as fighting for the little guy. I'm passing myself off as fighting for customers to be less rude to workers. Since most of that rudeness is directed at folks in the service industry, my draconian and authoritarian ideas involve the service industry. I don't really see how being draconian or authoritarian are in contradiction to fighting rudeness.
posted by Bugbread at 10:29 AM on December 11, 2007


Peart's no Malkmus: "What about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high? I wonder, does he speak like an ordinary guy? I know him, and he does. And you're my fact-checking cuz."
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 AM on December 11, 2007


This is a bad callout and you are a bad person for making it.

// not sarcasm
posted by GuyZero at 10:29 AM on December 11, 2007


rocket88, you only consider it "draconian and authoritarian" because it would be applied to those who would otherwise live their lives avoiding the "shit jobs", i.e. the Privileged Class. Some things are acceptable for "some people" to be subjected to, but not "all People", or more specifically "my people". The "Free Market" does indeed only provide freedom to some.

my apologies for the proliferation of quotes; I'll curtail that in my next few comments
posted by wendell at 10:31 AM on December 11, 2007


AskMe adds value to Metafilter, and the beatings will continue until morale improves.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:32 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Can't we agree on some compromise? Say, instead of firing the guy, let's just waterboard or declaw him.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:33 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


klang, Jon Anderson of Yes lives near me and I can attest that he has a "normal" speaking voice too (with a Brit accent). It's scary.
posted by wendell at 10:34 AM on December 11, 2007


klangklangston writes "They do if they're clueless, or if they're looking for reassurance about their petty behavior. "

Ok, fair point.

klangklangston writes "I didn't deny that they existed, I denied that they had any larger cognition behind them than Rulz is Rulz. A bad rationale is not a rationale, and I don't see any evidence in the text of a good rationale (which is what's required to persuade people to do their jobs well)."

I don't see any evidence of bad rationale, either. All I see evidence of is that he has some sort of rationale. Could be good rationale, could be bad rationale (or, if you prefer, "non-rationale"). I dunno. I just think you're jumping the gun in assuming that there isn't any, based on the fact that he doesn't provide it. You might as well assume that the company he works for sells lead paint for use in baby toys, since I don't see any evidence in the text otherwise.
posted by Bugbread at 10:35 AM on December 11, 2007


damn, I used quotes again...
posted by wendell at 10:35 AM on December 11, 2007


Well, as far as I know, they're Peart's lyrics, Geddy just sings them.

They're Peart's lyrics? Learn something every day, hey. I still think they're tortured and silly.

I would prefer Rush if they sang in a fictional intergalactic tongue of their own invention. The rock is good but they're stiff; with a little spacing out their music might sound less like exercises and more like songs.
posted by breezeway at 10:36 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: Dude, did you read the same question as I did? The call was "dropped," which is ambiguous language. The OP is trying to enforce rules that the previous supervisor didn't, and doesn't seem to have any rationale aside from "This is how people manage others—rules."

See, I feel like most of the misunderstanding here comes from people not really knowing how call centers work-- which is understandable. The asker actually said:

The meat of the matter: While monitoring the team's calls, I accidentally pulled up one which was mysteriously dropped, and for all intents and purposes, it is the greatest mortal sin one could ever commit in a call center. By all applicable guidelines in our handbook, this offense leads to termination.

You're absolutely correct; this is ambiguous. But calls in call centers are recorded. And when they're monitored, the people doing the monitoring hear what's being said. A call that was simply 'mysteriously dropped' wouldn't lead to disciplinary action, necessarily; it happens all the time that a cell phone cuts out or a line gets crossed. What the asker means is that, once s/he 'accidentally' (?) pulled up that call that 'mysteriously dropped,' it turned out that that call contained 'the greatest sin one could ever commit in a call center:' an instance of someone hanging up on a customer without the proper procedure. It would be nice if the asker had spelled this out better for those of us who don't have experience with such things, but s/he didn't, unfortunately.

cortex' comment above is dead-on. Call centers have rules about when and why you can hang up on somebody, and those rules have reasons. They actually generally make sense. For example, it's usually okay to hang up on someone so long as you've said something to the effect of 'thanks, and have a nice day.' The guy next to me at work always says 'Whatever. Have a nice day.' *click* This follows the rules, but you can imagine the effect. People in call centers aren't totally powerless by any stretch of the imagination.

Since the asker doesn't say what the 'greatest sin' was, we're only free to imagine. It probably involved something like the ever-popular 'fuck you.' *click* But, rest assured, mefi people: there are not call centers where people get fired because a call was dropped. That's not what's going on here.
posted by koeselitz at 10:36 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


We can't all be a "homeless Nomad," whatever that means.

I'm not homeless, or a nomad, but I am living the carefree hobo lifestyle.

(Someone. Employ me. PLZ.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:37 AM on December 11, 2007


My read on the question is that what happened is this last case. That, whether it was a call going really badly or just a bizarre "fuck this noise" drop of the handset (and the lack of details about the former make me suspect it was more the latter), it was a case of someone being caught red-handed during routine audio monitoring.

The poster states the call was 'mysteriously' dropped. I think that's what is making this come across so harshly. The call was dropped without a clear explanation and the supervisor is jumping right into firing instead of looking into the actual cause. I would think that if this was a case of direct monitoring and the employee told the customer to eff off and hung up, then there wouldn't be a question.
posted by pieoverdone at 10:38 AM on December 11, 2007


What the quidnunc kid said.

On a totally different subject, klangklangston: could you pleeeze ital your quotes like everybody else instead of putting them in quote marks so it's hard to tell where they begin and end? Trust me, it's not mindless antlike conformity, it's giving a hand to your fellow human (whose eyesight may not be what it once was).
posted by languagehat at 10:40 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


In your moral calculus, you'd rather be dead than working in a call center. The people who work there obviously have not come to the same conclusions.

Au contraire, mon frere! It is a scientifically provable FACT that 90% of call center workers are to some degree or other UNDEAD. If you asked them, they would probably say they would prefer to be alive, but instead you have made assumptions and put words in their mouths and so soon your BRAIN will also be in their mouths and then in their moldering tummies. Put THAT in your moral calculus and smoke it!
posted by Koko at 10:42 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can solve this thread: Meatbomb needs to give the call center people, manager and workers, some pot, and they need to smoke it while listening to Rush & Yes.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:42 AM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


Rude customers seem less rude if you use a little empathy. I did call center work for about half a year, back in The Day. Actually, I did "Level 3" call support, which means I got the harder problems, generally beyond the banal "Did you turn your monitor on?" sorts of things and more into driver conflicts, faulty memory chips, etc. Anyhow, the upshot is that the customer had generally been working his way through our tech support system for a WHILE before he got to me. More than once, the moment I answered the call, the customer would absolutely lay into me. Nothing to do but let them vent, sometimes holding the earpiece away for more than 10 minutes as the torrent of obsceneties streamed past.

Rude, sure, but look at it from the customer's perspective: He just spent $2k+ on a new computer, it DOESN'T WORK RIGHT, he's been on the phone with The Company for two hours, getting the run around from The Company, getting transferred here and there, and then The Company finally answers again.

You don't hang up on rude customers. You help them.

Also, Meatbomb et al, please don't hate on people for having shitty jobs. We're all doing the best we can out here. That includes Neil Peart.
posted by LordSludge at 10:44 AM on December 11, 2007 [5 favorites]


We're all doing the best we can out here. That includes Neil Peart.

At least he's only #2 on the list of "Worst Rock Lyricists"... Sting is #1.
posted by wendell at 10:50 AM on December 11, 2007


his lyrics are *much* better, more thought-provoking than average

I prefer no thought at all to those provoked by Peart's juvenile philosophizing. The words are so clunky and Geddy delivers them with such unignorable precision that it's almost impossible to like Rush if you don't like the lyrics.

Which brings me to why your example of Bruce Springsteen is a good one: it doesn't matter whether he's singing "cut loose like a goose" or "footloose like a douche," because the vocal line isn't obtrusive and sits well in a mix where each player is doing something interesting and essental to the song.

Rush isn't that way: though they have an ultra-talented set of musicians, their music, by dint of how they play together, serves as a platform for not just the vocals but the lyrics, which I thought were corny when I was in Webelos.
posted by breezeway at 10:56 AM on December 11, 2007


The poster states the call was 'mysteriously' dropped. I think that's what is making this come across so harshly. The call was dropped without a clear explanation and the supervisor is jumping right into firing instead of looking into the actual cause. I would think that if this was a case of direct monitoring and the employee told the customer to eff off and hung up, then there wouldn't be a question.

I was unclear. "Fuck this noise" is what the phone tech says to himself, in his mind, as he drops the call. It happens. It's a really bad thing because it usually doesn't just happen once.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:57 AM on December 11, 2007


wendell: At least he's only #2 on the list of "Worst Rock Lyricists"... Sting is #1.

Hmm. I have a problem. I don't know what I'm supposed to believe. Oh... wait! Look at this magazine! It's called "Blender"! And they'll tell me!

Thank you for a wonderful solution to my problem!
posted by koeselitz at 10:57 AM on December 11, 2007


I use to work at a call center, though I won't mention the name (sears). I took the job because I was in college and needed the insurance. I started out gung-ho and doing everything by the book. That quickly changed. When people call because something is broken they are not happy. I survived at the job by hanging up on the meanest of customers. After I started doing that I enjoyed my job much more. The first insult or name and oops, wrong button. I could have been fired at any time, which I would have understood and completely been fine with. I felt no guilt. Eventually I started to feel the desire to hang up on more than just the worst customers so I did the right thing and quit.

That said, during my time there I met quite a few employees that enjoyed their jobs immensely. They couldn't wait to get to work saw every caller as a challenge. So I guess what is hell to one person is heaven to another.
posted by justgary at 11:01 AM on December 11, 2007


Also, all haters: Rush is awesome. They're a little corny, but they're earnest, and if you can't take earnestness, then I don't know what to tell you. You're probably spending too much time listening to their 'philosophical' songs (which aren't bad) and not enough time listening to the others. I have a hard time imagining not enjoying "XXY" or "Red Barchetta." Come on now, people. Have you never believed in something?
posted by koeselitz at 11:08 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hey, koeselitz, Blender Magazine and its writers Jon Dolan, Josh Ellis, Tim Grierson, Andrew Harrison, Ben Mitchell, Tony Power and Mark Yarm are only doing the best they can out there, and it was the first Google hit on "worst lyricist".
posted by wendell at 11:09 AM on December 11, 2007


It's cool. It's hard out there for Blender writers, call center operators, and Neil Peart.
posted by koeselitz at 11:11 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of when I used to work customer service in a call center and we used to play this game where we would think of a word, and you had to, no matter what, use that word in your next phone call with a customer. So there were four of us with cubicles next to each other and when it was your turn to pick the word you would say "alfalfa" (no NSFW words were allowed) and the other three customer service reps would have to use that word in their next call. So you would get some one hopping mad because their items arrived broken and you would have to say "I'm sorry sir. I will send you a prepaid shipping label to return that product to us and you will get a full refund as soon as we get it back. We rarely have breakages, as our shipping department uses various materials, like packing peanuts and an alfalfa-like synthetic straw to ship our products." You had to think pretty fast to pull it off without further enraging the person on the phone. I think that the guy who suggested the game said it was inspired by a Steve Martin movie about a preacher.
posted by ND¢ at 11:15 AM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


And I, personally, enjoy listening to Rush, including their lyrics, sometimes for themselves, but sometimes because they go beyond corny, beyond earnest, all the way to pretentious, and I get more than a little ironic pleasure out of full-blown pretentiousness. Which may also go toward explaining why non-obvious sarcasm annoys me so much, I don't know.
posted by wendell at 11:17 AM on December 11, 2007


ND¢: I assume you had some rule against using the word as a letter example? Like "Please type alvw.exe and hit enter. That's 'a' as in 'alfalfa', 'l' as in 'lavender'---"
posted by Bugbread at 11:23 AM on December 11, 2007


Rush was the first concert I ever saw, unless you count Arlo Guthrie when I was but a papoose.

</hippie>
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:24 AM on December 11, 2007


ND¢, I first saw that gag here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:28 AM on December 11, 2007


"I don't see any evidence of bad rationale, either. All I see evidence of is that he has some sort of rationale. Could be good rationale, could be bad rationale (or, if you prefer, "non-rationale"). I dunno. I just think you're jumping the gun in assuming that there isn't any, based on the fact that he doesn't provide it."

I disagree there, because I tend to believe that if there was a good rationale, the asker would have less trouble getting people to abide by the rules. In my experience, arbitrary rules always garner the most resentment, especially if they're counter to the culture of the workplace.

(My job bans non-work related internet access, but only enforces that if they want to fire someone for other reasons that they're not allowed to state. Firing everyone who uses the internet for personal reasons would be a purge of my entire floor, including the people who "enforce" the policy. While there may be a coherent rationale, it is not a compelling one.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:32 AM on December 11, 2007


I think that the guy who suggested the game said it was inspired by a Steve Martin movie about a preacher.

That'd be Leap of Faith; the key bit in the movie is the interjection of the phrase "aluminum siding" into a tent-raisin' revival sermon.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:34 AM on December 11, 2007


No bugbread that wasn't a rule, but the fun of the game was to impress the other reps with how ballsy you could be with the word use, so if you just did that every time you would have been called lame a lot. My favorite strategy would be to make up nonsensical turns of phrase. Customer: "My package says it was shipped 13 days ago, but it hasn't arrived yet." Me /country bumpkin voice: "Well pickle my alfalfa! Let's see what could be causing that!"

Jessamyn: kind of a different power balance there. You can't tell a cop "I want to speak to your supervisor immediately!" and then get him fired. The fun was that most calls were people who were close to apoplectic with rage and then messing with them a little bit more. Customer service is like a MeTa flame-out every five minutes.
posted by ND¢ at 11:34 AM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


You can't tell a cop "I want to speak to your supervisor immediately!" and then get him fired.

He'd tase your ass!
posted by ND¢ at 11:36 AM on December 11, 2007


LordSludge writes "Listen to pop lyrics someday -- the bar is pretty low. Peart is no [INSERT FAVORITE POET], but, given context, his lyrics are *much* better, more thought-provoking than average. Perhaps Bruce Springsteen is more to your liking? [quote from chorus of "Born in the USA]"

Dude. Are you implying that Neil Peart is a better lyricist that Springsteen? Is that your actual contention? You do realize that Springsteen spent like the first ten years of his career being directly compared to Dylan? And that "Born in the USA" is a bitter meditation on the hopelessness of the working class in modern America and the impact that the Vietnam war had on the American psyche?

Your position is absolutely indefensible.

And Rush does rock, but Springsteen rocks harder.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:39 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


"On a totally different subject, klangklangston: could you pleeeze ital your quotes like everybody else instead of putting them in quote marks so it's hard to tell where they begin and end? Trust me, it's not mindless antlike conformity, it's giving a hand to your fellow human (whose eyesight may not be what it once was)."

Aww, man, I've tried this a couple of times, but I never remember to. I'm not trying to be, like, harshing your mellow or nothin', I just think of quotes as quotes, and have been writing like this on message boards for, like, nigh unto 15 years.

I'll try harder, but I'm not gonna promise anything, because I know how I am with bad habits (like reading Metafilter at work).
posted by klangklangston at 11:40 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Your position is absolutely indefensible.

BORN IN THE USA!!!
posted by LordSludge at 11:43 AM on December 11, 2007


Rush > Celine Dion > The Man
posted by Meatbomb at 11:45 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


LordSludge writes "BORN IN THE USA!!!"

Deeply subversive and ironic. Brilliant really, especially given its (largely uncritical) public reception. Ronald Regan was using this song--a complaint about the travails of the working class and the victimization of the American people by the military-industrial complex--at his campaign rallies. Talk about sticking it to the man.

Or are you complaining that the words are repeated? That's a pop music convention. Compare: "...of salesmen, of salesmen, of salesmen...."
posted by mr_roboto at 11:50 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


wendell: At least he's only #2 on the list of "Worst Rock Lyricists"... Sting is #1.

Hmm. I have a problem. I don't know what I'm supposed to believe. Oh... wait! Look at this magazine! It's called "Blender"! And they'll tell me!

Thank you for a wonderful solution to my problem!


I have never read an issue of Blender in my life.

But if you were to give me a choice between listening to a full Rush album and having a nail driven through my palm, my response would be:

"Is it a rusty nail? I mean, didja at least clean it first?"
posted by jason's_planet at 11:53 AM on December 11, 2007


mr_roboto writes "And that 'Born in the USA' is a bitter meditation on the hopelessness of the working class in modern America and the impact that the Vietnam war had on the American psyche?"

Huh. I just checked the lyrics, and realized I hadn't heard any part of that song besides the chorus before. Pretty bleak song.
posted by Bugbread at 11:54 AM on December 11, 2007


I worked as a telemarketer one summer in college. I quit so I could get a job as a stripper and regain some self-respect (not to mention make way more money). It is a terrible life, and I feel sorry for anyone who's stuck dealing with it on a regular basis.

But I lost my askme innocence the other day with that "passive aggressive gift" thread... guess I was in the wrong mood for it or whatever, but it really struck me the wrong way. Best to just duck out when you can't relate.
posted by mdn at 11:54 AM on December 11, 2007


The first CD I ever bought was Roll the Bones. It was 1992. I was 16.

Shortly after that I got the Red Hot Chili Peppers Blood Sugar Sex Magik. My younger brother ratted me out for having a CD with the explicit lyrics tag on it and my dad made me break the CD in pieces and throw it away.
posted by pieoverdone at 11:59 AM on December 11, 2007


Oh god. Yeah. Hated that thread. I've deleted a couple things that were farther over the line of "plan my revenge for me" to the point of just being totally indefensible; that one was just far enough inside the lines that I just walked the fuck away.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:00 PM on December 11, 2007


Harry Partch Teaches You How to Make Rose Petal Jam
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:02 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


bugbread wrote...
klangklangston writes "This is a clueless despot looking at a corporate policy that will, if followed to the letter, likely result in harm to the company and to the people working below our Anonymous tool."
Here's a little rule of thumb: a despot doesn't do things like ask advice online. A despot is a ruler with absolute, unlimited power. I'm not getting that vibe. Again, I'm not saying that the asker is totally in the green. Just that he's not the evil tyrant some are making him out to be.


He's not a tyrant on his own, but he is absolutely the banal face of evil. Taken in aggregate, such "rules first, common sense later" people form the backbone of every soul crushing bureaucracy you've ever dealt with.

I speak here of this statement in particular:
(My explanations fall on deaf ears since being able to get away with murder before I came along must mean the rules are flexible and I'm not.)

Where he totally fails to grasp the fact that the rules *are* flexible and he's not.
posted by tkolar at 12:04 PM on December 11, 2007


Here lies Andy. Peperony and chease.
posted by pieoverdone at 12:10 PM on December 11, 2007


Or are you complaining that the words are repeated?

The repetition... not just the lyrics (3 "salesmen" vs. "B.i.t.USA" HOW MANY TIMES??), but the whole song. The lyrics, the 3 note vocal melody, the constant rhythm, the unwavering common time meter, THE WHOLE DAMN SONG is repetition, but for a simplistic, eye-gougingly hackneyed root-fourth-root-fourth-etc-etc-etc chord progression. You could sample one measure, repeat it, and have a pretty good representation.

But some people like repetition. Rock on. Great stuff.

Okay, sure: Don't let your small-town life be as drab and repetitive as this song. It's like Remains of the Day: Don't let your life be as boring as this movie. I got it. And your song/movie is still booor-ring.
posted by LordSludge at 12:13 PM on December 11, 2007


Why is this shit allowed to drag on? There's no question, there's obviously no problem to be solved (by Metafilter, anyway), it's joke-categorized into bugs. This is basically just Meatbomb very obnoxiously drawing attention to himself to point out how he's better than normal people. And this thread is mainly chat time about brief, evil sojourns in call center world.
posted by nanojath at 12:14 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


THE WHOLE DAMN SONG is repetition

The whole damn chorus is repetition. That's what choruses do, a whole dang ol' lot of the time. As a bleak and ironic anthem, repeating something simple and in other contexts positively jingoistic to an unusual degree just fucking works. The stark and blatant re-upping of the line is friggin' art.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:17 PM on December 11, 2007


I never new what the lyrics to born in the usa were. I just looked them up. Jesus, that song is dark.
posted by pieoverdone at 12:19 PM on December 11, 2007


142 comments? Don't you people have jobs?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:22 PM on December 11, 2007


tkolar: "(My explanations fall on deaf ears since being able to get away with murder before I came along must mean the rules are flexible and I'm not.)

Where he totally fails to grasp the fact that the rules *are* flexible and he's not.
"

Actually, I understood that statement to mean that the underlings think he's totally inflexible and follows the rules to the letter just because he's not willing to ignore the rules entirely. Because he thinks some rules should be followed (like you don't hang up on the customers at a call center) and others should be bent less than they had been bent in the past (cleanliness, for instance), he's perceived as a Rule Nazi™.

Ah, the vagaries of Anonymity.
posted by Plutor at 12:23 PM on December 11, 2007


Don't you people have jobs?

I just keep putting people on hold.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:27 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


tkolar writes "Taken in aggregate, such 'rules first, common sense later' people form the backbone of every soul crushing bureaucracy you've ever dealt with."

But is it "such"? I don't see nearly enough info to either defend or attack the asker. I know I've gotten shit for this quite a few times on MeFi, but I still don't see what's wrong with saying there isn't enough info to come to a conclusion. Maybe the rules are all petty bullshit, with no common sense. Maybe the rules are common sense, so rules and common sense come at the same time. I don't know. Nobody here knows. I don't quite get why MeFites are so quick to jump to defend or attack issues with so little information about them.

tkolar writes "Where he totally fails to grasp the fact that the rules *are* flexible and he's not."

Dunno. Depends on what the rules are. Are we talking stuff that could expose the company to big liabilities? If so, then, sure, you could get away with them in the past, but that doesn't mean that the rules are flexible, just that they're getting ignored, and if things continue that way, one day someone's going to take a big fall. That's been my experience with most company rules, actually: it isn't that breaking the rule will cause immediate collapse and ruination. They won't. Which makes people think that breaking any and all of them are OK. In reality, a lot of times, it's more like roulette: breaking a rule and things not going to shit doesn't necessarily mean the rule was useless, it can mean that what the rule was enacted to prevent just hasn't taken place yet.

Or maybe the rules are over pointless mickey mouse shit. In which case the rules should be flexible, and he's not getting the fact that he's just being inflexible.

I really don't know. And unless we get a detailed list of rules, and his explanations of why those rules must be rigidly enforced, none of us have enough info to definitively state much. We can say he may be a petty tyrant. We can say he's probably a petty tyrant. But we can't say he is, because we know incredibly close to jack shit.

nanojath writes "And this thread is mainly chat time about brief, evil sojourns in call center world."

And Rush.
posted by Bugbread at 12:27 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Rush was the first concert I ever saw, unless you count Arlo Guthrie when I was but a papoose.

Tom Petty was the first concert I ever saw, unless you count when Iron Butterfly played at the outdoor concert pavilion in Symphony Woods, minutes from my open window; a month-old, twenty inch breezeway lay sleeping in his crib, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" shaking the neighborhood, his tiny hands firmly covering his ears.

And koeselitz, I'm not a Rush hater, I'm just not a Rush liker. I have my reasons, and I've made some of them clear.

Have you never believed in something?

I believe in things. One thing I believe is that Rush's lyrics are obtrusively bad and make it difficult to like a band I might otherwise appreciate. I once listened to some real early Rush on jonmc's porch, and liked it, but that wasn't the same lineup, was it?

I also believe Geddy Lee is a hardcore fantasy baseballer.

On preview, isn't Roll the Bones the one with the laughable rap that starts, "Jack. Relax. Get busy with the facts. No zodiacs or almanacs or maniacs in polyester slacks?"
posted by breezeway at 12:28 PM on December 11, 2007


Alvy Ampersand writes "142 comments? Don't you people have jobs?"

Yeah.

In a call center.

Where I am right now.
posted by Bugbread at 12:29 PM on December 11, 2007


nanojath wrote...
Why is this shit allowed to drag on? [...]

Also, the thread just took a derail into another rant about inconsistent moderation!
posted by tkolar at 12:29 PM on December 11, 2007


(Though, to be fair, it's technically a call center, but not what is normally imagined as a call center.)
posted by Bugbread at 12:30 PM on December 11, 2007


tkolar writes "Also, the thread just took a derail into another rant about inconsistent moderation!"

There was nothing in nanojath's comment about inconsistency in moderation. I'm gonna assume you meant "the thread just took a derail into another rant about inconsistent moderation" in reference to your own comment, not nanojath's.
posted by Bugbread at 12:32 PM on December 11, 2007


cortex: "The whole damn chorus is repetition."

Yes. Also, "...the 3 note vocal melody, the constant rhythm, the unwavering common time meter [of] THE WHOLE DAMN SONG..., but for a simplistic, eye-gougingly hackneyed root-fourth-root-fourth-etc-etc-etc chord progression."

But, you're right: that chorus is pretty grating too.
posted by LordSludge at 12:32 PM on December 11, 2007


Aww, man, I've tried this a couple of times, but I never remember to.

No problem, I can barely remember to brush my teeth at night. Just knowing that you cared enough to ital my comment in responding to it warms the frozen cockles of my heart.

This thread has given me a deep appreciation for the fate that has allowed me to escape working in a call center.

Oh, and I thought "Born in the USA" was a great song the first few times I heard it. Now it's like "New York, New York"—spoiled by success.
posted by languagehat at 12:38 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Plutor wrote...
Ah, the vagaries of Anonymity.


Guessing at the author's intent is always risky, but...

[...] corporation with many rules and guidelines. Their former team leader was very lenient about letting them run willy-nilly against them (constant undertime, overbreaks, bringing in food and electronic gadgets even though they're not allowed, leaving messy desks).

I read the words "lenient" and "running willy-nilly against" above as expressing a belief in the validity and importance of all of these rules.

bugbread wrote...
I don't quite get why MeFites are so quick to jump to defend or attack issues with so little information about them.
and
But we can't say he is, because we know incredibly close to jack shit.

"Jack shit" is, BTW, also the exact same amount of real world effect that a conversation in Metatalk about an anonymous post in AskMetafilter is going to have. So it all works out.
posted by tkolar at 12:43 PM on December 11, 2007


I'm willing to concede that we're probably immovably planted on opposite sides of the fence, here, but what I'm hearing in your complaint is some notion that there is a line that <Picard>must be drawn HYEAH!</Picard> regarding what is and is not an acceptable amount of macro- and sub-repetition in popular music, the crossing over of which is a sin or mistake or some other gross violation of reasonable musical work.

Or you just really don't like this particular song and you're grousing about it, and I'm okay with that too because, hey, peoples is peoples. But you're seeing eye-gouging and hackneyed where I'm seeing really, really solid writing and arrangement and production.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:44 PM on December 11, 2007


LOL RushFilter.
posted by juv3nal at 12:45 PM on December 11, 2007


bugbread...
There was nothing in nanojath's comment about inconsistency in moderation.

Okay, now you're just trolling. nanojath's was directly questioning why the moderators haven't closed this thread when they have closed many others of much less worth.
posted by tkolar at 12:45 PM on December 11, 2007


I'm guessing that was you cortex. Thanks!
posted by tkolar at 12:46 PM on December 11, 2007


How is it possible that there are still listeners who think Born in the USA is a pro-American anthem? That chorus, the repetition -- mindless patriotism. I can't see how it's heard as anything but.

No, no, make it go away, I can't accept that the world is like this, and even if the world is like this, can Metafilter not be like this??? Poor Bruce.
posted by thinkpiece at 12:46 PM on December 11, 2007


I don't like Bruce Springsteen. At all. See also: Bob Seeger.
posted by pieoverdone at 12:48 PM on December 11, 2007


Unclosed tags just break my damn heart, tkolar. Ain't no thang.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:48 PM on December 11, 2007


No, I take it back. People are clearly enjoying it and it's not like the internet is going to run out of text. And my treatment of Meatbomb was discourteous. I'll try to be a better person in the future.
posted by nanojath at 12:50 PM on December 11, 2007


On preview, isn't Roll the Bones the one with the laughable rap that starts, "Jack. Relax. Get busy with the facts. No zodiacs or almanacs or maniacs in polyester slacks?"

That album was so laughably bad that I gave it to Goodwill rather than embarrass myself by bringing it into a used record store. It was the last album of original Rush tunes I ever bought (their disc of cover tunes is pretty good, IMHO).
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 12:51 PM on December 11, 2007


...[I]sn't Roll the Bones the one with the laughable rap that starts, "Jack. Relax. Get busy with the facts. No zodiacs or almanacs or maniacs in polyester slacks?"

That line, right there, is where Rush jumped the shark. They tried to jump on the rap bandwagon and they jumped right over it, except the bandwagon was actually a shark that bit off the band's legs. Hideous. Agreed. Now copy/paste us the rest of it so we can point and laugh and vomit.

FWIW, I'm not a big Rush fan anymore, although I was 15 years ago. Compared to modern prog rock/metal, Rush sounds like moderately boring Adult Contemporary Easy Listening. Just raises my hackles for people to hate on Neil so hard on the one hand while giving the steaming piles of girls/drugs/cars/booze lyrics that stink up the rock/pop landscape a free pass and heralding mediocre-to-solid lyrics as Grammies.

I could probably like Born in the USA in a different musical context, which is to say: Keep the lyrics -- shorten the chorus a bit -- but write an interesting song with them. It's just the shear repetition that gets me. It's like Chinese Water Torture or watching a full episode of Everybody Loves Hypnotoad.
posted by LordSludge at 12:52 PM on December 11, 2007


people who think born in the usa is stupid haven't actually looked up the lyrics to it before. it is intentionally designed to be a subversion of thoughtless patriotism wrapped up in a little tortilla of mindless patriotic chanting much like when people go "USA! USA! USA!" for no reason.

people who say "yeah, I've read the lyrics and I still think it's dumb" are half-liars because they HAVE read the lyrics, but only just 2 seconds ago and they don't want to back down from a position they espoused BEFORE they read the lyrics.
posted by shmegegge at 12:54 PM on December 11, 2007


also, anyone who wants to talk shit about The Boss can do so with impugnity as soon as they write something better than The River.
posted by shmegegge at 12:54 PM on December 11, 2007


See also: Bob Seeger.

Bob Seger and Pete Seeger had a kid? Holy shit!
posted by breezeway at 12:58 PM on December 11, 2007


We shall overcome against the wind.
posted by pieoverdone at 1:00 PM on December 11, 2007


tkolar writes "Okay, now you're just trolling. nanojath's was directly questioning why the moderators haven't closed this thread.."

Yes.

tkolar writes "...when they have closed many others of much less worth."

What?

Now I'm thinking you're just trolling. There are only 60 words in nanojath's comment; enough that I've had time to read it a few times. And I seem to keep missing this "when they have closed many others of much less worth" part. Nanojath is complaining about moderation, sure, but I don't see anything about inconsistency. That's coming from you.

thinkpiece writes "How is it possible that there are still listeners who think Born in the USA is a pro-American anthem? That chorus, the repetition -- mindless patriotism. I can't see how it's heard as anything but. "

If someone hears something that sounds, to them, mindlessly patriotic to the USA, isn't that pretty much by definition something that sounds pro-American? "How can people think Bob is violent? He's always throwing chairs and punching people -- uncontrolled physical aggression. I can't see how he could be seen as anything else."

Now, when you find out the lyrics to the non-chorus part of Born In The USA, and still think it's pro-American, or when you find out that Bob is an actor rehearsing a part, and still think he's violent, then, sure, that's odd. But to say that it's weird that people who think something is pro-American "despite" repeating patriotic slogans is, in itself, weird.
posted by Bugbread at 1:00 PM on December 11, 2007


Let us call this the You Are My Sunshine principle.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:02 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just thought the attendant Born in the USA brouhaha was legend by now. Guess I'm just old.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:03 PM on December 11, 2007


...[A]nyone who wants to talk shit about The Boss can do so with impugnity as soon as they write something better than The River.

No, doesn't work that way. I can still say Battlefield: Earth was a crappy movie even though I've never, personally, made a movie.

BitUSA would be a solid poem, but is grating lyrics (by repetition) and a lousy song (by repetition x everything) -- possibly by intent (to make a point) I'll grant, but ugh...
posted by LordSludge at 1:04 PM on December 11, 2007


The world I agree to live in has me getting a lot more dates and favorites, and neither out of pity.
posted by waraw at 1:06 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


No, doesn't work that way. I can still say Battlefield: Earth was a crappy movie even though I've never, personally, made a movie.

I'm sorry to say that it actually does work that way. I know I know. It doesn't seem like it should, right? But no, I'm afraid it does. Or at least, it does when you specifically want to call out a songwriter who is, in fact, good (and otherwise completely unrelated to the discussion) in order to defend a band which is, in fact, terrible.
posted by shmegegge at 1:09 PM on December 11, 2007


shmegegge writes "Or at least, it does when you specifically want to call out a songwriter who is, in fact, good (and otherwise completely unrelated to the discussion) in order to defend a band which is, in fact, terrible."

So your band is better than Rush?
posted by Bugbread at 1:12 PM on December 11, 2007


LordSludge, if you listened to Bruce Springteen with my ears and not the cheap ones you came with, you'd know what you've been missing.
posted by breezeway at 1:15 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Your damn right they are! We're called the Shifty Midgets and all we do is bang our heads against our instruments and scream in pain, but we're STILL better than Rush.
posted by shmegegge at 1:16 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


*You're instead of Your

still waiting on that edit functionality!
posted by shmegegge at 1:16 PM on December 11, 2007


Ok, that's cool.

"Zorg whipped out his laser and shot the evil Blorgnog. The evil alien menace had finally been demenacated."

There, now I can insult Battlefield: Earth, since I've written something better.
posted by Bugbread at 1:20 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


"I woke up this morning and the very first thing I did was watch some rich dude have an affair and then get shot."

The Great Gatsby is crap.
posted by shmegegge at 1:23 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Mathowie, Cortex, and Jessamyn are The Man.

All hail, The Man!
posted by ericb at 1:24 PM on December 11, 2007


breezeway, if you were a musician of any talent and/or creativity, you would be bored to tears by Bruce Springsteen.

...if you want to get personal.
posted by LordSludge at 1:27 PM on December 11, 2007



Let us call this the You Are My Sunshine principle.


I just learned something that made me sad.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:28 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


So what have we learned? Rush is not good, except to many people who can appreciate them. Call centers are not good to work in for anyone and don't pay stripper money. Being cutesy and vague in anon AskMe posts doesn't help your cause. Sometimes AskMe threads make us sad. And any thread with this many people in it is going to become a tangent cluster fuck for the better.

Also, no one said slippery slope yet. Where have our MeTa standards gone?
posted by Gucky at 1:35 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Shmegegge: I kinda like this system. The only problem is film: I don't have a video camera, so I can only insult books and music for the time being.
posted by Bugbread at 1:36 PM on December 11, 2007


Gucky writes "Where have our MeTa standards gone?"

You know who else asked where our MeTa standards have gone?
posted by Bugbread at 1:39 PM on December 11, 2007


I think as long as you come up with a concept for a film that is better than an existing one that you can then criticize it. For example: "Guy says a word on his deathbed and then you watch flashbacks of his life, and at the end you realize that the word that he said is the name of something that isn't a fucking sled." Citizen Kane is completely overrated.
posted by ND¢ at 1:40 PM on December 11, 2007


Can we talk about repetition in music more? Because I want to mention that my favorite guitar solo, ever, is in Elvis Costello's "I Want You." It's perfect.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:41 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


bugbread: Well, in fairness, shmegegge really ought to upload a Shifty Midgets mp3 to MusicMe and let us determine whether it's better/worse than Rush/Springsteen.

(I like the part where they bang their heads against their instruments and scream in pain.)
posted by LordSludge at 1:43 PM on December 11, 2007


Close all call centers? Yeah, cos those fucking IVR robots are way better at solving my issues. Besides, the question is kind of moot. The turnover in those places is outrageous. He'll be lucky to have ANY of the same team members in 6 months, much less the team pillar.
posted by absalom at 1:43 PM on December 11, 2007


Where have our MeTa standards gone?

They slipped down the slope. I tried to warn you, but no!
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:45 PM on December 11, 2007


The corpse in the library writes "Can we talk about repetition in music more?"

I think we can keep on talking about repetition in music.
Let's talk about repetition.
Let's talk about repetition.
Let's talk about repetition.
Let's talk about repetition.
Let's talk about repetition.
posted by Bugbread at 1:46 PM on December 11, 2007


I've got it: Rush Springsteen!! The lyrics of Rush, the music of Springsteen.

EVERYBODY'S ANGRY HAPPY!!!
posted by LordSludge at 1:49 PM on December 11, 2007


Well, in fairness, shmegegge really ought to upload a Shifty Midgets mp3 to MusicMe and let us determine whether it's better/worse than Rush/Springsteen.

I would, but I only have our second album, and our first one was better.
posted by shmegegge at 2:01 PM on December 11, 2007


I take offense to the idea that Rush's music is what's good about them. By that token, REM is crap but Dreamtheater is the perfect culmination of musical expression.
posted by shmegegge at 2:02 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Neil Peart is a highschool dropout. As PhDs go, this is kind of a low one.
posted by Wolof at 2:07 PM on December 11, 2007


shmegegge writes "By that token, REM is crap but Dreamtheater is the perfect culmination of musical expression."

When Dreamtheater writes a YYZ, I'll agree.
posted by Bugbread at 2:11 PM on December 11, 2007


The corpse in the library: Can we talk about repetition in music more? Because I want to mention that my favorite guitar solo, ever, is in Elvis Costello's "I Want You." It's perfect.

I like that song a bit, even if he is ripping off Bob Dylan and trying desperately to make it seem as though he's not. Mark E. Smith, however, whose genius towers over most of us, once said: "take Elvis Costello, for example. Boring writer, boring man." Interestingly enough, that same Mark E. Smith had wrote a fantastic song early on with his band The Fall entitled "Repetition:"

Right noise.
We're gonna get real speedy
You gotta wear black all the time
You're gonna make it on your own.

Cos we dig
Cos we dig
We dig
We dig REPETITION
We dig REPETITION
We've REPETITION in the music
And we're never going to lose it.
All you daughters and sons
who are sick of fancy music
We dig REPETITION
REPETITION on the drums
and we're never going to lose it.
This is the three R's
The three R's:
REPETITION, REPETITION, REPETITION
Oh mental hospitals
Oh mental hospitals
They put electrodes in your brain
And you're never the same
You don't dig REPETITION
You don't love REPETITION
REPETITION in the music and we're never going to loose it
President Carter loves REPETITION
Chairman Mao he dug REPETITION
REPETITION in China
REPETITION in America
REPETITION in West Germany
Simultaneous suicides
We dig it, we dig it,
we dig it, we dig it
Repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition, Regal Zonophone
There is no hesitation
This is your situation
Continue a blank generation...


Must be heard to be understood and appreciated. Especially the part at the end where they break into "Blank Generation."
posted by koeselitz at 2:15 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Had wrote." Meh.
posted by koeselitz at 2:20 PM on December 11, 2007


When Dreamtheater writes a YYZ, I'll agree.

Assuming Dream Theater would write about either JFK or LGA, they'd be much less interesting, rhythmically, than YYZ.

YYZ: -.-- -.-- --.. (10/8)

JFK: .--- ..-. -.- (5/4ish)

LGA: .-.. --. .- (4/4)

PERHAPS I'm thinking about this too much...
posted by SpiffyRob at 2:21 PM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


Also, I'm fairly certain that the guys in REM (well, the guys who were in REM) are better musicians than the guys in Dream Theater. Seriously. Go listen to Reckoning again, kids, and pay attention to the careful guitar fills and subtle basslines.
posted by koeselitz at 2:22 PM on December 11, 2007


I celebrate his entire catalog.
posted by flabdablet at 2:29 PM on December 11, 2007


bugbread: "When Dreamtheater writes a YYZ, I'll agree."

Why? YYZ is a bad song.
posted by shmegegge at 2:36 PM on December 11, 2007


LordSludge, I wasn't really making it personal, just working in a headphone reference into a riff on your intolerance for high opinion of Bruce Springsteen. I didn't mean it as more than a joke, but it was at your expense, so I can see how you felt attacked. I'm sorry for putting you down.

That said,

breezeway, if you were a musician of any talent and/or creativity, you would be bored to tears by Bruce Springsteen

is just stupid. Is that really how you make things personal? Huff, puff, blow!

I notice you write intelligently about music in general, if not about music you don't like. I'm sure we agree on plenty, and that we could articulate our disagreements if we tried. I'll try by not making you the butt of my jokes anymore, no matter how not funny they may be. That should about do it.
posted by breezeway at 2:40 PM on December 11, 2007


I'm up for smashing the state and the apparatus of capitalism! Who's with me? Meatbomb?

I totally call dibs on Minister of Partying Down after the revolution, though.

Which is to say, Meaty, I hear you, but the worst thing you can do with this stuff is to sound like the hard choices one made to get out from under the Universal Thumb are choices that other people could or should also have made. Makes people resentful-like.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:12 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


breezeway, if you were a musician of any talent and/or creativity, you would be bored to tears by Bruce Springsteen

You don't even have to be a musician. 90% of everything I've heard from Springsteen has been boring, '80s bullshit.

Then there's that Nebraska album that's so incredibly awesome that I have a hard time believing that the same man made it. It's kinda like finally hearing Robert Palmer's Clues and thinking "This is that dancing models guy?" (And yeah, Sneaking Sally Through the Alley is pretty good too.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:23 PM on December 11, 2007


shmegegge writes "Why? YYZ is a bad song."

Well, we're at an impasse. You say it's bad, and you can say that, because Shifty Midgets makes better music. I say it's good, and I can say that, because my band Mushipan makes better music. So until we compare Shifty Midgets versus Mushipan, we can't compare Rush versus Dreamtheater.
posted by Bugbread at 3:28 PM on December 11, 2007


stavrosthewonderchicken writes "I'm up for smashing the state and the apparatus of capitalism! Who's with me? Meatbomb?"

Meatbomb should team up with Neil Peart. Meatbomb can fight the people in power crushing the little man, and Peart can fight the little men dragging down the people in power. Together, they can crush everyone.
posted by Bugbread at 3:37 PM on December 11, 2007


oh no, I'm not saying dreamtheater is better, necessarily. I think Dream Theater is god awful, but they're technically more proficient musicians. I also think that Rush is god awful, but they are technically incredibly proficient. I firmly believe that 90% of their fans are bassists and/or drummers, and that their fans love them for their technical talent instead of their songwriting, because anything is at least interesting when you know how incredibly difficult it is to play. I believe the precisely same thing is true of Dream Theater, so I was saying that if Rush's music is what's good about them as opposed to their lyrics, and that springsteen's lyrics are what's good about him as opposed to his music, then that implies that (for example) Yngwie Malmsteen-esque technical skill trumps songwriting. If that's true, then the fact that Dreamtheater couldn't write their way out of a paperbag doesn't hold a candle to the fact that their drummer can play faster and more complicated rhythms than Ringo Starr. I find this implication preposterous.

PREPOSTEROUS!
posted by shmegegge at 3:45 PM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


"I'm up for smashing the state and the apparatus of capitalism! Who's with me? Meatbomb?"

Ooooh! Me! Can I be Minister of Chilling the Fuck Out? That'd be awesome.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:49 PM on December 11, 2007


Dibs on Minister of Ironic Ministries.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:51 PM on December 11, 2007


For the record, nobody ever sang "footloose like a douche," least of all Bruce. His line was "cut loose like a deuce" which Manfred Man somehow twisted into "revved up like a douche."

breezeway, if you were a musician of any talent and/or creativity, you would be bored to tears by Bruce Springsteen.

That's an inexcusable ad hominem against the Boss. There is certainly simplicity and repetition (which he does intentionally and very well) in "Born in the USA" and lots of his poppier songs, but the man has serious range. Go listen to The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle and get back to me.
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:54 PM on December 11, 2007


Everyone needs a hug. Now everyone STFU and hug me.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 3:56 PM on December 11, 2007


For the record, nobody ever sang "footloose like a douche," least of all Bruce. His line was "cut loose like a deuce" which Manfred Man somehow twisted into "revved up like a douche."

I always heard the chorus to "Blinded by the Light" as the following:

BLINDED BY THE LIGHT! WRAPPED UP LIKE A DOUCHE, ANOTHER RUBBER IN THE NIGHT!

I kind of like it better that way. The real lyrics "revved up like a deuce, another roamer in the night" aren't nearly as awesome.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:58 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd like to be Minister of Non-Sarcastic Wit but I'll probably have to settle for Minister of Non-Sexual Happy Endings.
posted by wendell at 3:59 PM on December 11, 2007


shmegegge writes "I firmly believe that 90% of their fans are bassists and/or drummers, and that their fans love them for their technical talent instead of their songwriting, because anything is at least interesting when you know how incredibly difficult it is to play."

I believe their hardcore fans are all bassists and drummers, yeah. Someone who owns a Rush t-shirt: probably plays the bass or drums. But their softcore fans (the "I like Rush, they're ok, yeah") fans are more regular folks.

As far as Springsteen fans...well, I dunno. I've never met a Springsteen fan. I think one of my dad's coworkers likes Springsteen, but I'm not sure. I just think of Springsteen as the incidental music used by politicians in campaign celebrations. Kinda like "Pomp and Circumstance". I'm sure there must be some Elgar fan who totally digs Pomp and Circumstance, but I've never met one. Instead, it's just "the graduation song".
posted by Bugbread at 4:04 PM on December 11, 2007


(I wonder if it's a generational thing. I'm 33, so I was only 10 when Born In The USA came out. The other top artists back then (checking the Billboard charts) were Michael Jackson (who kids loved...back then), Huey Lewis (kids were 50/50 on), Lionel Ritchie (kids hated), Billy Joel (kids hated), and Culture Club (kids liked). So I'm about 15 to 20 years too young to be surrounded by any Springsteen fans.)

(Also, for some reason, the picture they used of Springsteen on his Wikipedia page reminds me of jonmc. I think it's the facial expression and attitude)
posted by Bugbread at 4:11 PM on December 11, 2007


When a long-time "Middle of the Road" L.A. radio station (the same place I screened the phones for a talk show) decided to 'liberalize' its music format in 1976, one of the first new songs on the playlist was Manfred Mann's "Blinded by the Light" and the middle-aged disc jockeys (including some local legends) just went crazy with "douche" jokes. It was quite an uproar on several levels and resulted in some firings (most of which the new Program Director had already wanted to do), which became known in local radio circles as the Douche Purge of '76, although 30 years later it's unclear whether that referred to the lyric or what all the middle-aged (male) DJs called the (male) PD. (It was a sexist era in a sexist business)
posted by wendell at 4:15 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


As far as Springsteen fans...well, I dunno. I've never met a Springsteen fan.

I wouldn't call myself a 'fan' of anything, other than beer and maybe Valve Software, but I have great great love for probably 70% of the work Springsteen's done over the years. I like pretty much all kinds o' music (mostly the rock and the roll, I admit (even if I find myself going months at a time, probably, focussing more on one genre or group of artists)), I consider myself a 'music person', and I reckon Springsteen's one of the true greats. As far as the 'incidental music used by politicians in campaign celebrations', I can't even imagine that, because spending even a cursory few minutes listening to his lyrics makes it impossible to understand anything from them but a weary, sometimes angry despair at lost potential that almost but not entirely obscures a deep love for the country and its people (pretty much the way I feel too) -- a nuanced emotion that no politician hoping to win anything would ever project.

The compressed dynamic range 'modern' engineering of his last few albums have made them all but unlistenable for me, though, and I think he's just not writing as many just plain good songs (although Devils and Dust was pretty damn wrenching and had some great songs).

Also, for some reason, the picture they used of Springsteen on his Wikipedia page reminds me of jonmc. I think it's the facial expression and attitude

Oh hells yeah. Check out pics of him, and album covers, from the 70's. I've always thought jonmc looked like a craggier, unhealthier Bruce.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:17 PM on December 11, 2007


stavrosthewonderchicken writes "As far as the 'incidental music used by politicians in campaign celebrations', I can't even imagine that, because spending even a cursory few minutes listening to his lyrics makes it impossible to understand anything from them but a weary, sometimes angry despair"

Yeah, but they just play the chorus, right? When I think "campaign celebration", I think "Born in the USA" and "We Are Family". And some other one, but it doesn't come to mind right now.

Though I think it would be awesome if they used "It's Raining Men".
posted by Bugbread at 4:28 PM on December 11, 2007


AFAIK, "Born to Run" was only used by Reagan, completely oblivious of the lyrical content.

Here's Bruce stumping for Kerry with guitar and harmonica.
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:43 PM on December 11, 2007


As far as Springsteen fans...well, I dunno. I've never met a Springsteen fan.

Pleased to meet you. I know that several other MeFites will be glad to as well. Even many who people who aren't fans of his music (matter of taste, ultimately) repsect his musicianship and commitment.

I just think of Springsteen as the incidental music used by politicians in campaign celebrations.

If that's all you hear...well, as your spiritual advisor, I suggest a re-evaluation, and start with Born To Run rather than Bornin The USA. The latter is that much clearer once you listen to the former (and Darkness On The Edge Of Town). And I'm only 4 years older than you.

Also, for some reason, the picture they used of Springsteen on his Wikipedia page reminds me of jonmc. I think it's the facial expression and attitude

Oh hells yeah. Check out pics of him, and album covers, from the 70's. I've always thought jonmc looked like a craggier, unhealthier Bruce.


Ha! I'm nowhere near as handsome as the Boss, but thanks. (also, bruce is a fellow Dictators fan. On the Dics 'Faster and Louder' he sings the backup vocals and final '1-2-3-4' and Handsome Dick (who works for Little Steven's radio show) makes an appearance* in the video of Jesse Malin (who's an old friend of my former boss) & Springsteen's duet.**)

*around 1:20 in
**between my ex-boss's relationship to Jesse Malin and my casual friendship with Handsome Dick, I'm actually only two degrees removed from the Boss himself. heavy.
posted by jonmc at 4:44 PM on December 11, 2007


Lordsludge, your anti-Springsteen posturing has angered me.

heres why...
The lyrics, the 3 note vocal melody, the constant rhythm, the unwavering common time meter, THE WHOLE DAMN SONG is repetition, but for a simplistic, eye-gougingly hackneyed root-fourth-root-fourth-etc-etc-etc chord progression.
and...

if you were a musician of any talent and/or creativity, you would be bored to tears by Bruce Springsteen.

Newsflash....listening to music and making music are two different things. I am a world class professional at listening to music. I don't know jack shit about chord progressions, time meters, root fourths...whatever with that shit. I can't play mary had a little lamb on the piano. I would still put my music listening chops against any two mortal men with supreme confidence that I would emerge the victor.

I don't know The Boss personally, but it would seem to me that his intent in writing a song like Born In The USA was not to meet your exacting technical guidelines. Instead he was trying to use music to communicate something at a specific point in time. And that's exactly what he accomplished...In Spades.

I don't know if Springsteen makes great music. I do know that he makes music that's great to listen to. I'm sure knows all the exacting musical theory you're talking about, and chose to do something different.

That's why they call it art.
posted by billyfleetwood at 4:45 PM on December 11, 2007 [7 favorites]


billyfleetwood: we need to get drunk and listen to tunes together.
posted by jonmc at 4:50 PM on December 11, 2007


Can I come?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:56 PM on December 11, 2007


And, bugbread, I encourage you to try to catch Bruce live if you can (your profile says you're in Japan, so this may be difficult). Not only will you be inundated with Bruce fans (and love), you will get to see what all the fuss is about. I can honestly say that, these days, live, nobody rocks and brings the goddamn soul like he does.

I'll never get tired of linking to this video from the Vote for Change tour. He gets going 2:10 in.
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:56 PM on December 11, 2007


Can I come?

Sure.

also, I second wemayfreeze on seeing Bruce live. The guy gives his all in a show in a way that very few musicians of his stature do. And the E Street Band are world class players. Plus there's just this air of frindliness and openess around Bruce. There's no exclusivity to it.
posted by jonmc at 4:58 PM on December 11, 2007


Margo Timmins-one hell of a musician--is a Springsteen fan. I imagine some members of the band she's in are fans as well. Now, granted, I only ever met her in a receiving line, but she is clearly a Springsteen fan--which I am not, but what she does to his songs almost makes me wish I were.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:59 PM on December 11, 2007


I want to see someone run with the campaign song "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." Bonus points if they learn all the lyrics.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:59 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Long Walk Home would make an incredible campaign song, though far too honest and dreary for these times.
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:02 PM on December 11, 2007


LEONARD BERNSTEIN!
posted by gaspode at 5:07 PM on December 11, 2007


Will someone please find the Vacant Lot sketch with the guys in the basement arguing about Blinded By The Light? I don't remember what episode it's from, but it's hilarious.
posted by klangklangston at 5:09 PM on December 11, 2007


LENNY BRUCE & LESTER BANGS!
posted by jonmc at 5:11 PM on December 11, 2007


I want to see someone run with the campaign song "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)."

I thought Ron Paul was already doing that.
posted by wendell at 5:19 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


SHORT PANTS, ROMANCE!
posted by breezeway at 5:24 PM on December 11, 2007


BIRTHDAY PARTY CHEESECAKE JELLYBEAN BOOM!
posted by dersins at 5:30 PM on December 11, 2007


As long as we're all flailing here can I just say I've never been much of a pot person? This is because most that's been in my orbit has been foul ditchweed dried in someone's microwave. Blargh.

However, I have this fantasy about Meatbomb's pot. I'm thinking it has golden filaments the esoteric color of saffron and is dotted with microscopic mushrooms that confer ageless wisdom and benevolence on its partakers. I'm thinking its street name is "Aldous Huxley." I'm thinking that Meatbomb serves it to his guests via an ancient hookah originally given to Lewis Carroll by Queen Victoria with the words "Smoke a little Bombay to-bacco and write Us a nice story, Louie, something with rabbits in."

I live in America and one never knows when financial grimness will again force one into the stricter sectors of corporate employment so I would never, ever actually partake of this illicit and magical plant, should it actually exist. I will only note that as a member of the Quonsar exchange that Meatbomb may draw my name, and that I do enjoy a jar of strong coffee wrapped in a double-thickness of plastic and doused in deer urine. Happy holidays, and let peace reign over this thread and us all, world without end.
posted by melissa may at 5:38 PM on December 11, 2007 [8 favorites]


I've smoked with Meatbomb. It was good. I've had better. (I'm a moderate potsmoker myself. I only enjoy it combined with alcohol, otherwise I get major league paranoid).
posted by jonmc at 5:44 PM on December 11, 2007


SWEET GOD!

That is all. I'm just feelin' the Meatbomb vibe. Pass the kootchie from the left-hand side!
posted by languagehat at 6:09 PM on December 11, 2007


otherwise I get major league paranoid

Hmmm...that pitcher looks kinda familiar. Hey, I think he was buying gum when I was at the newsstand. And wait a second ... the guy playing second has the same mustache as the cabbie that was on the corner. They've been following me. Shit. Shit! How am I going to get off this field?
posted by salvia at 6:21 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


LEARN TO DANCE GET DRESSED GET BLESSED

(couldn't leave breezeway hangin')
posted by pineapple at 6:22 PM on December 11, 2007


*tries to be a success*
posted by jonmc at 6:45 PM on December 11, 2007


I think I'm getting a contact high over the Web from Meatbomb. Wow.
posted by wendell at 6:47 PM on December 11, 2007


I'm in, Stav, and I think it goes without saying that I get to be the Drug Czar.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:06 PM on December 11, 2007


I don't know if Springsteen makes great music. I do know that he makes music that's great to listen to. I'm sure knows all the exacting musical theory you're talking about, and chose to do something different.

That's why they call it art.


Great music is exactly music that's great to listen to. Music is the logical fallacy of appealing to emotion; that's why your favourite band sucks and instrumental skill is incidental. Ligeti and AC/DC are equally valid. And Born in the USA is a great song.
posted by ersatz at 7:08 PM on December 11, 2007


I don't always agree with jon, bugbread, but it was his fandom of Springsteen that made me pick up some early records and check 'em out. I've already thanked him, but I'd do it again here for nothing. Born to Run, as a record, and as a song, are amazing pieces of Rock 'n' Roll. And Nebraska? Man alive that's the shit, and it's a long way from Born in the USA's (imho anyway) much weaker fare. I think that being born in 1970 may have given us both the wrong impression of Bruce.

Next up on my list of stuff to revisit cos jonmc thinks I should? Appetite for Destruction. I'll be happy to let you all know how that goes, once it's done.
posted by Richat at 7:26 PM on December 11, 2007


Alas, i am late to the party, but i need to tell LordSludge to get his sludgey hands on the LIVE version of BitUSA. I never liked the song either, then one veteran's day my local rock station played the live version, and the wail of agony overwhelmed me.

I'd posit that for every clunker the Boss has recorded, Rush has two or three pretentious twee garbage tracks. ore importantly, Springsteen is still making important music- Rush has been out of ideas and tricks for some time now.

But i also like Red Barchetta a good deal, so go figure.

Now pass that thing this way, kiddoes...
posted by vrakatar at 7:26 PM on December 11, 2007


Rush was my very first concert too! But I was so drunk I don't remember too much of it. I remember being angry that the big lights kept waking me up. Then at some point I discovered that my blind date was a drug dealer, and that he was actually in his twenties (I was in high school). Then on the way home he asked me if I wanted to spend the night at his place, seemingly unconcerned that I was a sixteen-year-old living at home with her parents. I should have known something was up when I first got into his convertible and noticed the sheepskin seat covers.
posted by Evangeline at 7:27 PM on December 11, 2007


bugbread... another Springsteen fan checking in. And Billy Joel fan for that matter. Springsteen's Born to Run and Joel's Turnstiles are yin and yang to each other, and 2 of my all-time favorite albums. Born to Run in particular is great on several levels- compelling stories, great musicianship, both in terms of jamming free-for-alls and sophisticated precision. And, it's great to listen to.

I just picked up The River this week on CD and becomeing reacqainted with that. Another solid Springsteen album.

Part of the reason Springsteen is used as the incidental music used by politicians is because a great number of people who grew up in the 70s love the music, and it resonates with them. It makes me cringe when it's used for political/commercial perposes, but the reason is good for that is because there are so many Springsteen fans out there.
posted by Doohickie at 7:30 PM on December 11, 2007


If Bruce is the boss I'm quitting.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:36 PM on December 11, 2007


I thought LordSludge's critique of Born in the USA was pretty goofy, but so is this:

Newsflash....listening to music and making music are two different things. I am a world class professional at listening to music. I don't know jack shit about chord progressions, time meters, root fourths...whatever with that shit. I can't play mary had a little lamb on the piano. I would still put my music listening chops against any two mortal men with supreme confidence that I would emerge the victor.

I don't mean this as an attack, but what do you think "listening to music" means? Making music and listening to music are fundamentally entwined. People who try to make music without understanding this (like a lot of the kids that I see for guitar lessons) tend not to get far. I can't conceive of someone who is good at listening to music and yet doesn't know jack shit about chord progressions, meter, etc., at least on an intuitive level.

A famous composer (Schumann, maybe) once wrote that the highest level of musicianship attainable is the ability to look at a complex orchestral score for the first time and understand how it is meant to sound.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:47 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also, re: weed, vaporization is the key.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:49 PM on December 11, 2007


billyfleetwood: We listen to music for different reasons, to be sure. I want something interesting, challenging, original. To me, music is like a puzzle, and figuring how the bits go together to form a coherent whole is what stirs my soul. It's not about technical proficiency, per se, but about interesting patterns and interactions between the musicians, hearing things I haven't heard before, thinking about musical notes and rhythms in a new way.**

Springsteen's music is like a jigsaw puzzle with 3 pieces -- I suppose, in the case of the two-chord BitUSA, 2 pieces. I put 'em together and go, "Fuck. That's it???" It's okay if you look at the 10,000 piece puzzle and say, "no thanks!" and back away slowly -- it takes some effort to put together, and if you lack the tools, you're not going to be able to assemble it into a coherent picture. It'll come across as noise, wankery.

A lot of people like their music to be simple, predictable, and require very little attention nor thought to mentally digest. That's fine. Enjoy your Springsteen. Hell, enjoy all your fine Top 40 hits. There's a reason that sort of music is so popular: it's simple.

I find it boring.

** And if that takes technical proficiency, so be it. This anti-proficiency smacks of anti-intellectualism: "I don't understand it, so it must be crap!"
posted by LordSludge at 7:55 PM on December 11, 2007


I'm in, Stav, and I think it goes without saying that I get to be the Drug Czar.

Sweet! Now, what are we gonna call our new nation? Meatstavronia? Wonderbomba? Chickenmeatistan? The United States of ChickenBombStavWonderMeat? The United Meatbomb-Stavrosian Republic? Fun City?

Decisions, decisions.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:55 PM on December 11, 2007


Springsteen's music is like a jigsaw puzzle with 3 pieces -- I suppose, in the case of the two-chord BitUSA, 2 pieces. I put 'em together and go, "Fuck. That's it???"

Please. Musical complexity is not limited to how many chords are used, and musical quality encompasses more than complexity. Whether or not Born in the USA is a good song, you're not making a good argument.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:01 PM on December 11, 2007


A lot of people like their music to be simple, predictable, and require very little attention nor thought to mentally digest.

But not you. You're special.

And you offer Dream Theater as an alternative? I'll take direct, honest 'simple,' music over self-important self-indulgent pretentious wankery any day of the week.
posted by jonmc at 8:04 PM on December 11, 2007


ludwig van: I think what billyfleetwood was getting at is that musicians and non-musicians listen to music in very different ways and that judging the quality of a song based on technical proficiency is like judging a meal based on the number of ingredients.
posted by jonmc at 8:07 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Recently I wondered why Meatbomb was one of the few people I linked in my profile, now I know again. I approve of this callout, for the sake of humanity.
If it only didn't feel like working in similar conditions without having anybody to blame is somehow even worse (self-employment). Right now I'm seriously considering a call-center job like this again, at least an office revolution wouldn't turn me against myself then.
posted by kolophon at 8:11 PM on December 11, 2007


I think what billyfleetwood was getting at is that musicians and non-musicians listen to music in very different ways

They surely do. But I feel like "listening to music and making music are two different things" is a common but flawed notion. It implies that making music is a physical act rather than a mental act. Anyone can hear music. A hearing test would be something that determines the acuity of your sensory organ. But a listening test would be much different - it would be a test of musicianship. (Beethoven was so good at listening to music that he could do it without hearing!) And musicianship is not synonymous with technical proficiency, as I was trying to illustrate. One could have a high level of musicianship without being very good at any instrument. Hector Berlioz, for instance, never learned to play the piano (although he did play the guitar and the flute).
posted by ludwig_van at 8:19 PM on December 11, 2007


What I (and I think billyfleetwood) are saying is that a musician may listen to a song and think about chord progressions or blown notes or whatever, a non-musician is thinking more in terms of how the music makes him feel or what it makes him want to do (dance, fuck, get in a fight, start a revolution, get drunk, whatever). I'm not saying musicians don't think about these things, too, I'm just offering a different perspective.
posted by jonmc at 8:23 PM on December 11, 2007


When the thousand-year Queensryche is in power, you'll all be the first ones up against the wall.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:33 PM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


Your rage for order is disquieting.
posted by breezeway at 8:42 PM on December 11, 2007


Damn, ludwig, you a musical snob! Enjoy your musical snobbery, you snob you!
posted by Doohickie at 9:23 PM on December 11, 2007


Pretty much all I want out of music is some personal satisfaction from hearing it. Some times I'm just looking for a catchy melody, other times I want something energetic and driving, while other times I want something subtle that slowly grows on me. But I don't play an instrument and I don't care how they do it. I'm just glad they do. I don't listen to it as puzzle waiting to be solved - I listen to it because it elicits some sort of emotional response from me. When I want a puzzle I'll reach for a book of crosswords.

I'm not against solos or musical proficiency, but I'll take the stunning guitar interplay between Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine or the incredibly precise rhythm section of Gang of Four over somebody dicking around for the sake of showing what they can do. I want the musicianship to serve the song, not the other way around.

Over the years I've seen some incredibly talented musicians make some pretty dismal music (anyone ever see Tea Party? - ugh). They played a lot notes, some of them real hard from what I've been told, but it wasn't any fun to watch, and even less fun to listen to. On the other had, I've also been fortunate enough to see some great musicians play some crazy good music. But most of my favorite shows are from bands of average to slightly above average musical skills banging out some great songs and connecting with me on some sort of unexplainable personal level. For that reason I'll take the Ramones, Didjits, Sonics, or Trio over Queensryche, Rush, or Dream Theater (really - Dream Theater?). Luckily none of us are graded on this in the big scheme of things.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:34 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


This admiration of Bruce Springsteen has made me lose my faith in humanity.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:41 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Damn, ludwig, you a musical snob! Enjoy your musical snobbery, you snob you!

.../sarcasm?
posted by ludwig_van at 9:54 PM on December 11, 2007


I don't mean this as an attack, but what do you think "listening to music" means?

It means listening to music. I don't have to know anything about music to know that Al Green sounds like heaven on earth. I don't need a class in theory to get up and shake my ass when James Brown is on the jukebox. Nobody really sounded like Janis Joplin, and I'm not sure what her Octave range was, or if she had one, or even what an octave range is, but damn that woman could put her back into it.

I'm not discounting your requirements for enjoying a song. I just know from experience as a creative person, that knowledge of a thing does not equal quality of a thing.There is sometimes genius in simplicity.

Maybe I'm reading you wrong, but your critique of Springsteen is akin to a visual artist claiming that their knowledge of photorealist painting techniques gives them the unique insight to look at Picasso's Guernica and decide that the man couldn't draw.

You don't have to like it. But it doesn't take a genius to figure out why other people do.

What's funny, is that it may seem that this thread has devolved into something completely unrelated to the initial post, but strangely enough it still feels on topic. Rules vs. instinct. Head vs. Heart. Evil robot overlords vs. a small ragtag band of sexy kung-fu rebels.
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:54 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


There are people in Metafilter who put fish in their pants. Somewhere, someone is putting a fish in their pants right now. Let the End Times begin in 10, 9, 8...
posted by moonbird at 9:55 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hyperbole, ludwig. I meant it, but chose to take the f-bombs out and just use snob over and over to effect. You have said repeatedly in this thread that only musicians can listen to music. That mistaken notion, good sir, makes you a musical snob.
posted by Doohickie at 9:59 PM on December 11, 2007


billy, I suppose I put that the wrong way -- what I meant to ask was "what do you think being good at listening to music means?" I think being really good at listening to music is a great thing for musicians and non-musicians alike, but I also think it's a skill that gets developed and that it means more than just being emotionally moved by music.

I didn't state requirements for enjoying a song, nor did I provide any critique of Springsteen - I only critiqued LordSludge's critique and offered some thoughts about the nature of listening and musicianship.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:02 PM on December 11, 2007


Doohickie, I think you've misunderstood my position.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:03 PM on December 11, 2007


billyfleetwood: we need to get drunk and listen to tunes together.

You sure about that? I once referred to R.Kelly as "The Johnny Cash of R&B".
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:14 PM on December 11, 2007


For the record, I think plenty of non-musicians are very good at listening to music, and I've read some good writing from and had good musical conversations with such folks. But I think they tend to have an intuitive understanding of music even if they aren't formally trained, as I alluded to before (SEE ALSO: The Beatles). Part of what I think of as being good at listening to music is identifying and remembering common elements and patterns between different pieces. That's part of being a good music critic, a good maker of mixtapes, or a good composer. It's perfectly possible to recognize a chord progression or rhythm or instrument of a certain type whether or not one knows what it's called or how to play it on an instrument. Although even someone who doesn't play an instrument can learn to take that one step further and whistle or sing or tap on a surface to communicate a musical idea.

So I wasn't trying to say that only musicians can truly listen to music - more that "being a good listener" necessarily entails involving yourself in the musical process or in a musical dialogue, and that this activity falls under the sphere of "musicianship," even though it's often undertaken by those who wouldn't typically be classified as musicians.

Does that make more sense?
posted by ludwig_van at 10:15 PM on December 11, 2007


ludwig, my statements about critique and requirements was directed elsewhere.

what do I think being good at listening to music is?

You know how there's that dude at the party who will put on some obscure shit that noone has ever heard of and try to "explain" why it's so great? That guy is bad at listening to music. The person who shuts his shit down and puts on Love Shack and everyone starts dancing. That person is good at listening to music.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:28 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


LordSludge writes "A lot of people like their music to be simple, predictable, and require very little attention nor thought to mentally digest. That's fine. Enjoy your Springsteen. "

Dude. This started with you defending fucking Rush.

Rush's lyrics, in fact.

This started with you saying that Rush has better lyrics than Springsteen. Which is an indefensible position.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:29 PM on December 11, 2007


I once referred to R.Kelly as "The Johnny Cash of R&B".

Considering that probably the only person Cash ever peed on was himself after a blackout, I really hope you'll reconsider that.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:55 PM on December 11, 2007


I'm up for smashing the state and the apparatus of capitalism! Who's with me?

The Daughters of the Proletariat Revolution would like to form a mutually beneficial alliance, and also subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:09 PM on December 11, 2007


IDEAL ASKME THREAD

Q: How can I best instill respect at my workplace? I would like everyone whom I manage to attempt to do their best at their respective job.

A: corporations suck! [marked as best answer]
posted by shakespeherian at 12:59 AM on December 12, 2007


I've never met a Springsteen fan.

they probably avoid you
posted by matteo at 1:42 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


When I read that AskMe question, I assumed the worst thing someone at a call center could do would be to call a 1-900 kiddie porn hotline while having sex with a barnyard animal. I was idly wondering how you would get a sheep into a cubicle when, lo and behold, this thread shows me that I missed the point of the original. Because I too questioned: SWEET GOD: why have I drunk so much?
posted by allen.spaulding at 1:44 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Springsteen's music is like a jigsaw puzzle with 3 pieces -- I suppose, in the case of the two-chord BitUSA, 2 pieces. I put 'em together and go, "Fuck. That's it???" It's okay if you look at the 10,000 piece puzzle and say, "no thanks!" and back away slowly -- it takes some effort to put together, and if you lack the tools, you're not going to be able to assemble it into a coherent picture. It'll come across as noise, wankery.

A lot of people like their music to be simple, predictable, and require very little attention nor thought to mentally digest. That's fine. Enjoy your Springsteen. Hell, enjoy all your fine Top 40 hits. There's a reason that sort of music is so popular: it's simple.


That's some of the snobbiest BS I've ever seen, and I've seen my share. Show me the song that uses 10,000 chords and maybe I'll reconsider.

This feels like the beginning to that thread where that one person was arguing that hip-hop wasn't music because it didn't use elements that were universally valued as such. Do I really have to explain the purpose of lyrics? That in the best music all elements are working together to produce the desired effect/affect? That, goddamn it, choosing the right two chords can be harder than "Oh, now this next part of the song is in 7/16 and requires that the listener be familiar with Rachmaninoff's demo tape?"

Let me do violence to a quote from White Men Can't Jump: You can listen to Bruce, but you can't hear Bruce.

For some reason I've been dealing with a lot of anti-Springsteen sentiment in the last few months. WTF, world?
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:01 AM on December 12, 2007


You know, I've never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever read an argument on the internet that convinced me that one band was better or worse than another. Unless someone can give me a good hard numerical foundation ("This song scored a 17.65gm on the goodmusicometer"), I'm going to have to conclude that you're ALL COMPLETELY FULL OF SHIT with your "this band is better than that band" twaddle, and that really you're just trying to claim that your personal musical tastes are better than others by waving your hands around and pretending that your tastes have some sort of absolute foundation instead of just being your own personal tastes.
posted by Bugbread at 4:26 AM on December 12, 2007


You sure about that? I once referred to R.Kelly as "The Johnny Cash of R&B".

Heh. I prefer D'Angelo, but musically R. Kelly's OK (although I wouldn't let him date my daughter (or fix my plumbing).
posted by jonmc at 4:35 AM on December 12, 2007


"Your favorite band sucks" sucks.
posted by grouse at 4:43 AM on December 12, 2007


For that reason I'll take the Ramones, Didjits, Sonics, or Trio over Queensryche, Rush, or Dream Theater (really - Dream Theater?)

Me too, although Queensryche and Rush have thier moments (and anyone who would particpate in this must be a pretty cool dude).
posted by jonmc at 5:37 AM on December 12, 2007


stav: I think "The People's Republic of Utopia" has a nice ring to it.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:41 AM on December 12, 2007


Also, LordSludge, if you think Springsteen is 'simple' you desperately need to watch Wings For Wheels, the documentary about the making of the Born To Run. The title track to six months to make, includes a drum lick from Boom Carter that Max Weinberg has been unable to replicate in 30 years, and has more instrumentation than your average symphony.

And yet it's still honest, soulful, accessible, inspiring and rocks like a sonofabitch. Let's see Dream Theater do that.
posted by jonmc at 5:42 AM on December 12, 2007


Some of my (hopefully) cogent explications of the Boss' importance (with audio):
Badlands
Independence Day
Born In The USA
Backstreets
Thunder Road
Jungleland
His pre-fame career
posted by jonmc at 6:00 AM on December 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


RUSH vs. Springsteen? I don't know much about music, or which is "better" but I Know What I Like and I Like What I Know (Repeat)....
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 6:04 AM on December 12, 2007


Look, kids, this is the stupidest argument ever. Rush and Springsteen are on totally different levels, and, while they're both fun once in a while, on thinking it seems to me as though they're both limited, too. Rush is fun, extremely fun, and I'll never tire of "The Spirit Of Radio," but that earnestness lacks a certain perspective, a certain openness, a certain peace, that would be nice. Also, it's not half as intelligent as it thinks it is. On the other side, Springsteen is incredibly enjoyable, incredibly cool, a great writer of songs and hooks, but he's also an extreme democratist, and I wonder sometimes whether he's capable of writing a great song that's individual or personal or spiritual rather than political.

That's just my thing, I guess. Now I'm going to go listen to Can.
posted by koeselitz at 7:37 AM on December 12, 2007


I wonder sometimes whether he's capable of writing a great song that's individual or personal or spiritual rather than political.

I'll assume you've never heard 'Backstreets,' 'Brilliant Disguise,' 'For You,' 'No Surrender,' 'Bobby Jean,' 'Rosalita,' 'Kitty's Back,' or 'Spirit In The Night.'
posted by jonmc at 7:45 AM on December 12, 2007


My roommate and some friends of ours who are Quakers are founding a new religion - The Religious Society of Friends of Bruce Springsteen, mostly devoted to the holy text of the "Dancing in the Dark" video.

(Clearly, I use "text" to mean, uh, well... not text. I have a cold.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:46 AM on December 12, 2007


...or 'Thunder Road' and 'Born To Run,' which aren't political either.
posted by jonmc at 7:58 AM on December 12, 2007


I agree with Meatbomb. My answer to the AskMe would have been "Don't fire the guy; just get Security to taze him until he falls in line. That will set an example for the others". I think a lot of the contributors to this thread would probably agree with that. There being no HTML tag for sarcasm, and all. You petty authoritarans wig me out.
posted by nowonmai at 7:58 AM on December 12, 2007


MetaTalk: I desperately need to spew bile
posted by theora55 at 7:58 AM on December 12, 2007


I'll add "Candy's Room" to jonmc's list; the first section of the guitar solo contains the three-note "Born in the USA" melody we find so controversial, and the lyrics are personal and not political.
posted by breezeway at 8:06 AM on December 12, 2007


Another Springsteen fan representing.

In these conversations, over time, I have found that:

1. Many people who criticize Springsteen have not listened to that much of his music, and judge him based on their memories of a few popular radio tracks like "Hungry Heart" or "BitUSA."

2. They have not necessarily listened carefully to the tracks they do know.

3. They are unfamiliar with the shockingly large and consistent lifetime body of work Bruce has produced.

4. They have not seen him give a live performance.

Many times, once I've played some selections for these people, say on a long car drive, with narrative, they've been willing to grudgingly come around to the many strong points made here about Bruce's musical fusions, integration of influences from R&B, rock, and jazz, artful and cinematic songwriting, clear depiction of the outer worlds and inner worlds of everyday people (of all kinds) who struggle, distinctive and attentive arrangments, and the cultural significance of his songs. Once I've taken them to a show, they generally become converts.

Sometimes it doesn't go that far. Some people associate Bruce with their older siblings' music, or just don't like rock'n'roll no matter what. But even then, once they've heard enough of the music, they're able to understand what the fuss is about.

Further, I know a lot of musicians, and I have never met a musician who did not accord respect to Bruce. I don't know a lot of classical musicians and only a few jazz musicians, but people who know music can apprehend the difficulty of what he's doing, and how long he's sustained it.

Finally, even if you think Bruce is a tasteless braying hack of a has-been guitar player, I grew up in his neck of the woods and have had a constant awareness of his local philanthropy and personal influence on politics and social problems having to do with class. He helps a lot of people and, given his stature, lives a relatively modest and accessible life. So, there's that.
posted by Miko at 8:16 AM on December 12, 2007


"A lot of people like their music to be simple, predictable, and require very little attention nor thought to mentally digest. That's fine. Enjoy your Springsteen. Hell, enjoy all your fine Top 40 hits. There's a reason that sort of music is so popular: it's simple.

I find it boring.

** And if that takes technical proficiency, so be it. This anti-proficiency smacks of anti-intellectualism: "I don't understand it, so it must be crap!"
"

Man, this is exactly what I picture Rush fans being like.

Fucking insane.

All it needs is some hackneyed defense of Objectivism, and you'll hit every stereotype.

As for your argument, Top 40's actually pretty complex, and takes a lot of skill from a pretty big team. But simple versus complex is a terrible way to grade music. Just like it's wrong to approach Pop Art and Minimalism as "worse" than Baroque or Romantic painting—making something simple and great is a lot harder than making something mediocre and complex (which, for me, is pretty much the roll that most of Bruce and Rush [and Sufjan] fill). That's why I'll take "State Trooper" over anything else Springsteen's done pretty much ever.

And I'm not someone who's scared of complexity, though that was a nice dodge, what with the anti-intellectualism bit. It's just that Rush (or, to name a hipper band I never dug, Slint) is fucking boring compared to the complexity of, say, Thelonious Monk.

Could I quantify that? Not really. I don't know enough about the formal language of composition. When I listen to music, the two main things that I listen to are patterns and tone (which, I'm sure, to any musician must sound like the dumbest and most obvious thing ever), but where jazz often surprises me in picking notes that both adhere to and subvert the predicted pattern, Rush, well, I just find myself not caring about where Rush is going with their patterns. And their tone is so fucking white and Canadian (and not in that good Sloan way) that I don't much care to listen to it. That jigsaw puzzle? It's of some fucking kittens or some shit. I just don't get excited about putting it together.

As for Billfleetwood and the Love Shack, no, I'd say that the guy putting on some obscure shit is probably more interested in listening to music than the crowd, but not wanting to actively listen to music isn't a crime. They want to dance, not listen. Those are different goals that sometimes the same song can contain.
posted by klangklangston at 8:28 AM on December 12, 2007


*joins Miko in a rousing singalong of 'I'm A Rocker'*

Finally, even if you think Bruce is a tasteless braying hack of a has-been guitar player, I grew up in his neck of the woods and have had a constant awareness of his local philanthropy

Not just local either. Bruce has always been concientous about paying respect and tribute to his influences. For years Bruce's final encore was 'Quarter To Three' by Gary 'US' Bonds. When Springsteen had achieved prominence, he and Miami Steve located the languishing Bonds and produced a comeback album for him that yeilded 'This Little Girl,' which gave Gary his first hit in years. This is a man who knows how to give props.


*a song that all by itself buries the entire genre of art-rock for those of us who value emotion and visceral impact over virtuosity and pretension
posted by jonmc at 8:28 AM on December 12, 2007


Miko— My biggest beef with Bruce is that I hate the keyboard and sax tones that a lot of his stuff has. I just really don't like his production choices. It's similar to how I feel about Leonard Cohen, in that most of his Jazz Police stuff just sounds goofy as hell.
posted by klangklangston at 8:31 AM on December 12, 2007


I just want to say that I completely called it that LordSludge is a Dreamtheater fan.

now, I'm mostly in this discussion because it gives me an opportunity to make blanket generalizations about music just for the fun of doing so with my tongue planted firmly in cheek. But then there are moments where someone like LordSludge says, without a trace of irony,

it takes some effort to put together, and if you lack the tools, you're not going to be able to assemble it into a coherent picture. It'll come across as noise, wankery.

and I start to wonder if he isn't taking the piss. Or I WOULD wonder that if it weren't for the fact that I've met so many people who say things like that as though the fact that they studied bass in high school made them a musical expert.

Here's the deal: No one listens to Rush and says "what's this noisy stuff?! eww, it sounds DIFFICULT and I don't like that!" Most people who listen to Rush for the first time say "holy fuck! who's playing those drums/that bass/how'd they teach a robot to play guitar?!" then they listen for a while, and they get it (for god's sake, it's not that hard to "get" yyz or tom sawyer.) and they either get so wrapped up in the technical proficiency that they become fans for life or they realize that if it weren't so difficult to play it would be a horrible song and they move on. The idea that people who don't like Dream Theater don't get it is absurd. What is so hard to get about Peruvian Skies? Shit, I'm from Long Island, you can't spit without hitting some dude who really wants you to give Dream Theater another shot out here, I've even been to a show and the fact is that I get it but it's just not that good. Neither is Coheed and Cambria (though their drummer's hip hop group Weerd Science is fucking awesome) or The Mars Volta. It's just DIFFICULT. Now, you can like that all you want, more power to you.

But when someone says "Pfft! Springsteen's no Rush" then I'm very much inclined to laugh in your face because you are the one who "just doesn't get it."
posted by shmegegge at 8:34 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've never met a Springsteen fan.

bugbread, I got into him because I dated someone from New Jersey where people will pray to Springsteen instead of God. I suspect a lot of people got into him from either time spent in Jersey (apparently driving on the turnpike for an hour or so is long enough to catch the bug) or from a Jersey native they know.

also:

LISTEN TO YOURSELF CHURN!
posted by shmegegge at 8:36 AM on December 12, 2007


hate the keyboard and sax tones that a lot of his stuff has. I just really don't like his production choices.

Fair enough - the chimey, brassy E Street sound is thoroughly distinctive. What do you think about the darker, stripped-down, more acoustic work on Tom Joad, Nebraska, or Devils & Dust?
posted by Miko at 8:38 AM on December 12, 2007


Dude, I don't remember most of those songs, but 'No Surrender' is certainly a 'political' song. I only use that term as shorthand, and I'm not being derisive, mind you. (I love that song.) I guess I'm saying that Springsteen makes 'political' songs in the same way that Martin Scorsese only makes 'political' movies. That is, there are people who could make a movie about two people sitting in a room, and all of the things that go on between those two people-- just the feelings, the things underneath, the undercurrents. You could easily make whole films about that, films that I might like. There are, in fact, films like that which I like. But Martin Scorsese doesn't make movies like that. Martin Scorsese's movies always have a frame of reference, they always have context: gangsters and cops on the streets of Boston, young Italians growing up in New York, the seamy world of boxing, the horrific dark world someone driving the night streets of late-'70's New York sees. They're about people in a particular situation, and they may even have strong characters in them, but they're never solely character-driven. I don't know how many people have seen Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice, but that's one of my favorite films, and full three-quarters of it consists of a man talking to his young son who's just out of mouth surgery and therefore can't talk. They're walking though the flatlands, which happen to be on some island near Sweden, I think, but that doesn't matter at all to the story whatsoever. The story is just this guy talking to his kid. Martin Scorsese could never make that movie, and he doesn't have to; his movies are about big characters experiencing big things in particular situations.

Springsteen is the same, to me. He's kind of like Billy Joel in this way, although of course Springsteen is broader, and is a better songwriter and musician. Have you noticed this about Billy Joel? It's interesting, because it's much harder to pin down in his case, but I think a good chunk of his appeal is tied to New York. An interesting experiment that you can try: try to find somebody from Texas who likes Billy Joel. Go on, try it. It's very, very hard. I'm a western man myself, grew up in Colorado, and I have to confess, there have been times that I hated Billy Joel. Loathed him. And he's hateable. But I realized after a while that those times coincided with the times that I hated New York, which happens often for me. He's tied to a particular situation, a nostalgia about that situation. "Still Rock and Roll To Me" seems like stupid pap, the most idiotic form of condescension and simplistic dumbing-down in the world, unless you can look to the idea of a kid growing up listening to everything from doowop through seventies rock and enjoying it, hearing it on the radio in the back of the barroom or Italian restaurant or deli or whatever, and can feel a nostalgia about that. Then it's... well, it's fun. At the very least, it's not so bad.

Springsteen is the same, only broader, and even more so, in my opinion. See, Billy Joel has pretensions to writing intimite songs about personal situations; he just fails miserably, and they come out cheesy and incredibly sentimental. Springsteen is not pretentious. He knows what he's capable of (a lot) and he knows what he's interested in: the situation of rock and roll, the context of it, and in people who are thrown into it. "Born to Run" is the best example of this: it's an incredible song that clearly took a long time to make and yet remains effortless and in-the-moment. It's a love song, yes, but not really in the way love songs usually are. It's really more a love song to this situation that the two are in, the rebel situation, up against a wall but loving that very fact, with only themselves to rely on. It's a great distillation of what the rebel image of rock was about even in the '50's, which is why people have rightly pointed to Springsteen as a revival of what rock meant. "No Surrender" is no different in this: it has context from the moment he's bursting out of class in those first few lines, dying to get down with his buddies and start playing music. It's part of something larger than itself. It's connected to rock and roll as a tradition.

Which almost seems like a contradiction to some people. I think that the whole 'rock and roll as a tradition' context only seems to make sense when it's given a larger context: you only see rockers like this coming out of east-coast cities in the US, or maybe pubrockers in the UK in the mid-to-late 1970s. It is most definitely not something that comes out of California. It doesn't even really come out of the midwest; the closest I can think of is Cheap Trick. Without the context of the city surrounding, providing a backdrop, all this 'rock as tradition of rebellion' thing just seems like grandpa's bag, not ours. And no matter how much you and me point out that there were great things that happened in the '50's and '60's in rock music, no one really understands it unless they've got something they can claim it as, like, say, part of my neighborhood, or my city, or my family. And then it's almost a kind of patriotism, not the rebellion it originally was. That's what I mean when I say that Bruce Springsteen is 'limited.'

Punk rock was important because it constituted the realization that rebellion can't be crystallized into a tradition, and therefore can't be anything but freeing. The best punk bands made music that reflected this fact: Joy Division, say, and the Swell Maps, and Wire, and Mission of Burma, made music that wouldn't even have made sense to anybody in the '50's or '60's. It was utterly foreign, it most definitely did not take part in the "tradition of rock and roll rebellion," because it didn't want or need to.

It freed itself of that context. Which can be a very, very good thing sometimes, I think. In fact, there have always been great bands that were beyond their own context: Buddy Holly, Can, some things by Zeppelin, stuff from Songs In The Key Of Life... there have been great musicians who transcended their own time and place throughout the history of rock. Bruce Springsteen is great in that his music is good, seriously good, and I think he's a fantastic songwriter, but he won't transcend his time and place, because he embraces it and engages in a kind of nostalgia about it. I don't think he's ever written a song that someone could enjoy if they'd never heard of rock and roll, or if they hated rock and roll. The thing about punk is that it changed the context, it left the past behind and made it possible for songs that those kinds of people could enjoy to be created. Songs like REM's "Harborcoat," which is a deep, rich song, full of attitudes and allusions and twistings that come together in a way that make this one of my favorite songs of all time. That song doesn't need the context of rock and roll. It has absolutely nothing to do with rock and roll except in the most distant and unimportant way.

I don't know why I wrote all this out. It just deserved some explanation, I guess. But don't worry, I'm not going to try to explain Rush.
posted by koeselitz at 8:46 AM on December 12, 2007 [4 favorites]


It doesn't even really come out of the midwest; the closest I can think of is Cheap Trick.

The Replacements? The Iron City Houserockers? Bob Seger? the Jayhawks? EIEIO? on the west coast, I'd say the Minutemen qualified (listen to 'History Lesson part II').

I understand what you're saying about context, but I respectfully disagree. 'No Surrender' is actually about Bruce's friendship with Steve Van Zandt (as is 'Bobby Jean.') Anybody who's ever been a lonely teenager can get that song. The other songs I mentioned s well deal with universal emotional themes, not regional ones, whatever local details might be added.
posted by jonmc at 8:55 AM on December 12, 2007


I don't know how many people have seen Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice, but that's one of my favorite films, and full three-quarters of it consists of a man talking to his young son who's just out of mouth surgery and therefore can't talk. They're walking though the flatlands, which happen to be on some island near Sweden, I think, but that doesn't matter at all to the story whatsoever. The story is just this guy talking to his kid.

I've seen it, and it's one of my favorites, too. But to be clear, he talks to his kid for under 30 minutes. The remainder of the rather long film the kid is asleep upstairs or outside of the house away from them all. The story is really a lot more than him talking to his kid.
posted by shmegegge at 8:57 AM on December 12, 2007


also, koeselitz, if you want deeply personal springsteen without the rock and roll context, you really do have to listen to The River. That song, indeed the album, is some of the most honest simple songwriting i've ever heard, and it's done in a way I don't think anyone else does quite as well.
posted by shmegegge at 8:59 AM on December 12, 2007


People, people!! We're never going to get anywhere until you realize that my music rocks and your music sucks!

Hehe, kidding.. Okay, jonmc, I'll check out your Springsteen links, but unless they include some neat polyrhythms or are at LEAST written in something besides common time, I'll probably get bored and wander off. Rush is pretty accessible, actually, if you can stand Geddy's voice, but don't bother with Dream Theater -- it's not something one can just jump into and enjoy.**

Myself included -- I initially dismissed them as artless technical wankery, like many others here; took me several years to understand & enjoy them. Actually, I've only ever known *one* person to like DT on the first try, and she had a master's in music composition, mostly classical background. She was moved nearly to tears, if you can believe it.

But, yeah, I'll echo ludwig_van in that there is plenty of music that you can't fully appreciate unless you at least have some music theory. For example, I don't think you can really understand, much less appreciate, what's going at the 5:00-6:00 minute mark in Tool's Lateralis unless you have some idea what polyrhythms are. (7:00-8:00 on this shitty YouTube clip, but you can't really hear the drums...) Actually, I think Tool alienated quite a few fans with that album because they got too rhythmically technical, compared to their early work. The common man demands common time!

Miko, I'm sure Bruce is a great guy. Kudos to him for that, really. I still think his music is boring. (And I'm a musician, so... pleased to meet you.) But he's going for wide market appeal, and he's done quite well with that.

** Come on, shmegegge, Peruvian Skies is about the most accessible DT there is -- it's even in common time most of the way. Try something a little more interesting like, I dunno, Take the Time or Metropolis, Pt. 1 and tell me you "get" it. Or just get angry. Either way is cool.
posted by LordSludge at 9:03 AM on December 12, 2007


Leonard Cohen

Leave him out of this!
posted by ludwig_van at 9:07 AM on December 12, 2007


he's going for wide market appeal

No, not really. He's never reached the peak in either record sales or concert attendance that he had during the Born in the USA era, and he doesn't want to. He does the work he wants to do, and whenever he releases an album, some longtime listeners are vocally alienated. He's not responsive to market trends in music - he doesn't have to be.

I'm not sure you have to understand theory to appreciate music (polyrythms are aurically obvious, and traditional cultures passed on their understandings of that and other techniques without the help of Westrern theory) but theory certainly helps one to discuss music with other people who speak that language. What I think musicians are able to understand about Bruce's music is that it is hard to take the common tropes - the 4/4 time, the instrumentation, the 3-verse/chorus/bridge tradition - and make it interesting and meaningful in a new way with each iteration.

I do find it hard to believe you don't enjoy anything in common time....
posted by Miko at 9:09 AM on December 12, 2007


Make that "aurally"
posted by Miko at 9:09 AM on December 12, 2007


Dear Brother Meatbomb,
WE MUST HAVE ORDER. I more or less agree with how I interpret the spirit of what you said, but I think you made a sad botch of the way you said it. Oh well, cast the first stone and all that. Bruce never really caught on with me, but I get why people like him. I can't stand Rush, but I love a challenge. Anyway, fuck a call center and still Whitey's on the moon.

Yrs in service,

Dewayne "Ding_Wizzo" Wingelous
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:13 AM on December 12, 2007


I'll echo ludwig_van in that there is plenty of music that you can't fully appreciate unless you at least have some music theory

That's not really what I was trying to say either. I mean, what does "fully appreciate" mean? Certainly I think that as with most art, studying music tends to enhance one's appreciation, but I don't think formal knowledge or an academic background is a pre-requisite for being a good listener. I just think being a good listener takes effort and active engagement of musical skills that most everyone possesses, whether or not they create music. Like I said, one can understand music (theory) in an intuitive way despite not knowing anything about it in a formal way. It is more difficult for such people to communicate about music in a precise fashion, though, which is why music theory terminology exists. You don't have to know exactly what a polyrhythm is or how it works in order to feel it and mimic it. But if you can't feel it on your own, understanding how it works may help you to do so.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:15 AM on December 12, 2007


Rush is pretty accessible, actually, if you can stand Geddy's voice, but don't bother with Dream Theater -- it's not something one can just jump into and enjoy.**

Hey, I actually like Rush. 'Tom Sawyer' and 'Limelight' are terrific songs.

It's the second half of what I quoted that bugs me. You say 'just jump in and enjoy,' as if art that can be understood and enjoyed by anyone is somehow less than something that requires training or education to enjoy, which is ridiculous and quite frankly, elitist. And like I said before, judging a song by time signatures is like judging a meal by the number of ingredients. A cheeseburger is just meat and cheese, but there are chesseburgers and there are cheeseburgers, y'know what I'm saying? And Bruce's appeal has always been more about the songwriting. Lyrics like this:

Just roll down the windows
and let the wind blow back your hair
the night's busted open
these two lanes will take us anywhere


or

Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge
Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain


are masterpieces of cinspirational clarity and concise imagery.

Actually, I've only ever known *one* person to like DT on the first try, and she had a master's in music composition, mostly classical background. She was moved nearly to tears, if you can believe it.

My wife is a trained classical clarinetist and published poet and she loves Bruce.
posted by jonmc at 9:19 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


dude, Metropolis ain't that hard to get either.

but if it'll lend credibility to my opinion for you, fine. I play the drums. Have for years. Used to be a huge phish fan (shut up. we all make mistakes) and I've listened to all the music I am now criticising at one point or another. I can hear the polyrhythms, I know how difficult they are, I can hear how complicated the music is. I can also hear that the melodies are stale and uninteresting, the timbre is uniform and the overall impression of the music is passionless and flat. i get it. it's just not that great.

what I believe should be understood is that music being difficult to play is one of the easiest things in the world to understand. anyone can listen to something and say "shit, I would NEVER be able to play that." anyone can hear the music weaving around itself in complicated ways and think "shit, I don't think I could have ever written something that complicated." It's really easy to hear it. It's really easy to get it. It has no subtlety.

Subtlety is difficult to get. When the beatles were first topping charts all over the place for extremely catchy and revolutionary music, they were quietly undermining the musical conventions of popular music in subtle ways. The chorus to "I want to hold your hand" though fun and catchy, was really quite interesting because it was a chord progression that defied the conventions of what used to be considered pleasing chord structure. and it might just be one little chord at the end that's a half step lower than expected or a minor chord thrown into an otherwise bubbly song, but it was there and it changed music forever. all that in an early career full of repetitive songs with an easy to digest verse chorus verse structure! And you don't have to get that to appreciate the song, by any means. But to act like it's not there simply because they played 3000 less notes in a 3 minute period and that those notes were played in repetitive patterns is simply a sign of ignorance and a failure to comprehend the music.

now, you haven't criticized the beatles. I know. But the same is true for Springsteen. is BITUSA an annoying song? sure. but it's supposed to be. it's kind of the perfect example of sound and fury signifying nothing, and it's supposed to be. that so many people champion it as america's anthem without getting it is a sign of its subtlety. if springsteen were a painter, i don't know what painter he'd be but BITUSA would have been warhol's portrait of marilyn monroe. you can feel free to not like it, but it's not your tremendous erudition and musical expertise that makes you bring it up as a contrast to show how great neil peart's lyrics are. it's just that you didn't get why it's good and you prefer really detailed fantasy book covers to art.
posted by shmegegge at 9:25 AM on December 12, 2007


shmegegge: "The River" is a beautiful song, but Bruce has never been able to pull himself away from his roots, and even that song is evidence of it. And the album? "I'm a Rocker?" "Independance Day?" Come on, now. I like roots rock as much as the next guy. Maybe Springsteen is better for being limited in the way he's limited. But that doesn't mean we should ignore those limits.
posted by koeselitz at 9:38 AM on December 12, 2007


An interesting experiment that you can try: try to find somebody from Texas who likes Billy Joel. Go on, try it. It's very, very hard.

Okay, I'll bite: I like Billy Joel.

Well, to put it more plainly, I have a love-hate relationship with Billy Joel, because of what you identified so perfectly later in that same comment: "See, Billy Joel has pretensions to writing intimite songs about personal situations; he just fails miserably, and they come out cheesy and incredibly sentimental." That's the hate, and that he often just seems to be Trying So Hard; that blatant earnest approach makes me uncomfortable.

But, I also definitely cotton that bit about his East Coast affiliation. It makes sense and I can see why he would resonate more with those for whom it's more culturally relevant.
posted by pineapple at 9:40 AM on December 12, 2007


And you're probably being fair about The Sacrifice. That doesn't change my point: Tarkovsky's style is plain and direct, and doesn't rely on stylistic references to setting.
posted by koeselitz at 9:41 AM on December 12, 2007


Within the Springsteen oeuvre, though I will freely admit Max Weinberg's a better drummer, I prefer Vinny "Mad Dog" Lopez's slippery strut from the first few records. The way he crashes his fills onto the front of the "one" and (unusual for a rock drummer in the seventies) pushes his kick into the leading edge of the beat allows the rest of the instruments to ride the pocket deep. Often, the horns growl along with the bass from the deep end, upending the usual drum/bass rhythm section and creating tensions that make the whole band feel like a shaking maraca, or a slick cat sidewalkin', chest-bobbin' robin, never lookin' down, ready to die.

Soul lies in the gap between what your ears expect to hear and what they actually hear; it's that sense of surprise when you hear a familiar song and no matter how many times you hear it, the way a voice descends microtonally at the end of a phrase or the way a beat lands half a heartbeat from where our foursquare minds want it to, still thrills us.

Springsteen's got soul; with changes in personnel, his band moved from soul shufflers toward top rockers. A more versatile, proficient drummer gave them a more traditional rhythm section, and the music lost its gauziness and solidified.

I'm just talking personnel here, not songwriting; most of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs are from after Mad Dog left the band, but those first couple records really make me feel alive.

I'm sure I'll raise some hackles, but Mozart and Haydn make for an interesting comparison with Bruce, not across the board, but for one specific thing they do: they take a simple melodic phrase and reset, rearrange, and reorganize it until it all fits perfectly and you can hear your own voice, or the voice of God, or whatever you call the spark that makes us feel the music.

There are so many approaches to music that talking about it can be fun and arguing about it can be edifying; saying "I don't like ... because..." is useful, while saying "You don't like ... because ...," however, is stupid and unworthy.
posted by breezeway at 9:42 AM on December 12, 2007


I wonder sometimes whether he's capable of writing a great song that's individual or personal or spiritual rather than political.

I'll assume you've never heard 'Backstreets,' 'Brilliant Disguise,' 'For You,' 'No Surrender,' 'Bobby Jean,' 'Rosalita,' 'Kitty's Back,' or 'Spirit In The Night.'


Also "State Trooper." Also - especially - "Atlantic City." And if you think the primary motive force working in that moment coming out of the bridge in "Born to Run" where Bruce counts off "1-2-3-4" in this distant half-exhausted howl and the pretty little doomed glitter of the keyboard kicks back in with the main melody and the whole band kind of recoils and then leaps back into it and Bruce is singing "The highway's jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive" - if you think what's happening in that moment, the thing that makes my arms crawl with gooseflesh just thinking about, is primarily political, then I feel genuinely sorry for you, 'cause you are missing out. (And as for being stuck in its context, I grew up mainly on military bases in northern Canada, and I knew exactly what "Born to Run" was about, because it was about the ribbon of highway just up the way there, and how badly I wanted sometimes to hop on it and never look back.)

Bruce Springsteen is a master of many things, and one of them is the assimiliation of his audience's deepest and most tender aches of desperate yearning, which he translates into pop songs so carefully observed that they seem to speak directly, personally to those aching parts you maybe don't even let your spouse see if you can help it, and this assimilative process is so seamless and concise that any bar band worth its free post-gig pitcher is willing to give those songs a go. And that, in my books, is the very definition of music's singular genius, and polyrhythms for their own sake should be giving an arcane math lecture at some two-bit community college somewhere for all they understand about human existence. And art is about nothing - literally nothing - if it's not in some way about human existence.

Jesus. Rush? Rush's entire back catalog isn't worth that one beat and a half coming out of the bridge on "Born to Run." If what you look for in music is soul - and that's damn near all I'm looking for, most of the time - then there is simply no contest. We're all thinking it - or should be - and I'll say it: Rush is the call centre of AOR rock. It's entirely about obeying arbitrary rules far past their use toward a greater whole, and even when the rules create occasional moments of nifty, useful efficiency, they are still antiseptic and bureaucratic in a way that makes us Springsteen people want to hop in an old Mustang and drive it at 95 mph westward until it falls apart or we fall off the edge of the earth, whichever comes first and either way it's better than being stuck in that horrific arbitrarily time-changing Rush call centre one instant longer.

It's perfect in its way: Rush vs. Springsteen. Surely the your-favourite-band-sucks-debate equivalent of waiting on hold for them to find your file down at the customer service centre.
posted by gompa at 9:50 AM on December 12, 2007 [5 favorites]


But, I also definitely cotton that bit about his East Coast affiliation. It makes sense and I can see why he would resonate more with those for whom it's more culturally relevant.

Heh. Sure enough, my own Billy Joel essay is a lot about regionality and sentimentality.
posted by jonmc at 9:55 AM on December 12, 2007


jonmc: You say 'just jump in and enjoy,' as if art that can be understood and enjoyed by anyone is somehow less than something that requires training or education to enjoy, which is ridiculous and quite frankly, elitist.

You're right, that is a little elitist. And you're right, it's silly to imply that music can be good simply because it's difficult; to imply that is to deny that there's such a thing as pretension. But elitism isn't always bad, and you get more out of good music (any good music) if you work hard at it. Sometimes the challenge the artist lays out for you is part of the point. That's why I like James Joyce, The Fall, and plenty of bands who try to make music that is difficult to listen to. Is that wrong?
posted by koeselitz at 9:55 AM on December 12, 2007


bugbread, I'm a Springsteen fan and I'm eight years younger than you. klangklangston said "I love Nebraska" and as usual no one has talked about it since. I can imagine people disliking a lot of Springsteen, but I've never met anyone who didn't like Nebraska. But almost no twentysomethings that I know have heard it.
posted by Kwine at 9:55 AM on December 12, 2007


By the way, jonmc, even if it wasn't conscious, I'm sure I was probably thinking of that essay of yours when I said that up above. That music blog of yours is pretty great, and I've spent a lot of time with it. Now is as good a time as any to let you know: it's pretty great.
posted by koeselitz at 9:57 AM on December 12, 2007


But elitism isn't always bad, and you get more out of good music (any good music) if you work hard at it.

koselitz: Bruce spent months writing the songs on BTR. It's not the noble savage theory that I'm pressing here (although I love such stoopid music as the Ramones 'Louie Louie' 'Wooly Bully' et al).

That's why I like James Joyce, The Fall, and plenty of bands who try to make music that is difficult to listen to. Is that wrong?

Hey, I like Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa and Ministry, which definitely isn't easy listening, but the best of the more'artsy' bands keep a solid basic rock underpinning to keep from floating of into the ether.
posted by jonmc at 9:59 AM on December 12, 2007


also: thanks, koselitz.
posted by jonmc at 9:59 AM on December 12, 2007


gompa: ...if you think what's happening in that moment, the thing that makes my arms crawl with gooseflesh just thinking about, is primarily political, then I feel genuinely sorry for you, 'cause you are missing out...

You should know that 'political' is generally a compliment, coming from me. I value the relationship between the individual and society pretty damned highly. I don't mean something like what Democrats/Republicans (filthy buggers) mean by it. It's probably one of the more spiritual contacts which we as humans possess, the contact we have with the other people around us and our traditions.
posted by koeselitz at 10:01 AM on December 12, 2007


It's the second half of what I quoted that bugs me. You say 'just jump in and enjoy,' as if art that can be understood and enjoyed by anyone is somehow less than something that requires training or education to enjoy, which is ridiculous and quite frankly, elitist.

To be fair, though, what you quoted didn't say anything about less accessible art being better, only that it exists. And I think it would be silly to deny that some music is more accessible than other music (to folks with a given musical background/culture). Being brought up on tonal music makes atonal music less accessible to us. Being raised on western music makes Indian music less accessible, etc. That doesn't mean it's better, but that it takes more work to understand than something that operates in a familiar context. Now, that's not to say that Dream Theater is a great example of that sort of thing, but frankly I haven't heard enough of their music to make a fair judgment there.

I play the drums

what does that have to do with being a musician, lol
posted by ludwig_van at 10:02 AM on December 12, 2007


elitism isn't always bad, and you get more out of good music (any good music) if you work hard at it. Sometimes the challenge the artist lays out for you is part of the point. That's why I like James Joyce, The Fall, and plenty of bands who try to make music that is difficult to listen to. Is that wrong?

Nope, not to my mind, so long as the degree of difficulty is being employed in the service of telling you something true about human existence. Even, yes, if the truth being communicated is simply that this unexpected chord change will startle you in a way no other progression could, and you the listener need to be startled just now. But if - to kind of reiterate my earlier point about Rush - but if that unexpected chord change is there to say, "This is an unexpected chord change, which we ran the numbers and decided there should be one right about here," well, then, to my mind that is wrong. Or at least I sure as hell don't want to hear it.
posted by gompa at 10:03 AM on December 12, 2007


Come on, now. I like roots rock as much as the next guy. Maybe Springsteen is better for being limited in the way he's limited. But that doesn't mean we should ignore those limits.

I agree. I'm just sort of throwing stuff out there that I think is relevant.

about tarkovsky, though. you're right to say that he doesn't RELY on stylistic presentation, but it is a tool he uses. The mirror, for instance, is heavily stylised at points. But yes, he is perfectly capable of telling a direct and personal story. He was an absolute genius of visual story telling.
posted by shmegegge at 10:04 AM on December 12, 2007


iudwig van: what I'm getting at is that LordSludge sounds an awful lot like somebody desperately clinging to a vision of himself as a 'sepcial' 'cultured' person and to admit that he could be emotionally or even physically moved by something written in 'common' time like Springsteen would somehow contaminate him and that's rubbing a lot of us the wrong way, I think.
posted by jonmc at 10:05 AM on December 12, 2007


I can imagine people disliking a lot of Springsteen, but I've never met anyone who didn't like Nebraska.

I don't like Nebraska. I love every song on it, I think his lyrics are enlightened and depressing, and the idea of a demo released with few changes thrills me (I feel the same way about the Cars' Heartbeat City). All signs point to "yes," but I feel like something's missing, and it's the E Street Band.

Greatest album I ever learned most of the songs from while hating myself for betraying my own conscience by doing so. Or something.
posted by breezeway at 10:09 AM on December 12, 2007


also, I'm from Cold Spring Harbor and I think Billy Joel is a cancer on music.
posted by shmegegge at 10:10 AM on December 12, 2007


Billy Joel, in a nutshell: didn't die young.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:12 AM on December 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


jonmc: Yeah, I don't think his critique of Springsteen makes a lot of sense, and I'm not saying anything about Dream Theater. But I think his statement about some music being difficult to jump into makes sense in a general way without implying that difficult means better. Accessibility is always relative to the individual, though. If all you've ever heard/played is classical music, jazz is hard to jump into while Panderecki might seem less difficult, and so on. Most statements about a the difficulty or accessibility of a given music necessarily make assumptions about the audience and their musical background/upbringing.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:18 AM on December 12, 2007


In addition, difficulty in itself does not guarantee reward, nor is it a useful measure of quality, any more than simplicity is. It can succeed or it can fail, and much depends upon the aims of the composer. I'd say that if Bruce's music fails to provide the degree of complexity some listeners find satisfying, it's largely because complexity for its own sake is not his aim. His aim is human connection and inclusion through lyrics fully supported by an appropriate musical atmosphere taken to its strongest expression. The idea that he "has not been able to" break out of any one mode is a stretch. He has explored a lot of musical voices in his career. It's more accurate to say he has not wanted to go in the art-rock direction (and thank God for that) though he certainly has explored a solid variety of musical voices, as a listen to a sampling of his work over thirty-eight years of recording will demonstrate.
posted by Miko at 10:29 AM on December 12, 2007


"What do you think about the darker, stripped-down, more acoustic work on Tom Joad, Nebraska, or Devils & Dust?"

Um, love Nebraska. Never really given that much of a listen to Joad or Devils, which I took out from the library at the same time I took out Nebraska. I remember liking those albums, but playing Nebraska over and over again. Now that's the only Springsteen I own, and all I really want from him, y'know? When I'm in what I think of as a Springsteen mood, that's the album I want to hear.

Another artist that I feel similarly about is Dr. John—I only ever really want to hear Gris-Gris.
posted by klangklangston at 10:37 AM on December 12, 2007


It's more accurate to say he has not wanted to go in the art-rock direction (and thank God for that)

If you mean the 'art-rock' vien exemplified by say, Yes (or in our current era, Radiohead) I say Amen. But I've always been of the opinion that basic rock-and-roll of the Elvis/Chuck Berry/Little Richard followed by Bob Dylan/Beatles/Stones/Who/Motown variety didn't need any elevation or credibility bestowed by outside authority to be considered art. This is not to say that ambitions to introduce outside elements are de facto bad, just that a delicate balancing act comes into play: lean too far in the 'art' (and I use that term advisedly) direction and you lose the visceral thrill that makes it rock and roll in the first place.

Now, onto complexity and proficiency. It's important to play your instrument well and have good musical instincts, but it isn't about how many notes you can play, but where you put them and to what end. Phil Spector's Wall-Of-Sound numbers (an importnat source material for Bruce) were more complex and nuanced than anything Dream Theater ever dreamed about doing once you look at the process that went into making them. And being James Brown's drummer demanded as much precision and rigor as any violin in any orchestra (just ask bernard Purdie(who was incidentally, one of Max Weinberg's drum teachers).

Also, I just went and watched some of the DVD of Wings For Wheels, the part where Springsteen and Jon Landau are listening to alternate takes and masters of 'Born To Run.' This segment is an object lesson about what's behind the 'simplicity' of these records.
posted by jonmc at 10:41 AM on December 12, 2007


When I'm in what I think of as a Springsteen mood

When you're in, shall we say, a Springsteen state of mind?
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:43 AM on December 12, 2007


Returning to questions of complexity—perhaps it's because I don't play an instrument, and never have to really think about the practicalities of fingering, but while I've always noticed Rush as complex, I've never really felt surprised about the way their songs resolve or what they do with their structure. It always has this feeling of inevitability to it, rather than delight, at least for me (though I'll say that I love the riff behind Tom Sawyer). I'm much more intrigued when, say, John Lee Hooker subverts the 16 bar structure that he almost always hews to, because it feels much more intentional and ambiguous.

As for Tool, it's not the rhythmic complexity that led me to stop listening to them, it was that they got boring and pretentious, and that their personnel changes made them, I thought, less compelling. They added a lot more frippery, but didn't seem to be doing anything new, and frankly, just couldn't compete as my interest went into bands that were actually weird, like Lard or Brast Burn or Nurse With Wound.

For koeslitz—The Fall? Most of their stuff, while abrasive, is pretty simple. I mean, I love the three songs Mark E. Smith's written, and I own about ten albums of those three songs, but I wouldn't necessarily call 'em terribly complex. Unless you're more into Kurious Oranj than I am.
posted by klangklangston at 10:47 AM on December 12, 2007


"This is not to say that ambitions to introduce outside elements are de facto bad, just that a delicate balancing act comes into play: lean too far in the 'art' (and I use that term advisedly) direction and you lose the visceral thrill that makes it rock and roll in the first place."

This sentence explains all of the tension in the Velvet Underground.
posted by klangklangston at 10:50 AM on December 12, 2007


jonmc: by "work hard at it," I meant listening to it, not playing it. Like: you get more out of Springsteen if you can break it down to music theory, or, probably more aptly, if you can do what breezeway was doing up above talking about the bassbeat on the drums and how it made the song feel. I think, the harder you work to listen to good music, the more you get out of it. That's all I meant.

gompa: Jesus. Rush? Rush's entire back catalog isn't worth that one beat and a half coming out of the bridge on "Born to Run." If what you look for in music is soul - and that's damn near all I'm looking for, most of the time - then there is simply no contest. We're all thinking it - or should be - and I'll say it: Rush is the call centre of AOR rock. It's entirely about obeying arbitrary rules far past their use toward a greater whole, and even when the rules create occasional moments of nifty, useful efficiency, they are still antiseptic and bureaucratic in a way that makes us Springsteen people want to hop in an old Mustang and drive it at 95 mph westward until it falls apart or we fall off the edge of the earth, whichever comes first and either way it's better than being stuck in that horrific arbitrarily time-changing Rush call centre one instant longer.

This is a good discussion because I think Springsteen and Rush are really on the opposite ends of what 'rock' means, and it's very difficult to find ways in which they overlap. I'm glad the venerable Lord Sludge brought this up, as odd as it is, because 'Rush vs. Springsteen?' seems to be a good test subject for bringing out the strongest feelings in people.

I prefer Rush. And fuck off if you think Rush is the "call center of AOR rock." It's somewhat stupid to say that they make you Springsteen people want to drive off in an old Mustang. You probably couldn't get that old Mustang up to 95, at least not now, unless you've been slaving away at it in some garage to try to maintain the old junker. Which somehow makes perfect sense; you Springsteen people are always slaving away in garages on your vehicles. Whereas those of us who like Rush tend to spend time working on our computers. But go ahead, drive away in your crappy old Mustangs. We'll probably be miles ahead of you in our Ferrari 166MM Barchettas.

Yes, we can say it: Rush represents unabashed, unadorned modernism. They like the sleekness, they like the technology, and they like the open possibility. Yeah, they liked Ayn Rand early on, but lots of people have had that trouble, and Rush got over it. Rush went on to write a song about freeing radio from commercialization. You can listen to "The Spirit of Radio' and sneer at it in some postmodern way, 'geez, these guys actually believe that music can be a force for good, for making people happy,' but fuck your sneers; I believe that with them. And, even if it's a little eager, even if it's a little earnest, I don't care; it's good to say things like "all this machinery making modern music can still be openhearted." It's fucking true. And there's nothing wrong with saying true things in songs without cloaking them in metaphor. Sure, Springsteen can say that same thing by painting you a picture of a kid listening to this music, rushing out of school to meet Steve Van Zandt and replicate it with him, but it doesn't fucking make him better at it. He's saying the same damned thing. And if you hate Neil Peart for trying to be thoughtful and intelligent and not being from New Jersey while doing so, well, I don't know what to tell you. "Science, like nature, must also be tamed / With a view toward its preservation..." That means something friend, and it's not 'pretention' to talk about it. Maybe it's a lack of the kind of pretention that measures everything according to the same rock and roll formula that's been bandied about for decades.

The worst thing you seem to be able to say about Rush is that they're 'antiseptic.' But they're not. They were, and are, very able to play loud music, louder than a lot of progressive rock. They were, and are, grateful to their fans, and quite humble about what they do, while still striving to be good musicians. That's rare. The core of their appeal, really, is the same appeal that any band enjoys when they really shred, when they get on stage and play something so cool, so fun, so impressive that it's life-affirming. Sure, that kind of thing gave birth to people like Dream Theater, but the difference is, Rush knew what they were doing, and they took pleasure in it as any band is allowed to. It's fun to watch a guy play bass really well. It's fun to watch a band that's practiced and can go something great. That's always been a part of what music is about.

There would be no metal if it weren't for Rush reaffirming this: that it's okay to play instruments well, that it's okay to think that's cool, that it's fun to try to be great at something as long as you're not being an asshole about it. They're about building something, and nowadays it's a heck of a lot cooler to tear something down. Go ahead, tear them down if you like, but that won't keep me from playing my copy of Moving Pictures until the grooves wear down.
posted by koeselitz at 10:52 AM on December 12, 2007


Amen. Lou Reed loved to experiment with atonality, feedback, and odd (for the time) instrumentation and he definitely went further afeild than most in terms of lyrical content, but stuff like 'Sweet Jane,' 'Beginning To See The Light,' and 'Rock And Roll'* show that the man possessed dead-on rock instincts.

*Lou Reed has said of this cover of 'Rock And Roll'** is 'what he wanted the song to sound like in the first place, which is an even better illustration of Lou's good taste.

**sorry for self linking so much. It's just a convenient source of audio and saves me from retyping my own words
posted by jonmc at 10:57 AM on December 12, 2007


unless they include some neat polyrhythms or are at LEAST written in something besides common time, I'll probably get bored and wander off.

Are you serious? You can only enjoy music that has "neat polyrhythms" or isn't in common time? That's... pretty limited. But if it makes you happy, well, enjoy your limitations, I guess.

Other than that, all I have to say is:
Ege Bamyasi!
posted by languagehat at 10:57 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


"There would be no metal if it weren't for Rush reaffirming this: that it's okay to play instruments well, that it's okay to think that's cool, that it's fun to try to be great at something as long as you're not being an asshole about it. They're about building something, and nowadays it's a heck of a lot cooler to tear something down. Go ahead, tear them down if you like, but that won't keep me from playing my copy of Moving Pictures until the grooves wear down."

No metal without Rush proving that you can play your instruments well?

You're fucking high, man.
posted by klangklangston at 11:05 AM on December 12, 2007


jonmc: The food analogy ain't all bad, but "number of ingredients" is not quite right.. Maybe a wine analogy: I prefer simple, accessible, tasty wines such as Pinot Noirs and Shirazeses, while I'll leave the more complex (and expensive) wines to the wine snobs. I truly do not have the wine-tasting chops to really appreciate a 50yo Dom Perignon -- or whatever is generally considered the pinnacle of wine greatness these days -- and that's okay. I likes what I likes, but I'll grant that I probably *would* like the more complex wines more if I got into it more. I don't, however, think the rational response is to say, "Fuck Dom Perignons! They SUCK!! And anybody who likes them is a wank4r!!!" just because I can't appreciate them.

I'm a music snob, definitely, no surprise or insult taken there. I'm "elitist" in my musical taste; I'm okay with that. I accept that most people don't like my kind of music, which sucks because I'd love to share it. Conversely, I don't like most music that other people like. If somebody's playing Top 40, I mentally tune it out. It doesn't bother me -- it can't, really, with pop music being so ubiquitous, or I'd be a very angry, annoyed person. But I don't enjoy it, I don't get anything from it. I'd rather listen to nothing at all or mentally groove on something of my own creation than rehash the same old predictable patterns over and over again. Part of it is certainly the musician in me: teach me something new.

Like I said, I find Rush kinda boring now. It's not "out there" enough, and I feel like I've mostly figured it out, like I've pretty much learned their twists and turns, if that makes sense. Maybe it doesn't make sense to a non-musician, I dunno. That said, there's plenty of newer classical stuff and crazy jazz that I don't yet "get" -- my mind just can't form it into a pleasing aesthetic pattern. Maybe one day I will. Hey, it's something to look forward to. And then, oh joy, I can be even more elite-er.

ludwig_van: FWIW, I have almost zero formal training -- in fact, I've been playing long enough that I sorta pride myself on coming up with my own techniques and solutions to musical problems. (I feel like a teacher would try to undo anything that's interesting about my style.) So I've sorta learned through experience, not via academia.

But, sorry, I don't think the common listener will understand 3 signature polyrhythms beyond, "yeah, there's something weird going on there". I don't think they'll see how the rhythms intertwine. I don't think they'll get when the drummer or bassist changes the downbeat out from under the band: another DT example (yeah, it's used heavy-handedly here, but it's an obvious example.) And, again, I accept that there is music that I cannot fully appreciate without a more extensive, even formal training. There may be music beyond you, I dunno. I see no reason why this should make either of us angry.

gompa: [I]f that unexpected chord change is there to say, "This is an unexpected chord change, which we ran the numbers and decided there should be one right about here," well, then, to my mind that is wrong.

Definitely, it's got to flow, it's got to groove, it's got to work. Here's an example of a lousy, jarring, gimmicky time signature change. great, I just alienated the Toadies fanbase... But please don't think that all bands who craft progressive music are sitting there with calculators and protractors. My most musically successful bands wrote songs like this: Get stoned, turn on tape recorder, improvise for an hour. What came out was, well, very progressive, but that's just what came out. Honestly, the drummer very often didn't even know (or care) what time sig he was in -- we just played what felt right, and it happened to be unconventional and somewhat technical. Oddly enough, a lot of non-musicians seemed to enjoy it too. Like.., 20 of them.

jonmc: LordSludge sounds an awful lot like somebody desperately clinging to a vision of himself as a 'sepcial' 'cultured' person and to admit that he could be emotionally or even physically moved by something written in 'common' time like Springsteen...

I'm a special, unique snowflake, doncha know. (Hey, it was either that or "Kiss the ring, bitch.")

Common time is okay sometimes, but it's really basic and overused, rhythmically, and there are other time signatures out there looking for a good home. Why not use them? And why not use chord progressions that haven't already been done 14 brazzilion times? Some other song structure besides verse-chorus-verse-chorus, please? Something interesting? Why is it so hard for you to believe that formulaic music is uninteresting to me?

In the case of BitUSA, here's how that formula breaks down: standard verse-chorus-verse structure + common time + 2 chords + simplistic 3 tone vocal/keyboard hook + repetitive lyrics = BORR-RING!! If it weren't for the ironic lyrics, I'd put it down there with Britney. (You don't hate Britney, do you? YOU ELITIST! Haha, I kid. We know you love Britney -- old Britney, of course.)

FWIW, I can't listen to much blues, either. Thirty minutes, tops. To me, it's the same... damn... song... over... and over... But it's handy for playing with musicians you don't know because, well, you already know the song. Lots of people love blues for itself, its soul, its expression, its emotion. Meh, it's not for me.
posted by LordSludge at 11:09 AM on December 12, 2007


gompa: But if - to kind of reiterate my earlier point about Rush - but if that unexpected chord change is there to say, "This is an unexpected chord change, which we ran the numbers and decided there should be one right about here," well, then, to my mind that is wrong. Or at least I sure as hell don't want to hear it.

klangklangston: The Fall? Most of their stuff, while abrasive, is pretty simple. I mean, I love the three songs Mark E. Smith's written, and I own about ten albums of those three songs, but I wouldn't necessarily call 'em terribly complex. Unless you're more into Kurious Oranj than I am.


The 'three songs' you're talking about, klang, I think refers to the chord changes. Yes, they're all the damned same. Lyrically, Mark E Smith is flat brilliant, and his songs change drastically from one to another, but chord-wise they can be similar. You can make the same argument about Bob Dylan. In fact, I think the two are remarkably similar. It's just that, instead of having an awesome 80s period like Dylan did, Mark E Smith had an atrocious 80s-90s, and instead of getting divorced and heartbroken and writing songs about it, Mark E Smith married a punker hack, made her a band member, and turned the Fall into something I'm not really partial to.

What I guess I was talking about is music being intentionally difficult to listen to. Which songs by the Fall often are-- dig, say, the "Repetition" song I quoted up there. Or take a masterpiece like "Eat Y'Self Fitter," tritones droned over and over again for full seven minutes, impossibly tough to enjoy unless you enjoy the fact that it's tough to enjoy.

Joyce was the same way. They say he giggled with glee while 'editing' Finnegan's Wake whenever he found another way to make the meaning opaque. I think he did it for a reason, but people still think it's pretentious; I don't. And most people I play The Fall for feel the same way; "this is interesting, I guess, but aren't they trying kind of hard not to make sense?" Well, that's sort of the point.

That's what I mean, gompa: is there anything wrong with that? This has nothing to do with Rush, granted. Rush tried to do things that sounded cool because they wanted to be great at playing their instruments, and they wanted to show people how great they were. I don't really have a problem with that.
posted by koeselitz at 11:10 AM on December 12, 2007


No metal without Rush proving it's okay to not be an asshole?
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:10 AM on December 12, 2007


No progressive metal without Rush proving that you can play your instruments well...

More accurate.
posted by LordSludge at 11:11 AM on December 12, 2007


"awesome 80s period?" Pfft. I meant "awesome 70s period."
posted by koeselitz at 11:12 AM on December 12, 2007


Now we're really reaching. I don't dislike Rush, quite like them in fact - but let's be very honest, they're not difficult to listen to. They're a staple of classic rock radio, and a lot of black t-shirt guys can wail along with every lyric, just the same as Springsteen. Rush is really not a very exotic band, and their sound is not inaccessible. They're not John Cage or Philip Glass fer Chrissake.

Like I said, I like Rush. It's fine to like Rush. It's also fine to like Springsteen. It's silly to suggest that one or the other is not worth liking, or that intelligent people can't or shouldn't like one of them. We have veered into the truly silly.
posted by Miko at 11:16 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


"No New Wave of British Heavy Metal" would be more accurate. And then, no metal, really. Neal Kay was a huge Rush booster, and the progressive-rock movement Rush spearheaded was a tremendous influence on the metal that came about then.

Are you seriously going to tell me that all those guitar wankers who spent all their time trying to appear as though they were tremendous and incredible musicians in the 80s metal scene just appeared out of thin air?
posted by koeselitz at 11:19 AM on December 12, 2007


I am a former big fan - waited overnight in line for tickets, for the Born to Run tour and The River tour. We got to meet him after the last show in The River tour. but that was at least 25 years ago, and I guess I've gotten kind of bored with his music. Still a major Rock n Roll fan. and I'm not as bored with Led Zeppelin. Don't know exactly why.

But when we met him he was truly a nice guy. He and Steve Van Zandt made sure we got all the band member's autographs. We were fans waiting outside their hotel after the show and they treated us very well in retrospect. For that Iwill always respect him - and I love Little Steven's radio show.
posted by readery at 11:32 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


progressive-rock movement Rush spearheaded

Like Miko, I like Rush a lot, but to call them the 'spearhead' of the progressive rock movement does a pretty big disservice to King Crimson, Procol Harum, and a number of others who preced them.
posted by jonmc at 11:33 AM on December 12, 2007


Lots of people love blues for itself, its soul, its expression, its emotion. Meh, it's not for me.

Um, if those three things are 'meh' to you, maybe, just maybe, you don't really like rock and roll.
posted by jonmc at 11:35 AM on December 12, 2007


Yeah, you're probably right.

But I fucking like Rush, and there's nothing wrong with that. Also, lots of metal people liked Rush.

Yeah, that's about all I've got at this point.
posted by koeselitz at 11:37 AM on December 12, 2007


a lot of black t-shirt guys can wail along with every lyric,

*notices he is wearing a black t-shirt*
*cries*
posted by jonmc at 11:40 AM on December 12, 2007


I think we can all agree that Rush, being Canadian, prima facie does not rock. Bruce wins by default. A more interesting question: Is Bruce Springsteen the apotheosis of American Rock? The answer might surprise you!
posted by team lowkey at 11:40 AM on December 12, 2007


Turns out it's actually Tom Petty.
posted by team lowkey at 11:41 AM on December 12, 2007


Miko: Rush is really not a very exotic band, and their sound is not inaccessible.

Right, not anymore they're not. But they *were*, back in the 70s & 80s. They broke a lot of new ground that we take for granted now. Newer bands, such as Dream Theater, Symphony X, etc., are breaking the new ground, and, just like the Rush of old, it's mostly musicians who enjoy these bands. But the same thing is happening -- I'm seeing more and more non-musicians at DT concerts, meeting more and more Joe Schmoes who are DT fans. Give it 20 years and DT won't sound cutting-edge or modern -- it'll be old hat, possibly even "classic rock". Wonder what the prog rock of 2027 will be like?

koeselitz: Are you seriously going to tell me that all those guitar wankers who spent all their time trying to appear as though they were tremendous and incredible musicians in the 80s metal scene just appeared out of thin air?

Not sure if your question is addressing me or how to answer, but... That's what I love about modern progressive metal: it's like those 80s guitar wankers finally found a home.

jonmc: Um, if [soul, expression, emotion] are 'meh' to you, maybe, just maybe, you don't really like rock and roll.

Well, in general, I don't! I like progressive rock. Ingwie is "meh" too, FWIW. I'm greedy, I want both: Engage the soul, but stimulate the mind as well.
posted by LordSludge at 11:43 AM on December 12, 2007


LordSludge: Well, in general, I don't! I like progressive rock. Ingwie is "meh" too, FWIW. I'm greedy, I want both: Engage the soul, but stimulate the mind as well.

I'm sorry, friend, but I've been having this argument over and over again with my death metal friends for a long, long time. Turns out you're probably just being pretentious. Muddy Waters stimulates the mind a fuck of a lot more than Rush (god bless 'em, I still love them) and if you'd open your ears long enough to listen to him for a while you'd find that out.
posted by koeselitz at 11:49 AM on December 12, 2007


Also:

Lord Sludge: Give it 20 years and DT won't sound cutting-edge or modern -- it'll be old hat, possibly even "classic rock".

It's already been 20 years, bub. And Dream Theater sounded old hat when they started.

posted by koeselitz at 11:51 AM on December 12, 2007


I wonder sometimes whether he's capable of writing a great song that's individual or personal or spiritual rather than political.

You hit here on precisely the thing that Bruce does better than anybody. So many of his songs are all of these things at once. They're not individual or personal like, oh I don't know, Counting Crows (full disclosure: I used to be an absolutely hopeless Crows fan); they don't deal with the big guy upstairs; and, really, his songs are only occasionally about explicitly political topics (BitUSA, the perfect American Land).

But goddamn if We busted out of class, had to get away from those fools/We learned more from a 3-minute record baby than we ever learned in school doesn't feel like it was written for me—just me. And for the 20,000 other fans singing their alveoli off. And for everyone goddamn sick of the bullshit they teach—whoever "they" are. And suddenly that oh-so-simple line gets you all those levels: it's mine, it's ours, and it's about things bigger than us.

I'm going to add "Racing in the Streets" to jonmc's list. Because that song should be on as many lists as possible.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:55 AM on December 12, 2007


they *were*, back in the 70s & 80s

No - I can't but that one at all, because I was around back then, so I remember the musical progression. As jonmc says, there were many, many precedents, including late 60s psychedelia and early progressive rock groups like the Moody Blues and Yes. From another direction, Steely Dan had already long broken the metrical hold of rock and roll and brought in heavily augmented chording and complex strong structure. Rush is a direct descendant, but not an innovator. And BOC and ELO had gotten heavy into the synth - all before Rush made a peep.
posted by Miko at 11:59 AM on December 12, 2007


So many of his songs are all of these things at once....it's mine, it's ours, and it's about things bigger than us.

It's what Aristotle called universal.
posted by Miko at 12:00 PM on December 12, 2007


Well, in general, I don't! I like progressive rock.

Sometimes the most progressive thing a musician can do is to cut out all the look-ma-no-hands parlor tricks and revisit the roots of the whole enterprise.

Engage the soul, but stimulate the mind as well.

Self-indulgence does not equal mental stimulation, sir.
posted by jonmc at 12:00 PM on December 12, 2007


and I am not, I repeat not dismissing all technically proficient rock. I love Metallica, Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen, Steely Dan, Primus, Rush, even a lot of the Grateful Dead. But those bands have (in various degrees, I'll admit) some things that the Dream Theatres, Yeses and Radioheads are missing.
posted by jonmc at 12:03 PM on December 12, 2007


"(You don't hate Britney, do you? YOU ELITIST! Haha, I kid. We know you love Britney -- old Britney, of course.)"

I think the new Britney album is pretty decent. Solid B-, where her team's update of Human League riffs are kinda undercut by her stoopid, self-absorbed lyrics.

But I love Girls Aloud, who are even simpler and dumber. Annie and Robyn are both better too.

I used to get all het up about serious music, and eschewed pop bubblegum for folks like Tool. Then, over time, I realized that all my knee-jerk critical reasons for not liking it (it's too simple, it's bathetic) weren't really supportable, and that I was denying myself a lot of FUN by not listening to it.

Also, in the face of things like "Needles and Pins" by the Ramones, I realized I did LOVE bubblegum.

""No New Wave of British Heavy Metal" would be more accurate. And then, no metal, really. Neal Kay was a huge Rush booster, and the progressive-rock movement Rush spearheaded was a tremendous influence on the metal that came about then."

I suppose that's fair; I don't know enough about Rush to chart their influence. But I kinda feel like Thin Lizzy, Slade and Sweet had more of an influence on Def Leppard and Iron Maiden than Rush did.

"What I guess I was talking about is music being intentionally difficult to listen to. Which songs by the Fall often are-- dig, say, the "Repetition" song I quoted up there. Or take a masterpiece like "Eat Y'Self Fitter," tritones droned over and over again for full seven minutes, impossibly tough to enjoy unless you enjoy the fact that it's tough to enjoy."

I can hear what you mean, though I guess I never found The Fall all that challenging, even when they're being kinda intentionally obnoxious. It's mostly that '80s stuff that I find hard to listen to, but I suspect that's because it's kinda crap. I certainly find The Fall more accessible to my ears than PIL's Metal Box.
posted by klangklangston at 12:10 PM on December 12, 2007


Re: age and Bruce fandom:

I'm 26. I know far too few Springsteen fans my age, though I'm doing my best to spread the gospel. I think most people around me, though, don't really know how to deal with his sincerity, his love of the country and its people, and are unable to extricate the music and the man from the bog of classic rock radio. Not to mention his sheer popularity, something that even I still struggle with (though my problem is that sometimes I can't believe something so amazing on so many levels can truly be as popular as he is).

I honestly don't think most of the people (I know) my age are ready for Bruce. They're too wrapped up in ... hell, I don't know. Maybe they're just not ready for his jelly.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:11 PM on December 12, 2007


But I kinda feel like Thin Lizzy, Slade and Sweet had more of an influence on Def Leppard and Iron Maiden than Rush did.

Well, Maiden was more from the Deep Purple/Black Sabbath end of the pool than Leppard was. I'll grant you that Lizzy was a big influence of both. Of course Lizzy's biggest American hit was a pretty obvious Springsteen borrowing, bringing us full circle.
posted by jonmc at 12:15 PM on December 12, 2007


SCOOBY SNACK JURASSIC PLASTIC GAS BOOBY TRAP
posted by generalist at 12:20 PM on December 12, 2007


"No - I can't but that one at all, because I was around back then, so I remember the musical progression. As jonmc says, there were many, many precedents, including late 60s psychedelia and early progressive rock groups like the Moody Blues and Yes. From another direction, Steely Dan had already long broken the metrical hold of rock and roll and brought in heavily augmented chording and complex strong structure. Rush is a direct descendant, but not an innovator. And BOC and ELO had gotten heavy into the synth - all before Rush made a peep."

Not only that, but '70s jazz was already blowing that shit way out of the water. You want polyrhythms and unexpected chord changes? McCoy Tyner's Sahara or Sama Layuca are there and are still easy to listen to (as opposed to the emerging Loft Jazz scene or even Miles' acerbic work on Get Up With It). Hell, the Art Ensemble and AACM did work then that still hasn't been matched, and beside which most "out there" prog feels clumsy and rote. Even Zappa's Hot Rats, which I love, feels remarkably staid when played after the jazz that was going on then. And I've yet to hear Rush tunes that work as well as anything on Hot Rats.
posted by klangklangston at 12:22 PM on December 12, 2007


Lizzy's biggest American hit was a pretty obvious Springsteen borrowing, bringing us full circle.....

to ">The Hold Steady. Well, they sound just like Thin Lizzy to me, anyhow.

Interesting comment, wemayfreeze. I've always known and liked Bruce's music, maybe by virtue of being from where I'm from and thus being steeped in it, or maybe because as the kid of a Viet Nam veteran I remember how deeply the Born in the USA record was felt by that generation - it played an important part in the culture's willingness to discuss and heal some of the wounds left by that conflict.

But in fact, I've only become a serious fan in the last decade. Maybe one needs to age into it a little, get some of the edges knocked off, confront a few times when directness, honesty, and strength in music are the things most needed.

I'm always amazed, at his shows, at just what you say: how can someone this good be this popular? But perhaps the more amazing thing is: how can people open themselves up so wholly to connect with something this good, only to walk out again and act like nothing happened?
posted by Miko at 12:28 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Of course Lizzy's biggest American hit was a pretty obvious Springsteen borrowing, bringing us full circle."

Boys Are Back In Town or Jailbreak?
posted by klangklangston at 12:30 PM on December 12, 2007


But I love Girls Aloud, who are even simpler and dumber. Annie and Robyn are both better too.

Seeing the name "Annie" in this context was enough to lodge the chorus to "Chewing Gum" back into my head for the first time in a few years. And now I'm thinking about killing you for it, klang.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:31 PM on December 12, 2007


I'm always amazed, at his shows, at just what you say: how can someone this good be this popular?

Well, there's the paradox Bruce explicates so well. Like a lot of us, Bruce was a self-described misfit growing up. But oddly, his art shows a populism and compassion for humanity that's the exact oppoite of the 'I'm-a-little-special-snowflake,' syndrome such an adolescence often engenders and that so many people connect with, because as another rock and roll giant once sung 'Everyone's a secret nerd/everyone's a closet lame..'

And as you get older and realize that ther's nothing you can sing that can't be sung etc. you maybe learn to cut the rest of the world a little slack for not living up to your expectations of it, especially if you want it to do the same. Because while we aren't perfect, we're all alright, we're all alright...
posted by jonmc at 12:34 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Boys Are Back In Town.

(which came after Born To Run. I take nothing away from Lizzy and a lot of the similarity can be attributed to the fact that Bruce and Phil Lynott were both heavily influenced by Van Morrison as vocalists, but the similarity of lyric theme and musicality is obvious)
posted by jonmc at 12:35 PM on December 12, 2007


"'Everyone's a secret nerd/everyone's a closet lame..'"

Mama's boy.

"Seeing the name "Annie" in this context was enough to lodge the chorus to "Chewing Gum" back into my head for the first time in a few years. And now I'm thinking about killing you for it, klang.

I know! Isn't it evil genius! I love that song!
posted by klangklangston at 12:36 PM on December 12, 2007


Mama's boy.

Wart hog!
posted by jonmc at 12:36 PM on December 12, 2007


The Empire's Metafilter's got something worse than whips.
posted by bonecrusher at 12:40 PM on December 12, 2007


I know! Isn't it evil genius! I love that song!

It actually drove me to write an article about earworms a few years back. And then I though it had left. I just had to listen to it again. Goddamn it.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:41 PM on December 12, 2007


*rocks out to "I Am Just A Cowboy"*
posted by koeselitz at 1:02 PM on December 12, 2007


koeselitz: I've listened to plenty of Muddy Waters, thanks. I appreciate the ground he broke, but by now it's formulaic because it's been absolutely copied to death. If I *never* hear another 12-bar blues song again, it'll be too soon. Hell, Eddie Van Halen broke plenty of new ground back in the day, but I don't need to hear Eruption ever again, and I doubt you do either.

jonmc: So Primus is *not* about parlor tricks, but DT is? Man, Les Claypool is nothing BUT a parlor trick -- and I love him for it: His freaky mutant technique, along with Victor Wooten's, taught me that it's okay to abandon conventional bass technique, as long as it works for me. (HUGE fan of early Primus, but they lost me after Pork Soda.) Compared to Primus, Dream Theater sounds downright "normal"!

So how far back to the roots of rock do I have to "progress", in your estimation? ::cries, bangs rocks together::

Miko, there are *always* precedents. Rush broke plenty of new ground -- not all of it good, but still. So did Yes, BOC, ELP, Deep Purple, Jimi, Zeppelin, Beatles, etc. etc. Everybody has their influences. Rush just brought theirs together in another way, made something new out of it, and in so doing, pushed the "progressive rock" genre forward in a significant way.

Speaking of which, where's that big Venn diagram web page that tells how bands sorta influence each other? For example, if you type in "Rush", it'll pull up a bunch of circles near the "Rush" bubble for "Yes", "Flower Kings", "Tool", "Deep Purple", etc., depending on how their styles overlap. Anybody know what I mean? I probably should have that bookmarked...
posted by LordSludge at 1:03 PM on December 12, 2007


It's actually called 'Cowboy Song,' dude.
posted by jonmc at 1:03 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


So Primus is *not* about parlor tricks, but DT is? Man, Les Claypool is nothing BUT a parlor trick -- and I love him for it: His freaky mutant technique, along with Victor Wooten's, taught me that it's okay to abandon conventional bass technique, as long as it works for me. (HUGE fan of early Primus, but they lost me after Pork Soda.) Compared to Primus, Dream Theater sounds downright "normal"!

Yes, but ask yourself, what does Primus have that Dream Theater lacks?

So how far back to the roots of rock do I have to "progress", in your estimation? ::cries, bangs rocks together::

banging rocks together? you're about there. If you can approximate the riff of 'Louie Louie' with the rocks, you're on your way.
posted by jonmc at 1:06 PM on December 12, 2007


"Seeing the name "Annie" in this context was enough to lodge the chorus to "Chewing Gum" back into my head for the first time in a few years. And now I'm thinking about killing you for it, klang.

GODDAMMIT
posted by shakespeherian at 1:08 PM on December 12, 2007


Yes, but ask yourself, what does Primus have that Dream Theater lacks?

A really twisted sense of humor?

If you can approximate the riff of 'Louie Louie' with the rocks, you're on your way.

No, but I can do a pretty mean cowbell...
posted by LordSludge at 1:12 PM on December 12, 2007


koeselitz: And there's nothing wrong with saying true things in songs without cloaking them in metaphor. Sure, Springsteen can say that same thing by painting you a picture of a kid listening to this music, rushing out of school to meet Steve Van Zandt and replicate it with him, but it doesn't fucking make him better at it. He's saying the same damned thing.

I'm not so sure about that. I believe in earnestness when it comes to music and lyrics and I think that lyrics and poetry ought to communicate. However, I don't think that all communication is poetry. The fact that two people are communicating the same message doesn't mean that they're both do it with equally poetic skill.

LordSludge: Maybe a wine analogy: I prefer simple, accessible, tasty wines such as Pinot Noirs and Shirazeses, while I'll leave the more complex (and expensive) wines to the wine snobs. I truly do not have the wine-tasting chops to really appreciate a 50yo Dom Perignon -- or whatever is generally considered the pinnacle of wine greatness these days -- and that's okay. I likes what I likes, but I'll grant that I probably *would* like the more complex wines more if I got into it more. I don't, however, think the rational response is to say, "Fuck Dom Perignons! They SUCK!! And anybody who likes them is a wank4r!!!" just because I can't appreciate them.

I'd say this is a fair point.

FWIW, I have almost zero formal training... (I feel like a teacher would try to undo anything that's interesting about my style.)

Huh, why do you think that? That strikes me as somewhat contrary to the rest of the positions you've laid out.

But, sorry, I don't think the common listener will understand 3 signature polyrhythms beyond, "yeah, there's something weird going on there". I don't think they'll see how the rhythms intertwine.

I don't know, maybe not, but who is this "common listener" and what does it mean to understand the rhythm? To be able to perform it? To be able to notate it? I could argue that you don't fully understand the rhythm unless you can do both. But surely there's a large gradient between that level and not being able to feel the pulse of the music at all, and I wouldn't say one has to fully understand it to be able to enjoy it or give it a fair evaluation.

Here's an example of a lousy, jarring, gimmicky time signature change.

I don't have strong feelings about that band or song, but I don't see how the time signature is lousy, jarring, or gimmicky. I think it works just fine because it doesn't draw particular attention to itself. That's the sort of trick I like -- when it's only after a few listens that I even notice there's a weird time signature or chord change going on.

Common time is okay sometimes, but it's really basic and overused, rhythmically, and there are other time signatures out there looking for a good home. Why not use them? And why not use chord progressions that haven't already been done 14 brazzilion times?

The problem with this approach is that it's overly reductive. A song is not its chord progression or its time signature. The materials of music (rhythm, pitch, and timbre) allow endless possibilities for creation. Focusing on one aspect like that is missing the forest for the trees. There are great songs with common chord progressions and lousy songs with clever ones. I think of music as a vehicle for expression, not something that exists purely for its own sake. If your goal is to communicate to your audience, you have to pull them in and take them with you. I mean, why does music have any form at all? Why not just be completely free? Form is for the listener. Composers work within forms so that the listener will have something to grab onto, so that they'll have a starting place for listening to the music. There's nothing wrong with that. It's necessary to have some common ground for there to be communication. Unless you're making music that isn't meant for anyone but yourself, you need to draw on shared concepts. Few people would want to read poetry in a made-up gibberish language (although they would like to hear it drenched in reverb and sung by some Icelandic blokes).
posted by ludwig_van at 1:18 PM on December 12, 2007


Also, liking Bruce is totally hip these days. Just ask pitchfork:
"...in the 2000s he has gained a considerable following among indie rock bands like the Hold Steady, the Killers, and the National, among many others. Because his music has lost none of its triumphant rock'n'roll kick-- no matter how many times you hear it, "Born to Run" always kills-- he has become today what Brian Wilson was 10 years ago: the indie ideal."
Personally, though, I haven't gotten over Brian Wilson.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:25 PM on December 12, 2007


Would you guys mind talking about Neil Diamond for a while?
posted by Meatbomb at 1:26 PM on December 12, 2007


A really twisted sense of humor?

To begin with. Also, a sense of fun beyond just noodling, an idea of song construction and hooks, a dash of funk (Les' idol is Larry Graham), a sense of identification with their audience ('Primus Sucks! Primus Sucks!') beyond as a paycheck....in short:

Humanity.
posted by jonmc at 1:26 PM on December 12, 2007


"Take Five" of Dave Brubeck fame really proves ludwig_van's point, I think. Of the myriad reasons why it has become a jazz classic, the fact that it's in 5/4 doesn't even crack the top five, in my estimation.

Furthermore, LOTS of people know that song. Of them, not a lot know that there's anything "different" about the song, and fewer still could tell you what the difference is.

And yes, it's a point made on anecdotal evidence.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:28 PM on December 12, 2007


LordSludge writes "I actually rip on him for his lousy tempo/meter more than anything"

Dude, my complaint is that he plays perfectly, like a robot. I'm a drummer, trained formally, and I've never met any drummer that said what you did. And chances are someone else has already said this, but I don't have time to read the entire thread ...

/derail
posted by krinklyfig at 1:29 PM on December 12, 2007


I don't think they'll see how the rhythms intertwine.

Why not? People do. Anyone, and I do mean anyone, listening with attention can hear how polyrhythms reinforce and contrast with one another. When I was student teaching, we did a long residency with a drummer from Mali. Without giving the (third-grade) students any terminology or theory at all, he set them up with a few different clapping patterns and had them go at it together. They immediately heard and could describe the polyrythmic effect - they couldn't name it or notate it, but they immediately heard and understood it. You can also see kids spontaneously hand-jiving and hand-drumming out polyrhythms, all the time. Watch girls double dutch while clapping sometime.

The contribution of theory is not to originate musical ideas, but to analyse them and make them communicable. To suggest that people can't hear and respond to what's going in music without theory indicates some contempt for the sheer apprehension power of listeners.

Not everybody listens to all music with that much attention, it's true. But if they do, they can certainly identify what things are happening - an interesting leap between notes is audible and reproducible and identifiable without learning to call it an 'interval.' The differences between major and minor chords are noticeable without knowing any chord theory whatsoever. Music was invented before theory and before notation and even before language; why should we think education is required to appreciate it, rather than enhancing and more finely attuning that appreciation?
posted by Miko at 1:32 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


The contribution of theory is not to originate musical ideas, but to analyse them and make them communicable.

Right. In general, music theory is descriptive, not prescriptive. Would that more people understood this and weren't so afraid that learning theory would somehow limit or constrain them.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:38 PM on December 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


I haven't gotten over Brian Wilson.

Funny; neither has Bruce! Last spring, Brian Wilson played a concert in a local theatre near where I grew up. At the end, he invited Bruce onto the stage - and when he came out, Bruce was absolutely, gibberingly, visibly starstruck. He said later in interviews that Wilson was his greatest musical hero.
posted by Miko at 1:38 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


That is sweet.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:49 PM on December 12, 2007


No matter how you feel about Springsteen, one thing is for certain, you motherfuckers can write! I'm very much enjoying the debate, regardless of it's origins in a mostly unrelated topic.

Jonmc, i've clicked over to your blog, and right up front there's a post about Seger! fan for life!

I also prefer D'Angelo. Dude is great, but I think he's allergic to the recording studio or something. R. kelly on the other hand seems to shit out albums after every large meal. R. Kelly being the johnny Cash of R&B has nothing to do with quality. I was mostly just referencing my remarkable ability to say some stupid-ass shit about music.

ludwig_van, the more I read your comments, the more I wish I was better at articulating the things I like about the music I like. So I guess you're right. I've always wished I knew the right technical terms to describe what's going on with the drums in marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it on, cause whatever is going on there never fails to blow my mind.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:49 PM on December 12, 2007


Watch girls double dutch while clapping sometime.

I watched that sort of thing in Amsterdam once, but the audience's hands were too busy with other matters to actually applaud the girls.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:53 PM on December 12, 2007


I've always wished I knew the right technical terms to describe what's going on with the drums in marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it on, cause whatever is going on there never fails to blow my mind.

You should meet my friend Joe Famous who said something similar about the unknown drummer in (IANK) Love Unlimited Orchestra.
posted by jonmc at 1:56 PM on December 12, 2007


ludwig_van, the more I read your comments, the more I wish I was better at articulating the things I like about the music I like. So I guess you're right. I've always wished I knew the right technical terms to describe what's going on with the drums in marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it on, cause whatever is going on there never fails to blow my mind.

Ha! I love Let's Get it On, and I've been listening to it a lot lately in a Motown mix in my car. But I think "Heard it Through the Grapevine" is my favorite. That song is pure bliss.

Being able to identify and communicate about your particular musical turn-ons/turn-offs is definitely one of the more rewarding aspects of knowing a little theory. Check out the lessons at musictheory.net
sometime. A lot of that stuff is easier to pick up than you might think.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:58 PM on December 12, 2007


"Dude, my complaint is that he plays perfectly, like a robot. I'm a drummer, trained formally, and I've never met any drummer that said what you did."

I remember a series of kids books about some android trying to make it through high school, and he joins a band at some point. He can play every Bonham lick perfectly, but his teacher dresses him down for sounding so "mechanical."

He adjusts for this by something like applying a 2% variance in his response time or something, and then everyone loves him because he sounds human.

Recalling it, it was a really weird series. I wonder what it was called...
posted by klangklangston at 2:01 PM on December 12, 2007


Being able to identify and communicate about your particular musical turn-ons/turn-offs is definitely one of the more rewarding aspects of knowing a little theory.

I can do that without theory. I just say 'that 'oo-ee-oo/oh-oh-oh punk vocal thing' or that 'chukka-chukka' guitar thing. Making animal noises is much more fun.
posted by jonmc at 2:02 PM on December 12, 2007


ludwig: Doohickie, I think you've misunderstood my position.

I don't think so. For instance, you said I can't conceive of someone who is good at listening to music and yet doesn't know jack shit about chord progressions, meter, etc., at least on an intuitive level.

Also, you said I feel like "listening to music and making music are two different things" is a common but flawed notion. Parsing out that statement, you're saying "listening to music and making music are the same thing."

Such a claim, in my understanding, is musical snobbery. You are saying that the only people capable of listening to music are musicians, those who are trained in music, or at least those who have an intuitive feel for music. To that, I say POPPYCOCK. A 5-year-old can listen to music and make a critical judgment as to whether or not it is good music. If he likes it, it's good.
posted by Doohickie at 2:11 PM on December 12, 2007


I read an interview with Bruce where he said that Smokey Robinson's Cruising is almost the perfect song.
posted by readery at 2:12 PM on December 12, 2007


Come on RIIIIIIIIIIIISE UP
Come on RIIIIIIIIIIIISE UP
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:21 PM on December 12, 2007


Can I interrupt this musical discussion to ask Meatbomb if he's recovered his faith in humanity?
posted by languagehat at 2:26 PM on December 12, 2007


Few people would want to read poetry in a made-up gibberish language (although they would like to hear it drenched in reverb and sung by some Icelandic blokes)

As I read this paragraph to myself, I thought, Could this be about Magma? Oh boy, oh boy, this is really gonna be a Magma reference, yessss! And then it ended up being about Sigur Ros or Mum (I forget which one does the gibberish but I like Mum better).

Change "drenched in reverb" to "acrobatic and onomatopeic" and "Icelandic" to "French," and now we're talking.

Da Zeuhl Wortz Mekanïk!
posted by breezeway at 2:35 PM on December 12, 2007


Can I interrupt this musical discussion to ask Meatbomb if he's recovered his faith in humanity?

It's my dubious honor to credit Meatbomb with the first embittered Mefi->BBQ crossover comment. I'm hoping that's a sign of the healing process in action, or something.

posted by cortex (staff) at 2:37 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Doohickie: Such a claim, in my understanding, is musical snobbery. You are saying that the only people capable of listening to music are musicians, those who are trained in music, or at least those who have an intuitive feel for music. To that, I say POPPYCOCK. A 5-year-old can listen to music and make a critical judgment as to whether or not it is good music. If he likes it, it's good.

Bullshit. It is a fact that music theory helps a person understand music. Your denial of this fact means that your shrill cry of "snob! snob!" is misdirected. You're the one being a snob.

ludwig_van never said that no one can listen to music or begin to understand it unless they know music theory. He said repeatedly, and implied, that music theory is an underappreciated way of understanding music. It is flat-out true, and maybe your willfully ignorant ass will have to just take my word for it, that studying music theory deepens one's understanding and appreciation of music. You'd like to deny it, I think, out of some kind of democratism, some kind of intimidation you feel in the face of people who've actually taken the trouble to learn about music. But I call bullshit on your five-year-old. I thought Amy Grant was better than anybody when I was five. I was wrong.

There's nothing wrong with trying to talk about music, thinking about it, and thinking about its structure. And this impulse to kill all the musical classicists! is really a rock and roll version of fascism.
posted by koeselitz at 3:44 PM on December 12, 2007


bugbread writes "As far as Springsteen fans...well, I dunno. I've never met a Springsteen fan."

You have therefore never been to New Jersey.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:54 PM on December 12, 2007


krinklyfig: Dude, my complaint is that he plays perfectly, like a robot. I'm a drummer, trained formally, and I've never met any drummer that said what you did.

Seriously? He's like a robot on a rheostat: perfect execution, but he speeds up, slows down, speeds up...

Put a metronome on live Tom Sawyer if you don't believe me. As a starting point, it's supposed to be 88 bpm. (And sometimes it is.)

Who knows, maybe he was trying to sound "more human".
posted by LordSludge at 4:17 PM on December 12, 2007


The book series, for those of you who care, was called Not Quite Human, and they made it into a TV show with Allan Thicke. Who is a Canadian, and probably likes Rush.
posted by klangklangston at 4:28 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Doohickie: A 5-year-old can listen to music and make a critical judgment as to whether or not it is good music. If he likes it, it's good.

A 5-year-old can look at a Monet and make a critical judgment. I mean, sure, "If he likes it, it's good," but do you really think he understands and appreciates it on the level of an art historian or a career impressionist? I know I sure don't.

Then again, there are people who think this way about impressionist painting and, indeed, any art.

jonmc: And Dream Theater sounded old hat when they started.

So, assuming that wasn't just empty snark, what bands do you think Dream Theater sounds like? Seriously, I'm always up for some new music, even if it is something I missed from the 80s, as you suggest. Don't hold out on me -- you might have something right up my alley!
posted by LordSludge at 4:30 PM on December 12, 2007


that was koeselitz, not me.
posted by jonmc at 4:34 PM on December 12, 2007


oops, my bad
posted by LordSludge at 4:47 PM on December 12, 2007


ANSWER FOR HIS CRIMES!
posted by klangklangston at 4:50 PM on December 12, 2007


Parsing out that statement, you're saying "listening to music and making music are the same thing."

No, that's not what I said, and I assumed I'd clarified sufficiently over all of my subsequent posts. They are obviously not equivalent, but I disagree that there is a gulf between the two. Being a good performer or composer necessarily involves having good listening skills, and being a good listener necessarily involves using musical skills, even if the listener doesn't self-identify as a musician. So I was objecting to the statement that one could be a highly skilled listener but not know anything about music theory. If you are truly a highly skilled listener, you probably know a lot more about music theory (in an intuitive way) than you realize and ought to give yourself more credit. If you truly don't know anything (like if you're tonedeaf or couldn't recognize a common chord progression), then you can't really be a skilled music listener.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:05 PM on December 12, 2007


I really liked Dream Theater until around 1997 or whenever Falling into Infinity came out. That album helped me through a lot of CS classes in late college.

But after that the relentless stupidity of the lyrics just prevented me from listening to their new stuff with any kind of desire to hear it again. You guys like New York City? You've already told me more than once. You guys are impressed with "carpe diem"? You already told me that about 500 times.

I would love a progressive outfit that could rock and also write lyrics. Until then, really old-school Genesis fits the bill for me. All their lyrics might not be awesome but at least they don't sound like they're perpetually 15.

(i will make an exception for Portney's lyrics about his alocholism as well as the song Panic Attack.)
posted by psmith at 5:11 PM on December 12, 2007


"Kashmir" is the niftiest song Led Zeppelin ever wrote. That is all.
posted by flabdablet at 5:21 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


You are saying that the only people capable of listening to music are musicians, those who are trained in music, or at least those who have an intuitive feel for music. To that, I say POPPYCOCK.

I never said anything about who's capable of listening to music -- obviously everyone with functional ears and brain is capable. I was talking about what it means to be good at listening to music. If we can agree that music listening is a skill which one can hone, which I think it certainly is, I can't imagine what else it could mean for someone to be good at it. Listening is something that can be tested, and some people are better at it than others. The first level of mastery involves something like recognition - being able to identify the tonic and the pulse of the piece, recognizing the difference between various chords, intervals, or rhythms, and so forth. After that would be mimicry (hearing something and repeating it), and after that would be transcription (hearing something and writing it down). Not concidentally, that's all the stuff you do in a musicianship test.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:25 PM on December 12, 2007


ludwig van:that's all well and good, but I notice that you haven't mentioned what music makes you want to do or how it makes you feel, which is what it's primary function is to me. When asked what a good song should do, Eddie Van Halen (of all people) put it best 'Make you happy, make you horny, make you angry, depress you. Move you in some way.' That's the ultimate test.
posted by jonmc at 6:42 PM on December 12, 2007


ludwig.... What exactly did you mean by I feel like "listening to music and making music are two different things" is a common but flawed notion. then? I mean really.... let's analyze what you said:

X = listening to music and making music are two different things

I feel like X is a common but flawed notion.

How is this saying anything other than you think that listening to music and making music are the same thing?

Okay, I'll back off now because I realize I'm beating a dead horse. You made a couple pretty definitive statements early on in the thread that I took as academic snobbery in the area of music. When you were challenged on them, you softened your position somewhat. I realize that yes, you're a pretty decent person, and yes, you like music, and yes, you know music. I like music even though I don't know music, and I challenged your early statements because, frankly, it came across as a kind of a put-down, even if you didn't mean it.

If this were MetaChat, I would now offer you ceremonial whuffles. Seeing as how this is the slightly more formal MeFi, hopefully it will suffice for me to merely offer a firm handshake, in a virtual sense.

posted by Doohickie at 7:11 PM on December 12, 2007


Miko: Anyone, and I do mean anyone, listening with attention can hear how polyrhythms reinforce and contrast with one another. When I was student teaching, we did a long residency with a drummer from Mali. Without giving the (third-grade) students any terminology or theory at all, he set them up with a few different clapping patterns and had them go at it together. They immediately heard and could describe the polyrythmic effect - they couldn't name it or notate it, but they immediately heard and understood it.

Huh. In 5th grade, the music teacher did a little tour of our class. She brought a drum and tried to get each student to drum out a really simple 7/8 pattern. Not one student in the class of 30 could do it. Not one. In fact, I didn't know anything but 4/4 or 3/4 even existed up to that point. I did it for about 2.5 measures, then fell apart. She laughed.

Nowadays, 7/8 is probably my favorite meter. And four beats over three is my favorite polyrhythm. They both just groove like hell to me.

You really think most people know what a simple four beats over three is? Or three over two? You think they can identify it in a song? I don't think so.

jonmc: Eddie Van Halen (of all people) put it best 'Make you happy, make you horny, make you angry, depress you. Move you in some way.' That's the ultimate test.

Okay, so with that in mind, why does Eddie have to play so many goddamn notes? Why all the "wankery"?

flabdablet: "Kashmir" is the niftiest song Led Zeppelin ever wrote.

I may have to agree; that's prolly my favorite Zeppelin too. That's that polyrhythm, that's what I'm talkin about: the band's 4 measures of 3/4 over the drum's 3 measures of 4/4. I can't play with a drummer that doesn't "get" that anymore, and I swear most (amateurs) don't. That's cool, mister drummer guy. Enjoy your Springsteen covers.

languagehat: Can I interrupt this musical discussion to ask Meatbomb if he's recovered his faith in in the goodness of humanity?

Sorry. (No I'm not.)
posted by LordSludge at 7:33 PM on December 12, 2007


that's all well and good, but I notice that you haven't mentioned what music makes you want to do or how it makes you feel, which is what it's primary function is to me.

Well yeah, I haven't mentioned it because it's not what I was talking about. But it's not as though I don't also connect with music on an emotional level.

What exactly did you mean by I feel like "listening to music and making music are two different things" is a common but flawed notion. then?

Doohickie, I appreciate that you're trying to be conciliatory, but I've tried to clarify my point three separate times now. Did you read my posts after the one you keep quoting? I'm at a loss for how to be any clearer.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:39 PM on December 12, 2007


In 5th grade, the music teacher...

There are two possible explanations for your story:

1. You had a bad music teacher who introduced the subject poorly.
2. You and your classmates were all somehow severely developmentally delayed in the arena of music.

I'm going to guess it was the first (especially because you were laughed at for attempting to play rhythm) I suspect she went at the way you're going at it - intellect first. Our Malian certainly knew how to do it, effortlessly, and within minutes. Most music teachers I know find that children pick up rhymthic patterns with extreme ease.

I have too much experience in music, ethnomusicology, and teaching to believe that people are incapable of learning and understanding some of the world's oldest, most commonly occurring musical ideas without formal education. It's simply not true.

You really think most people know what a simple four beats over three is? Or three over two? You think they can identify it in a song?

Using your language? No. You're assuming awareness of a formal system of thought which cannot be known until is explicity taught. Using musical communication - jonmc gave a great example - and music itself -- certainly! Yes. People, even unschooled people, do it all the time. Somehow -- it's amazing! -- untutored people learn to dance the waltz or the polka or the Lindy or Flamenco or the Charleston, play crooked tunes on the fiddle, spend hours experimenting in drum circles, and sing in nonstandard signatures and scales.

You're very interested in music, it's clear, but you seem to come from a background that emphasized formal training - or perhaps that's how you approach music best, due to culture, learning style, or whatever. But it is absolutely not the only way to understand music. It is not even necessary to make understand theory to make extremely complex music, as a study of the world's incredible variety of indigenous music, much of it taught without any reference to your form of theory, will quickly show.

Broadening the way you think about music will lead down some interesting paths.
posted by Miko at 8:03 PM on December 12, 2007


Re: the music teacher, she introduced 7/8 like this: "1-2-3-1-2-1-2 1-2-3-1-2-1-2" as she beat out the rhythm.

"Intellect"ual? Okay. I dunno how else to break that down. How would you do it?

Re: 4 beats over 3 beats..., it's 4 beats, bom-bom-bom-bom, over 3 beats, bom-bom-bom. How is that "my language"? How can you simplify that further? This isn't a jargon problem.(What "example" did jonmc give? This is an awful long thread and I'm not finding it.)

...you seem to come from a background that emphasized formal training...

Not at all. I found this stuff on my own, without formal training. I was untutored, for the most part, except for John Thompson's First Grade Book and junior high school band, where I did rock me some french horn. Then I found Rush, thought it was pretty cool, picked up the bass, and started a band a couple years later, where they thought I wuz God cuz I figured out how to slap. I learned what I did by listening to interesting music and playing in bands for the past 15 years, pushing my personal envelope all the while, teaching myself new techniques, etc. Prog rock has been consistently challenging, but I think I'm going to shift over to jazz for a while.

I don't know where you're getting this "formal training" stuff from. I do try to broaden my musical horizons, thanks, and the paths have been quite interesting. That's why I listen to complex music: there's lots of stuff there to digest. I learn nothing whatsoever from simple, formulaic music that I've heard 1000 times before except that that sort of music bores me to tears. I learn nothing from "BORN IN THE USA!!!" x 20. I learn a LOT from DT, Symphony X, Flecktones, etc.

FWIW, I did try to learn the waltz, from a teacher, and it's way harder than it looks. I need more practice, but all my dance partners smelled like talcum powder and gave me the creeps.
posted by LordSludge at 9:08 PM on December 12, 2007


LordSludge writes "I learn nothing from 'BORN IN THE USA!!!' x 20. I learn a LOT from DT, Symphony X, Flecktones, etc."

Well, honestly I'm not the biggest Springsteen fan, but I can see what he's doing and know he's better than you give him credit. Music doesn't have to be complex to be good. At the time, I thought very much what you do now, and of course I didn't really listen to the lyrics at first. But as time went by, I could hear his signature jangly, wide-open anthemic sound in that song, and the words gave it a depth I had never considered. Now when I hear it it sounds like a sledgehammer pounding on the downbeat, in fury, rather than in joy, and it's relentless. It's a powerful song, if you can just hear it. And Max Weinberg is a tremendous backbeat drummer. It takes work to get behind a song like that and mean it, time and time again, hit that quarter note just right every time. And it's all there, if you can hear it, and, still, I'm not the biggest fan, but there's depth to what he's doing.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:12 PM on December 12, 2007


Also the snare drum in Born in the USA is fantastic, it sounds like a fucking cannon.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:26 PM on December 12, 2007


"Black Dog" is a lot harder to get right than it first sounds, too.
posted by flabdablet at 11:12 PM on December 12, 2007


Doohickie, I appreciate that you're trying to be conciliatory

Then take it for what it is. Peace.
posted by Doohickie at 6:08 AM on December 13, 2007


I'm listening to Anthony Braxton right now, suckers.
posted by languagehat at 6:11 AM on December 13, 2007


I had a dream last night that this thread was closed. I remember being mildly disappointed, as I had something important to share -- something about Springsteen sucking, I can't remember particulars. Now that I'm awake, I'm a little disturbed that this would occupy my unconscious.
posted by LordSludge at 6:17 AM on December 13, 2007


There's absolutely no reason your class shouldn't have been able to handle 7/8 time taught that way. It's a mystery, then. In music education, it's quite commonly taught (and, you know, performed) by kids that age and younger.

Oh, well. Junior high band is formal training, believe it or not. And I think as you continue to work with music and get to know musicians of many different kinds, your assumptions about what music is, who can learn and understand it, and who can produce it will necessarily evolve. Milennia of human musical development are on my side on this one.

I was wondering if anyone knew of a site which played short examples of different time signatures for educational purposes - it might help illustrate for others in this thread what Lord_Sludge is talking about, and also illustrate to Lord_Sludge that, even if you don't know what it is, you can certainly hear and reproduce it. I may poke around later, but right now I've got a day's program to start.
posted by Miko at 6:39 AM on December 13, 2007


I rarely get to say this to other people, so I would just like to take a moment to mention what a bunch of geeks you people are.
posted by tkolar at 6:42 AM on December 13, 2007


Wikipedia: Songs in Unusual Time Signatures.

I love the example of Jethro Tull's 'Living in the Past (5/4)' I'm sure anyone who's heard that song can identify the time signature as distinct from common meter.

Pandora Presents: Meters & Time Signatures.

More great examples of unusual time signatures: Pink Floyd's Money (7/4), Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill (also 7/4), You've Got to Hide Your Love Away (6/8).

What I'm saying is that, without knowing the term 'time signature,' without understanding musical notation, without being able to identify the symbol for a quarter note, without knowing how to play an instrument, without any formal musical teaching of any kind whatsoever other than listenership, most listeners can determine that there is something rhythmically different about 'Living in the Past' as compared to 'Aqualung.' They can sing it, tap it out on the table, replicate the two different rhythms, and compose original material in the two different rhythms without any additional input or instruction. These musical forms are equally available in the musical vocabularies of the trained and untrained, developed only through listening and mimicry.

One problem your teacher faced years ago is that in Western culture, a tremendous amount of popular and children's music is in common meter. We are culturally trained from birth in it, from 'Itsy Bitsy Spider' to 'Down by the Station' to 'Happy Birthday.' After a few years of development steeped in mostly that meter, the pull of common time is almost spinally embedded. When asking kids (or adults, for that matter) to clap out 7/8, the struggle they likely have is the urge to plug in that eigth beat, which seems visceral.

I see this all the time in swing dance, which occasionally features syncopated moves that cross over measures. It can screw up new dancers badly, because they struggle in vain to get an eighth count in where it doesn't always belong (you might end the move at 6 and move on the the next). That urge to complete the two measures of four beats is pretty well ingrained through lifetime habit.

But it's nothing more than habit. People can understand a variety of time signatures and rythms, well enough to use and invent them, without training. They do it through watching, listening, and imitating - in our culture as well as in non-traditional ones. People who can't read music or understand time signatures can be brilliant musicians, just as people who can't read or write can be brilliant spoken-word performers and storytellers. Theory is fascinating and eye-opening and challenging, but it's not a level that's necessary to appreciate music or to make it yourself. It is just one way of understanding and, as ludwig_van says, describing music.
posted by Miko at 7:21 AM on December 13, 2007


I never get to say this very often at all, but on this topic Wikipedia presents an excellent succint statement:
...in the 1980s and 1990s, musicologists studying this perceived divide between "high" and "low" musical genres argued that this distinction is not based on the musical value or quality of the different types of music. Rather, they argued that this distinction was based largely on the socioeconomic standing or social class of the performers or audience of the different types of music. For example, whereas the audience for Classical symphony concerts typically have above-average incomes, the audience for a hip-hop concert in an inner-city area may have below-average incomes. Even though the performers, audience, or venue where non-"art" music is performed may have a lower socioeconomic status, the music that is performed, such as blues, hip-hop, punk, funk, or ska may be very complex and sophisticated
.
posted by Miko at 7:23 AM on December 13, 2007


I've just skimmed over everything that's happened since this became a music thread, so please forgive me if I've missed anything.

LordSludge, I have some sympathy for what you're saying, but I'd find your argument a lot more palatable if not for the examples that you're using. Dream Theatre? There are so many exponentially more interesting things going on in music than Dream Theatre and the like.

I have no doubt that, even though you say you don't have much musical training, you have a lot more than I have. But when you say something like, That said, there's plenty of newer classical stuff and crazy jazz that I don't yet "get" -- my mind just can't form it into a pleasing aesthetic pattern., you're betraying that what you look for in music is still very much stuck in the rockist paradigm.
posted by roll truck roll at 7:48 AM on December 13, 2007


I'd find your argument a lot more palatable if not for the examples that you're using. Dream Theatre?

"Theater". Anyhow, we started out talking about Rush, because somebody started hating on "Geddy Lee's lyrics" a few hundred comments back. Dream Theater is just a more progressive example, a more modern prog metal band that deviates further from the forumulaic, further contrasting to simple traditional style rock.

Substitute your favorite modern progressive metal band if it makes you feel better. It's just innovative/progressive vs. formulaic/traditional. Who would you pick?

...you're betraying that what you look for in music is still very much stuck in the rockist paradigm.

Well, the discussion was basically progressive metal vs. classic rock, Rush vs. Springsteen, as it started, which kinda framed it for me. I do listen to other, more jazz-flavored progressive bands -- Flecktones, Planet X, etc. -- but they seemed like a further derail from the derail.

But, yeah, my own roots are in progressive rock/metal, and most of my bands have been in that genre. I tend towards the heavy, to be sure. I'll probably swerve into jazz for my next band, just for something different -- the bonus being that I'll surely develop a deeper ability to understand and appreciate jazz better, maybe learn some modal theory, better improvisation, etc.

[NOT ROCKIST]
posted by LordSludge at 9:19 AM on December 13, 2007


Well, the discussion was basically progressive metal vs. classic rock, Rush vs. Springsteen, as it started, which kinda framed it for me.

That's the way it was framed here, but I was thinking that it could come down to more of a music (Rush) vs. lyrics (Springsteen) issue. Springsteen did some cool things musically and Rush may have had some good lines, but I think they take a very different approach to songwriting. Criticizing a Mountain Goats or Leonard Cohen song for not having complex enough riffage would be just as point-missing as criticizing Zeppelin for not having the most poetic of lyrics.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:34 AM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Leonard Cohen and Steve Vai.

EPIC.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:43 AM on December 13, 2007


But in the deepest depths of Mordor, he met a girl so fair!

ps to Lord Sludge—Rockism isn't necessarily about rock, but rather judging music based on extra-texuals from a rock context (things like authenticity and originality, etc.). A basic wikipedia article here.
posted by klangklangston at 9:51 AM on December 13, 2007


Hey LordSludge, thanks for your thoughtful reply. Looking back at my comment, it was that of someone who'd not had enough coffee or read the thread thoroughly enough.

In truth, I can't really contribute to a discussion about metal. Most of the prog metal I've listened to annoys me, as it seems to be a watered-down version of what classical composers were doing almost 100 years ago. Alright, rock music has had its Messaien, but when will rock music have its Xenakis? And this would not bother me much (at all, in fact), except for the fact that prog metal seems to pride itself so much in its novelty.

But the point I was trying to make, and I still think it's an important one, is that listening to innovative music needn't be about making it sound pretty in your mind. I've had lots of profound musical experiences--important ones, that have shaped how I think about music--that were not pretty at all. In fact, they were kind of annoying, and I'll happily go the rest of my life without having them again.

(The background color of this discussion is making me disoriented.)
posted by roll truck roll at 9:56 AM on December 13, 2007


Late to the show, but I'm wondering where you are getting your info on Rush fans? I mean, have you met any? In my experience, they're not all technical virtuosos. They're all god damn nerds. I mean, fuck, who was the Rush-uber fan in Trailer Park Boys? BUBBLES.

And yes, I've been a Rush fan since I got my brother's Moving Pictures vinyl. I am also a god damn nerd.
posted by absalom at 10:07 AM on December 13, 2007


I mean, just imagine it:

"But you don't really / care for music / do you
[WHEEDLY WHEEDLY IDDLE IDDLE BDIOOUUDDILIDDLY]"
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:26 AM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


But I lingered on Steve Vai a fatal moment
I kissed his axe as though I thirsted still
My falsity it stung me like a hornet
The poison sank and it paralyzed my will
posted by ludwig_van at 10:34 AM on December 13, 2007


For me it wasn't about Springsteen vs. Rush, it was about whether technical profiency or the complexity of a composition is a reasonable measure of musical quality.
posted by Miko at 10:44 AM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


For me it was about Rush lyrics in comparison to Blondie lyrics (oh, and yeah, I though Geddy wrote 'em for Rush; big deal). Then it was about jokes and tin ears and my own lack of talent and creativity, and then it was about the legitimacy of various forms and about complexity vs. simplicity and a buncha other stuff.

But then I read over it all and realized it was about a group of people, myself included, who have trouble fathoming that taste is so important and such an integral part of music appreciation that even those of us who think we're being the most inclusive and understanding still can't help but project our internal musical lives onto others: the idea that understanding can or can't be reached without certain conditions being true is different for each of us, and it's no coincidence that those conditions reflect our own backgrounds and/or training.

I guess these impositions are what keeps this kind of conversation lively and interesting, and I guess everybody's acceptance that our approaches are different keeps this from becoming a fight.

That's great. It's a very interesting conversation.
posted by breezeway at 11:18 AM on December 13, 2007


to be fair, the conversation WAS about rules-abiding bosses/tyrants, until someone quoted rush at Jessamyn after she said that she wouldn't make a choice about something. then Jessamyn snappily implied something degrading about people who quote rush lyrics. then lord sludge, in defense of rush, quoted the chorus to Born In The USA, (which is an oft-repeated chant of "BORN IN THE USA!!!") neglecting none of the now-oft-discussed repetitions by way of contrast with Neil Peart's lyrics to Rush songs. the point where we stopped discussing lyrics and started discussing things like melody and polyrhythms may have been at a comment of mine or a comment of lord sludge's. I'm not sure.

so the conversation went:

rules and bosses
making choices
rush lyrics
rush lyrics vs. springsteen lyrics
my awesome band
bugbread's awesome sci-fi novel writing skillz
rush music vs. springsteen music
technical musicianship vs. song writing
blondie?
the topic of the thread.
posted by shmegegge at 11:35 AM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


oh, and put dreamtheater in there above blondie.
posted by shmegegge at 11:36 AM on December 13, 2007


Do not put dreamtheater above blondie.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:45 AM on December 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


Yup, Debbie Harry was mentioned way before DT.
posted by breezeway at 12:08 PM on December 13, 2007


John Bonham never worked in a call centre.
posted by flabdablet at 5:06 PM on December 13, 2007


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