Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I have a startling confession

I have hit another down time.

Recent events have forced me to question...well, everything.  Should I be writing?  Have I even really written anything aside from blog posts?  Do I have anything relevant to say?  What should I be doing, then?  Then who am I really? Am I too dumb to be in academics?

That last question is haunting me to no end.  In fact it's drilling holes straight through me.  Don't have a PhD?  Welllll then young lad or lass, you really have no business teaching at this level.  It doesn't matter how well you teach, how well you can engage students with the material, it really is more about the letters after your name and the publications that you have that indicate how much of an educator you are.

I have no qualms with pursuing a PhD...that is to say, if I haven't already been rejected 11 times.  The most recent one from a certain large Midwestern (Indiana specifically) university (read all about it here) was based on the grounds of not my academic record, not my GRE scores, but the fact that my research interests did not match theirs (even though I specifically tailored such interests to what the faculty listed on their bio pages, just as any grad school applicant does.) "Absent such interests, I'm afraid admission is impossible." I can still hear the fucker's words ringing in my head.  Mostly because they were polite but thinly disguised ways of saying, "Sorry, you're just too stupid."

So I've been feeling stupid.  I am talking really really stupid.  Like Snooki in a nanotechnology lab.  Like Kim Kardashian writing a paper on the overall work of Marcel Proust.  Stoooopid.  With three or four o's.  Worthless.

Which, believe it or not, brings me to music.  Music has always been a balm of mine and I really cannot imagine my life without it.  I listen to all kinds, but the bulk of it falls in that category of "black and white video," arty and British compositions from the heyday of MTV's 120 Minutes.  The problem right now is those songs are, by enlarge, very smart.  Their composers could have gone on to do any number of other things, but they chose to play alternative rock.  They are also a disquiet and uncomfortable reminder for me of how dumb I am.  After all, I could never write a literary or science fiction equivalent of "How Soon Is Now?"  The music has become a constant reminder of how dumb I feel (or likely am.)

So I needed something else to listen to.  Something that screams, "Think I'm not good enough for your precious institution?  Think I'm stupid?  FINE!  We're about to get alllll stupid up in here!" What could I find that was...well, not stupid per se, but with a focus that was shall we say, not altogether intellectual?  Yes, I think the band members I'm about to refer to would agree with that.  

You see, I was rather acquainted with these guys due to a deep dark secret.  I am about to share that secret with you right now.  For most of my life, I have been into new-wave and indie music of one form or another.  But there was a time, oh there was a time, when I was an angry young man.  Grew my hair long.  Wore jeans with rips in them.  My t-shirts were typically black and had tour dates on the back.  The most common phrase out of my mouth was "fuck you." My choice in music reflected this lack of desire for any form of heavy contemplation (except for Iron Maiden, but they are an entirely different beast...ha! See what I did there?...than the music I am describing.)

Therefore, I sort of regressed recently as my brain could handle no more heavy reasoning or self-degradation. I let loose with this secret that could be troubling to one's perception of me.  Why, someone could really form an opinion about me over this.  The horror!
But in the spirit of these songs, I decided not to care.  It is what it is.  If you don't like it, well, refer to my old favorite saying in the previous paragraph.   You're going to laugh.  I know you are.  Oh well. That pales in comparison to other things I've had happen to me.  So here goes.

Still with me?

And now...

Yep.  That's Warrant.

This band became one of the most maligned acts of their time.  Let's face it: the "power ballads," the white leather jumpsuit uniforms, and the choreographed (?) headbanging really didn't help their image.  Music critics hated them for vapid songs.  Metal fans hated them because they were "false metal" as Armando used to say.  The girls hated them...wait, they actually had no trouble in that department.  But for me this past week, the songs of Warrant have actually offered me a great deal of relief.  What I offer to you now is an "encomium of Warrant."

Were they misogynistic?  Maybe not that severe, but they certainly weren't waving the flag of feminism.  Then again, who was?  And I daresay, who is today?  Watch your average hip-hop video and then try to argue that they're more woman-friendly than Warrant.

Were the songs vapid?  You bet.  Yeah, you could say they were shallow or at least uninterested in pursuits of intellectualism.  Is that wrong?  If you're going to protest against brain candy, there are many more places you should begin than with Warrant (Gene Simmons, anyone?)

Were they "glam metal" or "posers?" (Interesting word often used by someone I know who denies being a hiptser but well, kinda is.)  I'm going to say no.

They were the victims of the marketing suits at the time.  "Let's have long hair and your guitars are loud.  You must be heavy metal!"
Warrant is not Black Sabbath.  Hell, they're not even Def Leppard.  And guess what?  They had and have no desire to be.  They are now what they always proclaimed themselves to be: a rock band.  Pure, plain, and simple.  The fact that they were subjoined with heavy metal bands is an industry fault, not the band's.

All in all, they are fun.  I know that there's nothing going on with Warrant that will break new ground in the departments of poetry, music, or even rhythm.  But again, they don't want to.  They just want to play straight-up raunchy, rude, crude, lewd, in-your-face rock n' roll.
It's very "come as you are" music.  Warrant doesn't care what your degree is in.  Warrant has less than zero interest in your academic publications.  Warrant doesn't give a damn about your views on social issues. They just want to rock your ass off and then hit the booze and have sex.  In fact I submit to you, Warrant is a truly egalitarian rock band in who they welcome to their music.

I gotta tell you, it all makes me feel pretty damn good right about now.  I can't stop bobbing and thrashing my head, screaming out the anthemic choruses, kicking in with the back-up vocals in "You're the Only Hell," and listening to "Bed of Roses" incessantly for whatever reason. And I defy you to tell me there's something inherently wrong with that.  I have snobbed and I have been snobbed by the best, so good luck telling me something I haven't heard before now.  Seriously.  Bring it.

I don't know.  Maybe it reminds me of being young.  I saw Warrant open for Motley Crue in 1989 on the Dr. Feelgood Tour.  They were fun.  That's right.  Just plain fun.  If you had a problem with that, again they would refer to that easily spouted two-word phrase.  It was all  I don't know of a better descriptor.  Seriously, I just want to start chugging Jack and rocking out while I tell the whole world that hallowed two-word phrase once more.

Plus, you can say whatever you want about lead singer Jani Lane (RIP), but the man had a voice.  It was one of the clearest, strongest, and most melodic of any of his screeching contemporaries.  By the way, if you hated the song "Cherry Pie" (and you'd have good reason for doing so), check out this interview with Lane where he describes why it wasn't written and why he himself couldn't stand it either.  I actually feel pretty bad for the guy and his closing comments in the interview are actually rather chilling considering what happened.

While you're into watching video, check out this clip from the band in 2001.  They still had it.  For all I know they still have it, but I haven't brought myself to listen to anything with their new singer.  Seriously, I can't get enough of the way they open this show and how Steven Sweet pretty much pounds his drumsticks into sawdust:


They're a t-top Camero from circa 1976 with a gigantic flamebird emblem on the hood, the stereo cranked loud enough to crack bulletproof glass, and five guys hanging out the side who are flinging empty whiskey bottles at every snob they pass.

So there it is.  My big secret from the week.  Sometimes you need this sort of thing to get you through the down times.  Want to ridicule me?  Fine.  Want to call me stupid?  You'd be far from the first so you're not exactly an artistic innovator yourself now are you, squirt? 

I'm going back for more Warrant now.  And I'll be happy to show you where the down boys go.

Follow me on Twitter: @jntweets

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