Pissing in the Wind…

July 6, 2011 Ingrid Adamow 3 Comments

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Spin magazine off the rack at my gym. I hopped on the elliptical with my mindless reading in hopes an article on the regression of musical technology (cassette tapes a la “Washed Out”, anyone?) and a piece on “Which Bands Get Banned” would pass the sweaty time.  This copy was an edition of Spin’s “Success Issue” featuring profiles of music’s most successful acts of right now: Bon Iver (Justin Vernon), Arctic Monkeys, and Black Lips. Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” is one of the most played songs in my iTunes library, and as a normal red-blooded college student I’ve listened to Arctic Monkeys before. But Black Lips? Totally foreign territory to me.

Black Lips are four punk-esque garage rockers from Atlanta, Georgia. Spin calls them the “road warriors” for their extensive travels and frequent misadventures. Their aura is distinctly “Jackass”-esque: setting instruments ablaze onstage, urinating into the crowd, lighting off fireworks, performing in the nude. The band even exploits the symptomatic vomiting of a member’s medical condition for shock value. While they’re not my musical cup of tea, I suppose I could see how somebody else, with more punk-inclined ears, could really dig into their sound. But what’s with the off-the-wall antics? I’m not one of those uppity people who decry the sort of extreme risk humor popularized by the program “Jackass” (I totally crushed on Johnny Knoxville) and its TV show spawn, “Viva la Bam” and “Wild Boys.” I think those stunts are hysterical – extremely stupid, obviously dangerous, but usually pretty hysterical. But that has its time and place. Black Lips has dipped into this sort of stunts meets extreme potty humor shamelessness to gain publicity and, ultimately, fans. In the Spin article, the Black Lips’ members admit to not being quite as stupid as they look. Their crazy antics are a ploy to get people to underestimate them, setting listeners up to be taken aback by their actual musical merit. (But I’d beg to differ, I don’t hear much of that, especially on tracks like “Bad Kids.”)

So what’s this say about the “successful” music of right-now? Do you have to have some sort of a gimmick to make your mark? Bon Iver aka Justin Vernon has the whole bearded outdoorsman meets romantically inclined poet vibe going for him. Arctic Monkeys have the whole, well, being English thing going for them. And Black Lips have the whole… pissing into the audience thing? Flashing their genitalia thing? Rebels without a cause, kids your mother warned you about, kind of gross and a little bit creepy thing? Again, this is all entirely my opinion; I’m not a garage rock junkie by any means, so my ears are a little biased. But if we’re all arguing “our” music is the most artistically authentic, I argue that the whole pyrotechnics and piss claim to fame is a little bit like cheating.


Author: Ingrid Adamow
Ingrid is a sophomore in COM studying advertising. She hails from small town Connecticut. Ingrid loves writing above all else, but also has a penchant for all things cute (Hello Kitty especially).

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