guilty redaction

April 8, 2011 § 8 Comments

So I know we all dislike Ben Folds. This song (stop listening after 4:30 or so, it slides into an actual Ben Folds Five song) is an exception for me because I never consider that it’s him. I hear it maybe once a year, and from the first grinding of the accordion my heart is torn to shreds. It is exactly the sound a heart makes as it’s being slowly ripped apart. And then the lyrics start in and we all know that relationship, we’ve all had one. He could be singing about any of them, and it’s that lack of specificity that makes the song almost poetically applicable. By the end of it, piano and accordion grinding down, I’m writhing in abject apology for every thing I’ve ever done and said to anyone, even Y-Bike grandma; for every promise I’ve ever made and not kept, every falsely optimistic hope I’ve ever let anyone hold onto and every one I’ve ever clung to myself, every fucking thing ever.

Well played, Mr. Folds.



§ 8 Responses to guilty redaction

  • Z says:

    Just out of curiosity, why do you dislike Ben Folds?

    • M says:

      Well, I heard he eats Jew babies.

      Oh, wait. A real answer? I can’t speak for the fabulous Ms.J, but to me he’s on a level with Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson in terms of making absolutely inoffensive harmless music – they’re like earnest high school dudes, Dave with his drums and sax players, Jack with his guitar and afterschool surfing, and Ben with his piano and jazz band friends. I’ve always been more drawn to the guy in the corner, the one with sick home recordings who might be deeply troubled but makes amazing music because of it (early Bright Eyes, Elliott Smith, Guided by Voices, Girl Talk, I’ll sneak Japandroids in here).

      Plus I don’t think his songs are all that technically solid or interesting, and he makes that sincere squinty singer face. I hate that face.


      • Z says:

        LOL! I’ve heard that too, but I always doubted it. However, now that I have a second-hand confirmation then perhaps there’s something to it. 😉

        I can’t really say I’m a huge fan of either his or DMB. I think that both of them have had some interesting and catchy songs which I’ve enjoyed on a casual level. It took me a long, long time to reach that point with DMB. The douche in the dorm room next to mine during my freshman year owned two CDs and played them ad nauseum on 11 all year. One was “Under the Table and Dreaming”, the other was “Jagged Little Pill”. For about 5 or 6 years after that I absolutely hated DMB.

        My interests skew more towards bands like the Bosstones, The Amazing Crowns, Royal Crown Revue, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Beck, Cake, Reel Big Fish, Green Day, Reverend Horton Heat, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Johnny Cash, as well as a bunch of classic rock. There’s a bunch of stuff in between that I dig on a more casual level. For example, yeah, Jack Johnson’s stuff is pretty harmless, but on a day when you just want some pleasant background music, it’s a good listen.

        I’ll have to take a listen to some of the bands that you mentioned as I can’t say the names strike any familiarity with me. If I had to pick my absolute favorite, I’d say Cake. I think their music is interesting and at times a little raw in a “I don’t sit in the corner and cut myself” kind of way. I still think that out of all their albums, their first is the best and really reflects that rawness which seems to have been dulled down over the years. But, then again, I’m also of the opinion that just happens with age. Your skin gets thicker and while you still have feelings, it takes much less to hurt you than the 14-25 age range.

        There was a time when I used to sit in the dark with a candle, writing poetry while listening to “The Crow” soundtrack. Or, when I used to sit in my college apartment, alone, in the dark, contemplating who and what it was that I wanted to be. Not in a professional sense, more in a philosophical sense. Or, how I’d pine away for this or that girl / woman to have an interest in the affections that I had to give. Hell, you should’ve seen some of the art I did back in college. I think at some point, I just got tired of it all.

        I don’t necessarily think that’s entirely a good thing. There are some benefits. My life has far less drama and angst in it than it did 8-10 years ago. At the same time, there are things that I would consider drawbacks. My passion seems to have lost its edge. Sure, there are moments when I light up over something and out of the people I associate with, I’m probably the first to get lit up on an issue or topic that I have strong feelings about. But on a whole, I find that the proverbial well just doesn’t seem as full as it did when I was younger.

        That being said, I’m trying to find a balance so that I can maintain some sort of steady, creative output outside of work. Maybe I just need to listen to less Jack Johnson. 😉

  • J. says:

    I have to agree with all of your reasons for disliking Ben Folds, and then have to concede the fact that I have “Crash” from the always super-chill DMB on my iPod. There’s always at least one. But yeah, it’s the whole white bread non-threatening “music” for people who “love music.” There was (is, still there, J) this outdoor concert space place (thing, area, sort of thing) Upstate where DMB and his ilk would come every (EVERY) summer, sometimes for 2-3 nights in a row, to play a concert. Every (EVERY) person in my high school went, every night, mostly to get drunk and narrowly avoid being arrested. Then they would drive home in Scotty B’s Audi because Scotty B is like, totally chill, he didn’t smoke or anything so it’s cool. It’s like, a petrie dish of mediocrity and Ben Folds and Dave Matthews compose that red goop that all those bacteria feast on. Or something.


    • Z says:

      I still don’t quite get the proverbial, perhaps literal hate towards music that you perceive as non-threatening. So, if I’m inferring what you’re saying correctly, you only like music that challenges you on an emotional level or that exhibits some sort of superior technical execution? Please correct me if I’m wrong.

      Assuming it is, more power to you. I get that artistry is subjective, that everyone has their individual tastes, and that you may like music that I don’t and vice versa. However, to label something as mediocre and to look down your nose at it and/or the people who listen to it smacks of music snobbery. It’s no different than the film snobs who only watch indie films and criticize anything even remotely mainstream as being unworthy of the material it’s printed on.

      I’m hardly the biggest fan of any of the aforementioned bands. But, I do recognize that they have more musical talent than I do and I respect that. The fact that they are making their living as performance artists without being an overly produced label slave speaks volumes to me about their musical ability. I am also friends with people who really love DMB’s music and my experience has been that they are not living in mediocrity; they are quality people with fairly diverse musical tastes.

      You’re free to like the bands you want to like and dislike the ones you don’t. But, the perceived music snobbery attitude is a little unbecoming. I’ve had the pleasure of having a family member insist that anything he listens to or watches is pure gold while anything I watch or listen to is utter drivel and so I know firsthand what being categorized in such a way feels like.

      • Z says:

        I guess what I’m trying to get at is, if it is indeed music snobbery, what’s up with that? Maybe it’ll help me understand my brother more if you can elaborate to me where that comes from, etc…

      • M says:

        Hmm. At the risk of making us look like monomaniacal freaks, there’s this quote from David Foster Wallace (that I think technically came from a teacher of his) about the job of fiction being “to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” This is also how I think of music. With some exceptions (like Bleed American, which is just an insanely catchy album, or that awful song “Shake It” by Miley Cyrus’ brother because you can’t not dance when you hear it), I need music – and fiction, and film, and art in general – to disturb me, to get me out of my own head and small small world, to use three chords or just voice and piano (Daniel Johnston, anyone?) in a way that challenges my view of things.

        It’s news to me that this sounds elitist or hateful. Maybe it is. There’s a certain someone we know whose favorite musicians are Stevie Ray Vaughan and Huey Lewis & the News. Sorry, but I judge him for that. His worldview is crazy narrow and limited and corny and fucking surreal, and he seeks experiences that confirm this view, and his musical taste is part and parcel of that.

        What I will fight is this idea of musical snobbery being hand in hand with praise of “indie” or obscurity. My judgment of music (and anything else) hinges only on how it makes me feel, where it pushes me and how exciting that sense of being pushed off-balance is. I don’t give a shit who else is into it, and whether those “who elses” number in the dozens or millions. I hate Dave Matthews and Ben Folds because they’re soothing pablum for people who want to be comforted rather than disturbed, not because they’re mainstream. Same reason I hate religion, and Starbucks, and network TV sitcoms. And yoga people. And seat warmers in cars (though another reason is they make you feel like you’ve just lost bladder control).

  • Z says:

    I’m all for being disturbed, unseated, and forced to re-examine your worldview from time to time. Nobody learns anything about themselves within an echo chamber. I agree that art (be it film, music, fiction, poetry, performance, etc… and might I also add stand-up comedy?) are often the best ways to do this. But, being challenged day in and day out by everything you read, see, and hear is exhausting.

    Maybe some people enjoy that non-stop friction. But not everybody does and that doesn’t make them or their tastes any less valid. You say that DMB and Ben Folds are soothing pablum for those that want to be comforted rather than disturbed, but that’s a very black and white judgement when the fact is that most people (in my experience) want a little of both (to be challenged and to be comforted) in varying degrees. I count myself as an example to that credo. To me, there’s nothing wrong with balancing friction inducing art with pop art.

    You may not think much of Steve Ray Vaughn and while I don’t listen to his music, the man is considered a blues genius / legend on the guitar. I do like Huey Lewis and the News if only for trying to bring some sense of rock (at least with Sport) back into the mid-80s. Their lyrics may not be challenging like Rage, but again, for me anyways, it’s about finding a balance between examining my sense of self and just tuning out to something catchy. While you and I may have fairly different tastes when it comes to music, the fact is that I feel we both (I can’t speak for J since we don’t know one another) have diversified tastes that is at least due in part to our early experiences with band.

    You may label some stuff as a guilty pleasure, but I see no guilt in liking something that doesn’t challenge your worldview. Anyways, at this point I sound like a broken record, I’m sure. LOL. Thanks for entertaining my opposing viewpoint and inquisition into your thought process.

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