Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Your anger is a gift

I think a lot about music. In my mind, that’s the difference between someone who merely enjoys music and someone who loves music- thinking about it when you’re not even hearing it. I’m jealous of people who have the ability to actually make music because they almost certainly get more out of music than even I do. And I really love music.

That’s why I’m so disappointed in people who, to my ears, have such vanilla music collections. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with specializing or simply knowing what you like; I’m actually a little embarrassed about the genre column in my own iTunes, straying as little as it does from the words alternative and rock (the only dissidents being metal and the occasional blues and folk; not exactly the United Colors of Benetton here.)

No, what I mean by a vanilla collection of music is that there’s something vital, something virile, missing from it. Their playlist stands on its own, for sure, and is even frequently enjoyable. What’s missing, however, amidst all the Jack Johnson or Norah Jones or Jason Mraz is a certain something, a crucial ingredient, I don’t know, help me out here, maybe, for lack of a better term…

Zack de la Rocha.

That’s right: Zack de la Rocha. And I don’t mean literally, although it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to once again hear Mr. de la Rocha’s vicious scream tearing asunder some pillar of capitalist greed. For the unaware, Zack de la Rocha is the lead singer for Rage Against the Machine, the band with the most transparent name in the history of bands, and the background music to my teenage days of smoking illicit (every kid’s favorite brand) cigarettes and lighting things on fire. What I miss when I’m inadvertently falling asleep to someone else’s novocain CD collection, or listening to the radio for that matter, is that occasional injection of teenage angst, the abject anger of our youth that sure as hell better be bubbling right beneath the surface in all of us, the spirit of outward rebellion that we seem to abandon the very second we get our first real job or begin dreaming about owning our own home or thinking in concrete terms about “the future.”

I feel like people just aren’t pissed off enough, and it shows in the music they listen to. That’s cool if you just want to chill on the beach with your dog and a six pack of Corona Light and wait for the next set of stellar waves, but don’t you want to get up off the sand every once in a while and kick a white person in the nuts? I know I sure as shit do.

Of course I don’t actually do it, but that’s where listening to the kind of music that causes car wrecks comes in. It’s a release. Maybe all you Norah Jones fans have really good drugs or a secret underground fight club that gets the job done for you (or maybe your everyday life is raging enough without your music fueling it further,) but I need music to help me get it all out. Plus, if I’m ever feeling a little too good about things I have Zack de la Rocha or Phil Anselmo* or Jello Biafra** or pre-1990 James Hetfield*** to set me straight by reminding me that there’s a whole lot of shit out there to be pissed off over, so let’s scream about it together.
But no more cigarettes. They’re bad for you.

*Pantera, **Dead Kennedys and ***Metallica.

22 comments:

A Free Man said...

Norah Jones makes me want to kill people.

I'm not a huge fan of Zach de la Rocha, but I do like me some angry music in the right place and time. Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana.

When you talk about kicking a white person in the nuts are you talking about self-inflicted accidental injury?

Jacob said...

I might have used Serj Tankian instead of Zach De La Rocha, mainly because I have trouble taking my anger seriously and there's always that ironic quality to Serj, at least the stuff from before I left college. I agree with your take, although for me, it's less a need for rage than it is for an edge. Perhaps I'm just more laid back that you. It makes sense as I have much more of a fat reserve and ability to withstand temperatures below 85 degrees without going into hypothermia. I'm like a tuatara. Hell, with my family history, relative lack of bad habits (at least compared with half of that long-lived family history), and modern and future medicine, I may even live as long as a tuatara.

But I digress.

I have plenty of anger outlets in my music collection, but even my softer, sweeter stuff is flavored by an odd voice, strange instrumentation or lyrics about being swallowed by a whale so the speaker can take revenge on his step dad.

And I totally agree about wishing I could create music. I could play, and was pretty good on more than one instrument, but never was any good at improvising or creating something on my own. Being able to interpret gets you a little further than the typical music fan, but not as far as being able to create.

And honestly, I'm a little surprised about your racism. What about all those with American Indian, African, Aborigine, or Asian heritage who desire to feel the intense pressure of your foot slamming into their testicles?

Julie said...

You can come play Guitar Hero World Tour any time you like. There's a feature (I haven't used it yet) that allows you to create music.

Every time I change the radio station (and I've rubbed the paint off the buttons in the car I change them so frequently), I wonder if I'm looking for music to suit my mood or if the music is responsible for my mood.

mongoliangirl said...

Ummmmmmm...Pantera. Black Label Society. Me likey this post.

courtney said...

Perhaps the people who lack angry music in their collections are the people who find other outlets for their angst -- like protesting, or writing angry letters to congressmen, or volunteering to put their angry energy to good use. By that point, maybe they just want to listen to something mellow to chill out. Didja ever think of that? Huh? DIDJA?

OK, that's pretty unlikely. People who listen only to the stuff on the radio are people who don't care enough about anything to branch out. As much as I hate to stereotype, I think a person's taste in music, movies and books says a lot about them, and if your music is vanilla, chances are you're a boring individual.

I'm not generally an angry person, but I do have some System of a Down (borrowed from you, thank you) on my iPod for just such an occasion. Along with some Metallica.

DailyNewsie said...

I cannot STAND Norah Jones. When she first showed up a few years ago, my sentimental boyfriend at the time decided one of her songs would be "our" song despite the fact that I hated it. One of the many reasons I dumped his ass.

But I digress. My angry music is Fiona Apple -- it's not political or urging social change, but it is "kick that bastard in the nuts" music. And when I'm agitated about something I'll listen to a complicated Bach fugue. Again, no lyrics pushing for change, but there's something about sorting out all the different melodies that soothes me.

surviving myself said...

I miss Rage and Zach too. I hated how they stopped after only three albums. We need that yelling! And his new band One Day As A Lion is okay, but not nearly as much yelling as with Rage.

Greg said...

I'm with you on the too-vanilla music collections. It's really disappointing when you see it.

But dude, Jason Mraz is pretty fucking hardcore. He doesn't even care. THAT'S how hardcore he is. Well, maybe not, but he's the hardest thing on Rick Dee's weekly top 40. That's something, right? Why are you guys looking at me like that?

nancypearlwannabe said...

My music collection is pretty vanilla, but I like it anyway. It's mostly indie and alternative, but that's my thing!

Allie said...

I do not understand Jack Johnson. Every single freaking song sounds the same.

Jacob said...

DailyNewsie is right, Fiona Apple is pretty much the angriest music without aggressive instrumentation ever. You don't feel the need to thrash in a mosh pit, but there's anger there.

Chris said...

Here, sir, we must disagree. While you're correct that music is the perfect release for all of a person's pent-up rage and frustration at the world (rather than actual violence, for example), it's simply not true that the music must feature a screaming lead vocalist or blaring, angry-sounding guitars to serve the purpose.

Instead of raging loudly, many musicians have managed to artfully denounce the injustices in the world and foolishness of humanity, and even prescribe better ways of living to their listeners -- including such mellow singer-songwriters as Paul Simon and the beach-bum Jack Johnson, whom you describe as vanilla. Granted, the Jack Johnson songs you'll hear on the radio are little more than catchy pop tunes, but many of the songs on his albums go deeper than that in terms of subject matter. Still, if it's screaming that your heart is set on, you'll have a hard time getting into most of my music -- although I do own a disc of Nirvana tunes that I pop in the car when I want to revisit my teen angst.

courtney said...

Chris, I don't think he's saying that all music has to be angry, only that people's music collections should include something angry to reflect their outrage against said injustices in the world. The majority of my music (and Mickey's, really) is mellow, but every so often I like to crank up some metal and stew over whatever pissed me off that day. It's rare, but it happens. And, as you said, it's better than actual violence.

The Modern Gal said...

Yes to Allie's comment. I can't tell one Jack Johnson song from another.

I'm among the crowd that counts Fiona Apple and Tori Amos and early Alanis Morrisette among my angry music. But I do love me some Bulls on Parade and I have the Pantera song you suggested for my breakup album downloaded.

I'd like to think my collection of gangsta rap can suffice for my angry music too.

But what I'm really saying is, good post.

Chris said...

Well, I didn't quite say it was better than actual violence... just more civilized and acceptable, I suppose. As Mickey suggested, there are some people who probably could truly benefit from a good kick to the nuts. One of them recently lived in the White House, just to pull an example off the top of my head.

But I see your point. I was really just sore about all the Jack Johnson bashing. I like taking my dogs to the beach, too. Corona, however, is foul and I will not be drinking it at the beach or anywhere else.

em said...

I hate Jack Johnson.

I am not a fan of Norah Jones either.

I have some angry music in my collection. I cant think of a good example at the moment, though.

Jacob said...

Jello Biafra, named for both something originally obtained from boiling animal bones for very long times and a breakaway Nigerian province. I'm not sure there are many of those out there.

Blues said...

I just think we had way better music back in the 90's. Okay, now I'm talking like an old person.

I too miss the angst. Just a different time. Is it possible that angst is a feeling from our generation?

I have this same disagreement with people over movies. I don't understand people who only like movies that end happy or are pleasant or don't cause them to feel "funny" or have to think about serious issues or maybe identify with a bad guy. I like movies that freak my shit out, that scare the daylights out of me because i see a bit of myself in the hazy morality, that make me cry that make me depressed about the human race, and that crack me up. I like stuff that's real. I don't get people that watch movies or listen to music to pass the time and feel pleasant with no critical capacity.

I don't pretend to be all in the know on the best music out there (used to be), but I know that most of the stuff I hear is garbage. So I go back to my old reliable stuff.

I loves me some Rage.

Meaghan said...

I see what you mean. My music collection does include some Jack Johnson and Norah Jones (sorry guys), but I also have some Big Band, lots of 70s rock and some alternative. For the most part though, I feel like I can get pissed off at the world around me enough to just want to hear something that calms me down or makes me smile. Sounds cheesy, but that just the way it goes. My favorite band has a song called "Not the Land" that is nice and screamy. And I blast that one sometimes...

(M)ary said...

who is to say what is vanilla and what isn't?? one person's vanilla may be another person's chocolate.


if you are judging another person's music collection then you are being narrow in what you find acceptable. that to me is a version of vanilla.

sid said...

I love jason Mraz ...
People at work piss me off all the time - not just the white folks. And I'm definitely not every good at hiding the fact that I think some of my co-workers are morons. Thing is ... I don't really want this to show in ALL of my music. I need me so vanilla

Sam said...

Zack de la Rocha is brilliant.

Absolutely brilliant.