Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Chapter Two: Death Metal is my Jazz

“I hate music,” Art Bergman once sang with viscous irony. In the song of same title Bergman attacks the charts, the disco beat, rock n’ roll and melody itself before twisting everything around. Suddenly in the middle of the narrative Bergman declares his love for all those things before asserting, “You would buy almost anything” and then finally returning to that hate for the big ending. In this pounding smear of a song, Bergman encapsulates the continuously shifting dichotomy of the music obsessive. “Hate.” “Love.” “Oooh look - something shiny.” “Hate.” “Love.” Repeat ad nauseum. For a man who once named his band the K-Tels* (a Canadian label whose heavily TV advertised compilations blenderized every genre of 70’s pop into cornucopia of garish trash) you know Art loved it all all along.

However, years later Bergman appeared to disavow his scrawny punk tunes dismissing (likely obnoxious) audience requests by saying, “It ain’t 1977 anymore.” While, like Iggy Pop, Art Bergman almost can’t help but be Punk (whether playing acoustic or under the egregious synth-driven production of Bob Rock and his ilk) in this stage pronouncement Bergman seemed to be dismissing the sounds and ideas of the past.

It’s a common trope to prove one’s ongoing march to maturity by proclaiming to have shed certain musical styles – often a variation of simple, loud rock music. It’ s such patent bullshit. You cannot prove you’ve broadened your palette by claiming your tastes are ‘eclectic’ (Most. Pretentious. Word. Ever.), disowning music you once enjoyed or buying a Miles Davis album. I mean no disrespect for the fearsome legacy of jazz – but jazz supremacists do prattle so. For instance one of these ‘serious’ jazz fans (of whom Richard Ford nails when he says, approximately, “Those forty-something single men who drive around in a convertible with the top down listening to progressive jazz who feel their life is under control – when in fact they have nothing to control.”) said to a musician friend of mine, “When you’re older you have to start liking jazz”, to which my friend (thirty-something fan of Angel Witch and a zillion other bands with so-morbid-its-comic names) grimly replied, “Death metal is my jazz.”

(Cue Bruce Springsteen croaking “Oooh – Grooowing Up!”)

Well I still love that Beatles album my parents draft-dodging friend left behind (Hey Jude, thanks for asking) the folk revival album my parents bought (Pete Fuckin’ Seeger – yeah!) that Rezillos album (bought on a hunch) – plus a batch of predictable radio hits from all over the place. When taste grows up it should expand not contract. My favourite album right now? The Queers ‘Munki Brain’. Juvenile? Stop asking so many damn questions and go listen to the last song on the album, ‘Brian Wilson’. That song is a high water mark in – well... everything. Thanks Joe Queer (who said something to the effect of “why can’t I like the Shirelles and Black Flag at the same time?”) you’ve made me sing along and you trumped Art Bergman by writing a song called “I Hate Everything.”

* Winnipeg’s Phillip Kives, owner of the K-Tel company threatened to sue the band – it was okay Bergman changed their name to the Young Canadians, later forming the short-lived Poisoned who would surely have been sued by Brett Michaels.