Q&A With Dr. David Thorpe
This week, Dr. David Thorpe has selflessly devoted his time to answering the musical questions posed to him by members of the amazing Something Awful Forums. They're interested in learning new things, so why shouldn't you be? Read on, and you just might find yourself enthralled by the power of pure knowledge!
One thing that I've noticed during my many years as a genius is that the people around me are inexcusably ignorant and often spend their days impotently floundering to discern their asses from their elbows. Above all else, I consider myself a public servant. That's why this week I've decided to provide the opportunity for the cultureless plebeians of the Something Awful Forums to better themselves by bathing in the refreshing pool of my boundless musical knowledge. If there's one positive thing I can say about the SA Goons, it's that they're duly respectful of their betters and willing to learn from those who clearly possess greater mental faculties than themselves.
Why the hell would anybody in their right mind willingly listen to Pavement?
Well, this is a funny thing to ask, since taste is totally subjective. Well, I don't REALLY think taste is subjective, but I think it would probably be in your best interests to assume it is, since you've been known to listen to music which sounds like robots pissing ball bearings into a metal bucket.
(Ladies and gentlemen, of course I kid- if you’d like to hear Lowtax’s own robot-pissings, they can be found on this page)
If Tool and Radiohead got into a fist fight, who would win?
Assuming they all killed each other, everyone.
In a battle for the alt-country superstar, who would win between Ryan Adams and Jeff Tweedy?
I've never had much of a grasp on what exactly constitutes "alt-country," but judging by these two names, I'm guessing it's a synonym for "massively overrated." As for Jeff Tweedy, Wilco has taken the crown as the current kings of NPR-Rock; they're one of those inoffensive, classicist, faux-important bands that Fresh Air can really get excited about. Think about all the well-to-do 40-year-old professionals who went out and bought Yankee Hotel Foxtrot thinking it was the totally hip thing to do. If any of them actually listened to it more than once before putting it on their shelf to impress their kids, I commend them. They have superhuman mental defenses against terrible lyrics.
As for Ryan Adams, I studiously ignored him for as long as I could due to his irritating music and personality, but I was amused to hear his new single, "On Your Side," on the radio- you truly are a maverick, Mr. Adams. It takes a brave soul to retread the sort of shitty dramatic pap that's been making failures of mediocre pop bands like Remy Zero for years.
Who's better? Sex Pistols or The Clash?
The traditional answer to this question is that if you're looking for actual musical merit, you'd go for the Clash. However, not being a traditionalist, I'm going to tell you that if you're looking for actual musical merit you wouldn't be listening to punk music. Aside from that, though, I'd still choose The Clash. The only appeal of the Sex Pistols in their own time was their audacity. As far as actually listening to their records now, I wouldn't recommend it; any shock value they may have had is long gone, and their music certainly doesn’t stand on its own merit. Since our civilization has degraded to the point where we hear Iggy Pop and The Buzzcocks in commercials for cruise lines and luxury cars, it's best to leave The Sex Pistols in the past with the knowledge that Punk music was an utter failure in most every respect.
Johnny Rotten: Failure.
Why WAS Dan Akroyd in "We are the world"?
As a citizen of the world, Dan Akroyd had as much right to appear on that record as anyone else.
Why didn't that guy from Drowning Pool choke and die on his own vomit sooner?
Is that what happened to him? If so, I have no idea why it didn't happen sooner. It seems like it was a long time coming. He affected such a stupid back-of-the-throat growly voice that one would imagine he would be unintentionally tripping his gag reflex all the time during the normal course of singing. For this reason, I'd imagine he'd be used to throwing up constantly and would have worked out some sort of system for avoiding inhalation.
Does listening to Boston REALLY make you gay?
No, but this is a commonly held misconception. In reality, listening to Boston makes you a "man's man," which is not to be confused with homosexuality. On the other hand, I suppose that due to its complicated harmonies, it would be easier to sing "Don't Look Back" in the shower if you had several other men with you.
Why does Grammy glory continue to elude They Might Be Giants?
Probably for the same reason that friends and women continue to elude them: their utter repellence. For the sake of technical accuracy, I must grudgingly admit that they did, in fact, in a Grammy for their children's record "No!"
Why do Kurt Cobain and Jack White get on 'best guitarist' lists?
I assume you're talking about the surrealistic farce that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine. When reading it, one could tell that Rolling Stone employed a few cool old dudes who knew their stuff and threw in people like John Cipollina and Tom Verlaine, but their staff mostly consisted of the sort of people who decide to put Britney Spears on the cover of what was once considered a reputable rock magazine. The decisions to include Jack White and Kurt Cobain probably went something along the lines of "hey, Jack White plays the guitar, he's so hot right now!" and "well, Kurt Cobain was technically a guitarist, and mentioning Nirvana still sells copies to the generation-X unemployed stoner demographic." My question to you is this: why would anyone in their right mind still read that disgusting, worthless rag?
Whats your opinion of todays black metal scene?
What, you mean like Living Color? That song "Cult of Personality" was good I guess.
What do you think about the current mainstream music situation, and what deserving underground bands do you see getting their "big break" in the next 1-2 years?
All the really good bands come out of nowhere and kick everyone's ass unexpectedly. Looking at every group of no-talent, stubbly college dropouts that comes along in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough is a total waste of time. Do you actually know anyone who doesn't just skip the "ON" or "HOT NEW ARTISTS" sections in music magazines? Neither do I.
If you could smite one person/band from the musical scene, who would it be and why?
Male version of Cher?
- Faaip De Oaid
I'm sure you'll be disappointed that I'm not picking some audacious and daring option like Jack White or Thom Yorke, but I have to be honest with you and with myself. I'd definitely smite the lead singer of Nickelback, who looks like a greased Canadian Jesus and sings heartfelt, gravelly-voiced odes to tough, manly love affairs. This website is usually above printing lowbrow potty-humor, but I must admit that his straining voice makes it difficult to avoid imagining that he does his best studio vocal work while on the toilet working out a particularly complicated intestinal blockage.
Ok, so of these three which one really is "The Beatles" of our generation: Radiohead, Nirvana, or Outkast?
Let's face it; the closest our generation got to The Beatles was the Spice Girls.
If Poison, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Warrant, and Stryper all got in a Battle of the Wussiest Bands of the 80's, which one would win?
They would all be beaten resoundingly and conclusively by Winger. I defy you to name even one of the bands you listed whose lead singer's name is "Kip."
What ever happened to knowing how to play your guitar in American music?
Apparently sometime around 1989 the United Kingdom stole America's "SECRET GUITAR PLANS" and left American indie floundering for a decent guitarist while British indie had them to spare. As for mainstream rock, nobody's had much luck with a guitar lately on either side of the pond.
What are your views on the rock and roll god Wesley Willis?
If I wanted to listen to a retard tunelessly howling about who or what he had sex with I'd listen to Limp Bizkit.
Who would I get more Indie credibility by sleeping with: Winona Ryder or Winona Judd?
Neither one, starfucker. If you want indie credibility you have to sleep with an indie musician who nobody knows is gay yet. I'd start working on Stephen Malkmus, it looks like that guy's going to crack soon.
Stephen Malkmus: Gay?
Which of Mike Patton's screeching randomness albums is the best - objectively - and why? I'm looking for a CD I can play to scare away the bats in my attic.
-Zack “Geisteditor” Parsons
I wish I knew enough about Mike Patton's screeching randomness albums to help you out. Wait! No I don't!
Why does every new song feature 'Sean Paul' when he is a terrible 'musician'?
Apparently you've been listening to the "All Sean Paul All The Time" station, because in my experience I have found that the vast majority of music does not feature Sean Paul. For example, I haven't heard even one Tom Jones song that features Sean Paul, but now that I think about it, I would love to.
Polyphonic Spree: What the fuck?
Lots of bands annoy me, but Polyphonic Spree is one of the only bands that really scares me. In case people out there haven't heard of them, they're what you'd get if you crossed the Partridge Family with Heaven's Gate. It's some sort of a band/cult/hippie commune that plays uplifting, energetic, highly disturbing music. It's sort of like Spiritualized, but instead of songs about heroin you get songs about non-specific spiritual enlightenment. If some guys in robes ever corner you in a dark alley and ask if you want to join a band, kill as many as possible and run away as fast as your legs can carry you.
Kool-Aid Party Inevitable
People here in left-wing socialist-camp Brandeis-University New England bitch about how great the British music scene is nowadays. Is England's music scene currently better off than America's?
-The New Zorker
Definitely not. At this point, British rock bands are either ripping off lugubrious wuss-rock like Coldplay or imitating the insipid American garage-rock revival. Just like with the American Grunge scene, all of the Britpop mainstays of the 90s are either gone or have deteriorated into worthless self-parody. The well of great British songwriting has, at least for now, entirely dried up.
Who would win in a fight: Phil Collins, or Peter Gabriel?
Well, I certainly don't know who keeps their body more fit, but since Phil Collins is a drummer I'd imagine he has quite a bit of stamina and upper-body strength. However, something tells me (and I think most casual listeners would agree) that Peter Gabriel is quite a bit smarter. Wits certainly can't always win a fight, but if the two of them were otherwise fairly evenly matched it could tip the balance. All in all, I'd say too close to call. Personally, I'd prefer to see Phil Collins get his ass kicked.
Who rocks harder, KISS or Wyld Stallyns?
I would vote for Wyld Stallyns, since they have among their ranks one actual musician (Keanu Reeves of Dogstar).
Is there a better guitarist out there than Steve Vai?
-30k in weight
I don't give a lot of credit to guitarists who won their status with technical skill. I pretty much just categorize "technical" guitar players as egotistical idiot-savants popular among nerds and people with no concept of art. If you're asking if there are any guitarists more technically skilled than Vai, I don't know. There probably aren't a lot of them. However, being the most technically skilled guitar player in the world means about as much in terms of actually making good music as would being the most technically skilled topiary gardener.
How would you sum up Trent Reznor's influence on music, especially with regard to "angst rock" - to what degree might he be to blame for the latter?
This is a pretty tough question. He probably does bear an incredible amount of influence over today's terrible angst rock, but at the same time, it's hard to really blame him for it, since the music which was originally responsible for his fame and success seemed to be the earnest and heartfelt complaints of a nerdy teenager blessed with some degree of actual musical ability. Sure, "Pretty Hate Machine" wasn't great in any sense of the word, but at least it was sincere, and his style of angst-pop was, at the time, sort of original. Nowadays, however, bands like Linkin Park make their names with nothing but rehashed nu-metal tripe and unmitigated whining. Instead of whining authentically about being nerdy teenagers, they are merely pretending to be nerdy teenagers in order to get rich. Trent Reznor probably caused a lot of really shitty music to be made (and in terms of his later material, he made some himself). However, I don't think we can really hate him for it.
A lot of people I know think Mars Volta is the best thing since oral sex. Why does such a shitty band have such a strong following?
At the core of their beings, a lot of indie-sheep really just want to listen to Pink Floyd like their dads. However, it's seen as direly uncool among indie circles to listen to prog-rock. Therefore, the indie scene had to invent its own hideous bastardization of prog-rock in order to satisfy the dark unconscious urges of all the hipsters out there. This is the only possible explanation for the success of The Mars Volta.
I'd like to thank all the forum members for their thoughtful questions. If you never ask, you'll probably never learn, because only ridiculously smart people like myself can have much hope of figuring out things on their own. On that note, if you have any particularly compelling questions to ask me, you can always send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. Although I can't respond to all of my mail, I usually try to reserve some time to enlighten the truly clueless.