Your Genre Sucks: Debriefing
Quite a few people wrote to me and expressed their disappointment that I didn’t tackle any of the bazillion arbitrary subgenres of electronic music. It’s not as if I didn’t think of electronic music immediately when I sat down to ponder ridiculous subgenres, because it’s the obvious thing that comes to mind. Unfortunately, complaints about the abundance of electronic subgenres are, as far as music humor goes, pretty goddamned hackneyed at this point; they’re the music snob equivalent of Viagra jokes. Picking on electronic music for its nerdy over-categorization might seem a little unfair, considering the comparably ridiculous number of rock subgenres. Then again, a reasonable person might easily confuse techstep with nu skool breaks, whereas nobody in their right mind would mistake emo for hair metal. Genre distinctions in rock generally follow from some major difference in the music’s characteristics; if it followed the same rules for subgenre-creation that electronic music did, people would be saying “check this out, I’ve invented ‘backwoods prison rock.’ It’s like ‘prison rock’ but with a harmonica.” Plus, rock has the mitigating factor of being real music, whereas the world of electronic music is totally lacking in soul, talent and artistic relevance. Yeah, that’s right, I’m going to go ahead and paint in absurdly broad strokes just because I can. Now let me open up my e-mail client and watch some geeks flip their scruffy lids; if anyone is wound tightly enough that tedious shit like Boards of Canada or M83 could actually stir excitement within them, I can’t wait to see what a tongue-in-cheek insult does to them.
All in all, I got about 250 e-mails from people who had something to say about my genre-slating. Lord knows I didn’t even attempt to read them all, because acknowledging people’s requests would mean having to write even more. In the interest of fairness, I figure I should just pick a few e-mails randomly and respond to them with my charming and irrepressible wit, thus making the senders feel like they’ve won some sort of Dave-lottery. That way, everyone’s happy: I’m happy because I don’t have to respond to hundreds of letters, the writers of the letters I choose to respond to are happy because they get to air their questions publicly, and the people I don’t respond to… well, I guess they’re not happy, but two out of three isn’t bad. Okay, first of all, here’s a message from someone calling himself “Omega Mac.”
You forgot some:
Brutal death metal
80's hair metal
Fantsy death metal
Whatever the fuck the cure is. thank you for your time, unless you didn't read this then fuck you.
Jesus H. Christ, I should not have randomly picked that letter. This is going to suck. Okay, Omega Mac, you got lucky. Let me try to give you some definitions:
Metal: Okay, we know what this one is. This is where guys with long hair wail like tone-deaf banshees and play jerk-off guitar solos for arenas full of sleazy heshers with flimsy mustaches, dragon t-shirts, and 14-year-old girlfriends. I thought it died out in the late Eighties, but I guess some sorry souls are still clinging to its corpse.
Black Metal and Death Metal: This is that awful tomfoolery with the big pretentious song structures and “BWAAARGHHH” vocals and Scandinavian guys who burn down orphanages and eat each others’ brains, right? The best part of this stuff is the band names, which sound like ten-year-olds trying to name their secret no-girls-allowed clubs.
Brutal Death Metal: I assume this is like death metal but with slightly more intense band names. Like, for example, instead of a pedestrian death metal name like “Festering Corpse,” maybe a brutal death metal band would be called “Grotesque Festering Corpse.”
[80’s] Hair Metal: Shh, we’re trying to forget.
Fantasy Metal: Well, all metal fans play Dungeons and Dragons and read shitty fantasy novels. That’s just a given. But some of them are so nerdy that they can’t even enjoy their metal without explicit references to elves and swords and dragon-slaying. Hence this crap.
Fantasy Death Metal: Same as above, I’d imagine, but probably deals with mercilessly slaughtering elves for Satan.
Metalcore: Adding “core” to the end of a type of music is functionally the same as adding “for morons in white belts.” So, take all the awfulness of hardcore and add some bitchin’ guitar riffs. Or, alternatively, take metal and remove anything that might be mistaken for music.
Grind: How does one even go about distinguishing a good grind band from a bad one? I posit that it’s impossible, and I don’t think I can be proven wrong.
Light Metal: I’ve never heard of it. Is it like light rock? Is it metal for sissies? Somewhere out there is there the metal equivalent of Christopher Cross? “When you get caught between the moon and Satan’s fiery maw…”
Heaby Metal: What the fuck does “heaby” mean? Is this heavy metal for guys with sinus problems?
Rap Metal: I’d say that rap metal is music for stupid people, but that’s not really fair. Everyone who listens to rap metal is stupid, but not all stupid people listen to rap metal.
Rap-Black-Metal: Rap metal with creepy Scandinavian guys?
Rap-Death-Black-Nu-Metalcore: Rap metal with creepy Scandanavian guys and scarier names and white belts?
Pop-Punk: The opposite of punk.
Nu-Metal: The opposite of… music.
Goth Metal: Stay away from this stuff, kids, it’s bad news and you don’t need it (writing that gives me credit toward my state-mandated community service hours).
Whatever The Fuck The Cure Is: I already did post-punk, but I guess later The Cure turned into sort of a warbling sad-sack goth-pop band. So, uh, am I telling you about warbling sad-sack goth-pop? It’s sort of like what the Cure does.
Jesus, that was a pain in the ass! Thanks for writing in and making me do all that work, Omega Mac, you sack of shit! Okay, let’s see, who shall I choose next? Here’s one from Jacob:
you should write a guide about the whole spectrum of electronic music and its draconian sub-genre segregation and intermarrige. ie: .tech house, tech step, techno. .acid house, acid jazz, acid trance. .techstep, hardstep, jazzstep, darkstep.
Why, no, in fact. No I should not. Thanks for writing, Jacob! Next! Okay, here’s one from Tristan Nelo:
I listen to Symphonic Death Metal!
So, what are you looking for? A diagnosis? Okay, you listen to symphonic death metal because you were kicked in the head by a horse as a child and your brain mistakenly interprets cacophonous baroque frippery as music. Best of luck with your terrifying condition. Now on to a letter from some poor kid named Lord Skeletor 667:
I try to be nice to this hot-topic-goth-freshman girl at my school, even though shes fat, ugly and i suspect her of being a furry. Still, any attempt to converse outside of the classroom activities where were forced to speak french to one another invariably turns to discussion of some music crap called "DarkWave." She wants me to listen to it. I'm too scared that what I find could involve furries, so I hope youll be nice enough to find out about it for the benifit of myself and the entire Something Awful community. You know, dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, right? Martyrdom, self-sacrifice and all that. jolly good, old chap.
Well, Skeletor, as I understand it, Darkwave is just a fancy name for goth music in general, from goth-rock like Bauhaus to hilarious industrial crap like Switchblade Symphony. Now that you know that, good luck with your poorly-concealed efforts to have sex with a fat girl. Dulce et decorum est pro fatbitch copulati. Here’s a letter from my main man Dan Fraser:
Man, you "hit the nail on the head" so well there with the grunge, etc article that I had to sit and find a terribly clichéd phrase just to describe it! "Your Band Sucks" is fantastic! You need to 'review' some 80's synth-pop so I can feel good about you doing something I suggested in an email! And please, print the complaints (which are almost as funny as the article, just without so much truth).
First of all, sorry about failing to print any complaints this time. I hope I made up for it by whining about having to respond to people’s letters! Anyway, as for 80s synth-pop: it lies under the umbrella of “New Wave,” although that’s a much broader term encompassing people like Patti Smith and Elvis Costello (who were too lame to be called punks by real punks and too pretentious to allow the press to call them punks). There isn’t much to say about 80s synth-pop, since it’s by definition a dead genre and can only harm us in the form of irritating late-night “Best of the 80s” compilation commercials which create obscene Franken-tunes from the choruses of a hundred unrelated songs. Have you ever had a tune stuck in your head that wasn’t even a song, but a cobbled-together commercial for a compilation? “I wish I had Jesse’s girl… too shy shy… der kommisar’s in town… Oh! Tainted love… who can it be now?... rock me Amadeus!” The horror is indescribable. Here’s a message from Ryan Carlton, who looks to be asking the same question that ten other people ask me every week:
Just a question for the all-knowing wit that you provide us,
What kind of music do YOU listen to?
Well, Ryan, I listen to a whole bunch of music. How would I be able to make fun of all these different sorts of music unless I’d heard them all? I listen to more music in a day than you listen to in a year. I play LPs at 45 RPM just to get through them faster (my brain automatically adjusts the speed so I hear them correctly). As I’m writing this, I’ve got three different CDs playing at once. I listen to every style, from Snoop Dogg to Schoenberg. But, wait, are you asking me what sort of music I enjoy? Nothing! I enjoy nothing! Alright, here’s one from Michael Hemingway:
Have you considered adding Eurobeat to that list? It’s a mix between Disco and Techno produced only in Europe and then sold only in Japan. As you could guess, Eurobeat is used mostly in animes such as Initial D and other crappy forms of Japanese entertainment.
It’s only in anime? Why would I bother making fun of a genre that normal people wouldn’t even have any excuse for knowing about? Complaining about Eurobeat and then saying it’s mostly in anime is like complaining that you hate the lighting in crackhouses: your initial complaint is couched in a much deeper and more disturbing problem. Speaking of disturbing, here’s one from Gabe Pesek:
Hey, thanks for doing your column, really amused by the latest one, blah blah, etc. To get to the point, I am writing this e-mail as a reaction to the Genre column you did. To skip past all the stuff I might say which you already know, here’s what I want: For you to listen to some Mindless Self Indulgence, and then tell us what the Hell genre it is. Thanks in advance.
Is “retarded” a genre?
Okay, that’s about as much of the proletariat as I can stomach for one afternoon. Thanks for all the letters. I apologize if you sent me some long-winded letter about how much you love ska and I didn’t reply to it here. If it’s any consolation, your letter was probably just too long to read. Better luck next time! If anyone else wants to say howdy, I can still be reached at email@example.com. Please direct all complaints and arguments toward your therapist, because I don’t care.