I’m deeply sorry that I wasn’t able to update last time, loyal readers. In addition to preparing a load of hot top-secret shit for NASA, I was also incredibly busy due to my rigorous finals-week tutoring schedules at many of the nation’s top universities. I apologize for my absence; I realize that Lowtax isn’t paying me thirty-five grand a month so I can jet off to the intellectual hubs of the Western world and teach astrophysics to brilliant postdoctoral students whenever I feel like it. Now watch as I clear my mind of numbers and rocket physics and stuff and stupefy you with some brilliant music criticism:
In Defense of Avril
Uttering the name “Avril Lavigne” in most elitist music-snob circles will provoke a response not unlike that which might result from saying the name “George W. Bush” on the quad of a liberal arts college. All conversation will fall silent. The eyes of those in attendance will fix on you, trying to work out whether you mentioned the name with a tone of spite or, heaven forbid, with a tone of approval. If the slightest barely-perceptible indicator betrays that you have anything but pure righteous hatred of the person named and all that he or she stands for, you’ll be bitterly (and at great length) harangued about, depending on the circumstances, the co-optation of “punk” imagery by the mainstream or dead Iraqi babies. The Bush-Lavigne analogy falls apart when one considers the actual reasoning behind the hatred. Young liberals hate George W. Bush due to what they see as a clear history of quantifiable villainy, but musical elitists hate Avril Lavigne for a far more selfish reason: they hate her for what they think she’s taken away from them.
Which Is Who?Just what do they think she’s taken away? Well, first of all, they can’t wear ties anymore, obviously. To a hipster, it would be an unrecoverable loss of face if a total stranger silently and fleetingly assumed that their dandy wardrobe was inspired by a teenaged Canadian pop-star instead of by Paul Weller. What hipsters don’t realize is that the average stranger sees the tie as nothing more than an easy way to file the hipster’s image under the “preening jackasses who are trying to impress someone” section of their mental rolodex. She’s taken many elements of the indie/punk style of dress and made them more accessible to fourteen-year-old girls than ever before. Business is booming at Hot Topic, and it’s not just for goths anymore. Some hipsters might even have become wary of slathering on ridiculous amounts of eyeliner, which has long been a staple of the female (and in many cases, male) hipster look. I think even most hipsters will be fair enough to agree, however, that Avril’s eyeliner use is not so much a theft of their stylistic ground as it is her way of preventing herself from looking exactly like Axl Rose (I’m not saying that as a dig on Avril; it is absolutely and irrefutably true).O, I Die, HoratioIt goes deeper than ties and white belts, though. To thousands of people, hearing the name “Avril Lavigne” mentioned in the same breath as the word “punk” is like being slapped in the face with the bloated corpse of their counterculture. Typing those two terms into Google, in fact, will yield countless sites dissecting her connection to that term. She’s hailed as a “punk princess” by some sites and derided as a reprehensible poseur by many more. The truth of the matter is she has more in common with Marilyn Manson than Sid Vicious, in a strange way. Why on earth would I make such a ridiculous statement? It’s simple: she is the whipping-boy for an imaginary moral decline. Much as the Christian right deemed Marilyn Manson a dangerous puppy-smashing psychopath responsible for turning thousands of misfit teenagers against The Lord, the music snobs of the world have deemed Avril Lavigne a manufactured fake responsible for spoon-feeding direly un-hip pop music to thousands of preteens under the false banner of punk. However, any sane person can see that the notion that Avril could possibly contribute anything to the destruction of punk simply by her fairly ridiculous association with it is as laughable as thinking Marilyn Manson ever had any hope of making a lasting impact on anything other than the world’s supply of assless vinyl unitards. The word “punk” has been dragged through the mud for decades by such notorious mainstream faux-punk hacks as Billy Idol and Blink 182. Thousands are concerned that Avril Lavigne has taken something away from the credibility of punk, but perhaps they fail to see that punk has been greedily digesting itself since the moment it began.
So what are the “real” punks worried about? Is their connection on coolness so tenuous that Avril Lavigne actually poses a threat to it? Why should they care about the tastes of a demographic that’s using punk rebellion via Avril to wean them off the Olsen Twins? Their major problem, as I see it, is jealousy. Whether they like it or not, whether it’s authentic or not, Avril Lavigne has done more to invigorate the concepts of punk style and punk music than any of their “real” bands have done in years. She’s put the word “punk” on the tongues of more young people than Jello Biafra ever did. She may be nothing more than a vapid teenager to them, but they hate her for one reason more than any other: she won.
It’s time for the snobs of the world to face the fact that Avril is the future and “authentic” punk is the past. Punk has never been more accessible, what with The Buzzcocks playing in car commercials and Johnny Rotten appearing on reality television. Despite anyone’s best efforts to prevent it, younger and younger kids are going to get curious about punk; since it’s already entered the mainstream in manifold ways, it’s ridiculous to blame Avril or her fans for trying to get in on the coolness bandwagon. She provides an accessible alternative to punk’s fragmented and, in many cases, quite befuddling extremes. Almost every person who considers him or herself a punk has a totally different idea of what punk is; some will tell you that the real punk was only made by angry, sweaty Californian ne’er-do-wells in the 80s, some will tell you that it was made by squealing art-school dropouts in the UK in 1977, and some will probably try to sell you on some hideous hardcore bullshit. To deny Avril Lavigne her place in the lineage of punk music would be short-sighted and ridiculous.
Avril Lavigne, in her own way, is trying to express her alienation in modern society. Sure, she might not have the vitriol of Johnny or the cynicism of Jello, but she is expressing her situation in her own words, and doing so on her own terms. Take “My World,” a track from her debut album as an example:
I never spend less than an hour,
Washin' my hair in the shower,
It always takes five hours to make it straight,
So I'll braid it in a zillion braids,
Though it may take a friggin' day,
There's nothin' else better to do anyway.
Now, if you will, compare it to the Dead Kennedys’ classic “Too Drunk To Fuck.”
Went to a party
I danced all night
I drank 16 beers
And I started up a fight
But now I am jaded
You're out of luck
I'm rolling down the stairs
Too drunk to fuck
What’s the difference? Both of them offer lucid commentary on the lives of the writers. Jello wouldn’t relate to Avril’s lyrics, but Avril certainly wouldn’t relate to Jello’s. Why would one of them begrudge the other the freedom to express the meaningful circumstances of their existence? To stifle or deride such an expression, obviously, wouldn’t be very “punk.”
Is the social confusion and bewilderment of a teenage girl somehow not an important part of the cultural conversation? How is touring malls, as Ms. Lavigne did earlier this year, any less of a comment on consumer-driven society than playing dingy clubs? Why not just quit complaining and let the kids have their fun? Why deny that these very same kids represent the future of punk? The answers that a “real” punk might give to these questions would all point back to the same thing: snobbish, closed-minded elitism. So I ask of you, you hipsters, punk-snobs, and Avril-haters: “Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?”
Now, On To The Creamy Filler!
I get a lot of e-mail. Most of it, to be perfectly honest, is from intelligent, inquisitive, good-humored and funny people (the type of people who we’d like to imagine read Something Awful). The problem with mail from people like that, obviously, is that it’s not stupid enough to laugh at. Fortunately for all of us, there’s also mail from the other type of people: the dumb, the irritable, the clueless, and the generally shit-headed. As a special treat to all of you, I’ve decided to showcase some of my very favorite goofy e-mails so that you may laugh along with me!
First up, here’s one from Captain Capitalization!
Subject: Your Review On Covers
Dear Mr Thorpe,Hello There GuysHi,How Are You?,Oh I Am Fine Thank You,But Enough About Me,Let Me Ask You Something,Just One Something,Why Did You Not Like Donnie Darko,I Am Not A Lonely Nerd And I Liked It,I Would Say The Reason You Didnt Like It Was Because You Failed To Fully Comprehend The Film,But After Seeing Much Of Sa's Content I Have Full Confidence In The Intelligence Of Just About Every One Of Whoever You People May Be,so Then Why David,Why Did You Express Such Distaste In A Movie That Was A Masterpeice,True It Was Not Exactly Perfectly Written(It Was The Directors Debut,Im Sure You Already Know That Though),And The Acting Was At Times Ass Loving At Best,But If You Actually Understood The Film,You See That There Is A Very Well Thought Out Message,I Know That The Cheesy Overcoat Of This Movie Makes Most People Not Want To Pay Enough Attention To Get The Message,But I Was Just Wondering What You Specifically Think Of Donnie Darko,And Why,And If Your Review Doesnt Express Any Of Your Actual Opinions Then Feel Free To Let Me Know What A Douche Bag I Am,Please,Oh And Speaking Of Douche Bags Save Our Country And Go To www.Johnkerryisadouchebagbutimvotingforhimanyway.com,Thank You Very Much For Your Time Mr Thorpe,Or Whoevers Eyes Or Artificial Eyes May Be Glancing Upon This Worthless Scrap Of Cyber Paper,Well Alas I Mus Bid You Adieu Mr Thorpe,hope to Hear Back From You Or One Of (The Affiliates,Acolytes,Etc.) Sa Crew
Have A Wonderful Non Child Pornographic Day(Sick Fucks)
I certainly hope you didn’t try to read all of that! Lord knows I didn’t, because he apparently did his best to make it entirely fucking unreadable. I’m absolutely amazed that this guy had the fortitude to depress the shift key so many times in one sitting. He’s pretty goddamn lucky that a standard keyboard has two shift keys; that means he only has to buy a new keyboard every two weeks.
Next up, let’s hear from Deranged Tool Fan #30183:
From: firstname.lastname@example.orgGo Fight A Real FireI am not sending an email to promote hate against you or curse you out in any manner what i am here is for what you have been doing on your "spare" time on the Internet i for one do not appreciate the lies you have told about the band TOOL by any means TOOL doesnt subjugate any proposal to fans to make them feel special and "Unique" also i have a problem with you saying that TOOL hates TOOL fans by every aspect of what walks this modern earth you out of everyone should know how to read the lyrics arent talking about Hating fans it is talking about Promoting against Homosexuals and if you can't understand, then you are in a trance of blindness your views are self centered and evolve around you for you try and make a crowd of people like you to pit against TOOL.............Maynard James Keenan is a very gifted Vocalist as well as the rest of the band i give them my at most full credit of being a rock band they are one of the very few out today still making "MUSIC" and for you to bash on that is just absurd wll Dr. i would have expected you to understand TOOL but you do not i pity you and your views and if i were you i would think twice about writing a false statement about TOOL in other words "GO FIGHT A REAL FIRE" thank you for your time
Subject: Please Read This Dr. David Thorpe
If you taken the time to read this then by all means continue
-Johnathan L. Markson
This guy, unlike the previous guy, knows what capitalization is really for. It’s to spice things up! Remember: capitalizing random words in the Middle of Sentences adds Impact to your addled, incomprehensible rambling! It’s really difficult to pick out a favorite line from this masterpiece, but if I had to choose one, I’d probably choose the stinging barb of a closer: “GO FIGHT A REAL FIRE!” One can only assume that “GO FIGHT A REAL FIRE” was something that Jonathan L. Markson heard on television and didn’t fully understand.
Next up, we turn to a distinguished non-racist for some insightful commentary:
(Not A Racist)From: LimitedHeadSpace@aol.com
Subject: damn you suck at life
jesus christ!! you have to be the stupidest, most ignorant, cum-guzzling nigger on the fucking planet. you think huey lewis is going to save rock? fuck you. your probably one of those pretty boy record executives who so obviously has no idea what real talent is or was. the savior of rock is in the underground. but someone as stupid as you wouldn't know that because you suck the cock of every higher up you have and get assraped by a bunch of people that i can truly classify as "a bunch of niggers that belong in a cage in a line to be put to death". basically you are the stupidest piece of shit on the fuckin planet. even if your not real, your creators are a bunch of talent squashing porch-monkeys who belong in a fucking torture chamber because you wouldn't know real music if it bit you on your stupid nigger asses. by the way, im not racist at all, your just a real nigger
We ought to feel privileged to live in a time when a person can toss around terms like “nigger” and “porch monkey” and advocate the caging and execution of “niggers” with little fear that someone might mistake him for, God forbid, a racist. Thank heavens that the youth of today are living in an environment where the word “nigger” is divorced from any and all racial connotations. Hopefully we can all just look back on a distant time when throwing that word around would be grounds for expulsion from polite society and laugh! Remember to drop LimitedHeadSpace@aol.com a line and let him know just how much you admire him for being such a forward-thinking progressive.
But enough serious social commentary:
Subject: something awful…
YOUR FUCKING AWFUL!!!! The strokes failed to save rock? you reject ass retard, the strokes did fucking save rock!!! i have TWO strokes tattoos, the strokes are the greatest thing to happen to music since the beatles... YOUR GONNA FAIL, AT TALKING YOUR WAY OUT OF THIS FUCKING ASS BEATING IM GONNA GIVE YOU!! YOU NO DICK PUSSY LOSER!
Jesus, I’d better hire some personal security. Never underestimate the wrath of a man with two Strokes tattoos. One Strokes tattoo is enough to show that you are pretty keen on the Strokes, but TWO? That can only mean one thing: bad motherfucker.
Subject: you suck
dude you fucking deserve to die, i hope you get run over by a car listening to radiohead, thatd be irony for you
I take it this guy went to the Alanis Morissette School of Not Knowing What The Fuck Irony Is. Those of us who aren’t fortunate enough to have that sort of education, however, would probably find his statement pretty hilarious, ignorant as we are. Those of us with a more traditional view of irony might imagine that me being hit by a car [whose occupants were] listening to Radiohead would be incredibly ironic, if in fact all my articles were extended brags about my superhuman immunity to Radiohead-related car crashes.
Subject: quick question
Dear Dr. Thorpe,
This will probably seem a stupid question, but what does the term "indie" mean? I hear about "indie movies" and "indie rock", but I've never been able to figure out what it means. I'm guessing it has something to do with Indiana or Indianapolis? If you could give me a glimmer of a clue I'd appreciate it. Thanks!
Aww, this guy doesn’t seem to be a moron like the other people whose mail I’ve posted, but his question is just so damn cute! In case you’re wondering, the right answer is “Indiana.”
That’s all for this time around, but come back soon for more brain-melting brilliance from the smartest man on the internet. If you’d like to contact me to let me know how much you love me and all that I stand for, go ahead and write a message to email@example.com. If you have any questions or complaints, please add the subject line “I AM AN IDIOT – PLEASE DELETE”; this is merely an “internet code” which will assure that your message receives the priority treatment it deserves.
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According to Dr. David Thorpe and "Your Band Sucks," the music you hold dear is actually unimportant, dull, and staggeringly awful. Everything from folk music to terrorcore-techstep is absolute garbage that has somehow fallen off the trash heap of modern music and found its way into your CD player.
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