Tag Archives: trying not to use the word metacommentary

Tea With Chris: The Reprisalizer

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Chris: In a previous TWC I made a nomination for the greatest tweet ever, the pinnacle of the medium. This one isn’t quite its equal, but it does have a certain beautiful simplicity.

Matthew Holness, best known for the brilliantly awful BBC3 series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, apparently has a film forthcoming: “YOUTH WAS GATHERING IN WESTGATE. CROAKY-VOICED LOAFERS, BLOCKING RIGHTS-OF-WAY AND ANNOYING WAR VETERANS.”

Lest any high-concept meta-jokes go uncracked, someone recorded a hardcore 7″ from the perspective of McGruff the Crime Dog. As Bill Kennedy observed on Facebook, this lyric could be an unwitting tribute to the project’s spiritual Ian MacKaye: “Just because something is safe to use one way / Doesn’t mean it’s safe to use another way.”

Carl: “#Moccupy“: Occupy Wall Street occupies Law and Order: SVU set version of OWS. Police raid it and can’t tell which are real barricades and which are fictional (now they know how we all feel). Protesters chant, “NYPD doesn’t respect Law and Order.” There is almost nothing I could say about this without ruining it, except: Slow. Clap.

I don’t usually do this, but, even though I was the editor on it, my highest recommendation of the week truly is the two long narratives and accompanying lovely photography and other material in this project about an effort to change the lives of “untouchable” girls (yes, caste still exists) in northeast India, by one of The Globe and Mail’s two or three most invaluable talents, my friend Stephanie Nolen.

In lighter feminist reading: You may well disagree with everything X’s Exene Cervenka says in this interview but you’re likely to be highly entertained by her right to say it.

In still-lighter, and hardly-at-all feminist, entertainment: This video the cast and crew of The X-Files apparently made as a birthday present is like a Rosetta Stone of ’90s culture, with an absurd number of ridiculously enjoyable celebrity cameos. It is only slightly undermined by the fact that, as later events were to make clear, its central premise is flawed: It seems highly likely that if you’d told him “love me,” you would have gotten nothing but an affirmative from David Duchovny.

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Filed under carl wilson, chris randle, linkblogging, margaux williamson

The Bands that Don’t Reform, by Antony Harding and Darren Hayman

by Carl Wilson

Hefner, in their salad days, with singer Darren Hayman at left, drummer Ant Harding second from right.

I’m beavering away on my lecture for next week’s 2011 Pop Conference in Los Angeles, where both Chris and I will be presenting among tons of other prominent nerdz. I’ll be schematizing the various ways artists have violated or repositioned the “fourth wall” in their music and how that may or may not relate to reality TV, creative nonfiction and other recent phenomena. I’m not sure if this example is going to fit into the talk (it’s a bit slight) but it tickled me to stumble across it.

Darren Hayman (last seen on B2TW posting a song a day in January) has just put up a single that he recorded with his ex-Hefner bandmate Antony Harding a couple of years ago, “The Bands that Don’t Reform.” The meta-reflexive-whatchamacallit of the project is evident in the title, of course: Here are two members of a band that’s not reforming nevertheless semi-reuniting,  and flirting with the subject in an era when many groups of their ’90s vintage such as Pavement and the Pixies were getting back out on the road to finally get a payday proportionate to their reputations.

But the wink gets more strobe-like in velocity on the very pretty song itself, which turns out to be the story of a couple in the throes of disillusion: “Something here ain’t right/ I loved you at first sight, so why don’t I love you tonight?” They run down all the traits that are driving them apart and reach out in desperation (“tired of getting no sleep”) to “count the things we both believe,” of which there seems to be only one: “We love the bands that don’t reform.”

It could read as a pretty thin joke about a couple of those aforementioned nerdz realizing that they only have their petty music-fanatic dogma left in common, but there’s a second, more bittersweet layer: If they don’t think even the relatively minor business of a rock band trying to reunite has any hope of a good result, then why are they trying to glue together a couple of split-up hearts?

These scenarios seem to melt into each other as the song goes on; many details involve driving from place to place and having mishaps (though also seeing beautiful scenery) like a band on tour. As they explain elsewhere, the love story is a camouflage: The song is about how “they were both crazy when they were in Hefner,” and aren’t crazy anymore, and so won’t ever take the chance of starting that project up again.

Which is another mirror-within-a-mirror: In the song, they’re the audience not wanting their favourite bands’ selfish profit- or glory-seeking to spoil memories of things past; but behind the half-opened fourth wall, they’re musicians with private reasons not to reunite though their fans persist in wanting them to.

Although they don’t say reunite; they say reform, with its other meaning of  shedding bad old habits, becoming a healthier, more law-abiding citizen, not crazy anymore. So the song whispers under its breath, “You don’t want us back like that, anyway, reconstituted as some bland grownup working unit. You want us crazy.”

As Bill Hicks once put it, “When did mediocrity and banality become a good image for your children? I want my children listening to people who fucking rocked! I don’t care if they died in pools of their own vomit! I want someone who plays from his fucking heart! ‘Mommy, the man Bill told me to listen to has a blood bubble on his nose.’ Shut up and listen to him play!”

On the other hand,  Bill Hicks is dead, and while it was cancer not the drugs and alcohol and cigarettes, it may be his own reform came too late. Besides, Hefner were never exactly the trashing-hotel-room types; they were the critics’-darlings-who-look-and-sound-like-critics kinda band.

So this song sees both sides, tells its ambiguous story with a loping, lullaby-like lilt rather than a Hicks-like roar. They still play from their hearts; those hearts are just calmer, and heavier, now, and they play them as they lay, and let sleeping bands lie, in both senses of the word, as we ought to expect by this point.

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Filed under carl wilson, lectures, music