I’d like to preface this post with a warning: I’m cranky. I had a super-busy workday, and one of those days where everyone I encountered seemed to be in a shit mood. It appears to have rubbed off on me. Rather than inflict my bad company on you all, I sit at my keyboard and seethe.
Here at home, I can swaddle myself with music I love – though I realize that with both Depeche Mode AND The Smiths in the CD player, I’m surrounded with a loathing layer of sad bastard music. In my cranky condition, though, I’d much rather have Dave Gahan exhort me to suffer well, or hear Morrissey complain about a club where you go and you stand on your own and you leave on your own, than have to deal with a note of Nickelback. OK, Nickelback’s an easy target. What intrigues me more are the bands that I dislike in the face of not only the world, but of good chunks of my inner circle. A friend once advanced her theory to me that no band really sucks; it just may be that you don’t like them, but they could very well be someone else’s favorite band. In that spirit, I present five artists who’ve never enticed me to care about them, even though I can think of many people whose opinions I respect who love these performers. This is The Inessential Noise.
In no particular order…
Listen to Brian Johnson screech on here.
With 200 million records sold worldwide (including a #1 charter in the U.S., Black Ice, as recently as 2008), AC/DC is undoubtedly here to stay. Already popular thanks to Highway to Hell, vocalist Bon Scott’s early end paved the way for Brian Johnson – according to Wikipedia, a rocker that Scott himself compared favorably to Little Richard – to join in and blast the group to the stratosphere with songs like “You Shook Me All Night Long”. It’s not that they’re hard rock; granted, my tastes don’t naturally lean towards metal, but I’ve nothing against the genre. It’s not ENTIRELY the stupid-ass lyrics, though they’re not exactly a selling point for me, either. (Just look at the song titles: “Given the Dog a Bone”? “Let Me Put My Love Into You”? Subtle, boys.) No, it’s Brian Johnson’s voice, if you can call it that. Unmistakably his, but undeniably to my ears more torturous than nails on a blackboard and a balloon being rubbed simultaneously. This screechy screech screech is the best rock n’ roll that Australia has to offer?
Feel Chris Carrabba’s pain here.
I had such a predilection back in the day for singer-songwriters with their hearts on their sleeves that this type of performer was branded “Angie Music” by my Shreveport peers, and they didn’t mean it lovingly. At the time, this encompassed guys as varied as John Mayer, Jude, and David Garza. Jeff Buckley probably narrowly avoided this mental ghetto, since my friends actually decided to give him a listen and then approved. “Angie Music” wasn’t as easy to predict as the above description makes it sound. I was never really into Jack Johnson, or Ben Harper, or pretty much anyone who could be classified as “emo”. But my vitriol was reserved for the band that was likely the most popular emo group at the sub-genre’s rise to prominence: Dashboard Confessional. Dashboard has members, but was born as a solo side project for one Chris Carrabba, then of the band Further Seems Forever. The music is insular, passionate, an obvious baring of the soul for the singer…and it leaves me cold. Though I’ve heard Carrabba is an incredibly nice man – and he’s fairly easy on the eyes. Sometimes, I think I don’t like Dashboard Confessional simply because people expected me to like it.
“YYZ” will kick your ass in Guitar Hero. Listen here.
I appreciate something that’s well-crafted, well-done. The perfect cut of sashimi. A beautifully rendered piece of furniture. But I wonder how much of a place “perfection” really has in the world of rock. Isn’t the whole idea that rock n’ roll is a rough-edged rebellion? That anyone can play guitar? And herein lies my major issue with Rush. This sounds strange, but Rush is too…GOOD for me. Trust me, I realize that to pull off the crazy chord configurations of this trio takes an amazing level of skill. It’s also quite a feat that Rush’s main lineup is unchanged since 1974. I respect what Rush does immensely, but I don’t have to like it. (There have been times when I’ve called Rush the golf of rock.) Also, Geddy Lee has to my ears one of the most nasally voices in rock, which can be off-putting, though nasally lead vocals didn’t stop me from getting into R.E.M., Dave Matthews Band, or Placebo at various points in my life.
Chevy Chase very nearly could have played here.
I’ve never cared for Steely Dan for much of the same reason I don’t care for Rush: they’re actually a little TOO good at what they do. But while Rush seem like friendly, approachable Canadians in their offstage lives, I’ve always gotten the impression that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker think they’re smarter than the rest of us, classier than us…better than us. Once you get past admittedly radio-friendly tunes like “Reelin’ in the Years” and “Do It Again”, Steely Dan really makes their money by putting out these incredibly precise, intellectual jazz-rock-funk-lite FM odysseys of albums that always feel like a bit of a dare. You just have to be cool enough to get on their wavelength, maaaaan. Or, perhaps I’m just too young. A church organist’s attempt to bond with the hubby and I while planning our wedding has led to us impersonating all musically out-of-touch oldsters with this line: “Hey, you kids like Steely Dan?” They still pull in the concert crowds and won four Grammys – including Album of the Year, besting Radiohead’s Kid A – for 2000’s Two Against Nature, so there’s a lot of goodwill in the music world for the Dan, just not with me. (Side note, does anyone actually call them “the Dan”?)
“Voulez-Vous” and whoop-de-doo. Listen here.
This fifth slot could have gone to The Doors, or perhaps to Fleetwood Mac. However, I’m going to reserve this space for a band that perhaps I could grow to like, if persuaded: ABBA. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the foursome’s harmonies, and it seems like Bjorn and Benny had a knack for writing earworms. Once “Dancing Queen” is lodged in your skull, good luck getting it out. They’ve been phenomenally successful: apparently, ABBA are the fourth best-selling artists in the history of recorded music. Even their backstory is fascinating, with the couplings and uncouplings and rejected multimillion dollar reunion offers. (And they won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974!) No, ABBA may be on this list for the most benign reason of all: I’ve just never been extensively exposed to them, so I don’t have much of an opinion on them. What I’ve heard didn’t sway me one way or the other. I don’t love or hate ABBA; they just are. Strange for a band that’s sold 375 million records worldwide.
Is one of your favorite artists on this list? Please, step up and defend them. I’m an open-minded human being, perhaps you can sway my thinking. (Well, maybe not on AC/DC.) Or, share your own personal Inessential Noise in the comments. The musicians I love could very well be ones you hate, but ultimately, that’s what makes all this music talk interesting, and all of us multifaceted fans, right?
PS: I feel much better now.