Death by Mixtape

In which the author stops being polite and gets real. Sorta.

My new friend, Sloan, recently asked an anonymous dude at a party what he thought about me, and anonymous dudewho may, in fact, be an acquaintance, if not a close friendcurtly replied, "His taste in music sucks." The positive, fundamentally legitimate spin Sloan put on the dis: If that's the worst thing somebody can say about you, you're living kinda large as a human being. (These people are evidently unaware of my underground newborn-volleyball league and fondness for extinguishing cigarettes on kittens' foreheads.)

As beautiful as her sentiment was, the meat-and-potatoes of the original text sent my fragile ego careening into "the zone," and I'm talking Mariah's zone, not Shitney's. My existence, my livelihood, my meager means of affording black opals and Jumbo Jacks is my sucky taste in music! Is Anonymous Party Dude an exception to the city/scene's Bonz-sensus, or do you all seriously assume that I drive around Capitol Hill bobbing my head to Korn because I'm deeply moved by a pudgy guy in dreads barking, "BOOM NA DA MMM DUM NA EMA"?

I should stop being polite and start getting real for a spell, because God forbid I don't satiate everybody all of the time. On the cultural gamut from "Bud-swilling functional retard" to "heroin-tracked ultrasnob," I obviously skew wayyyy to the left. Nü metal, nü grunge, pop-punk, third-generation emoyou know, 99.9 percent of modern rock radio, the Darkness' "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" being the glorious 0.1 percent mystery meat exceptionthose are, indeed, my staple foods. Here's a more specific gastrointestinal breakdown:

Fifty percent of me abhors the shit for transforming innocent, well-meaning kids into clueless, troglodytic assholes.

Thirty percent of me appreciates it in that ironic, hee-hee-I-know-the-lyrics-to-a-P.O.D.-song way, which entertains my friends far more than it should.

Twenty percent of me fucking loves it, straight-up, for whittling the big brain of Bonz down to its sex-and-drugs-and-smashing-shit-rules core. As for a "message," as much as I detest their distortion-free, sissy-boy bullshit, the Beatles covered that already. A few decades later, Slayer filled in the blanks. End of story.

An example: Liz Phair's latest self-titled album is an inarguable front-runner for worst of the year. I don't need to hear a second of Exile in Guyville or Exile on Main Street to realize this. Liz Phair is a Hostess Ding Dong of a record, appealing only in its bizarre, past-expiration-date succulence. It contains a song called "Rock Me" that is already infamous in critical circles via Phair's creepy, predatorial longing for an Xbox-playing frat stud to "rock" her "all night long." The track is as thoroughly catchy as it is disgustingI have taught myself its rudimentary chord progressions and rather enjoy ogling myself, Patrick Bateman-style, in the reflection of my TV screen as I play and sing it. "Rock Me" is overproduced, pandering, and grotesque in its extolment of meaningless, manipulative sex. Everything about my 50/30/20 breakdown applies.

Still think I'm a tourist, a child, a cretin, an amateur? Hey, I wasn't born in Bellingham; I was born breech in Buffalo, home of the Goo Goo Dolls. I didn't go to school at Evergreen; I sleepwalked to a B.A. at Kent State University, home of the Rob Zombie midnight madness sale. My first three shows weren't the Smiths, the Pixies, and the Clashthey were Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots, and believe me, I did not see any difference between the first and the other two. I was a skinny, lonely, boring suburban honor student who wanted to be Eddie Vedder and Scott Weiland. I still do, for all the right, if strangely paradoxical, reasons: The former has evolved into the most uncompromising, morally sound, big-rock hard-ass since Neil Young, and the latter appears to be above the law.

Generation One Grunge changed my life more than a decade ago; Lost Dogs, PJ's double B-sides album, and Thank You, the now-defunct STP's terribly titled, contract-fulfilling best-of, are pleasant reminders of my nefarious upbringing. I could spend hours bemoaning Pearl Jam's subtle rerecordings of Ten-era tracks like "Wash," "Alone," and "Dirty Frank," which extract Vedder's awesome "hoo-ha-HOO-YEAH!" histrionics in the interest of complying with the band's far more reserved modern approach. I could spend just as long marveling at Thank You's dud-free hit procession, in which Weiland miraculously blossoms from thuggish Eddie clone into a glamorous, self-destructing, athletic hybrid of Bowie, G.G., and Dan Marino.

On Dogs' final, hidden track, a lullaby honoring Layne Staley, Vedder grouses, "So sing just like him, fuckers. It won't offend him, just me." It's an incredibly personal, solemn, and tragic statement, but I want more fuckers to sing like him, Eddie. Between you and me, damn right they suck. Between the readers and me, they rule. I'll pick up the slack on the suck.

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