October 18, 2006

"Just hip-hop drivel and godawful indie crap or whiny, lesbian complaint-rock."

Andrew Sullivan whines complains expresses displeasure about what's on the radio. He wants pop.

(Hey, just get satellite radio!)

(Personally, I wouldn't single out lesbians as perpetrators of some particular type of music. That's Sullivan's characterization, so don't get after me about it. I have no idea if there's a known category of music these days that's properly called "whiny, lesbian complaint-rock," but I thought it was interesting that Sullivan thinks there is.)


Dave said...

Lesbian complaint rock: Ani DiFranco, even if she is not a lesbian. The Indigo Girls as well, even though they are not lesbians.

Doug said...

I always wonder if the reason why I don't like today's music is because is sucks, or am I just old. I recall the first time I saw the Big Chill in the 80's and being pissed at a character who claimed that no good music came out after some decade old date, maybe 1972. I thought he was an arrogant, out of touch , old fart piece of yuppie scum. I am not as strident in my ways as that character, but I am guilty on a smaller scale of some of his offenses.

Like a post to Sullivan stated, I also listen largely to the things I did in the 80's when I was growing up. Sometimes I feel stagnant, but it beats listening to Clay Aiken or these wimpy singer songwriter guys. (I know there is good music out there, but I am lazy and I would rather listen to Pictures of You by the Cure)

I also am not familiar with whiny , lesbian complaint rock genre. The closest thing I can think of is some of these Lilith Fair bands, but that was a few years ago.

Ron said...

Huh. In Sullivan's case, takes one to know one.

chickenlittle said...

To quote one of the proponents of lesbian rock, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill:

"The music coming out by guys right now in the sort of like rock world or alternative rock world or used-to-be-punk world or whatever. It's like the whole, "I'm a straight, white, middle class, male, rockstar guy, but I'm so fuckin oppressed." "I'm a loser baby why don't you kill me." [Sigh] Yawn. Like super fuckin yawn."

George said...

Isn't the phrase "complaint rock" a tautology, like, say, military intelligence?

I thought all rock 'n' roll was about the angsty expression of some sort of complaint or another.

Please do not step on my blue suede footwear. Please allow me to hold your hand. Please give me shelter. Please, please me. Please, Mr. Postman. Please please please....

NoAcuteDistress said...

Whiny, lesbian complaint rock? Does Tracy Chapman count? I've no clue as to her sexual orientation, but good God does that woman make me want to slash my wrists!!

Sammler said...

Whether or not the genre exists, everyone certainly seems to have understood immediately what Mr. Sullivan meant.

bill said...

Looking at the artists that have been mentioned, it might help if the lot of you had turned on the radio in the last 15 years.

Personally, I'm a left of the dial listener. If there isn't a good college station, there's usually jazz and classical. Commercial radio is a loser's game. Which is why they play pop music.

Complaining on the internet about bad radio, when the internet provides access to hundreds of stations is pretty much the definition of whining.

Still having trouble finding good music? Listen to the archive of Rhythm and Grooves.

The Indigo Girls as well, even though they are not lesbians. That's a joke, right?

peter hoh said...

I've got the Indigo Girls latest CD -- "Fly Away" and "Last Tears" are worming their way into my brain, and the two-year old can't get enough of "Pendulum Swinger."

PatCA said...

I think all the arts have been tinged by whiney complainers. It's like the protest and liberation movement of the '60s has devolved into a collection of pale, ennui-soaked sad sacks. It's a genre that will hopefully fizzle out, like all genres, to be replaced with something more robust. I feel another Elvis just around the corner...

And speaking of whiney, have you ever watched Paula Zahn's show? She sounds like she's ready to throw herself off a bridge at the hopeless despair of it all.

Anthony said...

I have not, thankfully, become one of those dinosaurs only listening to what was played when I was in my late teens and 20s (I say "dinosaur" as only a mild tweak and a blatant stereotype). I still like the late 70s rock (REO Speedwagon, Zeppelin, etc.) and 80s synth-pop (Spandau Ballet, Dixie's Midnight Runners, etc.) that was on then, but I was also in freakin' heaven during the grunge era. Love love LOVE Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, etc.

The last few years I've been kind of off popular music (never did care for rap); I think mostly because a lot of those 90s bands broke up and what replaced them was the rock-rap stuff. But there's great stuff out there and with internet and satellite radio you can still find it. Heck, even switching on MTV/VH1 can get you some ideas. I really like Evanesence and I may be turning on to Nickelback.

Mostly it's a matter of giving it a chance and not automatically assuming that if it doesn't sound like what you already like it must suck. I first thought Nirvana was awful.

BTW, during my late-90s/early-2000s semi-hiatus from rock/pop I discovered a lot of old stuff. Sinatra, Darin, Louis Jordan. Also easy to check out for extended periods with internet radio (I subscribe to Real Rhapsody streaming radio, which is dirt cheap at like $4/month).

chuck b. said...

I like the new Killers CD.

Mark said...

I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s and my gripe with music in the last 15 years is that (a) it all sounds the same, and (b) it has no hooks, no catchy hummable anything to it. I watch Saturday Night Live and it seems like every week the bands are the same slobby-dressed, whining forgetable noisemakers. I am definitely open to new stuff if it has something catchy and beautiful to it - but it just sounds like noise. 1960s hits all seemed to have some kind of harmony or rhythm or something hook to them that made them stick in your mind, and this stuff now doesn't.

I think part of the problem for young musicians now is that it's all been done before. The electric guitar was something pretty new in the 1950s and 1960s, so there was a period of exploration of the possibilities. And the 1960s had all the rebellion and outrageous behaviors, and that was new. But really, the punks in the late 1970s like the Sex Pistols took the slob/anarchy thing to its extreme, and the electric guitar has pretty much been used in every way possible. Which leaves nothing for these new bands to do but pale imitations of the same old stuff.

I wish the Beatles would appear again. They were very good at coming up with songs with catchy hooks in them. There hasn't been anyone like that for a very long time.

Abraham said...

I wish the Beatles would appear again. They were very good at coming up with songs with catchy hooks in them. There hasn't been anyone like that for a very long time.

Hmmm...try listening to Coldplay for a little while. I find a lot of their tunes very catchy, in the sense that I easily remember them and occasionally find myself humming them to myself. Just the first four bars of "Clocks" is all anybody needs to hear to be able to identify it again.

Drew W said...

Whiny, lesbian complaint-rock -- it's not just for lesbians anymore!

"I Wish I Was A Lesbian"
by Loudon Wainwright III

I wish I was a lesbian, and not a hetero.
I wouldn't have to deal with men and all their come and go,
And all their yucky yucky facial hair and all their machis'mo!
I wish I were a lesbian and not a hetero!
I wish I was a lesbian and that I wasn't straight.
I'd sleep with women only. Man, it would be great.
I'd throw away my diaphragm, I wouldn't want to mate.
I wish I was a lesbian, and that I wasn't straight!
I wish I were a lesbian, I'd like to be a dyke.
I'd sleep with k.d. lang. Mel Gibson, take a hike!
I think it would be nice to love someone who was alike.
I wish I was a lesbian, I'd like to be a dyke!
I wish I was a lesbian, that's why this song is sung.
It shouldn't really matter how somebody is hung.

Townleybomb said...

In discussing Sully's comment, I think that we should all bear in mind that this is a man who absolutely adores the Pet Shop Boys.

I have probably listened to about 5 hours of broadcast radio in the past year, but I do know of at least one really great band that has been getting a lot of airplay recently-- Gnarls Barkely. Smooth, tuneful R&B that's immediately catchy and bears repeated listening. Plus the main guy got sued by the Beatles and they refuse to be photographed unless they're wearing elaborate movie costumes!

russmunki said...

Music on the radio has been terrible for as long as I can remember (about the late 70s), with few notable exceptions. But there is always very interesting, very good music being produced. It just takes effort to find it. As I get older, I am less inclined to make that effort. I have too many other things to do. I think a lot of the posters here are the same way.

Revenant said...

Isn't the phrase "complaint rock" a tautology, like, say, military intelligence?

That's the first time I've ever heard "military intelligence" called a tautology. It is normally considered one of the classic oxymorons.

Personally, my way of finding good music is Amazon's recommendation system -- I see what they recommend, based on what I already like, and check out the samples. Sullivan's right that little of the rock out there today is listenable. I would blame it on my slowly turning into an old fuddy if it wasn't for the fact that album sales stink these days, too.

Joe said...

Is there a bigger whiner on the planet than Andrew Sullivan?

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that Andrew Sullivan has resulted to, "Just hip-hop Bush bashing and godawful anti-"Christianist" crap or whiny, homosexual complaint-posts".

I read it on the internets, so it must be true.

And like Townleybomb said, this is all in defense of his pimping of the Pet Shop Boys.

(though, I did really like the Liza Minelli album they produced)

With that said, I do find myself listening to plenty of 80s stuff, but also plenty of 30s, 40s, 60s, 70s, 90s, and 00s stuff also (not a big fan of the 50s, though).

You could argue, however, that anything that's good today looks back more than forward, nobody seems like they are trying to coin a new sound anymore.

Music would seem to be in a very 'conventional' phase, where the best you can hope for is skillful appropriation from excellent sources, rather than innovation.

The 80s were an innovative time in music (and maybe the last period of real innovation), both for good and ill.

Elizabeth said...

The Indigo Girls as well, even though they are not lesbians.

Oh, they're lesbians, but not whiny.

bill said...

nonwhiny lesbian music from 2 nice girls, and one of the funniest songs ever recorded:

I Spent My Last $10.00 (On Birth Control And Beer)

When I was a young girl like normal girls do
I looked to a woman's love to help get me through
I never needed any more than a feminine touch
I hated the thought of kissing a man it really was too much

I did not drink, I did not smoke I did not say "goddamn"
I was polite I was sensitive before I loved a man
My family, they were proud of me were proud of what I am
But then along came Lester and my tell of woe began

I spent my last ten dollars on birth control and beer
My life was so much simpler when I was sober and queer
But the love of a strong hairy man has turned my head I fear
And made me spend my last ten bucks on birth control and beer

It was June 1983 when Mary Lou and I did part
She said she loved another dyke my god, it broke my heart
I was bitter and disillusioned to lose another girlfriend
Lester came to work at Papa's store and decided to ease on in

Before my last heartbreak nothing made me more sick
Than a hairy-chested, cheap double-breasted suited man with a hard dick
I guess that I was courios I guess that I was young
I guess it was that rum and coke I guess that I was dumb

I spent my last ten dollars on birth control and beer
My life was so much simpler when I was sober and queer
But the love of a strong hairy man has turned my head I fear
And made me spend my last ten bucks on birth control and beer

For of course, for a woman to love a man she must also love to booze
If a woman don't drink beside her man then she will surely lose him
As I sit in this hetero honky-tonk and reflect upon my past
I think about those girlfriends and why they didn't last

For there's certain thrills that lesbian love simply cannot supply
Like paying for abortions from sperm gone awry
And so I say to you my friends without this man I'd die
So listen to my tell of woe and hang your head and cry

I spent my last ten dollars on birth control and beer
My life was so much simpler when I was sober and queer
But the love of a strong hairy man has turned my head I fear
And made me spend my last ten bucks on birth control and beer

bill said...

And for something different from the Indigo Girls, there's their 1994 version of Jesus Christ Superstar. A benefit album using a full palette of Atlanta artists, Amy Ray is Jesus and Emily Saliers is Mary Magdalene. Very well done.

Revenant said...

Regina Spektor seems pretty good. I heard one of her songs at the end of "Veronica Mars" last night.

Judging from the sample clips available online, she's quite listenable.

OddD said...

Drew rocks! And so does Loudon, of course.

Do people still care about radio? Why?

Ann Althouse said...

"Do people still care about radio? Why?"

I do. I love my satellite radio. It's fun and you discover new things. Perfect for driving. And a deejay can add a lot. You know you can still listen to Wolfman Jack and Cousin Brucie. And Bob Dylan does a great weekly show. Tom Petty's show is pretty nice too.

Anonymous said...

Life is much simpler if you understand that James Brown and Kraftwerk are the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Sullivan has followed up this post with a post requesting suggestions for videos that are quintessentially the best/worst examples of 80s music.

I posted my own choices here.

(I dare you to watch my choice for worst of the 80s in its entirety without thinking of Mark Foley)

Subsequently, he's claiming a too full inbox with more responses than he can handle.

Dude is kinda whiny, isn't he?

And speaking of Bob Dylan, no thoughts on this, Prof. Althouse?

Revenant said...

Dude is kinda whiny, isn't he?

In the sense that Pat Robertson is kinda conservative.

Jacob said...

Speaking of music, this music video reminded me a lot of the blogger here. It's by a retro-early-'60s band called "The Pipettes", really good.

Pat Patterson said...

Does this mean that Andrew Sullivan will not be the emcee at a revival of the Lilith Fair?