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Talking Smack (The Slip)


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So some of you may be aware that there is a minor sort of rift in the Slip fanbase over their current direction sound wise. This spilled over when they repeated four songs at both of their opening gigs for the Allman Brothers recently (Great Woods and New Hampshire). There's a string of issues people have, too many repeats, too few old gems, too little jamming, too little jazz, too many Children of December's and just generally not liking the new songs. So Phrazz who maintains the Slipbase just put up this diatribe and well you'll get the gist:

You ever see a three-headed billy goat? Now is that an evolutionary change we regard as beautiful? What is in question is the opinion of art (music of course is a form of art), and aesthetics is always a tricky subject, particularly for fans (probably a shorter version of the word "fanatic", but I've met only a few nazi groupies, though plenty of wookies and a rare case of a hippie marine). There are other bands that have gone through "growing stages" and have dropped a portion of their otherwise loyal fanbase...some bands reflect on this and take change more seriously...yet other bands go with the flow and change according to market conditions...still other bands change because their parents told them to not play so loud in the attic because the neighbors complain.

Regardless, change itself is not always a beautiful thing. Indeed, if change only were the primary prerequisite for beauty, I would grow tired of Jamaican sunsets (and cigarettes). I would say there's a lot more to beauty than just change, but that might be one way we get a handle on such a vague entity (or value judgement). For even discussing what is pleasing, beautiful, enjoyable or saying what we like or dislike (ugly, displeasing, detestable) we are stepping into dangerous territory, and we will always offend those who are easily offended. I find song repetition to be only slightly offensive--a few times and I don't really notice--but after 10 shows in a row I wonder about the backstreet boys syndrome myself, or it's just habit-forming substances taking hold (ever have a habit that you try to quit? Or one that you really did quit?).

If someone says Dec. Kids is overplayed, that can be taken at face value by those with the experience and open-mindedness to see this point of view for what it is: a point of view. This doesn't mean it's the world view that is a consensus, though it may be shared by more than a few who are unwilling to chime in for being labeled as destructive critics or worse: rabble-rousers! Malfeasants! The deuce you say? Indeed, my shorts are too tight, too.

Sometimes it's as simple as that...unzip the fly, take off the shorts...relax a little...then just jump in the water naked. The water doesn't really care if you're clothed or not, so putting accoutrements on your language is like protecting yourself from the elements that are like the water--it doesn't care. The "law" cares, but laws vary from country to country, state to state, and band to band. Our laws vary somewhat from Phish laws, Dead laws, Hendrix laws and Coltrane laws (did his fans really have any? Did JC himself? Is it a coincidence about his initials, or did I just make up that comparison for no good reason whatsoever?). But what is law but a way to control the transgressions of the masses? "Don't tread on me" (rattlesnake flag, one of the first US symbols, really...the stars and stripes came much later). Really think of what this means to a rabid countryman (does my use of this word offend women?) or better yet, a rabid fan. Is "rabid fan" redundant? Perhaps, yes, if "fanatic" is the term. Are you a fanatic? Am I? Are we? What are we not?

The greatest artists (musicians, writers, story tellers, cake bakers and of course sculptors and many others I simply can't itemize because there's still many who fit the term well enough for my diatribe) are always under intense scrutiny because we tend to see ourselves as reflections of the art we immerse ourselves within and convert our souls to (and it's terrible to end sentences with prepositions, but who's counting chickens?). Art becomes our life, in many sense, even our very senses are tuned to this dimension we call "art" that exists in various manifestations (sounds, light, fabric or pizza pie...yes, food is art, too).

So, in one sense I should be able to say "man, pistachio ice cream sucks because the shells get caught in my teeth and the aftertaste I can't even brush away" or "rocky road is da bomb because it's like a diabetic's wet dream with more sugar than a Jamaican plantation (there I go off about Jamaica again...there's a reason which I'll allude to now and get into later).

Now, when artistic immersion becomes so intense (a cliche, but I'm pressed for time so bear with my faux pas) that it takes over one's very existence, then the art becomes religion, in a sense (with a small "r", capital if you start sacrificing chickens...more on chickens later).

As we get to the poing of trying to compare chicken sacrifice rituals with the demonic possessions set forth when someone is dancing so much that they just drop their shorts (figuratively speaking, "lose their cookies" is also slightly off the mark, but I'm reaching for straws here), and rational discussion of such irrational (I mean this in a good way) behavior is always going to fall apart at the seams.

However, falling apart is a major aspect of psychological awareness called "deconstruction", so the "sacrifice" of taking this "holy shrine" that we put our idols upon...these psychological pedestals, so to speak....and taking those down a notch like we'd talk about a car (this can get religious with some people who love their cars) is a way to grapple with the untangible and even unthinkable: to commit the most heinous of crimes and the most grievous of sins: to diss the band.

Dissing the band is easy for some, hard for others, and perplexing to all those who can't understand the similarities between music and religion (or buildings, people and food...David Byrne notwithstanding). Because of this, talking smack about any "worshipped" band is going to incur the "wrath of god" (so to speak...the god is in our heads in this case) and people just flare at the nostrils (I can see this--my Internet powers allow this capability, as does my imagination ;-}) and rally around the common cry: the band is changing, so therefore that is good, that is beautiful, that is wonderful...yada yada yada. This is just like saying the sunset is more beautiful because it's different. I had the same girlfriend for 3 years (almost four) and I thought she was just as beautiful after those 3 years, but I didn't see too much change and I didn't consider this as a necessary guide towards my appreciation of her beauty. I see some bands evolve slowly, others faster, others evolve in one direction, double back and touch upon their roots, jump out into a different branch...with more or less alacrity depending on their skill levels.

Now I'll be right up front as I have with other song discussions and emphasize that it is not just appropriate to say a song is overplayed, but it can also be statistically proven. I have the evidence. I actually ran a simple lexical analyzer on Slip words in song lyrics, just for shits and giggles (and I do these sorts of things in everyday work, which is way too complex to describe in this brief post)...what I came up with was word frequencies and ordered them, turning them into a sort of Slip "meta song" that was mysteriously weird and somewhat humorous (if you study linguistics at certain levels, even the word "word" looks strange with enough familiarity somehow ;-}...Shakespeare and other philosophers have mentioned this proximity factor, and that's another essential component of rabid behavior patterns related to music, religion, cars, food and of course dogs. But I digress.

The original point is whether songs are overplayed and whether people think the band is evolving in a "pleasing" direction (do their new songs suck or not). Just saying "suck" in the same sentence as "BAM" seems antithetical by nature, and a bastardization of all sensibility itself. Indeed, it makes me cringe when I see what I write sometimes. I can only guess how it affects the thin-skinned or rabid fashion victims who succumb so easily to someone else's will. Harumph! ;-} I can only say thicken your skin because if this little estimation of a band's progress or regress offends or disturbs you, you really have no place in the real world, which is much harsher and far less understanding than this den of relative comfort (one of the best behaved message boards I have ever seen, just look at the Ween forum in comparison ;-}).

So, I said I'd talk about Reggae. I mean Jamaica. Or that style of music. I could make comparisons with reggae and BAM and everyone would be up in arms, 'cept maybe a few bass players who can see similarities, we can talk about metrical structure and types of syncopation, other music crap that only musicians really understand...so are others less qualified to say whether reggae is beautiful if it changes or not or if it's changing in a way we like? We can still enjoy the Slip even though we don't like the direction of a few new tunes. Certainly all shows and tunes are not going to please the hard-core old-time-hockey fans (but I know many who haven't fallen from the tree), and this is entirely OK and we should respect that. I know a few long-time Slip fans who have evolved themselves, and changed in directions both musically and spiritually and are either no longer with us in the community sense, or are no longer with us in the physical sense and we might meet again on the other side. I then question when someone dies or they just fall off the tree, what is the difference? Very hard to tell, harder yet to talk about it, virtually impossible to come to a consensus.

Now we can all vote on best or worst new tunes and then we might try to make more sense than just saying "the new direction sucks" or "evolution is just sooooo beautiful" ;-}. I agree with Darwin, but he also didn't have all the answers. I still want to know what's so beautiful about a three-headed billy goat and then I'll start to talk about the Jamaican revolution, Haille Selaisse, the constitution of Ethiopia he granted in 1931 and how a man became worshipped by the people near our generation, considered divine by many -- certainly a leader of the people -- but there are many other leaders with divine authority, particularly that which we give to them.

Getting back to art, music, religion and people...there is a point when the musician becomes akin to a deity, and this is the point we have to be careful about--the whole pedestal syndrome. First of all it's very hard to balance up there, second of all it's a long way to fall, third of all the pedestals are usually quite shifty and fourth of all I forget right now but there was definitely a quarto (or a quart low). I was going to wrap this into the study of ethnography, religions and how that influences art and our understanding of aesthetics, but I'm pretty tired right now and I think I'll finish this thought later.

My summary is this: be true to yourself first, then you can hope to be true to others. If you think the new tunes suck, tell us which ones suck the worst (and why) or vice versa and tell us why December's Kids is your new rock anthem. I really dig STTN, but there was a point when I saw it four or five times and I think I yawned...but that could have been the jet lag, talkin'. I try not to let it ruin my world, but also if see too many Mudslides in a row, I don't mind saying please give it a rest. It's no big thing...it's only as big as we make it and everyone has a right to their opinions (as diesel and others have pointed out). I would much rather have the "straight truth" and people's honest word than some watered-down, skinny-assed, snivelling wimpy sort of opinion that's carefully meted out in bite-sized chunks so as not to offend those who are eating-challenged. Indeed, eating itself is a whole 'nother religion, but I won't start comparing music and food in this chapter.

I leave you to ponder this question: if evolution is a positive force, then is a virus alive? [Now you can take this to the next level, if you dare: which songs are like viruses, which are like bacteria, which are like hamsters, chickens, gorillas and we already know about dogs on bikes...]

-Hoping to make no sense,

Phrazz

?

^- I think I forgot to attach this to a former sentence (poor thing, question naked without the proper punctuation), grammar transgressor that I am!

Words themselves are only symbols of thoughts, crafted by creative minds in a noble attempt to fill a limitless void left by lack of communication. Music is much more powerful in filling this void, so describing music with words is always going to be fraught with difficulty (but it's certainly a challenge to attempt!).

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