Thursday, January 31, 2008

Playing Catch-Up

It's not easy being a pretentious, posturing, egocentric, and elitist music snob. In part because there is so goddamn much popular music that it is hard to keep up. Every few weeks it seems that the new hipster band du jour is being touted -- and even more frequently than that if you follow the British music press -- while every few weeks I end up asking myself, "who the fuck is this?" (Answer: Arctic Monkeys, Ice Testicles, Tapes 'n Tapes, !!!, Band of Horses, Radiohead)

Now I consider myself an active music listener which by my definition means I actively seek out music. I read of lot of album reviews, I buy a lot of albums, and I attend a lot of shows. (Although the number of shows I see annually diminishes the older I get. Why do these bands have to go on so damn late? I need my rest.) To put it succinctly, I am into this shit. To put it not-so-succinctly, as Chuck Klosterman described himself at the beginning of Killing Yourself To Live, "I have more CD's than 99 percent of America but fewer CD's than 40 percent of my friends." This is an exhausting way to live...especially in the world of indie rock.

If you don't already know this, indie rock fans don't really like one another. They may in fact hate each other. It is the solipsist's genre of fandom, predicated on the breadth of one's knowledge, the obscurity of one's critical references, and the chronological superiority of one's appreciation of something. How much do you know, how abstruse is it, and how early did you know it? There is little room for genuine friendship when every person you meet is a potential reminder of your "academic" inferiority. To wit, I often go to shows alone and see the same people at the Black Cat and the 9:30 Club. I recognize them and they recognize me and we never so much as exchange a "hello." There's the guy with the beard, the guy in the leather jacket who I want to punch in the neck, the guy with the mutton chops and wallet chain, the guy in the thrift store pea coat and knitted scarf, the indistinguishable girls with Betty Page bangs...the list goes on and on and it is hard goddamn work staying hipper than the lot of them.

When it comes to hipster posturing one of my greatest handicaps is that I am always so late to the party (see: chronological superiority of one's appreciation for something). There have been the occasional moments of divine provenance where I was among the early-ish settlers; New Pornographers/Mass Romantic (dumb luck), The Hold Steady/The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me (inside information), Wilco/Being There (my subscription to Acoustic Guitar World). But in most cases I am unfashionably late to the party; GBV/Mag Earwhig, Pavement/Terror Twilight, Dismemberment Plan/Change, The Pixies/Doolittle (which I only bought after seeing Fight Club), etc. I guess I have grown slightly more in tune with "what is hip" since graduating from college those many (many) years ago but I largely remain woefully ignorant.

The most egregious example of my musical tardiness is the fact that all of my Elvis Costello albums (and there are many) are reissues that I purchased in the 21st Century -- it is pretty ridiculous to longingly opine that "few new albums are as awesome as Get Happy!" when said musical touchstone was acquired less than 5 years ago. So, what is the post all about? A confession, really, because I bristled when someone shit-talked the Buffalo Tom show I was at last week even though I thought the band was kind of lame when I heard them on My So Called Life a hundred years ago. I could have been Jordan Catalano...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Exchange

You know those prisoner exchange scenes in the movies? The ones where two opposing factions are parked on either end of a bridge, guns drawn, high beams on, and it's midnight. At the appointed time a battered, shaken, and possibly bound individual emerges from each set of headlights and begins making his way to the opposite side. The two pass somewhere in the middle distance and finally make it into the waiting arms of their compatriots from whom they had been taken. Doesn't ring a bell? Go watch the the foreign exchange program episode of The Simpsons from Season 1 and you'll have an idea.

Anyway, I think the closest everyday people ever come to a situation like that is the post-breakup exchange of possessions. That fuzzy time when a sort of calm has settled in and everyone is trying to make a return to his or her antebellum way of life. I had my Exchange Moment on Monday night and it was as awkward as to be expected. She gave me back the book and DVD that had been left at her condo. I gave her the money that I owed her from a plane ticket she had bought for a trip that we were supposed to take before I rather abruptly ended things. It's pretty fucked up...

But the one outstanding possession that lingers in Limbo is my black t-shirt (I know, what a cliche), my black Jimmy Page "Zoso" t-shirt to be exact. The shirt I have owned for over 15 years. My first "band shirt." Do I really want it back? Kinda. Do I really need it back? I don't know. It barely, I mean barely, fits me and she looks 1000 times better in it than I ever did. Perhaps it is in better hands.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Trippin' On A Hole...

For the last week I have been tangoing with the good people of American Formalwear over at the Ballston Mall. You see they owe me money -- a refund to be precise -- and are dodging me with the usual claims of ineffectuality, "Uh well, we need to talk to the corporate office because as a franchise location supervisor I don't have the authority to yadda yadda yadda." Now this particular stall tactic doesn't bother me too much because I know there is an element of truth to it. I have worked in the Corporate Chain Service Industry and know well that the only thing that lowly employees are empowered to do is collect money, not return it. In fact, I am not so much upset as I am bewildered. And here is why...

Each year my friends and I host a black tie function on New Year's Eve which means that each year I have to go out and rent a tuxedo. This year, after having moved back to Ballston, I decided to rent from the closest location imaginable which turned out to be American Formalwear. The customer service rep was pleasant enough and everything was ready fro me when I picked it up on Dec 30th. I quickly tried the tux on in the store, the fit was close enough for a dark booze-soaked evening, so I went about about my business. Flash forward to NYE and I have just put on my newly rented tuxedo and am looking quite dapper. It's a bit early to head out to my pre-party destination so I sit down on the couch to channel surf and kill some time.

Mind you, this is the first time that I have ever sat down in these pants. I have only ever tried them on standing up. So I am sitting there smelling god, looking good, and feeling good and I glance down at my crotch. I know what you're thinking and what can I say, I check out my junk a lot. Usually to quietly sigh and wonder why there isn't more of it but that's a different post. Anyway, I glance down and notice this gaping hole staring back at me. The seam at the crotch had a hole in it and a tuft of the closest thing to sexy underwear that I own was staring back at me. What the fuck? I guess it was a magic hole because it only revealed itself in a seated position. There was no way I was going out like that so I scrambled to throw something together with the only decent suit I owned, left a voicemail with American Formalwear that I would be in hungover and pissed off the next day, and made my way out into 2008.

So why am I bewildered with American Formalwear? Because the best have come up with so far is to offer me store credit for the money I already paid for an unusable tuxedo. Question, what the fuck am I going to do with $140 of store credit at a tuxedo rental joint? I am not a maitre d', award show host, limo driver, or an agent for Her Majesty's Secret Service so I ask again, what the fuck am I going to do with $140 of store credit at a tuxedo rental joint? I guess it would be one thing if we were talking about Target or Olsson's where I shop all the time but how often do I need a goddamn tuxedo?