Really . . . haunting, man

Phil Ford

Brent Reidy, whose blog I linked yesterday, did a few of his own random indie rock album covers. This one is so good I almost can’t believe he didn’t cheat:


First of all, The Manchester Center for New Writing is an awesome name for an indie band. Second, The Nine-Millimeter Bullet is an awesome name for an album. Third, the oh-so-ironic juxtaposition of dessert treats (monumentalized in a low-angle close-up that exaggerates perspective and on a stark black-and-white background) to the sinister-sounding title is friggin’ cop show. This kind of absurdist heavy/light imagery has been around since Iron Butterfly. (To say nothing of Led Zeppelin.) I’m going to form a band just to play the kind of music that ought to go with that album cover.

And, showing the kind of diligence and application that one expects from one’s graduate students, Brent went on to create his own counter-meme, which I am duly propagating here. Here is the random lyric generator:

1. your song is going to have a title, a chorus, and two versus . . . is that too conformist for you? too bad. deal.

2. song title is the first random wikipedia article you pull up.

3. the first verse is the mash up of the first four words of the first
four quotes and the last four words of the last four quotes from here. pair the first quotes first words with the last quotes last words, and so on.

4. the second verse is a mash up like the first, but refresh for a new page o’ quotes.

5. the chorus you ask? the title of your song, four times, of course!

6. if you are feeling grammariffic, add prepositions and make verbs make sense (if possible). or don’t let the grammar-man tell you what to do and skip it.

7. post the lyrics or–if you are feeling rather adventurous–record the thing.

And here are Brent’s results:

100 people who are screwing up america

we are so accustomed to watching tv by candlelight
curiosity killed the cat i never saw before.
those who speak most the more it will contract.
the only way to have no fear from death.

100 people who are screwing up america [x4]

famous remarks are very seldom quoted wisely and well.
a child of five for a few dollars.
he can make me from the ears up.
the covers of this think you cannot do.

100 people who are screwing up america [x4]

This just made me realize that jamming a bunch of random stuff into the notional space of a catch-phrase (like “100 people who are screwing up America”) results in the kind of lyrics that rock critics like to call “haunting.” (Or “pretentious,” if they’re in a bad mood.) What does it say about indie rock (which is really another way of saying “serious and aesthetically ambitious rock”) that it’s so easy to make this stuff up randomly? Probably that there is a significant dollop of randomness in the rock sensibility, or even more generally the modern pop-culture sensibility. Back when I used to teach courses with a lot of undergrads from UT’s American Studies dept., I noticed how often they would say that something or other in a piece of music was “random.” This bothered me, because I figured that it reflects a lapse in critical imagination: you say that something is “random” when you weren’t expecting it and can’t be bothered to come up with an interpretation for it. But perhaps they were simply seeing the world through indie glasses. A lot of the beautiful things in their world really are random. Just because something is random doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.

About Phil Ford

Chairman of the Committee for the Memorial to the Victims of Modernism
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8 Responses to Really . . . haunting, man

  1. David Cavlovic says:

    Yeah, well the lyrics are deep, man! And I like it when they turn it up to 11!

  2. Sara Heimbecker says:

    Here’s my contribution:
    Screen Print Close Ups: The Hart and the Hunter
    Eternally willing goats have ceased,
    The blind hire the exceptionally rich.
    If they’re not brighter than I am,
    Then a crotchety poem has its reason
    Screen print close ups (the Hart and the Hunter) [4x]
    The Bat, the Birds and the Beasts
    Learning to live
    Calling it by the best names
    Dishonest courage is the path to joy
    Screen print close ups (the Hart and the Hunter) [4x]
    *fade out*
    Throw in a prepared piano with the usual instrumentation and we’re really going for “pretentious!”

  3. Joshua Bradshaw says:

    Mine ended up a bit Burroughs-esque, but I like the sports motif that emerged at the end of it…
    “Johan Manusama”
    Every individual matters. Every and the labor done.
    If all the girls my life. Take it.
    Money was never a little, one travels far.
    Intimacy is being seen confronted with insurmountable opportunities.
    Johan Manusama (4x)
    Once the game is out of the bottle.
    I enjoy being without his own approval.
    People who like this enormous lack of character.
    You can’t find any success of any athlete.
    Johan Manusama (4x)

  4. ph says:

    Shouldn’t that be ‘Centre’ if this fictional band was from Manchester?
    Or is this a boardroom manufactured US indie band trying to pull down some of that UK melancholy days on the dole, rubbish piled in the streets, waiting for the bus in the rain alone after tizer at the disco where no desirable people talked/danced with you, sound of Coronation Street through the bedroom wall as your parents who misunderstand you eat their meat-based malnourishment from plastic trays balanced on their knees, your only friend is a maladjusted music geek and the drugs don’t work indie cred?
    This non-existant band may have a pretty looking cover for their limited edition collectors item vinyl issue that no one but 48 year old lonely men who still mourn John Peel (but in consolation have highly paid media/academic jobs) can afford but no one is going to take the band seriously because the Creative Department/Album Design Division can’t spell ‘centre’ and that is the giveaway that they are just another bunch of wannabes with a dance beats drum machine and a too liberal use of the Gsus chord alternating with Am for the sad bits.
    Just another bunch of over budgeted, floppy-haired poseurs with crappy mid-Atlantic accents from some obscure mid-West college of please yourself education.
    Their album sucks too. I heard it last week.
    Don’t waste your money. The lyrics sound like someone mashing up random stuff from wikipedia. They try to be serious and aesthetically ambitious rock but it just sounds random.
    Peter Hoar

  5. Phil Ford says:

    Best comment ever.

  6. brent reidy says:

    The original wikipedia entry had it spelled “centre”–as for why I spelled it “center”–you have it EXACTLY correct. Or i just screwed up and Americanized it. No–I like your explanation much much better.
    But I don’t feel guilty. I mean, man, I bought the CD in the toss-off bin at the local record store for $1. Who the hell would pay full price for this pretentious crap?

  7. Mark says:

    We can only learn to be conscious of none,
    No matter where you listen to repetitive music.
    Knowledge comes, but wisdom that carries any reward
    Writes a wise saying, “Your moment. Own it.”
    Artists who seek perfection are lousy actors;
    Imagination is the one possible expenditure of intelligence.
    To know the road thinking they hit a triple
    The only alternative is probably the deadliest.
    Cut Brandy.
    You can’t build a worse than regular life.
    I never lecture, not that you have seized happiness.
    The moment of victory, love we really want.
    Love thy neighbour as food makes me sick.
    Cut Brandy.
    We can only learn to be conscious of none,
    No matter where you listen to repetitive music.
    Knowledge comes, but wisdom that carries any reward
    Writes a wise saying, “Your moment. Own it.”
    Cut Brandy.

  8. R.S. says:

    This sounds an awful lot like flarf:

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