Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Buying Groceries With Faster Pussycat

I'm a guy that generally take a good hour and a half to feel really awake after getting up in the morning. I muddle through mornings on autopilot, managing to survive a morning, but never really feeling engaged. This morning though, something cut through that haze.

On the television was your standard car commercial, but in the background the good folks from Chevy had selected a stripped down remix version of "Lazy Eye" by the Silversun Pickups. I died a little inside.

OK, I realize that SSPU are not exactly on par with "Instant Karma" being used by Nike, but I really like this band. They're a bit of a throwback to the wall of sound Smashing Pumpkins and noisy growl of My Bloody Valentine (comparisons that everyone makes, I know. That doesn't make them incorrect though). I saw them last summer and they were amazing live. So it hurt to see a Chevy Malibu being built in a factory to the lyrics "I've been waiting / I've been waiting for this moment all my life..." Sob.

It's like that though. They're a small band, and the drugs can't always be free. There's a new album to record, and they're on a small label (http://www.dangerbirdrecords.com) It's just that I like to keep my art and advertising separate. ESPECIALLY when it comes to car commercials.
Everyday I get surprised by how the music that is/was important has become used in ways I never would have guessed.

I'm a big Lou Reed / Velvet Underground fan. There's just something about the guy. Funny thing is, that awhile back I was driving around listening to the radio when I heard the string section from a song called "Street Hassle" (Lou Reed solo stuff) playing prominently in an advertisement for one of our local "Heart" hospitals. It was so funny to hear the voice-over guy talking about how said hospital beats the national average for heart attack response time by over twenty minutes backed by music Lou wrote. It was a wise choice not to include any of the parts of the song that contained lyrics:

"You know, I’m glad that we met man
It really was nice talking
And I really wish that there was a little more time to speak
But you know it could be a hassle
Trying to explain myself to a police officer
About how it was that your old lady got herself stiffed
And it’s not like we could help
But there was nothing no one could do
And if there was, man, you know I would have been the first
But when someone turns that blue
Well, it’s a universal truth
And then you just know that bitch will never fuck again
By the way, that’s really some bad shit
That you came to our place with
But you ought to be more careful around the little girls
It’s either the best or it’s the worst
And since I don’t have to choose
I guess I won’t and I know this ain’t no way to treat a guest
But why don’t you grab your old lady by the feet
And just lay her out on the darkened street
And by morning, she’s just another hit and run
You know, some people got no choice
And they can’t never find a voice
To talk with that they can even call their own
So the first thing that they see
That allows them the right to be
Why they follow it, you know, it’s called bad luck"

Nothing says responsive heart care like a song about ODing. Not to mention the fact that the first part details a sex scene in a kitchen. Oh well, I guess the music sounds nice enough and I'm sure that was far as they thought about it. Somewhere though, there is an ad exec patting himself on the back and saying "Fuck yeah, Lou Reed".

It's like this everywhere I go. I heard Modest Mouse at the grocery store a while back. There I am, pissed that I forgot to pick up English Muffins when I was in the bread isle, and they're playing "Dashboard". All of the 80's hairband music that I used to think was so hardcore (yes, I thought Motley Crue was hardcore when I was 12, what of it?) is the new muzak. You can hear The Scorpions or Great White being played in offices across Mid America right now. Seriously, just pop in to a local temp agency or insurance office. They're listening to Van Halen and yawning.

How long will it be before I see a Nine Inch Nails Volkswagen commercial or hear Sonic Youth in an elevator? How long before Ozzy Osbourne plays the telethon for Jerry's Kids and licks Ed McMahon's wilting cheek? ("Ha! That tickles, sir!") When are the fine young men of Wolfmother going to introduce a new line of flatware to be sold exclusively at Target?

Actually, if I'm honest, we could use new silverware...


whoisfelix said...

As an artist, I have no qualms with loaning a song to the right company for a commercial. If apple approached my band, we'd be more than willing. If Haliburton came to us, they'd be told in no uncertain terms to fuck off and get real.

A key part of an artists expression is the way they choose to reach out to their audience. Sometimes, there is a good marriage to get your music out there through a companies advertising. It all depends on the band, the company, the values they share, the market they reach, and the intangible "cool factor". With that factor, it's all good. Without it, you're just being Moby whoring out your music.

Chris - Felix


Lionel Ritchie's Man Bag said...

I get that, and you're right. It didn't bother me when Wolfmother did their Apple add. The company does play a big role in it. I was sad to see Silversun Pickups do a Chevy Malibu add, just like I was sad when Spiritualized had the VW commercial.

I do remember a conversation that Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi) had with someone where they were asking about their lack of press. He was asked about their refusal to work with advertisers or professional journalists, and he basically said (paraphrasing here) "Yoy know, it's just not important that everyone in the world hears Fugazi. Sooner or later, if they're meant to, they'll find us."

I realize this is extreme, and he's sitting on the luxury of being able to live his life doing what he loves to do (not holding down an office job too), but there's something so goddamn appealing about this to me.

Like most things, the extremes aren't usually rational but they tend to be the most interesting.