Joe Daly opened his “Five Bands I Should Like, but I Don’t. At All” piece by noting there is no accounting for taste.
Steve Almond responded by recommending five uber-obscure bands for listening pleasure, which might have worked without the additional discussion of Daly and his piece, but I think there’s a more important corollary.
Notably: if there are, as Joe suggests, bands we should like a lot—by dint of reputation or acclaim—but don’t, there are probably, conversely, bands we shouldn’t like but do.
Taste seems to have a lot to do with it. The idea that taste and quality are subjective seems to be a popular argument.
I’m not saying that’s not true, but I will say this: like Joe, I don’t like the Beatles, but it has turned out I like their songs and music on the condition they be performed by other musicians. Between The Wonder Years and Across the Universe, I think Joe Cocker may be the best thing that ever happened to the Beatles.
There are lots of reasons to love a band other people don’t. Some are just obscure; my own favorite band is Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, who hail from Tempe, Arizona and call rock and roll home. Clyne and his former band, the Refreshments, had a mid-nineties hit called “Banditos,” but their label dropped them after their second studio CD and the band broke up, but Clyne continued on and eventually formed the Peacemakers. I’ve heard their music called alt-country, but it’s more full of dust than twang, and Clyne may be the greatest songwriter in the history of rock (if such a thing could ever be legit declared, anyway). Imagine if Springsteen, Dylan, and Bon Jovi all got drunk on tequila and wrote some shit together, and you begin to get an idea of Clyne’s stuff. Better yet, support a great indie band and pick up some schwag (and music) here.
But there are as many reasons to hate a band as there are reasons to love them, and many are equally as nebulous. Maybe it’s a bad memory. Maybe it has nothing to do with the music; I can’t stand Creed, but that’s mostly because I can’t stand Scott Stapp based solely on what he’s said during interviews. Now, most people would note that they’re sure he’s actually a nice guy they’d like to have a beer with, but I won’t. Who wants to drink with Scott Stapp? That’s like the circle of Hell reserved solely for bad musicians.
On the other hand, let’s be clear: I love Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Guns N’ Roses. I love Tinted Windows, Audioslave, and Justin Timberlake. I love Belinda Carlisle for “Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” and I never minded a good Rickroll because I could never imagine anyone didn’t actually love “Never Gonna Give You Up,” which is almost as great a song as “Together Forever.”
I don’t think I’m in any danger of anyone thinking I’m a music snob.
So of course there are lots of bands I like other people don’t. So I thought I’d respond to Joe’s Five Bands He Should Like, but He Doesn’t. At All. with Five Bands I Should Hate But I Don’t. Even a Little.
5. Butch Walker
Lately, Butch has been producing. Chances are, if you think there are any artists who are “what’s wrong” with music, he’s worked with them. Avril Lavigne. Katy Perry. Fall-Out Boy. Kelly Clarkson.
Truth is, he’s probably helped those artists rise just a little above mediocrity.
Except Katy Perry. Calling her mediocre would give her entirely too much credit.
Like Clyne, Walker was in a band—The Marvelous 3—that had a hit, “Freak of the Week,” during the mid-nineties. During label mergers following their next CD, the band broke up, and Butch went solo.
And kicks ass.
He’s one of the greatest singer-songwriters of straight-up rock and roll in music (see: “Lights Out”). His lyrics are fantastic, and he consistently puts out great CDs.
Just avoid his clients, with the notable exception of:
Why should I hate her?
You mean besides that she “stylizes” her name with an exclamation point?
Besides that she’s the voice of “I’m Comin’ Up” and spelled one of her CDs Missundaztood?
Besides that she started with R&B, then moved on to Rock and Pop with digressions into Poptronica, like she doesn’t have much direction and just blindly follows trends her record company thrusts upon her?
Besides all that?
Because besides all those things, I can’t think of a single reason.
But I don’t hate her because of her voice. Now, admittedly, we’re not talking about an operatic voice, but I think that’s okay, mainly because I don’t really know anyone who listens to opera, anyway. P!nk’s voice is a chuckling rasp with hints of bourbon, leather, and late-night athletic sex that carries you through the morning after. And while some of her songs have been questionable so far as quality goes, she makes up for the clunkers with great rock pipes and a gravity-defying live show during which the only thing she drops is your jaw.
They’re basically a boy band who never quite drove girls nuts and whose first single was called “mmmBop.” N’Sync had phatter beatz and at least Justin still kicks ass.
Except they’re not, which I didn’t realize until I bought Underneath immediately after I heard their song “Penny and Me” for the first time. “Penny” is a brilliant song, the sort that makes you wish you had a convertible so you could put the top down and turn it way up, the sort that makes you wish you knew a hot blonde you could invite to be a passenger on a roadtrip to the middle of nowhere, where you’d crack a few beers and light a bonfire and make out like teenagers under stars shining down.
Also: they’ve got balls. They left their record label after a bunch of mergers got them stuck with suits who simply wanted more of the same, and they’ve been releasing CDs independently. Underneath, as an independent CD with absolutely no major label support, sold 350,000 copies. Which may be not much when P!nk sells five or six million at a shot, but shit, I would love to sell 350,000 copies of a novel.
Who I hate instead: bands who call themselves (or are called) indie who aren’t. Lots of bands who blahbittyblahbittyblah about stuff like “artistic integrity” and the “scene” but who couldn’t write a damned song you could fucking dance to if their lives depended on it.
Basically, anyone Pitchfork Magazine likes.
2. Vanessa Carlton
I love Bon Jovi and Def Leppard and Guns ‘N Roses, which means I enjoy what many people perjoratively refer to as “cock rock,” and Vanessa Carlton is probably exactly the opposite. Her first video for her first single, “1000 miles,” featured Carlton playing a piano on a wheeled platform on a beach, which means if you didn’t already think I’m gay for liking Hanson, you may well now.
I think Carlton existed among a wave of female artists following the one that included Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, and others. Michelle Branch was a Carlton colleague. I can’t think of any others, mainly because I never thought any were as talented as Carlton, which surprised even me; she has a voice euphemistically described as “unique” and dysphemistically described as “weird.”
I don’t remember what made me pick up her first CD. I might have found a listening station and liked the latter half of it, which included a cover of “Paint It Black” I am probably alone in believing surpassed the original, but then, I was never a Stones fan. I’ve bought her subsequent CDs sound unheard.
I don’t know why revealing the number one band I should hate but don’t seems so difficult. It feels like a confession. Even more so than the other four.
Okay, here goes:
I like Nickelback.
Did your head just involuntarily fill with images of Ed Hardy and Affliction and giant belt buckles? Spray tans and The Jersey Shore?
Which is why I should hate them. Also because, while I’ve never seen them live, I’ve heard they’re awful, crass, and misogynistic. My sister saw them at some fest or other, where they kicked someone out and were scummy/sleazy.
I know! Nickelback? Scummy/sleazy?
Believe you me, I am as surprised as you.
I wouldn’t argue they’re a great band. They’re no E-Street. Hell, they’re no Def Leppard/Bon Jovi, who might not be, like, artistes or whatnot but sure know how to rock a stadium (which I for one consider an art in itself).
But “How You Remind Me,” despite how overplayed it was, has to be a modern classic. If Plato and Aristotle ever had a dialogue concerning the ideal of the Power Ballad, they could do worse than to choose “How You Remind Me,” and it would have to be included in the discussion (other contenders: “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “November Rain,” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” at least).
I didn’t think Nickelback was good until I heard Chad Kroeger’s collaboration with Carlos Santana, “You & I.” Due to some label thing, Kroeger couldn’t appear on the single version; instead, Alex Band from The Calling did those vocals. Listening to both songs was revelatory; Band is bland, with lackluster vocals and no charisma.
The version with Kroeger, on the other hand, rocks.
Santana knows his way around collaborators, including Rob Thomas and Dave Matthews, and while his choices aren’t always terrific (I’m looking sideways at you, Michelle Branch), they’re generally very fine.
Santana is not the only rock god with whom Chad Kroeger and Nickelback have worked; the guy who produced their most recent CD was Robert John “Mutt” Lange, an uber-producer behind some of the greatest—not to mention commercially successful—albums ever, by artists including AC/DC, Shania Twain, and the consistently mentioned Def Leppard.
I think it says something about how good your band is when your Mutt Lange-produced album is not actually your best.
I half want to backtrack here—I don’t love Nickelback, wouldn’t go out of my way to see them live, never bought one of their CDs—but you know, back when I was corporate, back when I was an editor, I was once a “featured employee.” The featured part included a badly lit Polaroid picture next to an office-printed survey. One of its questions asked for a guilty pleasure, and my response was “response redacted for public consumption.”
I wish I’d gone with: “I refuse to feel guilty about anything that brings me pleasure.”
I remember I put “How You Remind Me” on a mix-CD I played when I drove up to Montreal with a then-girlfriend for a weekend getaway, and we rolled down our windows and we sang that song as badly as we could as loud as we could (“Kind of like Nickelback,” being the obvious joke there).
What I think always strikes me is that there are certain bands—like the Beatles—or writers—like Shakespeare—whom we are supposed to acknowledge as great even if we don’t particularly like their work. It becomes about more than the work; it becomes about what it changed, and its legacy, and whom it influenced. One common thing I’ve been told is “It’s fine, you don’t like the Beatles, but just look at how they started and how they changed, and how quickly they did so.”
Which is interesting, but still doesn’t make me want to listen to them. Unless someone else is singing.