MCC - Teenage Fanclub

When I was in middle school I listened to a lot of Nirvana. They were so angry and righteous and catchy, and I was pretty sure it was the intensity that drew me in. Kurt Cobain's maniacal lyrics and thrashing howls: That's what I was all about. In-your-face, non-stop aggression and hostility; that was the kind of raw emotive force that drove insightful music. Or at least that's what I thought.

Toward the height of my Nirvana-listening I got a copy of Cobain's collected journal. In it, alongside early lyrics sheets, notes of loathe and drawings of idealized equipment; Cobain would list albums with no real title or explicit purpose. I couldn't tell whether they were wishlists or collections of favorites, but most of them made a lot of sense: the Melvins, Pixies, Vaselines, etc. And then, thrown in as if they were another logical touchstone was the one name I didn't recognize: Teenage Fanclub. Ironically, olde Greggors was real into Teenage Fanclub. I grabbed Bandwagonesque from him and it recontextualized my entire comprehension of music.



"The Concept" tackles the same issues of instability and abandonment that drove Cobain to the edge; but "The Concept" was just so poetic, so self-assured and so calm. I was never an overly aggressive person, but I thought harsh aggressivity was the only direct route to raw, intensive think-songs. But all of a sudden, Teenage Fanclub had made bands like the Eels and Grandaddy make sense in the grander scheme of things. They had created the same connection without the vulgarity or shield of hatred. It was like the Great Awakening in my dome, but I still spent the next two years listening to Rancid anyways.




And this is all still prevalent today, too. The "Less Than Zero" disaffected and unwanted sagas of bands like Girls (my DC review of which has vanished, wtf) have overrun much of indie music's lyrical content. Part of it is the hipster tendency to pay a lot of money to look and feel really miserable, but some of it rouses some interesting socioeconomic/nature-vs.-nurture consequences.

This idea of "legitimate disenchantment" within a relatively pleasant atmosphere is sticky for several reasons, but for whatever reason I keep checking my head against the poem "Nikki-Rosa" by Nikki Giovanni. She mentions how much it would pain her for white people to examine her past because they would "talk about [her] hard childhood / and never understand that / all the while [she] was quite happy." The more we pass judgment the more we're ascribing our own lives on another. So while Christopher Owens (Girls) may live with an extremely wealthy family in San Francisco, his disposition depends less on his socioeconomic status than his internal conflicts spawned by a traumatic childhood. And that currency of comfort is what I think Bandwagonesque is all about. Well, that and the misery and bluntness of fate.



All told, though, the opaqueness of fate might be the most resonant theme I get out of Bandwagonesque, I just decided not to write about it as much because it's not quite as prevalent today—which is what I'd assumed people cared more about. Rather, Bandwagonesque, "Is This Music?" especially, sounds better tailored for a John Hughes or young John Cusack revelatory sequence than anything in today's cinema. I guess I don't know what that says about its chances in the court of PC readers, but I like it quite a bit so screw off.

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