Idiots, Assholes, and My Perfect Taste In Music
by Brian Cook
on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 12:20 PM
I remember first hearing this bit by George Carlin well before I had my driver’s license. In the years since, my memory morphed Carlin’s categorizations from “idiots” and “maniacs” to “idiots” and “assholes.” Either my memory failed me or this clip is from a more family-friendly version of this routine.
Regardless, Carlin’s central argument remains the same: people that drive slower than me are idiots, people that drive faster than me are assholes, and my driving is perfect. It really is true. And that observation transcends driving. It’s applicable throughout life.
Case in point: music. There is a lot of genuinely idiotic music out there. It’s unoriginal, regurgitated, safe. It’s recycled, worn-out formulas regurgitated for people in the slow lane. It’s junk food for morons that don’t want to try too hard to wrap their heads around anything new or interesting. It’s music that’s completely patterned after something that is already known to be an easy sell. It’s music that ties itself to one particular niche and completely disavows the broader world of sound and experience. It’s bands like Korn that openly disregard any music made before Faith No More and Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s bar bands that still try to sound like Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin. It’s punk bands giving shout outs to ’77 and hardcore bands giving shout outs to ’88 in 2012. It’s anything with ‘revival’ attached to it. Move forward, people. Speed it up a bit.
There’s a lot of asshole music out there, too. I’m all for innovation and creative thinking, but part of what makes music resonate with people is the established lexicon of sounds. Some of it is inherent: major scales sound happy; minor scales sound sad. But some of it is based on cultural shorthand: people have a learned response to certain tones and tricks of the trade. I need a little bit of that familiarity, a little bit of that cultural shorthand to latch on to. Artists that attempt to completely ditch any and all convention are pretentious assholes. Just because you have the capability to do something that’s never been done before doesn’t mean you should do it. It’s the Jurassic Park rule. Slow down, start with some basics. Learn your craft before you decide to break all the rules of songwriting and performance.