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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Work Stereo

posted by on July 8 at 9:11 AM

At the place where I spend most of my evenings there is a stereo. My coworkers do not understand what a privilege this stereo is. They can’t see that the full control they wield of this stereo is a mighty gift, a gift rarely enjoyed by the huddled masses cowering near minimum wage. There is no mandated corporate bullshit megamix on loop. No required easy listening. There is an iPod dock and limitless possibilities, unless those possibilities contain swearing. And what do my coworkers do? They piss on this luxury right in its face.

First, there’s the playlist lacking any semblance of innovation. There isn’t a single song on there that hasn’t seen heavy rotation on FM radio. There’s no rhyme or reason behind why the songs are grouped together: “Baby I Love Your Way” moves into “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” on to four Bob Marley songs. “Hit Me Baby One More Time” is followed by the Gin Blossoms and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” then there’s a Backstreet Boys jam and maybe “What if God Was One of Us.” A brief history of commercial radio, chaotically chosen and piled together in a sloppy heap and put on shuffle. In the list’s inception the creator expends virtually no energy, instead opting to inquire meekly: “What songs have I heard a billion fucking times before, and what can I do to hear them again?” Many of these songs appear to have been chosen for “ironic” value, but seriously, if you keep telling the same ironic joke repeatedly, every three minutes for several hours, day after day, eventually the recipient of that joke is going to start daydreaming about ways he can poison you. With iPods like these, the freedom afforded through the stereo had been utterly disregarded, no chances taken. Even if the songs aren’t “good,” they’re familiar, and that’s all some people need to crawl though their workday.

Yet I can’t decide which is worse: squandering your gift on radio banality, or exploiting it with vapid independent internet garbage? There are some young college kids who work at my shop. They listen to music like a god damn fourteen year old girl. It’s like they’ve embraced every swoopy-haired emo power pop band trying to make a million dollars on Myspace, and they play them, all the time. Normally this stuff chunks by under my radar, purposefully, but now it’s in my face whether I want to deal with it or not. It sounds sort of like the “Emo” I listened to a decade ago, but it’s devolved. Its forefathers had barely figured out thumbs - there really wasn’t room to dumb it down any farther. When New Found Glory was getting a lot of attention I never thought about what the bands that would later reference them as inspirations would sound like. I didn’t want to think about it. Now I get to ALL THE TIME. Pop punk is the ”Boy Band” of the 2000s. At work I hear group after group - I don’t know most of the band names and don’t bother to check. Because they are all doing the same thing (namely, playing Warped Tour). Every song is a formula, each lyric purposefully picked to stimulate a teenager’s angst gland. To finger it delicately, but defiantly. With 5150s. And jump kicks. The messages are innocuous and clichéd; there is no emotion in the Emo. It is now merely the streamlined essence of a former “independent” scene. If a bunch of a band’s songs use the ubiquitous halftime/double-bass judding breakdown then they get to call themselves “Hardcore.” For people who get off on actual hard music these bands are the equivalent of dry-humping in stiff jeans. Just like high school, all over again.

Some effort had to be spent finding these crappy bands. Obviously a normal person can ignore them with great ease. Is the attempt to reach out and discover these groups worthy of any praise? When it comes to choosing music for the work stereo which is the greater sin: taking no risks and only listening to what the radio tells you, or trying to “think outside the box” and getting trapped in an arguably stupider one?

RSS icon Comments


fuck, kirby: you are hilarious

Posted by ndrwmtsn | July 8, 2008 9:36 AM

you do not know the greatest of sins...

I worked at a funeral home, and we only had two channels on the company stereo...

Classical Music & Smooth Jazz

Anything else was grounds for dismissal. So you should just suck it up, and be a man, because you don't want to be surrounded by death and dead music.

Posted by sir jorge | July 8, 2008 10:10 AM

the term you are looking for is "mall rock".
i loathe mall rock.

Posted by meerkat | July 8, 2008 10:12 AM

Better music critics made these same observations and complaints a few years ago.

"Pop punk is the ”Boy Band” of the 2000s."

Pretty sure that statement was first made at least two years go. Don't throw that shit in bold.

Posted by Nick | July 8, 2008 10:22 AM

That was one of my favorite things about working in retail or coffee shops: getting to pick the music. Of course that was when we would actually throw a bunch of physical CDs in the player and either shuffle or not. Nowadays, with the ipods and whatnot, I bet it would be even more fun.

I am starting a new job, and it just occurred to me that I might be able to listen to music at work, which I haven't done in ages. Yay!

Posted by Levislade | July 8, 2008 10:32 AM

I'm one of those cranky dudes who usually opts to not listen to anything at work if that option's available, because just about anything gets on my nerves eventually. At least the painfully familiar route is easier to ignore.

I remember being a kid and my dad complaining that us kids today had to have some form of media on at all times whether we were paying attention or not. Now I'm turning into my dad, because I've noticed the same thing. Music is wallpaper and TV viewing is mandatory.

Well, I'm off to yell at the neighbor kids who keep cutting across my lawn.

Posted by flamingbanjo | July 8, 2008 10:50 AM

Is this a restaurant? If so, it makes sense. Nobody is there to hear the music and they just need something for noise. It's familiar and boring, thus easy to tune out but it still covers up the clank of the kitchen, other people's conversations, etc.

It could be worse -- back when I was broke I had to work a telemarketing job. In Bellevue. For a matchmaking company. Even worse, the radio was ALWAYS on 106.1. I snuck in a small radio and an earphone to block it out, but the memories live on.

Posted by Jason Josephes | July 8, 2008 11:38 AM

mall rock = mallternative

Posted by Scottie Yahtzee | July 8, 2008 11:46 AM

when we aren't being burdened with the mountain, my office has an airtunes (allows you to stream itunes to a stereo), so we get the luxury of playing whatever we want. we try to keep the profanity down to a minimum, but that piece of gear changed the office atmosphere immensely, allowing us to play anything under the sun. jeff, i feel for you.

Posted by donte | July 8, 2008 2:49 PM

Today at work we listened to the new Melvins and Boris albums, and some Scratch Acid. And I work a customer service job.

Just rubbing it in a little.

Posted by bunnypuncher | July 8, 2008 7:53 PM

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