First click this link and listen to the song. If you can’t stand it and switch off after a few seconds, then I wrote this post for you. If you loved it and headbanged round your room, read on anyway.
The band is The Dillinger Escape Plan, the song Panasonic Youth, and it’s metal. In fact it’s about as nasty as metal gets, sometimes almost wilfully unlistenable. The changes in time signature and tempo as well as tonality are confusing and make it almost impossible to just relax and enjoy it. And the vocalist sounds like an ogre who’s lost his temper.
However, if you give it a chance and just roll with the awful racket that it initially seems to be, some snippets of beauty begin to appear, like bright little flowers growing on a bombsite. Then listen again – those harmonies are not as random as they first seemed. There are ideas here that have been used by acknowledged masters of music: Bela Bartock, Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane, Frank Zappa. And there is structure – thematic development in an almost classical style, and all perfectly performed. Once you get to know it, it’s as fine a song as any you’ll hear from a rock band.
What I’m saying is that it takes more effort and commitment to find the enjoyment in music like this, but don’t feel I’m judging you if didn’t like it. I have no right to feel superior, mainly because I don’t like boxing.
I’m sure that if I took the time and trouble to study it, boxing has as much subtlety, finesse, technique and tactical mindplay as any other sport. Boxers are athletes, and the strongest combatant doesn’t automatically win, yet I have never enjoyed it. At its heart, boxing is two men (usually), each trying to hit the other hard enough to knock him down or make him lose consciousness. It seems barbaric and anachronistic in modern society. I have never managed to see past the brutality of it and find the elegance and beauty that undoubtedly lies behind it.
If lots of people view more extreme or difficult styles of music the same way, seeing only the brutality and not the underlying beauty, who am I to judge?
There is a more general point to be made about genres and personal taste. I continually judge books by their covers, movies by their posters, music by the look of the artistes. This seems shallow, but there is no time to read every book, watch every movie and listen to every album, so we have to make quick choices.
If I see a band comprising four pretty teenage boys who look as though they spend more time with a stylist than with their vocal coach, I probably won’t take the trouble to listen to the music. If a new book appears on the horror shelf and it’s called Dead Sexy and has a picture of a blood-stained apple on the cover, I won’t read it. I’m sure I’m missing out on some great stuff, but I know I’m saving a lot of time that might have been wasted on things I won’t enjoy.
So you’re allowed to see only the ugliness in my tastes in music, film and fiction – I don’t mind. I have to respect your choices and your taste, so long as you don’t make me watch a boxing match.