Today I checked Soundcloud. Everyday I check Soundcloud, I see a new track with thousands of “likes” and hundreds of thousands of listens and I assume these blockbusters are sappy-sweet and/or pornographic auto-pop with metronome beats , so I ignore them. Today I was curious. I clicked the first one I saw.
I couldn’t believe how repulsively talent-free and idiotic it was. It made me want to spit blood-soaked chunks of my tongue at the screen. It was bad on a level I wasn’t prepared for and couldn’t have predicted… and I’m usually pretty good at predicting how bad things might be or could get. No, this one surprised me. A total lack of quality is one thing, of course, but framed within the context of attention and even gushing praise from among, literally, more than 500,000 listeners (in the first hour) , dross on this level means something. But what? What does shit this atrocious-yet-beloved mean?
It means we live in a strange world. Or a stranger Era. So much beauty, so many centuries of miraculously-illuminated souls conceiving wonders, eg: Lucian Freud’s portraits and Aretha Franklin’s debut on Atlantic and DeLillo’s Libra-Underworld-Cosmopolis trilogy and Kara Walker’s Cycloramas and King Crimson’s Epitaph and Beethoven’s Große Fuge, op. 133 (Takács Quartet) and Nina Simone before she went a little nuts and Nina Simone slightly after she went a little nuts and Mick Karn’s fretless work and a couple of Bruce Lee flicks and Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theater and JLG’s Masculin Feminin and Lennon’s I Am the Walrus and Coltrane’s Favorite Things and all of Zappa’s One Size Fits All and Harlan Ellison’s Deathbird Stories and just about everything photographer William Klein ever made, did or said and Sun Ra’s ghetto-galactic pomp and the Disney/Dali collaboration Destino and Isao Tomito’s painstakingly-pioneering cosmos of synth and Delia Derbyrshire’s avant twist on a similar vision (or vice versa) and their sinister offspring Aphex Twin and Stewart Lee’s post-modern evolution of George Carlin’s high modernist laughs and Debussy’s fauns and Joni Mitchell’s men and Modigliani’s women…
…plus a million times more than all that, maybe a billion times more than all that, of utterly irredeemable, corpse-green cat shit. Stinking up the cultural Universe. It’s everywhere you look, pervades most of what you hear and read. A Cultural Empire of Corpse-Green Cat Shit, from horizon to horizon, stacked in logs and slabs and cannonball-pyramids and huge sagging blocks and sod rolls and also, in its liquefied form, in vats and tankers and sloshing barges the proverbial football fields in length… a reeking world, a rapidly-metastasising Empire of Corpse-Green Cat Shit upon which the sun never sets.
But this, again, is the uncanny part, as unsettling as a Buñuel film: hundreds of millions of citizens are neck-deep in it and they don’t seem to mind one bit. No, in fact, they like it. All this cat shit is there because they asked for it.
See how happy they are, paddling neck-deep in the liquefied corpse-green cat shit, dressed in cat-shit hats and munching cat-shit fritters? This “track” I listened to on Soundcloud today has, as of now:
241 comments from hundreds of people who like to piss in the liquefied corpse-green catshit while they swim in it, exclaiming, eg, “YAAAY” “AWESOME” “I WOULD GIVE EVERYTHING FOR THIS TUNE” “LOOOVE” “PERFECT” “OMFG! NICE NICE” “SUBLIME” “SEX WITH THIS SONG” “WHAT A FUCKIN TRACK”…
The vocal appears to be a first take, recorded on a laptop using a not-particularly decent microphone. The words appear to be improvised doggerel (English appears to be the “singer’s” second language): “You better know how to blind yourself at home / you better know how to blind yourself alone” is the basic version, but it keeps changing, randomly, because it’s improvised, it doesn’t mean anything and the “singer” can’t remember how to fit the words to the meter the same way, every time. It sounds as though, very possibly, the “singer” or “producer” or “singer/producer” was dialling through a menu for vocal FX, found an effect he liked, and went for it. A simple envelope-pad plus a tacky beat and the “track” was just about ready. Half-way through this six-minute adventure in amateurishness he added some extremely rudimentary “piano” playing. I’d guess he’s been playing the “piano”, without much diligence, for two or three years… or had lessons as a kid and still remembers some of it. It’s nothing anyone before the turning point of the Reverse Nativity of 9/11/2001 (aka National Brain Damage Day, but we’ll address that in another post) would dream of playing, for a stranger, without a certain amount of healthy shame.
Not any more.