wanna know what bugs the shit out of me? possible bigotry disguised as progressive behavior. It’s not as timely as it once was, but groups from across the spectrum have staged boycotts of Reggae Festivals if performers who once wrote hateful, anti-gay songs are slated to perform. Turns out, about 99 percent of the performers of these festivals are black. Turns out, GLAAD has never picketed a Guided By Voices concert. (it might take a while to see the connection, but bare with me) I’ve always loved Guided by Voices because they wrote better Who songs than the Who did, with extraneous but courageous drumfills, sci-fi/non-sequiter lyrics (the band has performed probably the only song ever about Helicopters as mass transit), and Robert Pollard’s steady, fartherly voice. Still, I cringe every time i stick on Human Amusements at Hourly Rates, because of 23 seconds of pure garbage, an audio-dump called “hit.” i love each and every one of the 30 plus other songs on the rest of the album, but those twenty three seconds, and Bob Pollard’s decision to include them on the bands’ best of, make me reevaluate the band altogether. The song might seem harmless enough, a fair example of the lower-than-low-fi style of mid-period GBV, but in the songs second line, there is a phrase that at first provoked a double take, and then pure repulsion. the first two lines of the song are as follows: “This is called ‘the coming of age’/Coming into town with the giggling faggots.” It isn’t even just the presence of that last word that kills me, it’s the fact that there’s no irony, nothing to hide behind. Pollard spits out the word like its a locker room and he’s the juicer whose going to beat up the closeted art kid, and the fact that, come the fuck on, they’re fucking GIGGLING, certainly doesn’t gain him any tolerance points. The song is awful to begin with (unless you really like the sound of 50 year old men trying and failing to relive rock and roll dreams in their garage), but that line, even in the context of the rest of the song, ESPECIALLY in that context, really does seem hateful. And it is also entirely confounding to me that this particuluar song was chosen off the album, if you’re going for chaotic why not “As We Go Up, We Go Down?” If you’re going for gritty and poorly produced, why not “A Good Flying Bird?” It’s not an instance of a song advocating violence against gay men or women, and so perhaps the comparison of Guided By Voices to someone like Beenie Man is a little shaky, but in both cases, there is pretty unquestionable homophobia evident, and i guess i’m pissed that pollard is too much of a god in “intellectual” indie rock circles for people to call him out on his shit. I do think there is something racial going on here; people can’t forget that HR from Bad Brains may have said some anti-gay remarks at a concert 20 years ago, but those same kids get off thinking that Axl Rose, perhaps the prototypical example of a white guy who thinks its all right to single out blacks, gays, and women, might have written another album of shitty songs that Bon Jovi would be ashamed to sing.
People seemed to skip over J. Robbin’s later stuff, anything post “For Your Own Special Sweetheart.” It’s the Robyn Hitchcock or the Paul Weller phenomenon, where when someone who was once in a band that played loud decides they wants to turn down the volume a little bit, people turn their back. File that under poor decisions, because both Burning Airlines and Channels are excellent bands. Both have their own secrets they take out with the trash, their preferred style of mass transit (Burning Airlines built a complex system of pulleys in the sewer system, Channels puts on sunglasses and pretends to be blind to get the reduced fair, then takes polaroids of the ways people clutch their bags when they fall asleep on their trip home), and their own drummers. Both bands talk politics that scab on first listen, so even if you don’t agree, you’ve got to admit they leave an impact. And thankfully, while they do it in separate ways, both groups manage to sound like the speech you’d give to a bunch of disaffected 7th graders on the last day of classes, but if there were helicopters taking off over head.
(and, for real, now that school is out [forever] i’m going to try to update this more often.)