Friday, January 28, 2011

suburban angstas "we're not the first and we know we're not the last..."

One of my friends from the hallowed slacker Tri-C days of yore, who made the Cleveland Scene for Dumbest Quote of the Year for selling a parental-advisory-stickered CD to a grade schooler saying he'd "sell it to a fetus if he had to," declared that if he was elected Mayor of Strongsville, he would change the mascot on the downtown water tower to the Wu-Tangs instead of the Mustangs due to the high volume of suburban hip-hop fanhood in said land to the south.

My east siders find it supremely ironic that the white kids of the southern suburbs adored the crew while mostly oblivious to the whole Five Percenter thing, but it was what it was. And ODB's stage crash was infinitely more awesome than Kanye's. For the children, indeed.

There will always be suburban kids who love hip-hop for the same reason that white kids have always turned to African-rooted music. It's danceable, freaks out their parents (see: jazz, early rock and roll, etc), and is eventually co-opted into a sanitized mainstream culturally acceptable form, usually getting whiter in the process. The next musical form that freaks out/totally annoys the future white suburban parents my age who loved A Tribe Called Quest and the Roots will probably have African diasporic roots too.

My dad can't stand hip-hop but loves Beck, and made up parody lyrics to "Loser" when it came out that became an inside joke with his fellow truck-driving coworkers whose careers involve purveying bread of all kinds to the good people of the hood.

Meanwhile, in Crackerland, as it's been since the 1960's, there will always be disaffected youths who will turn to loud music with electric guitars that may or may not freak out their parents even if they don't understand this new sound that the Kids are into these days.

While the medium on which the music is recorded may change (see cassettes, vinyl, compact disc, MP3), The Kids will more or less look the same regardless of decade and are somewhat interchangeable, as what's basic yet never terribly fashionable can never go out of style. Jeans, black t-shirts, basic footwear usually of the Converse variety, zip-up hoodies, the occasional Joey Ramone leather jacket? The haircuts may vary in volume, the glasses may look different, but the basics are still there.

The Kids may not be getting stoned, but they love kung-fu movies, played Stratomatic in the 60's and 70's (because in the inner suburbs, it's still acceptable to be into sports and music), videogames from the 80's until now, guitars if they were available, and still probably spend a lot of time driving around aimlessly listening to music and discussing high school politics, and dishing snarky pop/subculture commentary at an all-night diner or the nearest coffeeshop.

One of my fellow peons from a generation old enough to have birthed me claims that in another 15 years, the Kids will no longer be listening to Slayer, but I disagree. For one thing, Slayer's older than I am, and their first record came out the year I was born.

17 years later, The Kids in my day mocked me for my love of U2 while extolling the virtues of Hell Awaits at the lunch table, while we regretted that we were too young to see Minor Threat or Nirvana or Led Zeppelin way back when and wondered if that new Alice in Chains song on the radio meant that maybe Layne Staley wasn't totally far gone yet.

My friends often had to turn their band t-shirts inside out (this was the post-Columbine era and any band t-shirt suggesting anything involving death and destruction was suspect), made fun of our valedictorian who didn't know what a pentagram was, and one of us, who also played on the football team, bore a startling resemblance to Kerry King, especially when he got tattoos post-graduation.

Even if you didn't know how to play anything else on the guitar, you knew how to play "Iron Man," and "Smoke on the Water." Every hardcore punk band I saw threw in a few bars of "Reign in Blood" when requested.

Maybe we Parmanians were just 20 years behind the times, but I'm sure there's kids sitting in a cafeteria right now listening to 70's punk, classic rock, and 80's thrash, just like we did. My little sister likes all this weaksauce indie, but her boyfriend's skater bros look just like my metalhead friends from back in the day.

I got the warm fuzzy feeling when I watched two teenage girls at My Mind's Eye buying pre- Blood Sugar Red Hot Chili Peppers albums on vinyl because I remember being that age and starting to delve into the underground gradually, or when my cousin posted pictures of his first electric guitar and is now presumably wailing away.

So boomers, thanks for Hendrix and Black Sabbath. We don't want to admit that we're still kind of like you (because who doesn't become their parents eventually?), because we insist that the sounds of our youth are the best they could be, but we have to give credit where it's due, and we have you to thank for spearheading the soundtracks and subcultures for disaffected and usually brilliant loners. Now, go retire so we can pay your pensions and stay employed.



Randal Graves said...


Now don't be reading the comment that I'm typing four feet away from you, it'll ruin the surprise.

Fucking boomers.

Anonymous said...

i love this post, this is very well put, with the cyclic nature of the so-called revolutions of youth, and the loud guitars, and the distant strain of the different, blacker music from a different part of town...