Fear of God
1991/Flying Nun Records
Even though I know that regretting the past is a totally pointless waste of time, I still look back on most of high-school with chagrin. In the latter half of my high-school career, I was a very irritating attention-starved annoyance. I was the kind of person most level-headed people are rightfully repulsed by, wearing XS American Apparel shirts and checkered belts. I lived vicariously through my fastidiously maintained and constantly updated Facebook profile and basically demanded praise from everybody. I bought a t-shirt (XS) with Vladimir Lenin’s face on it. No, not to be edgy or controversial - even worse - I didn’t even know who he was; I bought it because I thought he looked funny. I expressed fervent admiration for The Shins and I paid close attention to making sure my bangs flipped to the right side.
I know It’s boring to complain about your teenage self. Most 17-year-olds are stupid and complaining about it makes you look just as desperate and self-conscious as you’re positive you were back then. I don’t really care too much anymore, but thinking about this awkward stage of my social life makes me appreciate a more simpler time - grade 9 -when I truly didn’t care about how I looked or how I was perceived by the cool student body. I didn’t not care the way that every cool person doesn’t care. I truly was unaware of how I looked and acted around people: My hair was almost waist-length and I don’t remember what kind of clothes I wore. For the record, this is by no means an accomplishment nor am I relishing this aspect of my personality. I wasn’t popular or cool and I didn’t secretly care like I pretend I don’t do now. I think I was the only person in my school who listened to Gentle Giant and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (again, this is definitely not an accomplishment). I apologize for the verbosity but this all has a point.
I was in science class, full class, about 30 people, and I had finished my test early, probably failed, so I asked my teacher if I could listen to my iPod Mini (4 GB, silver) and she granted me permission. I had white Apple ear-buds at the time and those things did not effectively conceal the sound coming from them. So anyway, I unwrapped the white ear-buds from around the iPod Mini, placed them in my ears, and, for some reason, listened to “Hoedown” by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I really liked it. It’s pretty bad. If you haven’t heard Hoedown, by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, it has the charm/allure/sexiness of that infamous regrettably-anthemic song ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’ but played by Rick Wakeman, or something. It’s brutal but I didn’t think twice about it. I liked it so I listened to it.
Unbeknownst to me, the silence that is concomitant with a classroom of students writing science tests was inevitably and quite obnoxiously displaced by “Hoedown”. At the end of the song, the few-second-long break between songs, this dickhead named Doug says something like “Yo, like, what the fuck is he listening to?" and the crowd goes wild. Spotlight on Doug. Doug takes the stage and everyone loves it. Someone had to do it - everyone was waiting, stunned by the awkward clumsy gallop of "Hoedown". I was really embarrassed and kind of shocked. I hadn’t ever felt embarrassed about the music that I’d liked before. All of a sudden I was feeling ashamed of taking pleasure in something innocent and totally unoffensive that I, and I alone, enjoyed. Only now do I realize that, first, fuck you Doug, you little dickhead, I forgive you, but the idea of being embarrassed about the music you like is a display of weak character. I no longer believe in the concept of a guilty pleasure. A guilty pleasure just means you are denying your own sincere feelings and opinions and replacing them with those of the rest of the population and how weak is that? You can’t argue with what you naturally like the sound/look/feel of so why should that be wrong? How could that be wrong?
This is a song by The Bats, one of many amazing bands from New Zealand. The singer, Robert Scott, also bassist for The Clean, sings with a very familiar intonation, it kinda oozes 1980s art pop, or New Romantic, or in other words, cheesy. When listening to it for the first time I almost felt this mild sting of Doug-induced embarrassment for liking it so much. It sounds ridiculous - feeling embarrassed for liking music when listening to it and listening to it alone - but I really wanted to figure out why I felt awkward or even slightly abashed when doing so. I don’t think it was the association that The Bats had within society - which I’m assuming is none, nor was it the content, lyrics or otherwise, of the song. Maybe my underlying self-consciousness was manifesting itself into something obvious or easy to observe. Who knows. All I know is that rumination on the traumatic science class event has made me realize that being ashamed in something as benign, personal and irrepressible as the music from which you derive pleasure is not only detrimental to your mental well-being and happiness but is a total waste of time. Although I’ve probably long repressed the whole Hoedown debacle, I am sure that while it was playing, loud enough for everyone to hear, long enough for Doug, that dickhead, to prepare a well-executed antagonistic remark, I was having a fucking great time.