We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now

Aug 06, 2001

Not that it’s particularly relevant to the subject of this column, but I’m currently going through a divorce. That’s why it’s been awhile since you, gentle reader, have been graced with one of my columns extolling the virtues of various rock bands and their websites and such: frankly, I haven’t been thinking much about that kind of thing, and I’m loath to force myself. One, it’s not like I’m earning some huge amount of money for doing this (or any amount of money, actually), so it’s not like I need to fake enthusiasm for popular music the way, say, the chick who writes those horrible music pieces for Newsweek does; and two, I become tremendously dissatisfied with my writing when it’s hacked out. I’m not sure if you all can always tell the difference, but I suspect the brighter bulbs among the handful of urchins comprising my (cough) “audience” can. I’d like to think so, anyway, and more importantly I can tell the difference.

So no tracts on why vinyl fetishists aren’t even fooling themselves or how there’s really not any objective difference between boomers’ love for the Beatles and Stones and today’s preteens’ love for the Backstreets and N’Syncs of the world have been flying through my cortex for the past several weeks. My thoughts have largely not been of a nature I care to share in this venue, though I’m sure you can fill in the blanks yourself quite adequately. If not, well, wait ten or so years and you’ll be able to, trust me on this.

However, something I saw recently jolted me off of my emotional flagellation treadmill, something that stirred such a sense of outrage in me that my petty problems must be put aside: an injustice, nay, an abomination--such a monument to absurdity that it irresistibly compels one to take up arms, to declare once and for all that NO! I WILL NOT ABIDE THIS INSANITY IN SILENCE!

I refer, of course, to the brand-new Echo & the Bunnymen box set.

Now, before you say to yourself, “What’s this idiot going on about? There are dozens of box sets around, what’s one more?”—think for a moment. WHY do record companies issue box sets? To make money. They are attractive, high-priced items that effectively move four (or more) times the merchandise and concomitant dollar value in one purchase. Still, there are usually solid rationales leading up to the issue of a box set: perhaps the artist in question has more hits than comfortably fit on a single CD. Perhaps the artist’s work doesn’t lend itself to the hits-cherrypicking approach. Maybe the artist has been acclaimed by many critics, building a demand for work that might otherwise have gone overlooked. Could be the artist has several albums that are out of print, and clamoring fans might as well get them all at once in one convenient package. Possibly the artist’s work is actually good enough to merit a career overview that extends well over four hours of quality material. And hey, maybe the artist just sold an assload of records and they want to resell the same stuff again to the same people and make another assload of money.

None of these hypothetical suppositions apply to Echo and the Bunnymen.

Following are ten points of argument--each one of which alone should have provided sufficient evidence to prevent this horror from being unleashed on the world.

  1. The band has possibly the worst name ever. EVER.
  2. Their quality material boils down to precisely two songs: “The Killing Moon” and “Bring On the Dancing Horses”. The rest can bite my ass.
  3. They had no real hits in this country. Maybe “Lips Like Sugar” charted, but I seriously doubt it. Maybe they had hits in the UK, I don’t care enough to go research it, but having a #1 hit in the UK only means the NME told the twelve wankers (oo! Brit slang!) who take their garbage seriously to go out and buy whatever trendy Brit crap they’re pushing this week.
  4. Echo and the Bunnymen aren’t a touring draw or anything, either now or ‘back in the day’. I doubt you even know anyone who ever even heard of Echo and the Bunnymen touring the USA except for Jack Rabid of the Big Takeover (who takes bands like Lush and Guided By Voices WAY too seriously, anyway). Iron Maiden sold out stadiums and they don’t have a box set. Bob Seger doesn’t have a box set. Van Morrison doesn’t have a box set.
  5. Only the UK rags of the time really tried to argue the merits of the band, and even they realized no one was buying. For fuck’s sake, how do you convince even a schnauzer of the artistic and aesthetic merits of a group moronic enough to name itself ‘Echo & the Bunnymen’? This is a journalism culture that will, without irony, plaster their tabloids with headlines like ‘Ned’s Atomic Dustbin—better than the Beatles?’ Again, in case you skipped over that part, totally WITHOUT IRONY. Don’t make the mistake of thinking “But it’s supposed to sound stupid—that’s why it’s cool…” NO. These idiots actually believe the tripe they brandish, for two seconds at least. Then it’s on to the new flavor of tripe—meet the new tripe, same as the old tripe. (You don’t even know what tripe is, do you? Admit it, you don’t. That’s okay, it’ll never come up in conversation.)
  6. Even in the context of a nation of musical poseurs, these guys made the Cure look like the fucking MC5. They made Pop Will Eat Itself seem like Sun Ra. They made Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction look like Ministry. Actually, Zodiac Mindwarp did look like Al Jourgensen, now that I think about it. Still, you get my point.
  7. They’re one of those bands stupid enough to swear they’d never re-form, you know, ‘cause one of their ‘mates’ is dead and all and it wouldn’t be right and you know, we’re really past all that and we really want to move on—until they realize no one gives a shit about their music so they run screaming back to that idiotic name and plaster it on themselves again.
  8. Roxy Music put out a box set years ago and they couldn’t even get it released in this country. Not that I’m a big Roxy Music fan, but come on, they’re a good sight better than Echo and the fucking Bunnymen. And people are actually willing to pay money to go see Roxy Music’s reunion tour. Who gave a shit when Echo & the Bunnymen re-formed?
  9. Did you ever know anyone who actually liked Echo & the Bunnymen? If so, think back and you will realize that those were the most pretentious, unbearable people you ever knew in your life. Why? Because they were the type pathetic enough to buy something and extol its virtues simply because they were told by some shitty magazine or style show that it was ‘cool’, despite the fact that your four-year-old baby sister could tell that it wasn’t at all cool.
  10. If you actually spend the $40 or $50 on an Echo and the Bunnymen box set, you are, in effect, admitting to yourself, the guy who rings you up at the register (silly me—like people won’t buy this online to avoid the embarrassment), anyone who sees it in your CD rack, and the surviving members of the Bunnymen themselves that your life peaked in 1986 and you fervently wish it would remain 1986 forever, because that’s when your life was the best it ever was and ever will be. Even though it sucked back then too. Go see the Duran Duran reunion tour—hell, at least Duran Duran sold records, had hits, and played tours. Actually, go buy a goddamn James Brown record and develop some fucking taste instead of wallowing in self-absorbed nostalgia, you waste of human tissue.

So please—I know it’s easy to be distracted away from the real issues by things like that inbred bastard puppet calling itself our president or having what you thought was your life torn away from you in a matter of days, but we must come together as one and fight this insidious evil. We thought the monster was dead in 1988—we thought we were safe, we thought we could let our guard down. Now look what’s happened. Like Godzilla and Rodan’s irradiated offspring (only about one millionth as cool) it has risen from its grave to threaten all of civilization, and only by sacrifice and sweat can we respect ourselves and our culture once more.

Truthfully, we have no other choice. Struggle or perish. Life is not always pretty.

I thank you for your attention.

Author Aaron J. Poehler is recovering quite nicely, thanks for asking. The recuperative effects of getting as far away from Indiana as possible cannot be overestimated. You can read more of his writing from the past several years on his website at http://www.angelfire.com/in2/aaronmusicarchives/.

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