Let’s be upfront about one thing (we will call this the ‘throat-clearing-process,’ if that’s all right with you, dear reader): I never know how to start these. I get ideas in my head while I’m at work, and, I gotta be honest, I’m often quite tickled with myself about what I come up with, but then, at home, sitting in front of the monitor, I end up thinking, ‘how the hell do I write this? I don’t even know what I was thinking.’ Tis frustrating, you must believe. I typically spend more time trying to find what music I’m going to listen to in order to conjure back the ideas I once had streaming forth when I was mowing than I do actually writing anything. These are big decisions. Vital. My world of writing is really only about sound.
G. and I are in the process of buying a house. This is a strange development, precisely because not too long ago I went on rant about how I was destined to move to the South, and now we are moving just slightly south of where we are now, which is way above the Mason Dixon line. I’m not allowed to say that we’ve bought a house, because it isn’t official yet, and G. considers to say such a complete and utter jinx and disaster will occur. To me, it is already our first house and I’ve been singing Madness and CSN&Y in my head. Sometimes in a lyrical mash-up of the two. I’m the Girl Talk of songs about ‘our house.’ It is all right to be impressed.
[…] <— let’s consider that a navigational tool indicating I’m transitioning.
When Say Anything released …Is a Real Boy, I remember there being a huge clamor over Max being roughly 13 years old when he wrote the album. I think he was actually 20 or so, but whatever. The important thing to mention in most write-ups concerning the album was that Max was young, this was vital to understanding the album, and that such ‘maturity’ at that age made made the album better to listen to. I find such sentiment bizarre and proof that liking music is mostly psychological. I do not mean for that to be profound; I mean it in the way that, like, people get drunk faster when they are in a social setting that is conducive to ‘being drunk,’ in that, our minds can warp our bodies into believing (or liking) whatever the hell it wants. That is weird. I mean, think about it–it is impossible to consider this album in a vacuum, yet, one has to wonder if such a vacuum occurred, would the people who wrote glowing reviews precisely because of the youth/maturity dichotomy hear the same thing? Does the music actually sound different to us when we know something like that and consider it a good or bad thing? Would Nickleback sound different to me if I knew they donated every single dollar they made to a charity program I agreed with? I don’t think it would, but who the hell knows? I don’t like John Mayer’s music, but his [in]famous interviews in Playboy and Rolling Stone actually made me consider him, not so much as a musician, but as a guy who seemed fully aware of who he was and what he was doing making music [for a quick rehash: Mayer writes crappy songs because crappy songs sell. It is, in reality, a complete dismissal of the buying public, and that is what people should have been offended by, not that he said he had a KKK dick]. And because I know this now, I hear his songs differently. I still don’t think they’re good, but I think they’re not good with a purpose, and thus I don’t despise him like I despise Nickelback. AND THE SONGS HAVEN’T CHANGED IN ANY WAY. This freaks me out. […] Anyway, Youthful Max writes …Is a Real Boy, an album that I immediately love. And who wouldn’t, if you dig the youth angst rock? It was filled with what was supposedly authentic feelings–it was all ‘autobiography,’ after all, the liner notes said so, a pseudo concept album about a young man who couldn’t stop himself from saying anything that he felt, and John Cusack movies be goddamned. It was personal! It was real! Also, it was catchy as hell and rocked out. But, more importantly, and here I think is where age was such a mitigating factor, it was “authentic;’ he was too young to be jaded by the music industry, so his emotional jadedness was real, yo!
Such a conceit, however, rendered follow-up albums nearly impossible. He would never be that young, his jadedness would come off as insincere [cue: Eminem]. And this is exactly what happened. Well, after some other interesting tidbits regarding his personal life, including disappearing while on tour [one that I was supposed to go see, that bastard] and ending up in some sort of mental hospital–something that further cemented his authenticity, by the way–as well as supposedly engaging in freestyle rap battles on street corners in NYC, recording an ill-fated album with Chris from Saves the Day under the band name Two Tongues that had some really strong homoerotic overtones, and, in the one thing that I’m not sure if I should thank him or hate, obtaining Jesse Lacey’s former girlfriend [this is obvious: hate him because Jesse is my boy, dawg or love him because maybe this inspires Jesse to keep writing the best albums in the modern musical universe, sorry I have a man-crush music boner (and how’s that for homoerotic undertone)]. What does any of this have to do with the subsequent follow ups to ...Is a Real Boy? Jack shit. But, yet, it means everything. Because with Max it is impossible to separate what I know of him with how I hear his music, which is, in fact, totally fucking absurd.
Anarchy, My Dear is the best album Max has put together since Real Boy, and it is obvious that it is the true sequel–I think the song ‘Admit it, Again’ might be a small clue to such thinking. But what makes it the best? Why is it so much better than In Defense of the Genre and the self-titled album? The simple answer is because it sounds more like Real Boy and that’s who I want Say Anything to be. The complicated answer is, when you are Max, how do you keep making the music people want you to make while actually also doing what your original conceit was–how do you make ‘new’ music? You keep saying whatever it is you feel. And you don’t feel the same way you did when you made Real Boy, so it is actually impossible to make that album again. The argument against that, though, is how is it that Anarchy works? This also has a simple answer: lots of gang vocal choruses. This is the catchiest album he has written in a long time, and it is enjoyable to listen to. Also, he’s still doing the ‘say anything’ conceit, but now he has something to be angry about: people complaining about him. He’s also happy in love, apparently, so he can write lovely little songs about that. His world, like your world, has changed and evolved. But as fans, we expect our artists to stay exactly where they are. It is an unfairness we willingly embrace to the point that we feel like the artist fails us by not being who we want him/her to be. And this, dear Reader, is why it is important to know that we are buying a house north of the Mason Dixon line: my life has evolved in ways I could not have predicted and I have no idea how much that has influenced what I hear when I listen to this album, and, frankly, that’s fucking weird. I am in a place in my life where Max’s maturity makes total sense to me, thus making this album something I relate to, and it has nothing to do with the music, yet, I just gave you a musical explanation for why this album is better [catchy songs! gang vocals!] and I have no idea what any of this means, and, in reality, I am just making up the idea of Max maturing simply because it fits my version of things. And because I can go on the internet and read things about him and interviews with him, which, in turn, makes me think I know him. And this is why Twitter is so scary.
I am not what you call a prolific Twitter user. I follow six people. Four of them I know personally. I follow two celebrities: Colin Hanks and Bubba Watson. I’m sure those two have thousands of followers, but I would bet I’m the only person on Twitter whose sole celebrity choices are those two. Twitter is, obviously, a haven for celebrity stalking. […] Let’s move on. My point is this: my wife reads a lot of celebrity gossip. This in turn means she reads a TON of celebrity gossip comments. And here’s what I’ve discovered: normal people are scary as shit sliding off a roof right above your head when you’re taking a nap in a hammock. These commentors make wild accusations, judgments, and just out right batshit insane ideas regarding whatever celebrity the article is focused on. And this is okay to do. Because celebrities aren’t people, they’re celebrities. They want the attention. They release pictures to magazines! They’re PR people are setting up ‘photo shoots’ for the paparazzi! No relationships are real! Unless you like the couple! Then it’s love! Or something. It’s total insanity. But people have no qualms making these judgments because, simply, access to a celebrity is, on the surface, so easy. The internet has made any famous person to some degree obtainable. Do you want to know what Scarlett Johansson’s nipples look like? It’s on the internet. Why is it on the internet? Because she’s famous, she took a photo of herself, some dude hacked her phone (and this is okay, because, again, celebrities aren’t people) and now commentors can talk about how Scarlett is fat. Or something. There is this completely bizarre dichotomy of knowing personal things about a celebrity, and, because we know these personal details, we don’t consider them as people. It makes no sense. We have so much access that detachment is our only way of dealing with it. The common argument is that celebrities do this to themselves by being famous. That they are granted a level of benefit the rest of us normals don’t have, so this is the trade-off. I suppose that’s true. But it’s still weird.
Consider: I follow Colin Hanks on Twitter because I really like the show The Good Guys, and I decided that I would follow him to see if he’s like his character in the show. This is my rationale. And I deemed it logical. And now I know that Colin enjoys ramen, the LA Kings, and presented at the NHL Awards. Also, my rationale is flawed because I’ve seen him in multiple movies, like that one serial killer movie with Diane Lane where Colin gets killed in a huge vat of acid or something, and that Orange County movie with Jack Black where all I really remember is Jack Black in his underwear asking if he should start the party or something along those lines. Yet, I have decided that Mr. Hanks is like his Good Guys character, not the kid who wanted to get into Stanford or the police dude in Untraceable [I think that was the title? I could look it up but it would be cheating. It’s where the killer puts all the deaths online because computers are scary or something? Wasn’t he also in an episode of the O.C.? The meta-episode about a tv show and he hits on Summer? Right? And there’s all the talk about how he improvises his lines, a reference to Seth, etc.? Oh, and does anyone remember when Adam Brody played [not]Seth in that movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith?] This means that I filter all of his Twitter updates through the lens of what I know about his character in the Good Guys. And I now feel like I know him, to some degree. I know he likes a lot of the bands I do; he likes ramen, as do I, although I buy mine for 30 cents at the grocery store, he goes to fancy restaurants; he likes hockey. In general, these are similar superficial things I know about my actual friends. But do I know him? Of course not.
The thing about Twitter is that it manages to both let us see celebrities for how they want us to see them, while at the same time mangling our ability to discern what we know about pretty much anyone. There is an uproar anytime someone famous tweets something controversial, but it’s only controversial because we don’t expect them to have such thoughts. We still don’t think of them as people outside of the construct we have created for them. It’s like if Rock Hudson had a Twitter today, he’d probably have accidentally outed himself, but people would have found some way to filter it so that it seemed ironic or whatever so that we could keep seeing him as a man’s man. All told, I’m convinced Colin Hanks and I could be friends, but I think this only because I watched a tv show that I found entertaining, then decided to follow an actor on a weird social media invention. There is nothing there of substance, yet I’ve constructed a foundation that Mr. Hanks has freely offered. It’s not like I’m interacting with him in any way, nor do I actually think of us as ‘friends.’ What I think is that having this platform has turned people not into purveyors of celebrity, but turned them into people who think we are all somehow existing on a level playing field–the internet is the great equalizer. It’s not true–Colin could pay off my student loan debts without even blinking, I’m sure, whereas such a thing would change my life profoundly–but people still grasp onto the idea of the ‘personal’ as this thing which renders everything impersonal. It’s a dramatic cultural shift.
And what does it all mean? Hell if I know. But I think it is pretty clear that no matter how one decides to look at it, having such access is changing the way we think, what we like, and how we respond to it all. And what does it really mean? Colin Hanks, be my friend!