In the tail of the Littleton media com et, the Fresno city council voted unanimously to “condemn Marilyn Manson or any other negative entertainer who encourages anger and hate upon the community as an offensive threat to the children.” Watching the way the wind was blowing and feeling its chilling effect, Marilyn, one of the few performance artists who can afford the courage of his convictions, went out like a bitch and canceled his May 4 gig.
Of course, we live in a land that, 44 years ago, convened the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency over the film Blackboard Jungle and its incendiary opening soundtrack, “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock.”
But no goon squad charged with our kids’ best interests is hurling itself against the battlements of Burger King. Said friendly corporation is currently television-rocking the twentysomething hit “More, More, More”: a pro-porn anthem by honest-to-goodness porn star Andrea True that features as its money shot “If you want to know how I really feel, get the cameras rolling.” Doesn’t that per haps constitute an “offensive threat” to the kids?
Of course not; it’s just an ad. In fact, Burger King and the elders of Fresno are in the philosophical sack together. Granted, the councillors are the uprightest of men, while the King would suck off Rammstein in a second if it sold a few cowpies. But finally, both believe that music is mind control. It’s important that we use it for Good.
All of which makes “Steal My Sunshine,” by nitwit sample-poppers Len, the Goodest song on the radio. The kids sing a little, mumble a little, invent surreal teen dialogues: “Have you talked to Mark lately?” “He looks pretty, uh, down.” “Maybe we should cheer him up then.” “What do you, uh, suppose we should do?” “Well, does he like butter tarts?”
I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. There must be something sinister beneath such a blank exchange, their bright white voices archived from a ’50s sitcom. Under the chitchat, Dust Brother #1 stashes “More, More, More” like a dirty secret, and the four-bar loop pulls you all the way down: the spirit of Andrea True ticking away in the basement of Pleasantville High. Butter tart? She’ll be your whatever you want, the bomb in your nitwit pop song.
Better that samples should hook for new songs than old burgers. Even in a material world there’s something mathematically thrilling about cutting everything else out of the marketing loop—about songs that are perfect advertisements for themselves. I’m sure the sugaree bop of “Material Girl” could move a few units of almost anything, especially now that Madonna’s not a problem anymore. (Didn’t they try to ban her once, back when she was Andrea True Blue?) Why shouldn’t it move the new single from The Tamperer?
Great hooks always happen twice: they arrive as mystery, and re turn as irony. Riding the strings-and-all track from 1984, vocalist Maya Davis vamps and purrs about how her life sucked until she went record shop ping “and I found this little song, now I got a party going on, on, on.” Except she slurs “party” into “body,” as rock’n’roll has done for 50 years. Then she tags you with the title: “If You Buy This Record Your Life Will Be Better.” Snap—the loop closes. It’s the dream of pure material, the story which is only about itself.
“If Only” attempts the whole history of rock, or at least of stone: by Queens of the Stone Age, it’s a stoner-metal tribute to Stone Temple Pi lots’ pastiche of ’70s glam-metal’s re vision of the Rolling Stones’ alchemical conversion of blues into gold. Even at this late moment, the guitar is still the philosophers’ stone for some white boys, and for all its time-traveling, “If Only” makes its buzzy riff stand alone, all that transmutation finally a moment unto itself. Now if only I could tell what these metal guys were saying: “marmalade Kool-Aid”? Maybe that’s what their mouths are filled with that makes them so mumbly.
On the other hand, it was always obvious that Biggie was saying, “Throw your Rolies in the sky.” Not roadies, Rolexes—as in, wave ’em side to side. But in case you missed that line, the T.W.D.Y. collective brings it back for “Players Holiday,” the super-relaxingest summer jam since L.S.O.B.‘s 1990 “On a Sunday Afternoon.” In this fantasy world, the president solves the player-hater problem, and a national holiday breaks out. Ladies and gentlemen, the barbecue is on.
Five years ago, the players in question—Too Short, Ant Banks, Rappin 4-Tay, Captain Save’em, and Mac Mall—were the very witches William Bennett and Senator Sam Brown back were hunting. But that was be fore school shootings replaced drive-bys as the trend crime of the fin de siècle, and angsty suburban white boys became the definitive criminals. Suddenly gangstas are just groovin’ old Gs, kicking it on a lovely day in the park. Their moment as the face of evil has come and gone, and they can relax into history alongside Bill Haley & the Comets.