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B-52's "Rock Lobster", WTF mate?

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It's just silly and humorous. The B-52s are great! Is there something specific about it that makes you unsure?

 

It just reminds me of that character in the Fountainhead, a writer that just writes her peculiar crap, just to make it peculiar, odd, "challenging conventions". This reminds me of it, it is fun to listen to every so often, I'll admit. But that still does not preclude aesthetics judgement, I would think, or even moral judgement on the part of the creators of it. Would you not do something similar to a drug addict, wasting their life, this music is just a waste of talent to some extent.

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Would you not do something similar to a drug addict, wasting their life, this music is just a waste of talent to some extent.

Would you consider it immoral for someone to purposefully make a life out of creating music that is fun?
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It just reminds me of that character in the Fountainhead, a writer that just writes her peculiar crap, just to make it peculiar, odd, "challenging conventions".

In the context of the Fountainhead, those conventions were as basic as grammar. In other words, it was referencing people like James Joyce or Gertrude Stein who basically threw out any sensibility in writing. Contrast that with the B-52s who wrote silly lyrics but didn't throw out things on the level of grammar, like tonality. Devo I find similar. In terms of music skill, both bands are fantastic, while often having fun with their lyrics as comedy.

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To be sure, it's entertainment if it entertains you. Not everyone will "get it." The B-52s most well-remembered recording, Rock Lobster, was not to be taken seriously. As so many others have pointed out, it is a fun song. In the right atmosphere, it can be lots of fun. I am a huge fan of some novelty music, can remember the earliest years of the Doctor Demento Show syndicated radio program, and experiences at the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Now that my age is showing, I'd like to offer a little opinion about culture in the United States. Every generation since the invention of the microphone, phonograph, and radio has identified their collective identities with the music of their times. Call me Freudian if you wish, and forgive me for using broad generalizations, but the music of ones earliest years will always have a certain significance in one's life.  Many young people are re-discovering the music of the past, and Rock Lobster, Whip-It, White Wedding, and Rock the Casbah are now popular once again. Will they be classics? Only time will tell. No one should have taken Rock Around the Clock very seriously, but if it's not a classic, it was definitely influential in the development of a new art form. That art form is now in decline; it has been fragmented into sub-genres and relegated to third place in the rankings of commercial marketability. The swamp of counter-culture that spawned the 1970s punk rock phenomenon is one of the contributing factors for the decline of rock music. Live rock performance is something a bit different. If one wishes to experience the reckless abandon of a metal or punk happening, one may feel different about it. But I can't believe there is a sustained market for sharp, angry sounds. Punk rock was born out of nihilism. Wendy O Williams couldn't even kill herself the first time, she had to "get it right" a few years later. Kurt Cobain, while being arguably the most brilliant representative of the post-punk genre, and expressed the understanding of youth angst as few artists could, was obviously lacking some understanding of life. My point of all this is that the counter-culture roots of the B-52s, Devo, and many others are grounded in nihilism. They may have fond memories for many of us. I can remember Jim Morrison, and still listen to the Lizard King, too. But the appeal of nihilistic sounds, or graphic art, is a concrete form of nihilism. It does not celebrate life as it could be or should be. I've grown to distinguish the ideal from the real and the natural, as it relates to culture. The stylized punk of the New Wave genre, circa 1976-86, was what it was: the music of our times. But I can't rank it as great music.

Edited by Repairman
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The swamp of counter-culture that spawned the 1970s punk rock phenomenon is one of the contributing factors for the decline of rock music.

Punk has no counter-culture roots, if you mean hippies and those related to hippies. There is no connection except it rejected the counter-culture. Some of the origins of punk are nihilistic, especially the Sex Pistols, but not the Ramones. So that characterization is too broad, and not applicable to Devo or the B-52s. I don't even know what a "nihilistic sound" is. So I don't know how punk is something of a nihilistic sense of life.

Edited by Eiuol
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Counterculture is not confined to hippie-utopians anymore than it was to the beat movement, outlaw motorcycle clubs, or any other nonconformist identity groups. Granted, punk culture was somewhat more bohemian compared to the disco scene, but punk is far from mainstream culture. Punk  and goth fashion survive because young people choose to identify as punk and goth. Perhaps there is an anthropological study on the motives behind modern youth-tribalism, but the hippies, punks, and goth stereotypes, all are examples of various forms of modern primitives. The common characteristic is that they reject conventional norms. It is a negative identity, rather than a positive identity. No doubt, we all know someone who transcends the prototypical punk, a leader among the tribe, an exception, someone who does think for himself/herself. I hope their individualism is a constructive trait.

It was not my intent to malign the B-52s, or the Ramones. I respect their work. I merely wish to point out in my earlier post that my tastes for popular culture are as subjective as that of anyone else. But make no mistake. Punk rock culture was/is indeed another category of counterculture. And those that conformed to punk-fashion were not truly individuals, rather they were mere dedicated followers of fashion.

Edited by Repairman
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From Merriam-Webster: "counterculture"-a culture with values and customs are very different from and opposed to those accepted by most of society.

 

Lest I be accused of violating the laws of identity, I only wish to clarify. Much of my appreciation for rock, and for other related art forms, is that they are "very different from and opposed to those accepted by most of society." If our cultural choices were forced to meet some conformity standards, what kind of fun would that be? The B-52s were by no means conformist, but can you deny that they were not influenced by punk performances?

 

Eiuol, I'd like to address your rejection of my suggestion that nihilism was not an influence on the punk scene. Typical behavior witnessed at punk gatherings is brutal and hedonistic. I've been there; I know. In more intimate surroundings, individual punks can be more civilized, even docile. But their general rejection of social norms tends to be self-destructive, and their music and graphic art glamorizes self-destructive behavior. While I would not waste my time psycho-analyzing social misfits, the sink-holes of our philosophy-deprived society make it hard enough for weak individuals to live constructive lives. In my youth, Alice Cooper was often maligned, and I defended the nihilistic nature of the messages in his music. I wouldn't defend it today. I would defend the right for anyone to choose to listen to it. I can't emphasize this enough: Some people are self-destructive and violent towards others. Self-destructive and violent culture may provide an outlet for some, or a cover for others, a cover to mask the type of frustration that results in criminally violent actions. Or worse. It's much easier to ignore someone today, regardless to their menacing appearance. But is that menacing appearance reflecting that person's sense of life? Of course it is. I'm all in favor of artistic freedom. I hope young people find the messages in their art that helps to fill the emptiness of their lives. However I fear some of their cultural choices only make their lives more empty.

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Punk worked because it took rock and got back to basics in a time rock was going critical in density.  Simple structures, basic rhythm or riffs (which in the case of punk is basically the rhythm) to form a catchy melody. etc.  The only issue is one music has suffered from as a whole and that is lyrics. 

 

"Counter culture" is simply something labels do to make it sound fresh.  Punk came out when rock music was heavily progressive while the radio was settling into disco, so it was something new in context even if a retread of structures from 15 years earlier but taking advantage of newer distortion and amplifier power.   The cycle repeats itself from there:  The 80's had the New Wave and alternative, the 90's had  Grunge (complete with clothing that was the "Seattle look" that musicians in Seattle didn't even wear) and the "new" alternative.  Even metal tried to do the face lift with the so called Nu-Metal (which was basically an extreme punk and metal hybrid - don't get me started).  It was all "counter culture" which was the labels attempt to make it new and different from the same thing your older brother listened to. 

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I also want to point out, with regards to the metal style, that the time when metal could be characterized solely as angry or just plain silly "macho" music, if there ever really was such a time, is long passed. I would say that bands in the genre now could be split between those who are primarily concerned with more superficial things like making aggressive music, and those who are genuine artists.

The genuine artists, many of whom can be found in the progressive and symphonic metal subgenres, are simply some of today's best musicians.

Take Dream Theater, who were among the pioneers of the progressive metal subgenre. Their music is indisputably metal—Iron Maiden and Metallica are obvious influences. But I could count on one hand the number of actually angry songs they've written. I challenge you to find an album with a better sense of life than their sophomore effort, Images and Words. Many of the songs that they've written throughout their career are nothing less than compositional masterpieces—in the heavy metal style. To name a few: Learning to Live, Metropolis, Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, Octavarium, The Count of Tuscany and Breaking All Illusions. One song, the sixteen-minute composition A Nightmare to Remember, uses a very heavy style, including a passage of near-growled singing, to tell a comprehensive story that simply could not have been told without the metal elements.

Or Nightwish, a metal band led by composer/keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen that plays rather pop-oriented metal—except that the lead singer is a woman and... oh, yes, they're backed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Theirs is a slightly darker and less complex style, but they've still produced some truly brilliant compositions, such as the songs Beauty of the Beast and Ghost Love Score and the entire album Imaginaerum.

There are plenty of other bands that use metal to great compositional effect. Haken. Symphony X. Epica. Opeth, even, which is one of the darker progressive metal bands. The composers for these bands are nothing if not brilliant. I just thought I'd bring this up since metal has been brought up a few times and Spiral Architect brought up the issue of simplicity versus complexity.

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425, you've made a friend today. I have just reviewed several of the recordings of some of the bands you recommended. In the break down of popular contemporary music, there is music one can dance to, and music one can listen to. I prefer the latter, and Dream Theater is one such band I will be listening to more. I haven't been paying much attention to recent trends in music. This will change.

 

In keeping with the topic of this thread, the revival of simple rock in the forms of new wave or punk were, in part, a response to complex music, that which is usually identified as progressive rock. I prefer progressive rock. It is to be listened to, rather than danced to. The bands mentioned in the preceding post have those qualities that made progressive rock the music of my life. I don't expect anyone else to "get it." The influences of Deep Purple, Rush, and Black Sabbath are there.

 

As for the folks who prefer the dance-type music, or the angry-sounding music, they may enjoy it at their discretion. Is it great music? Who really gets to decide what is great music? The critics? The Tooheys? The mobs of consumers? If you thinks it's great, enjoy it. Share it with a friend. Buy some of it, and maybe the artists will create more of it. But don't expect everyone to jump on the proverbial band wagon and rave about the "great music" that only makes you and your friends happy.

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I also want to point out, with regards to the metal style, that the time when metal could be characterized solely as angry or just plain silly "macho" music, if there ever really was such a time, is long passed. I would say that bands in the genre now could be split between those who are primarily concerned with more superficial things like making aggressive music, and those who are genuine artists.

The genuine artists, many of whom can be found in the progressive and symphonic metal subgenres, are simply some of today's best musicians.

Take Dream Theater, who were among the pioneers of the progressive metal subgenre. Their music is indisputably metal—Iron Maiden and Metallica are obvious influences. But I could count on one hand the number of actually angry songs they've written. I challenge you to find an album with a better sense of life than their sophomore effort, Images and Words. Many of the songs that they've written throughout their career are nothing less than compositional masterpieces—in the heavy metal style. To name a few: Learning to Live, Metropolis, Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, Octavarium, The Count of Tuscany and Breaking All Illusions. One song, the sixteen-minute composition A Nightmare to Remember, uses a very heavy style, including a passage of near-growled singing, to tell a comprehensive story that simply could not have been told without the metal elements.

Or Nightwish, a metal band led by composer/keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen that plays rather pop-oriented metal—except that the lead singer is a woman and... oh, yes, they're backed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Theirs is a slightly darker and less complex style, but they've still produced some truly brilliant compositions, such as the songs Beauty of the Beast and Ghost Love Score and the entire album Imaginaerum.

There are plenty of other bands that use metal to great compositional effect. Haken. Symphony X. Epica. Opeth, even, which is one of the darker progressive metal bands. The composers for these bands are nothing if not brilliant. I just thought I'd bring this up since metal has been brought up a few times and Spiral Architect brought up the issue of simplicity versus complexity.

 

 

It is the complexity and thought that makes metal my favorite genre (although class rock comes in a well placed second).  I even listen to some of the really extreme stuff since I can find the art in the riff work. 

 

Those are great bands.  I was happy to see Dream Theater before the split. 

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Repairman, I agree with what you said and appreciate the time you obviously gave to what I posted. I personally don't mind good pop music, and even enjoy it, but it doesn't inspire me or stay with me like progressive music does. With a lot of pop music, in fairness, it is intended to be more of a backdrop to a party or to driving in the car, and I think a lot of it does work well for that purpose. But for pure listening experience, it just does not hold a candle to progressive music. But I like good benevolent pop music a lot better than music by those whose attitude seems to be that complexity and ambition in music is a pointless pursuit and intend to proclaim that their three-chord songs are superior to Rush's 2112. While I can understand why people might like the music of some of these bands, like Nirvana, I cannot stomach them because of the attitude expressed by their creators. In the end, though, I tend to agree with your last paragraph about enjoying music at your own discretion.

 

 

 

 

Spiral Architect, metal is probably my favorite genre as well for the same reason, though I tend now towards progressive anything, whether that be progressive metal or rock. I haven't listened much to extreme metal, but I do have a copy of Blackwater Park in transit to me, so I'll see if I can enjoy that.

 

I have yet to see Dream Theater live, but hope to one day, even though it probably won't be the same without Mike Portnoy.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Defiance is my favorite theme to portray when I write (rock) songs. In a way, the lyrics of Rock Lobster were a defiance against taking themselves too seriously. They obviously took their songwriting very seriously, but sometimes serious lyrics can be inappropriate to a song (especially the B-52s fun-loving style), and often cheesy.

I recognize that some great bands (like REM) write nonsense lyrics as a combination of a Dadaist disintegration of reason and/or a cop-out of having to produce great lyrics--so I understand the thought behind the OP; nonsensical lyrics can be an exposition of a songwriter's evil philosophy and/or an avoidance of doing the hard work it takes to write great lyrics (or even the product of a songwriter who lacks the courage to expose his soul). The B-52s were just having some light-hearted fun, but there are many examples of other songwriters who purposely write nonsense to harmonies that require serious poetry.

I'm a drummer/songwriter. My girlfriend plays violin in the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs (Colorado Springs)--she's got her masters in music. I write the songs and she sings 'em. We love to talk about music theory and analyze scores. She's valuable. So is my new Presonus Studio One recording software.

I'll miss Mike Portnoy too.

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