November 1999
s m u g
ear candy
by Ben Auburn

Easy to be Hard

For a while it was kind of charming, an amusing affectation, maybe, or a retreat into a less-complicated (feeling) time. Well the damage is done, and now my friends, itís time to stop the bleeding.

The neolounge movement was harmless, as dumb movements go. Bands like Combustible Edison made fun, silly music. Every once in a while something like The Recline, by Black Velvet Flag, would come out -- in this case, a record of lounge versions of every song from the soundtrack to the seminal punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization. Stupid, but funny, and almost without impact.

There was something people really liked about neolounge: the way "cool" went from amorphous moving target back to a rigidly defined state of being -- you strove for Rat Pack, for Oceans 11 (but, you know, without all that racist stuff; the sexist stuffís okay though, right? All in good fun, after all, ha ha).

Then came the money. The recession ended, and several years later people figured it out -- cigarettes became cigars, beers turned, poof, into martinis, and all those bowling shirts were suddenly thrift store again. And letís be honest, all these vibraphones and mellow songs and chanteuses werenít quite enough, were they? Once neolounge was discovered by a lot of people, a lot of people with extra cash looking to have a good time, things needed to pick up a bit to keep their attention. Enter swing.

Skim the machismo off the top of neolounge and bump up the tempo a bit and you get the swing revival, plain and simple. Combustible Edison + ten years = Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

So where were all the cool people to go? After all, mass movements arenít cool, canít be cool, and with Brian Setzer showing up everywhere and Swingers played on Sundance every three days, Swing was nothing if not mass. Still, there was a perfectly good subculture left, just without all the bluster and bravado. Esquevel - bachelor pad = High Llamas.

Lounge without the slightest trace of rock, easy listening suddenly became cool. Bacharach went from reviled to revered, and all the good parts of Pet Sounds -- the "teenage" part of Wilsonís fabled "teenage symphonies to God" -- were filtered out. Cloaked in admiration for complex melodic structures and insanely detailed arrangements, the hipoisie [thatís hip-wa-ZEE -- ed.] everywhere made a break for it. Sure, Elvis Costello was sucked in, but worse, almost the entire Chicago post-rock scene lost their heads -- Tortoiseís TNT anyone? Jim OíRourkeís Eureka? -- and Stereolab sucked the life from the Emperor Tomato Ketchup for both Dots and Loops and their recent Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night.

We can blame the High Llamas' Sean O'Hagan for much of it, along with O'Rourke -- theyíve both convinced the music press that this nasty crap is actually cutting edge instead of lifeless banality. Friends, itís time to rise up. Demand that your local record store shelve the Llamasí Hawaii next to Montovani, not Juliana Hatfield. Refuse to buy any Stereolab record until they retrieve their hearts. Avoid Chicago like the plague.

When neolounge split into Swing and the New Easy Listening, we lost half our underground. Your soul is next.

can you be too pure?


ben@smug.com

in the junk drawer:

featurecar
net
worth
chair
ac/dcgun
smoking
jacket
barcode
ear
candy
pie
feed
hollywood
lock
target
audience
scissors
back
issues
dice
compulsionvise
posedowncheese
the
biswick
files
toothbrush
mystery
date
wheelbarrow
and such
and such
hat
blabfan
kissing
booth
martini






     
·feature· ·net worth· ·ac/dc· ·smoking jacket· ·ear candy· ·feed hollywood· ·target audience· ·back issues· ·compulsion· ·posedown· ·the biswick files· ·mystery date· ·and such and such· ·blab· ·kissing booth·


·contents· ·freakshow· ·fan club· ·archive·

???

copyright © 1996 - 1999 fearless media