Pop-Ambiguity

“I have climbed highest mountain / I have run through the fields / Only to be with you”
“I still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, U2

For years I have contemplated what I still see as one of the greatest three-song sequences on any rock album: the first three songs on U2’s 1987 release The Joshua Tree (“Where the Streets Have No Name”; “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”; and “With or Without You”). Love them or hate them (and I suspect once most of us get past any U2 antipathy created by the last decade there will be more love), these songs are immediately recognizable and eminently successful.

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Pop-Ambiguity

“I have climbed highest mountain / I have run through the fields / Only to be with you”
“I still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, U2

For years I have contemplated what I still see as one of the greatest three-song sequences on any rock album: the first three songs on U2’s 1987 release The Joshua Tree (“Where the Streets Have No Name”; “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”; and “With or Without You”). Love them or hate them (and I suspect once most of us get past any U2 antipathy created by the last decade there will be more love), these songs are immediately recognizable and eminently successful.

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On the Radio: Whose Fault is it?

Recently, I have ended my embargo of the radio. Typicall,y I find conventional radio play objectionable in several ways: the constant commercials, the inane repetition of the same group of songs, the increasing absence of variety or difference from one station to another, and genre-based formats  (to name a few).

Although I do everything I can to avoid listening to FM radio (toying with and then abandoning XM; using my iPod everywhere; listening to audiobooks), I am periodically pulled back into its mediocre cesspool. Sometimes, it may be the station choices of a gym or office; or, perhaps, a desperate day’s drive when I have exhausted all other resources. Earlier in my life new jobs or new bosses inflicted variations on the radio theme upon me.

Over the past few months, however, there is a new source for my radio pains: children.

See, my daughter, under two, loves the damn radio; she won’t eat a meal without it playing. What does she love? Hip-hop and top 40 stations only. I have tried everything from country and NPR to carefully crafted playlists. She loves LFMAO. (I blame my wife for her music choices for our daughter in utero). My son, under 6 months old, cannot abide any type of silence—but he doesn’t quibble with my music choices.

The problem is that if there is any break in noise, he will freak the fuck out. This is especially perilous to start a car ride. So, to appease the boy, my car radio is set rather loud on the local ‘independent’ rock radio station.  The virtue of this station is that at times I hear songs I used to hear on the radio in my youth (White Zombie, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins).

The downside is that it has newer ‘hit songs’ in heavy rotation. The song I hear every I turn my stupid car on? “Not Your Fault” by AWOLnation. And the worse thing? I can’t decide whether or not I like it.

Here’s the thing about this song: it is completely schizophrenic stylistically. The verse sounds like a Pixies imitation (and a halfway decent one), the run up to the chorus, where the vocalist lets his voice break, is raw and sounds real—almost a Jack White growl or Social Distortion gravel.

But then we get to the chorus, “It’s not your fault”, which lends its name to the song. It sounds like 100 different marching choruses from bad mainstream alt-rock bands from the last decade. In comparison with what precedes it, it sounds too pretty. In content, it seems like it should be on Broadway or in an afternoon special (It may be even a bit too trite for that, whose fucking fault is it?). Can I take two parts of the song, but not the whole?

The biggest problem: I can’t get the damn thing out of my head. Does this mean the song is a success? Just because it is catchy, does that make it good?

And you brother, what do you think?