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February 10, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-02-10

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 - 5

A family divided
by music

mhere is no such thing as
a guilty pleasure." While
T carrying on a conversation
with avid music -
nerds, there is
an 82-percent
chance (I've
done the math)
that, at some
point in the
discussion, you JOSH
will hear them BAYER
blurt this mantra
or some variation of it (e.g. - Ben
Folds makes me feel good, and
there's nothing your hipster ass
can do about it).
And it's a mantra with teeth.
Music is an incredibly subjective
art form. It enters our ears and
mingles with the chemicals in our
brains and affects us all very dif-
But if I truly believe this, then
how does the devil-horned phrase
"guilty pleasure" consistently
elbow its way into my psyche when
I'm simply trying to enjoy a song?
Is it the popular opinion of music
critics that implants itself into my
noggin, hindering me from enjoy-
ing an album with a sub-par score
on Metacritic.com? No, because
I'm a very counterculture-type
person (probably to a fault) and, if
anything, I take pleasure in going
against the grain.
The truth is, I know exactly
what is at the root of my Jewish
musical guilt, and it's not what
you would expect: my brother.
My younger, 16-year-old, still-
brother named Zach.
For whatever reason, if Zach
dislikes a certain artist/album/
guitar tone (he could write you
a five-page proof on why he's
anti-distortion), I have trouble
sitting back and soaking it in
without an image of his blue-eyed,
dimpled face popping into my
consciousness to challenge my
visceral reaction. And this self-
imposed stumbling block isn't just
restricted to music he has already
judged. Even if I'm listening to a
song he has never heard in his life,
an automated voice will switch on
in my head and ask me whether or
not Zach would approve.
Do I enjoy this silly compul-
sion? No. Do I think it's healthy?
Absolutely not. Am I fully aware
that I'm a micromanaging ball of
neurosis who can't even take a
piss without questioning its valid-
ity? Yes. Yes times infinity.
But even though I've dredged
this ridiculous guilt complex up
from my subconscious, looked it
in the eye and forced myself to
form my own music-related opin-
ions, the fact that I still have to
override this automatic impulse
can be pretty vexing. For me, the
process I have to go through to
guiltlessly enjoy a piece of music
that my brother has publicly
denounced is absolutely difficult.
It's pretty paradoxical, but I
have to actively fight against my
natural cognitive flow in order to
shape my own opinions on music.
Now, this fixation isn't com-
pletely arbitrary. It probably has
a good deal to do with the fact
that, while we're both drummers,
Zach has gone on to compose
music, record songs and play gigs
with his friends, while I've been
marooned at college without a
drum set or band. And even while
I was in high school, my "band"

and I never really evolved past
the "let's play an awesome jam"
phase. So I guess I feel a bit infe-
rior. Consequently, when it comes
to music, I really look up to him
and his Gestapo opinions.
And I don't use the word
Gestapo lightly; Zach is easily one
of the most strong-willed people I

know. The way he talks sometimes,
it's hard not to take his views as
the gospel. For instance, when he
was only a fourth grader, he swore
to vegetarianism in support of
animals' rights. He's a stubborn
guy. So when it comes to debating
music with him, the odds aren't in
my favor.
About a week ago, I told him
about this voice in my head - about
how I have a hard time letting
myself enjoy music that hasn't been
graced with his stamp of approval.
And this is all he said: "That's not
good." As simple as his response
was, it made me feel so fuckingstu-
pid; why in Michael Jackson's name
I have an external
should it matter to me whether or
not my brother endorses Wilco? (He
doesn't, FYI.) If I like something,
I need to go ahead and like it, as
tautological as that sounds. Because
life's too short for guilty pleasures.
And because I really like Wilco.
Bayer is looking for an
imaginary friend to give him
moral support. Recommend one
for him at jrbayer@umich.edu

A witty tabloid triumph
Allen's newest new musical theme for Allen. The anti-Bush songs. Vocally, however, / her life is already over / There's
ska and reggae-infused pop rock the track spins out of control as nothing to do and there's nothing
proves why she's of Alright, Still is replaced by a its unremitting cursing is terribly to say." The lyrics might sound self-
synth-heavy electronic feel with a overdone and proves unnecessary deprecating, but they act as a broad
famous to begin with few traces of traditional guitar and in getting the point across. metaphor for the album as a whole.
drums. Despite its controversial subject It's Not Me, It's You is a statement
By DAVID RIVA Despite her newfound affinity matter, the album has a certain to Allen's critics and agift toher fans
Daily Arts Writer for electro-pop, Allen still finds a sobriety about it. On "22" Allen con- displayed through snarky humor
way to remain musically creative. veys an instant dose of nostalgia as and sadistic statements laid across
Lily Allen has something to "Not Fair" sounds like the theme she recounts her biography from the well-produced pop songs. Her abil-
prove. Her debut album, 2006's song for a 21st century spaghetti perspective of media reporters who ity to deliver undeniably clever cou-
Alright, Still, was western. The outlaw in this tale is are desperate to painther career as a plets with a deliciously British tone
rightfully lauded criticized for his inability to satisfy failure. Allen laments by saying "It's makes it clear that a sophomore
as a piece of Brit- his partner inbed. The perfect pro- sad but it's true how society says slump was never an option.

ish pop gold. But LilyAlen
since its release,
Allen hasn't It's Not Me,
been able to keep It's You
herself out of Capitol
the public eye.
Tabloids have
documented her relationships and
substance abuse, and her frequent
call-outs on her MySpace blog have
fueled celebrity feuds. It's Not Me,
It's You serves as a much-needed
reminder of the real reason Allen
gets all this attention: She is a fabu-
lous pop songwriter.
on her latest disc, the always
opinionated Allen takes shots at
society, individuals and evenherself
and her celebrity status. The first
single "The Fear" is an assault on
materialistic culture, placing clev-
er couplets like "I am a weapon of
massive consumption / and it's not
my fault / It's how I'm programmed
to function" against a refreshingly
weightless soundscape. The song's
lush electro-pop vibe introduces a

duction and Allen's droll lyrical
presentation make it one of the
most innovative and enjoyable
songs in Allen's repertoire.
Another clever musical turn
takes place as "Never Gonna
Happen" opens with a waltzy
accordion, easing its way into
an irresistible chorus lined with
blissful xylophone plinks.
Presented in a more conven-
tional pop mold, "I Could Say"
is a stereotypical love song with
drum machine and lush piano,
which creates a bubblegummy
feel. The novelty of this style,
which is pervasive on the album,
gets tired at points. But Allen's
consistent cleverness keeps
things afloat.
Allen holds nothing back on
"Fuck You," a direct address to
the George W. Bush. Lyrically,
it might be the most accurately
conveyed and clearly stated pro-
test song in years. It's the perfect
bookend to a decade of worthy

Thursday, February 12h
International Center, Rm 9
Congrats U-M! A Top Peace Corps College
800.424.8580 |1www.peacecorps.gov
-" - "~is -3 ,if r%41" -~ - n

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