Steven Hyden’s Look At Billy Corgan

I don’t agree with all of Hyden’s conclusions in this piece (and I’m certainly no Rush expert), but isn’t this a fantastic piece of writing?:

Resentment was very good to Corgan when he invented the original incarnation of Smashing Pumpkins and made it the biggest band of alt-rock’s last, lurching stand in the mid-’90s. It grew — as only the purest, most potent reservoirs of resentment do — from out of the Midwest, festering inside the pinched heart of a nerdy metal kid who knew he would never be accepted by the Thurston Moores and Stephen Malkmuses of the world, with their stupidly perfect mussed hairdos and mysteriously crucial connections to skateboard culture and world-class noise-rock collections. To them, no matter how fast he shredded or how high his choruses soared, Billy would always have sweaty palms and pockmarks and a ruthlessly flowing mullet. Guys like that can just smell the hayseed on you, even through your paisley-colored rock-star clothes, and they’ll never let you forget your place.

I also love this Corgan quote, which Hyden thinks is Billy talking about Billy:

“I can’t think of any people outside of Weird Al Yankovic who have both embraced and pissed on rock more than I have. Obviously there’s a level of reverence, but there’s also a level of intelligence to even know what to piss on. ‘Cause I’m not pissing on Rainbow. I’m not pissing on Deep Purple. But I’ll piss on fuckin’ Radiohead, because of all this pomposity. This value system that says Jonny Greenwood is more valuable than Ritchie Blackmore. Not in the world I grew up in, buddy. Not in the world I grew up in.”

Says Hyden:

If you’ve been following Corgan for these last 20 years, and know how to parse the cogent thoughts from his thatches of twisty-turny grandiosity, you might understand that he’s not talking at all about Radiohead here, and only a little bit about Weird Al and perhaps slightly more about Ritchie Blackmore. That Billy Corgan quote is mainly about Billy Corgan; Al and Ritchie are manifestations of how Corgan sees himself and his place in rock music. He is criticizing the value system that says fashionable and arbitrarily acclaimed (in his view) bands are considered more valuable than he is. Unfortunately, this is the world you grew up in, buddy. Corgan’s feelings of persecution at the hands of a vast, underground, oppressively aloof hip-stapo have been central to his music since at least “Cherub Rock,” one of the few golden-era Smashing Pumpkins oldies that Corgan never seems to tire of playing.

He’s right, of course, that this really isn’t about Radiohead.  And hey, I remember when Adore and all that came out and we couldn’t give it away at BestBuy.  It must have hurt that Semisonic and The Flys where outselling the Pumpkins’ follow-up to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and it must have hurt more that no one who listened to the record seemed to like it.   I remember Corgan saying he was being punished for being ahead of his time, and I remember thinking it was all an ill-informed load of crap.  But Corgan’s right, isn’t he, about the value system of Whoever It Is that makes tastes and foments critical opinion?  Yes and no, of course.  But if you’re like me, the yes has found you really pissed off about these hierarchies on more than one occasion…typically when your heroes are passed over for reasons that seem to have nothing to do with merit or talent or art.

Billy Corgan was never a hero of mine the way, say, Noel Gallagher was/is, but I was 15 when Mellon Collie came out and I had all those thoughts.  Maybe Corgan’s talking about himself and maybe he’s not, or maybe we just don’t expect this kind of angst about authenticity from people in their 40s.  (Of course we don’t.  Maybe we should.)

Hyden’s right, anyway, about the Mellon Collie Corgan being a Brill Building of his own.  A Baxter Building, even.  Listen to “1979” and don’t feel amazing about some sliver of your youth.  Go right ahead.  Listen to “Tonight, Tonight” and don’t feel like the un-vindicated sixteen-year-old you were.  Not in the world I grew up in, buddy.

And so this post ends up not being about Steven Hyden and only a little bit about Billy Corgan.  And that’s what great writing, like Hyden’s, and great art, like Corgan’s, find us doing.  Sorting out our own histories and narratives and hard-won feelings. It’s why Mellon Collie soared and Adore didn’t.  It’s why I share and quote from pieces like these in the first place.  Buddy.

Chuck Klosterman Is Wrong About Football (and Temporal Relativity)

At Grantland, a great and not great venture I love and don’t love, Chuck Klosterman says, repeatedly, that football’s popularity has nothing to do with its violence.

He also says:

Now, I realize an argument can be made that eroticized violence is inherent to any collision spectator sport, and that people who love football are tacitly endorsing (and unconsciously embracing) a barbaric activity that damages human bodies for entertainment and money. I get that, and I don’t think the argument is weak. However, it’s still mostly an abstraction. People will freak out when they eventually see someone killed on the football field (which, it seems, is now inevitable). But they won’t stop enjoying football. They might feel obligated to criticize it, and maybe they’ll temporarily stop watching. But they’ll still self-identify as “football fans,” because what they consciously like about the game is (almost certainly) not tied to people being hurt. Football is not like boxing; violence is central to the game, but it’s not the whole game. You can love it for a multitude of complex, analytical reasons. And that allows this cognitive dissonance to exist in perpetuity (i.e., “I know this is probably bad for society, but I desperately want it to continue”).

That’s a lot of hedging.

Here’s the thing.  When we were kids, my cousin and I would get as close to the fence at the local high school football games as we could just so we could hear helmets crack and other things pop. We were not violent children, his BAD-era Michael Jackson studded leather jacket notwithstanding.  We enjoyed football because we were supposed to, because big kids were running up and down the field, but also because those kids were trying to destroy each other.  They were big and we were small.  They could do things we’d only seen on Challenge of the Superfriends. It was empowering, it was wish fulfillment, and it was totally sanctioned by everyone.

Today, professional football players moan and groan about rules that are making the game too soft.  The very people that stand to gain the most from a softer game are leading the chorus against it, because “that’s football.”

Chuck, you have to know that the popularity and violence of football intersect all the time, for players and for fans.  If my cousin and I were living through the juniors and seniors of the William Allen High School football team, how many millions of people are living through the stars of today’s NFL?

And it’s not like those stars aren’t bigger, stronger, and faster than ever before, leaving longer trails of CTE in their wake.  It’s not like that upward physical curve, which manifests as some kind of violence on every play, isn’t part and parcel to football’s always-increasing popularity.  These things feed each other.  It’s like the longball, steroids, and the 90s.

Klosterman is right that there are other things about football to appreciate, but they’re all predicated on violence or the avoidance of violence.

It may or may not be the case that football, as an abstraction, is too violent.  But it’s certainly the case the football in its current form is too physically dangerous to be sustainable over the long term.

Klosterman says:

If football’s ever-rising popularity was directly tied to its ever-increasing violence, something might collapse upon itself: Either the controversy would fade over time, or it would become a terminal anchor on its expansion. But that’s not how it’s unfolding. These two worlds will never collide. They’ll just continue to intensify, each in its own vacuum. This column can run today, or it can run in 2022. The future is the present is the future.

No, Chuck, THIS column will be always be true, forever and ever and ever, because the beginning is the end is the beginning, or another Smashing Pumpkins song from Batman.

Chuck Klosterman on Noel Gallagher; Me and “Be Here Now”

Cover of "Be Here Now"
Brilliant.

I somehow missed this Klosterman/Gallagher Grantland interview from last fall but Noel’s in great form as usual.  Timely for our purposes in the context of my recent suggestion, prompted by a Klosterman quote, that Axl Rose and Noel Gallagher cut some tracks together. A.V. Club’s Steven Hyden explores the place of Be Here Now in the Gallagher cannon given Noel’s suggestion that we play his career in reverse for an alternate narrative of artistic expectation.

Hyden gets close to saying what I’ve been saying for a while:  Be Here Now is going to be one of those albums that people come back to and say, it’s not the first two Oasis albums, but it’s pretty great.  It’s who they were then, and it’s who we, the people who loved it, were, too.  Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory were almost perfect.  Be Here Now was a victory lap that may have misfired, but it was a hell of a lot of fun, and it made sense that the biggest band in the world (“the first post-grunge band to be massive in every way,” as Klosterman says) act the part.  And they did.  And that record got me through my senior year of high school.  I’ll always love it.

Is This the Way the NFL Ends? T. S. Eliot, Jim McMahon, And The End of Football In America

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

– From The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot.

Jim McMahon was trending on Twitter this morning because of this interview with SportsCenter that aired yesterday.

“He had a concussion, but it cleared up by halftime.”  – a Bears team doctor in 1988.

“We knew about risks to every other part of the body.  But we didn’t know about the brain trauma.  They did.  They lied.”  – Jim McMahon

Headpieces of straw.  Paralyzed force.  Not lost, violent souls. The hollow men.  The stuffed men.

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

This the way the NFL ends, with a bang.  With a million concussions.

I hope these players get every dime.