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Friday, July 25, 2014

Fight, Fight, Fight!: You're Wrong, Jonah Ray.

This feature is called Fight, Fight, Fight!—you remember the ancient chorus of yore, when five to ten middle schoolers would form a circle around two other middle schoolers, and a shoving match would ensue—and concerns your intrepid Editor-In-Chief (i.e. me) picking a (mostly) petty fight with a faceless stranger on the internet. Most likely, this fellow blogger/clueless celebrity/out-of-touch company will never know that we’re fighting, and that’s OK. This isn’t about solving the world’s problems or reaching an understanding with a fellow human being. Fight, Fight, Fight! is strictly about getting pissed off about something that (mostly) doesn’t matter and writing funny swears about it. So, circle up, jerks! I’m ready to fight.
In a recent addition of the AV Club’s “Hatesong”—a feature in which in notable personality from the world of entertainment discusses a popular song he or she hates—comedian Jonah Ray expresses his disgust for Sublime’s “What I Got.”  Let me first say, Mr. Ray is not wrong.  “What I Got” is certainly worthy of one’s hate.  I wouldn’t say I hate “What I Got,” but I’m certainly indifferent to it, which I’ve been told is a lot worse.  I’m willing to admit that I bought the eponymous album on which “What I Got” is featured when it first came out, but that was more because I had enjoyed past albums by the band and not because “What I Got” was some kind of revelation. “What I Got” is a cheesy crowd-pleaser, and while I’m not opposed to those kinds of things, I’m also not their greatest advocate.

So, why post this piece under the “Fight, Fight, Fight” banner?  I can’t disagree with Mr. Ray’s assessment of “What I Got,” so what right do I have to beef?  Am I mad at AV Club for essentially ripping off “100 Songs I Hate?” Of course not!  I’m sure there are countless blogs on which aging hipsters and surly music snobs post lists of sucky songs through the ages.  Is it because in his decimation of Sublime’s biggest hit, Mr. Ray proves to be nothing more than a surly music snob akin to the character he played on a recent episode of Maron?  A million times no!  Ray was awesome in that episode, and I simply assumed that it was a heightened version of himself, as I understand he is well-versed in the realm of quality music.  My issue with this whole thing and the reason I’ve decided to (not really) pick a fight, is how Ray describes fans of Sublime’s music.  He views them as "piece of shit surfer jock[s]," "assholes," and "people who think that Guy Fieri is badass."  

Well, sir, I am not, nor was I ever, a surfer asshole or a shitty jock or a Fieri devotee.  Granted, I don’t listen to Sublime much anymore—though I did break out my copy of 40oz. to Freedom for the ride into work this morning—but I used to, in that magical time of life known as my “high school ska phase.”

Surely there are worse bands.  C'mon!

I didn’t grow up in Los Angeles or Hawaii (like Ray).  I came of age (i.e. yawned my way through high school) in the suburbs of Charlotte, NC.  I don’t know what Sublime’s West Coast/Hawaiian Islands fandom looks like. Maybe it was all jock dickheads.  The people I used to listen to Sublime with were outcast weirdos like me.  I remember sitting in my friend Gordon’s messy bedroom listening to Robbin' the Hood, the one where every other track was a mental patient ranting into a tape recorder and lead singer Bradley Nowell sang a duet with Gwen Stefani.  This wasn’t a post-football practice listening sesh, this was simply two dudes lounging on a crumby carpet strewn with books and notebooks half-filled with teenage poetry, listening to Sublime and maybe flipping through a porno. 

I bought, listened to and enjoyed the hell out of 40oz. to Freedom when I was a teenager, not because it was about weed (which I’ve never smoked and have been around exactly once), alcohol consumption (I waited until I was at least at the cusp of 21 before having my first beer) or surf culture (not a lot of places to surf in Charlotte).  I liked it because it was this weird mix of ska, hip hop, quirky sampling and lo-fi.  It sounded like Sublime had recorded it in a series of garages, bedrooms and coffee houses, and then pieced it together as an album, not for jocks and bullies, but for weirdos and outcasts like me and my friends.  I suspect Sublime felt this way to me because I grew up in the suburbs in the South. 

I don’t doubt that jocks, douchebags and bullies gravitated to Sublime, but that’s true for all bands.  Kurt Cobain famously lamented that assholes were showing up at Nirvana gigs, screaming out requests for “Polly” because it was a song about sexual assault.  I’ve seen Ween twice, and the mix of people at those shows (49% blissed out druggies, 49% drunk jocks, 1% guys who can’t stand up because they might have overdosed on something, 1% me and my friends who have been tasked, against our wills. to hold the aforementioned OD guys up as they slump in slow-motion to the venue floor when we’re just trying to enjoy “Spinal Menengitis (Got Me Down)”) is insane.  There are always gonna be dicks that like the same things you like, and that is always going to be frustrating.

In summation, I just want Mr. Ray to know that I am not a jock (I’m very bad at all sports), I’m not a bully (I have the broad shoulders and body hair of your classic tough guy, but I’m a push-over) and I’ve never set foot on a surfer board.  I have played songs on an acoustic guitar around a campfire (well, small charcoal grill), but they weren’t Sublime or Jack Johnson songs (they were Ween songs).  And somehow, while not being any of those things, I found that I enjoyed the music of Sublime.  Also, Mr. Ray, I am a big fan of yours and I don’t want to fight.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seems like you went a little soft on ol' music snob Jonah Ray...