It's Been A While...

By shane

Wowsa. Yep, it's been a good long while since you've seen a column from me, folks. I realized the other day that I think the past five or six columns that I've written for Excellent begin with apologies for not writing more columns... so I'll spare you the apologies this time and just let you know what's been going on - click READ MORE and let's have a chat, shall we?

The reason why I've been MIA from Excellent of late is fairly simple. Nowadays, I'm actually getting PAID to write a column. That's right, your humble pop culture idiot savant is now a PROFESSIONAL humble pop culture idiot savant. Odds are probably pretty good that you've never heard of the Moline Dispatch Publishing Co., LLC. We're a #1 ranked newspaper... but we're in the #102 market in the U.S. Anyways, tiny but proud and all that crap, right? Point is, they've recruited me to write a humor/entertainment column for them on a weekly basis, so that's fairly cool as cool goes, I guess.

Actually, if anybody wants to check out my "professional" column, they're all archived online at

I realize, though, that graduating to the AAA league from the farm team still isn't a good enough excuse to fall off the map entirely... and it's damn near time that I waxed poetic about music on Excellent. Gee, if only there were something WORTH writing about...

Okay, actually, let me begin by saying:

Fuck. Shit. Cock. Piss. Ahhhhhhhhh. That's the REAL reason why I needed to do a column on here instead of in the paper. In the paper, I can't even be PG-13. It's a total family publication. Case in point: they recently refused to print a column wherein I used the word "freakin'". Because we ALLLLL know what "freakin'" REALLY means, don't we? So yeah, maybe all I wanna do here on Excellent is swear. In which case, "fuck."

Really, there's a point to my rambling - I swear there is. I wanted to talk about music... or, more specifically, how there's NOTHING to talk about right now. 2005 has been a really weird year in music trends, wouldn't you say? I've been trying to figure out how to describe it, and it's tough.

I don't want to use the phrase "treading water," because there are WAAAAY too many great bands out there making great music for me to completely yawn off 2005... but, at the same time, things just kinda feel a little... stagnant.

First off, the indie kids don't know what to make of this year. We sure saw a lot of bands -- and some top UK talent at that -- get some pretty nice record deals over here. We saw the Kaiser Chiefs play the U.S. version of Live 8. We saw Bloc Party and the Bravery both get airplay on U.S. Top 40 radio. We saw Coldplay pretty much rule the world for a month or so there.

But it's confused the indie kids... as it always has. Suddenly, we're caught in a serious "I-can't-like-this-band-any-longer-because-more-than-20-people-know-who-they-are" conundrum. And it all started with ONE band.

For those who don't know, I DJ at a Top 40 club on the weekends. And not GOOD Top 40, either. My playlist is strictly 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake, etc., etc. It ain't pretty (but it's a job, and a fun one at that.) Point is, when the "hipster" kids who occasionally invade my club came up to the DJ booth last year, they only wanted ONE thing: THE KILLERS.

Nowadays? I can't get 'em to take a second glance on the floor if I play a Killers track. Why? Because (gasp shock horror) MTV plays the Killers. Which MUST mean that the Killers are suddenly not-a-very-good-band-at-all. What a load of crap... but it's nothing that we havent seen played out a million times before (see Mode, Depeche; Cure, The; and Rockets, Love; Cardigans, The; and about a million other once-upon-a-time-we-were-considered-cool bands.)

But what happens to the hipster kids at my club when ALL their favorite stuff starts turning up on the radio? When the girls behind the bar know the lyrics to Bloc Party songs? When I mix out of Britney and into the Bravery and can hold the dance floor?

Well, what happened at my club is that the hipster kids all LEFT. Perhaps they had to crawl back home and nurse their wounds over warm tea and a Belle & Sebastian record. Who really knows?

But, other than some decent music sneaking onto major labels and the radio dial, has there really been anything noteworthy about 2005 as a whole? Not so much. We're constantly being assaulted with above-average music from musicians without a whole lot in common, all with different agendas, philosophies, vibes, and contexts. And nothing to sort it out with but our CD changers.

It's nice for a change, I guess. But it's created a musical mess that's an unorganized as the pile of CD's that's manifested itself on my living room floor. We need to arrange these bands... to give them some clarity... to unite them.


Woe is us; wherefore art thou, NME? It's been your job as a crappy music magazine to steer us in the direction of a unified music theme that's bound to change our lives forever and ever. I mean, honestly, you had Madchester... you had shoegazing... and of course, you had Britpop. GET WITH IT, NME. We need you to coagulate this music all together and turn it into something bigger. The kids are NOT alright and they want a direction to move in. They want a SCENE. You're slacking, NME.

If we were talking about the NME of ten years ago, we'd already have 10 scenes by now -- all created and controlled by the vitriolic writers of the UK music press. But, thumbing through the NME now, it's contents are as disjointed as the music world these days. Unless, perhaps, the NME DID create a scene, nurture it to growth, and lo gave their hip new scene a name: FRANZ FERDINAND. Anybody else notice how NME is little more than a Franz Ferdinand fanzine at this point?

I still like NME, I'll admit it. I know it's clearly written for kids 20 years younger than me, but I don't care. I still get it every week, only because I want to know what bands they plan on championing and what bands they plan on crushing. But I admire how easily that magazine can get kids riled up about music.

When Britpop took over the indie sphere, it didn't feel like we were sitting back, watching some scene develop and play out in front of us like a soap opera. Rather, thanks to the juvenile drama and rigamarole of the NME and (back then) Melody Maker -- we didn't feel like we were WATCHING the scene, we felt like we WERE the scene.

And maybe that's what music needs right now -- a little passion. I never once thought I'd be caught dead defending the NME, but I DO respect it as the genius marketing tool that it is.

Whether or not you think NME sucks (which you should,) you have to admit that the music press adds a touch of excitement to the world of indie rock. I mean, without a forum for Liam and Noel to trade barbs back-and-forth publically, Oasis would still be a bunch of nobodies today, I swear it.

Even if I read something in the NME and it revolts me and makes me want to head to their offices and smash their teeth in, at least I'm getting EXCITED over it... that's more than I can say for 2005 right there - I'm JUST. NOT. EXCITED.

NME - come on. Pull a few dudes off the street, stick a guitar in their hands, and declare them the Greatest New Band Of All Time Ever or something. Let's get the show on the road and put the "POP!" back in pop culture.

We'll sort out the best of 2005 next month.