Time to put away the beanies and rave records.
We’re jumping right past the ‘90s nostalgia, clearing the whole damn decade before the Reality Bites sitcom and Twin Peaks reboot even have a chance to grace the airwaves.
Okay, this may not be entirely a bad thing.
But unless the new Kurt Cobain doc drags us back to the slacker generation’s coffee houses and flannel, we’ve fast forwarded through the latter part of the century’s shitty alt rock and JNCO stovepipe denim right into the early ‘00s and the flailing, wailing, mascara wearing pseudo punk arena schlock rock that was, and is, Fall Out Boy.
Sure, these dead horse beaters of the emo steed actually returned from hiatus a couple years ago, with the ironically titled Save Rock and Roll. But let’s be honest, even with 92 weeks on the pop charts of its own, it was never as annoying, or prevalent, as this this most recent album.
American Beauty / American Psycho, whose name itself is so “I can’t even” that we won’t, has made the rounds so hard that the band publicly apologized for their first single’s over saturation.
The song, of course, is “Centuries,” howling bastard child of every hard rock trope from the last 30 years, a modern day “We Will Rock You” sans originality or actual testosterone. Yet it worked well for ESPN’s football programs for exactly the reason that it’s arguably the worst intruder of Billboard’s Hot 100: it sounds like something a robot synthesized in a lab using a register of cornball rock techniques, and, for reasons that remain inexplicable, that’s become exactly what the majority of the public wants. Plus it sounds dope with rave-era computer animations of hulking humans getting concussed in super slow motion.
None of this is to infer that entry into the Billboard charts should be a guarantee of greatness; on any given week you can peruse its top-selling lineup and come away at best confused or at worst questioning what the hell is wrong with our culture as a whole. But hey, music, as an art form, is subjective. Different strokes, and all that.
God, I miss The Strokes.
Not because they were shockingly original, or even groundbreaking. But they did what they did well—delivered straight ahead rock and roll that made you want to drive too fast, or punch a friend in the face just so you could go and get a beer with them. It was music that got you laid, which may not sound all that mature, but isn’t that what most big rock and roll is supposed to do?
Conversely, Fall Out Boy will never get you laid, at least not in a way that won’t have the person who laid you stalking your every move for weeks after, leaving pigeon hearts and tepid poetry on your front step. And forget fighting; the only overt physical reaction this band inspires is the kind that lands you in therapy with exes’ names carved in your arm.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a couple lines from “Centuries,” draw your own conclusions as to their pseudo Goth, Final Fantasy delusions of grandeur:
And I can't stop 'til the whole world knows my name'Cause I was only born inside my dreamsUntil you die for me, as long as there is a light, my shadow's over you'Cause I am the opposite of amnesiaAnd you're a cherry blossomYou're about to bloom
Excuse me while I choke this vomit back down my throat.
These are not emotions to be propagated on a broad scale.
Yet there they are, sitting squarely at the top of the charts, grinding their carefully stylized—the band looks like a youth culture marketing team’s thesis on “rebellion”—derrieres into the top of second place winner T Swift’s head.
But crappy music has always existed, and, for the past few decades at least, risen to the top, right? Why the vitriol directed at this particular group? Am I just old, or an elitist bent out of shape that the more deserving Decembrists or Belle and Sebastian or Hozier are failing to so ably scale the ladder of mainstream consumer culture confirmation?
I can cop to that, but there’s still more to it. Or so I want to believe.
Our society has a long documented obsession with regurgitating the past. The ‘0s, ‘80s, and now ‘90s have been cheaply repackaged and sold to us as nostalgically new, something comfortable to slip into from a fashion and cultural standpoint. Yet now, with Fall Out Boy and their emo ilk yowling back from just a few short years ago to the present, have we finally traversed time’s flat circle? Is the infinity snake done gobbling its tail and now flipping itself inside out?
Why has it come to this song blasting from every transmitter orifice, ironically telling us we’ll “remember me, for centuries?”
Maybe all those old Fall Out Boy fans have grown up but are still so, so sad; clamoring for an anthem to their looming late twenty’s malaise. Yet how can there be so many of them, that the song, and band, can be so ubiquitous?
Who are these depressed masses, yearning to bleed freely?
In an age of such convenience, and easy to use dating apps, what the hell are they so woeful about?
And you know what? Who cares. There’s no accounting for taste, right? And we’re all just trying to somehow make our way back to those most painful of golden formative years that were high school in one way or another. Is it too much to ask that we do it with a thin veneer of class and style? Or maybe I’m just old, brainwashed by Taylor Swift, and getting a little mean.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go bid on a vintage Green Day picture disc on eBay.