Thursday, December 09, 2004

Pop with Brains: No Shit!

I'm quite sensitive to the accusation--though I've been known to fling it around myself--that pop is dumb. For me, I suppose reiterating such received ideas acts as something of a defense: I inhabit a world in which people toss around references to Mahler and Schoenberg as though I'm supposed to know what they mean. I smile, trusting in the cast-iron defense of the doctorate, but really have no idea about classical music, except for a few select pieces which connected with me when I worked in theater. And Chopin, who I love. But that's it, really. I defend my lowbrow tastes by hiding behind the tissue-paper "I know it's dumb, but..." excuse.

So I'm pretty relieved when it's not necessary to invoke this fig leaf. Last week, I mentioned the coolest band name I'd heard in a while, Milton and The Devils Party, and have spent a lot of the last week getting to know their music. (There's going to be a release party for their first CD, this year's What Is All This Sweet Work Worth?, in Philadelphia this weekend.) It's pretty straightforward pop-rock, musically, with plenty of brain-invading hooks and guitar work which adheres to no decade in particular, flying by so fast that you can't quite figure out what it reminds you of. The recollections aren't as direct, as, say, a Redd Kross, but the residual feeling is often the same. The difference lies in Daniel Robinson's lyrics, which are sharp and opaque in turns (not that these two are mutually exclusive) and frequently laden with Blakean aphorisms. I have a doctorate, I'm supposed to be good at this shit, and I'm not sure I quite get what all the songs mean. But you can get Robinson's take on some of it here. (It's a pdf, and you need to scroll down to page 13.) And Robinson is unapologetically intelligent, a refreshing change from much of the rest of America.

I won't harp on this issue, though I admit I find it dismaying that the rampant anti-intellectualism in which contemporary culture is soaked might do harm to this band. One blurb announces:
The song "To Jane" was adapted from a Shelley poem, but don't let the bookworm status scare you off--there are plenty of hooks to keep things interesting.
Don't worry folks! There won't be a quiz! Feh.

Anyway, I highly recommend this band, and Philly area readers (you hear this, Eschatonians?) should definitely head out this weekend.

Be sure to check in tomorrow for Friday Babyblogging!

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