Music News

Summertime Blues

Summer is a lovely time to catalogue worthlessness. Particularly one's own. The pitiless heat is wonderful in helping clarify feelings of futility and defeat. Long, bitter months stewing in your own stink is time well-suited for detailing a hatred of everybody and everything.

The summers around here reflect my inner aches. The whole town has a dying-on-the-vine quality. The streets are filthy and hard; people dank and ugly; the air soggy and uncirculated. The sun singes life, and the greenery screams. The silence is deafening.

My cat feels the pain. He moves like a toilworn soldier heading off to battle. He trudges along gracelessly, head bowed, legs seesawing with each labored step, and he stops often to rest. His suffering is real. The rules handed down for my little feline are brutal: His fur coat has to remain on at all times. Downing ice cold beer is not an option. TV is out.

Maybe he, too, is considering the options. For his sake, I wish I made up the rules.

I spent a good 90 percent of this past month lying naked on the sofa in the impotent breeze of a clackety fan, forced by nature and by television to contemplate the unthinkable.

After weeks of electromagnetic wave poisoning in the name of MTV, my boiled brain begged for one indulgence: a shotgun.

TV works best when it allows the unconscious a certain gratefulness for not having to make use of intellect, while gently quieting the unsettling feeling that you may not have been raised with every chance to obtain knowledge and culture.

During these past few couch-rotted weeks basking in the TV's cobalt glow, I lost all desire to read. I lost all desire to think. What became important was whether Kurt Angle kicked Steve Austin's ass. Or the number of booty shakes in the new Sisqó video. TRL host Carson Daly's mug was no longer a source of grief but one of relief.

It no longer mattered that Daly's on-screen persona resembles that of any TV weatherman working weekends in cities smaller than Wichita. Or the fact that his blandness is rewarded to such an extent that he commands the respectful attention of worldwide media for doing little more than cheerily polluting the virgin soil of prepubescents by pimping teen pop's latest videos. What's creepy about Daly is that he's so shamelessly ordinary, so wholly dispensable. Strangely, that's not what gnawed at me. TRL newbie Willa Ford writhing in cum-do-me hot pants smoothed all that out, stroke-me style.

Ford's amalgamation of sexual tension for boys and iconic slut-goddess for girls draws a line between porn and pop that's as thin as her g-string; in the video for "I Wanna Be Bad," the lithesome blonde mixes tease and schtupp innuendo (Ford resolves a conflict with two cops by simultaneously boinking them . . . DP style) with an aplomb that advocates the false sublimity of bimbo porno pets far and wide. Willa Ford is a Britney Spears who actually fucks.

As I inspected Ford's comely anatomy daily on TRL, I thought of the millions of slavering boys doing exactly the same.

Regress: Eighth grade was not a good year for me. Depression ensues.

I also took to Summer in the Keys, MTV's bummer "beach dance party," a show in which hives of testosterone-rich boys encircle host Carmen Electra and do little more than breathe through gaping mouths while boring holes into her flesh with their eyes. Oh, and there's a DJ, too, spinning the latest in chart dross. I stared at back-to-back episodes of this with dull dismay. In the show's context -- this juxtaposition of woman and boys -- Electra looks downright ancient. The physical signs of wither are magnified. Her narcissistic mien reveals traces of panic, that underlying flutter common to anyone slipping down the show-biz food chain.

A genetic bonanza bolstered by plastic surgery and an unyielding diligence toward performing -- something expected of her in the male-defined role of celebrity tart -- Electra does little more than bounce her boobies and chirp. And it does not sit well on a woman already in her 30s. After a siege of cultural and personal atrocities some may regard as triumphs (Baywatch, MTV's Singled Out, Dennis Rodman, Fred Durst, etc.), Electra is beginning to resemble a leathery divorcée, the type who drops her g-string, tweets "Woo hoo," then jumps into a hot tub next to some David Hasselhoff mook-alike. Nevertheless, I have a certain empathy for Ms. Electra. Could be she's doing just what her mother taught her. From that point of view, Electra is a tragedy of Dostoevskyan magnitude.

I learned that the MTV process -- the showy mechanics of the pop star -- can empower you to do absolutely nothing. You become foul by want of motion. The stagnation caused by the sensory overload of instant blips and glittery popping images -- the kind that sexually taunt but do little in the way of provoking genuine thought -- can kill a person. The standards by which we judge music are lowered; bad becomes good, awful becomes acceptable.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bill Blake