So you'd like to...

Be an Anti-Gen Xer (Part 2 of 2)

A guide by David Gasten (Denver CO USA)

Products sampled from this guide:
Our previous installment of "So You'd Like to Be an Anti-Gen Xer" began a tour of a corral of musical sacred cows held dear by a certain segment of Western culture in their 30's and 40's commonly referred to as "Gen Xers". We began looking at things closely and found out that a lot of Gen Xers' idols need a good smashing if not at least a good slapdown. We are learning that: 1) Gen Xers are much more a herd animal than they realize, 2) Gen Xers are far more hypocritical in their outlooks than they realize, 3) Gen Xers are a lot more pretentious than they realize, 4) Gen Xers are not as smart per capita as they think they are, and 5) Gen Xers' idols are often not nearly as great as they make them out to be. It is the Anti-Gen Xer whose job it is to point these things out by example, hence this guide.

The concepts we explored in Part One are as follows:

—The Velvet Underground Are Old Hat
—The MC5 and the New York Dolls are proto- HEAVY METAL moreso than proto punk
—Yes, ELP, and Queen kick tail! (And they are less pretentious than you are)
—The Late Eighties and Early Nineties Weren’t So Bad After All

As you can see, those are some pretty sacred cows that we have been slaughtering. And the carnage continues...

I’m Supposed To Be Impressed That You Listen To Can? I Can Dig A Lot Deeper Than That…

I always laugh when indie rockers or “really in the know” Gen Xers think they are cooler than you because they listen to Can. There’s nothing like hearing some smug “intelligent” techno geek or pretentious indie rocker quoting Can or Neu as an influence that gets me wanting to say, “I thought you didn’t listen to prog rock because it’s pretentious!” Can, Neu, Faust, and Amon Duul II are ALL prog rock—Krautrock is a subgenre of progressive rock and is just as prog as Yes, ELP, or Genesis, like it or no.

You as an Anti-Gen Xer know this, but you also know that there is a LOT of other great music under the “prog” umbrella that the pretentious indie rocker in your neighborhood would never touch because, well, he’s afraid of being pretentious (or at least being pretentious in the wrong ways). His loss is your gain. While he patronizingly namedrops Damo Suzuki and Can’s Tago Mago (Reis), you wonder if he knows the Can's guitarist Michael Karoli did a fantastic job as vocalist on Soon Over Babaluma after Damo Suzuki left, whilst you think about what a masterpiece Magma’s Kohntarkosz is. He pretends that he likes Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica, and you not only genuinely like that record, but you think about what a classic Etron Fou Leloublan’s Les Poumons Gonfles is. He talks about Goblin’sSuspiria: Complete Version soundtrack, and you think about how Univers Zero’s Heresie (especially the first eight minutes) is far scarier than anything Goblin ever did and sounds a lot less dated too. He mentions Neu, and you mention La Dusseldorf’s Viva. He mentions Lou Reed’s Berlin (Tour Edition-Digipack), and you think about Art Zoyd’s Berlin, except that you think about how Art Zoyd’s Berlin is dark and beautiful and how Lou Reed’s Berlin makes you want to desecrate Sid and Nancy’s graves. He mentions Frank Zappa albums like We're Only in It for the Money, and you not only like both versions of that album, but you also think about how much you enjoy Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come (Journey (Dlx)). In other words, no matter how deep and obscure and pompous he thinks he is in listening to Can et al, you’ve got him whipped on all sides by listening to more extreme and obscure stuff than he does. But you really don’t care; it’s just fun and interesting music that you happen to enjoy.

That “One-Hit Wonder” is Your Loss and My Gain

The punk and new wave period of the late seventies and early eighties was sadly a “flavor of the month” period when pop music magazines like the NME (enemy?) were tossing many a new wave or punk rock act aside like an old candy wrapper after one album or single. This became standard procedure that got co-opted into the pop music culture in general and essentially made the Eighties into The Decade of the One Hit Wonder. The list of bands who had a great catalogue of material but are now thought of as “that stupid band with only one or two good songs” is too long for its own good and includes some amazing acts like:

THE TUBES. Where to start with these guys? This band is known for the David Foster-produced “She’s a Beauty” and "Talk to You Later", which are both fine AOR singles, but if you stop there, you are missing out on a LOT of fun. This theatrical shock rock cult act has a pair of WONDERFUL albums produced by Todd Rundgren,Remote Control (1979) and Love Bomb (1983), that received minimal airplay but are fun and powerful as heck. And did you know that they covered Captain Beefheart? No kidding—look for “My Head is My Only House Until It Rains” on their third album, Now, and “Gimme Dat Harp, Boy” on the gray-market live album "Darted in My Own Armchair" (aka Alive In America). And finally, The Tubes have improved their craft over the years, which Tubes World Tour 2001 aptly demonstrates. Check out the "Tubes World Tour 2001" album if you want to get an overview of all the fun songs we Tubes fans can’t get enough of, like “Don’t Touch Me There” and “Mondo Bondage”, in what I consider to be improved versions that are better than the originals.

THE MOTELS. You know them for “Only the Lonely” and “Suddenly Last Summer”; if you’re lucky you might have heard “Take the L” and "Remember the Nights" too. If you’re from Australia, you’re a little better off in that you’re familiar with the excellent song “Total Control”, which was a top ten hit there in 1979 and came from their self-titled album (Motels). What you don’t know is that The Motels used to play with (and shared a practice space with) X and the Go-Go’s in the early LA New Wave/Punk scene. Their second guitar player, Tim McGovern, made The Motels ROCK like nobody’s business when they toured to promote the Careful album, which you will find out if you hear a bootleg from that period. Then there are some CLASSIC Motels tracks that nobody knows about, like the melancholy Pink Floyd-like song “Slow Town” (from "Careful" and also on Anthologyland), the doom (yes, DOOM) electronica of “Schneekin” (a bonus track on All Four One), and the album tracks “Art Fails” and “Tragic Surf” (also from "All Four One"). We can trace at least a portion of this high-quality material to Tim McGovern, who would go on to create another great band called Burning Sensations (another one hit wonder casualty known for the song “Belly of the Whale” and an appearance on Repo Man (1984 Film)). To make things even more interesting, Martha Davis (The Motels' lady frontman) formed a new band under the Motels name recently and they have released three AMAZING and beautifully-produced indie-rock friendly albums which are probably their best albums to date. One, Clean Modern & Reasonable, was released as an Australian import, and the other two are only available as downloads on The Motels’ website. Not quite the easy listening group your Gen X friends thought they were, are they?

MR. MISTER. Did you know that Mr. Mister’s drummer, Pat Mastelotto, is in the legendary prog rock band King Crimson now? How did that happen? If you can locate a bootleg copy their unreleased fourth album, "Pull" (1989), that jump will make all the sense in the world to you. That album has incredible tracks like “Learning to Crawl”, which boasts experimental studio wizardry like making a chorus of singers sound like there is no breath in their vocals, and making a guitar transform into an Indian sitar and back like a musical Cheshire Cat. The only track from "Pull" that has been released officially is “Waiting in My Dreams”; it appears on a "best of" collection called—you guessed it—Best of. If you manage to find "Pull" on a P2P network or something like that, you will find that you are listening to an amazingly adventurous, melancholy, and somewhat dark pop album that will forever be a secret from the Gen Xers who think “Broken Wings” and “Kyrie” are the only things they’ve ever done. Although not quite as good, Mr. Mister's 1987 album Go on is also worth checking out. It was a flop when it came out, but I don't know why with atmospheric songs like "Healing Waters", "Dust", and the title track on it. Maybe their A&R man transferred to another company; lots of times it's something that stupid that tanks these bands.

Nick Drake and Elliott Smith, founders of “Wuss Pop”

Seriously. I've got albums by both of these guys, and they're both OK on their own terms. Nick Drake's Pink Moon in particular is quite the little masterpiece in minimalism. But if you listen to Nick Drake (Brittle Days - A Tribute to Nick Drake) and Elliott Smith (A Tribute To Elliott Smith) too much whilst feeling sorry for yourself like the wimps on these two tribute CD's, you will likely start making whipped, navel-gazing music, just like do they do. You will pucker your face like you’re pushing out a log while you sing your overly-serious songs, just like they do. And then you will end your life early like your buddy Elliott Smith did because you think that nobody understands you, when it’s just that nobody wants to be around you because you’re a self-centered, navel-gazing art snob with no social skills.

Here's an idea: be different than that. Listen to something like Sandy Denny (No More Sad Refrains: The Anthology), Fairport Convention (Meet on the Ledge: The Classic Years (1967-1975)), The Incredible String Band (Hangman's Beautiful Daughter), Roy Harper (Stormcock), or Wally Pleasant (Welcome to Pleasantville) instead. And if you must be a folksy guitar player, try something new: smile when you sing, have fun, and make the girls laugh—you’ll have a lot more fun and get a lot more groupies.

Whatever Happened to Your Sense of Humor?

Speaking of humor, I love this concept that “Serious Artists Make Serious Music”. Do you have any idea how much work and creativity it takes to make something that is funny? It’s so much easier to create a wimpy, “Oh, feel sorry for me because my record company screwed me over” song than it is to twist that into something funny like “They’re recruiting new blood for the ‘Next Big Thing’, so you feel like a rebel while they’re pulling the strings!” And clean humor is tougher to create than dirty humor because people will guffaw away at the most poorly constructed toilet humor, but the instant that the humor gets clean everybody’s standards suddenly raise. And you have to be sensitive to all that because humor is 100% dependent on how others receive it. You can masturbate away with your “serious” art and tell everyone that they “just don't get it”, but when you create humor, either the audience gets it or they don’t, and if they don’t, you'd better follow it up with something that they DO get, and do it FAST and NOW. That's a lot harder work and trickier to do than being self-pitying.

And as mentioned previously, humor gets girls and gets them faster and more thoroughly. How many singles ads have you read where the girls say they want a guy that can make them laugh? If you want to completely win a lady’s devotion and admiration, then making her laugh is a surefire, bull’s-eye way to make the door to her heart fly right open. Don’t believe me? Just check out the hottie Roger Rabbit bagged.

So if humor is more difficult than anything deadpan, why is serious art supposedly better? I blame a cultural phenomenon I call the “Jester Syndrome”. Here's how it works: the King brings in the Jester to entertain him, and then because the Jester does silly things that makes the King laugh, the King thinks the Jester is a fool and that he therefore has a right to kick the Jester around.

Another reason for this phenomenon is that it's easier to get attention when you create an emergency. “Help! My baby’s dying, I need an ambulance fast!” Yeah, that’ll get ‘em moving and get ‘em feeling sorry for you at first. The problem is, when everybody and their dog’s doing that all the time, it starts sounding like the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Here’s a small list of things that are funny (or have humorous elements in them) that you as an anti-Gen Xer look at as great art because you consider humor to be an art in and of itself.

FAUST. Your indie rock friends worship Can, but it took them a little longer to get into Faust—if they ever did at all. Why? Because while Can are completely deadpan and "serious", Faust loved to be silly and not take themselves too seriously half the time. And this was while they were transferring musique concréte from classical to rock music, which accidentally paved the way for industrial and darkwave groups like Einsturzende Neubauten, Whitehouse, Throbbing Gristle, Fad Gadget, and Cabaret Voltaire. But whilst all their successors were serious as hell (and often morbidly so—literally), Faust were literally fooling around and having a great time whilst making some pioneering and ingenious music. Check out the last three tracks on Faust IV (“Giggy Smile” to “It’s a Bit of a Pain”) as one example. And how seriously can you take the artwork included in So Far?

THE SURF PUNKS. Oh, how people love to hate this incredible concept band. Drummer Dennis Dragon was born into a well-to-do musical family (the composer Carmen Dragon was his father), but he genuinely loved all kinds of music whilst being a surfer dude on the coast of Southern California. He got to drum for the Beach Boys briefly and formed a garage rock band called The Dragons with his brothers in his teens in the late 1960’s (BFI is The Dragons' sole album and it only came out recently). Dennis was doing fine financially already, but ended up loaded when he engineered “Love Will Keep Us Together” for his older brother Daryl “The Captain” Dragon of The Captain and Tenille fame and it became a huge hit. Around that same time, Dennis' beach bum friend Drew Steele played a Ramones record for him. This caused the punk bug to bite him, so he started a group called The Surf Punks with Steele; they were signed to Epic Records and released their first LP, My Beach, in 1980. Their sophomore album Locals Only followed in 1982. Six years later, they released Oh No! Not Them Again, a collection of new songs recorded between 1982 and 1987, along with an album of updated rerecordings of older tunes with some new songs mixed in entitled Party Bomb; both were released by Enigma Records in 1988. The Surf Punks mix The Ramones, The Beach Boys, The Tubes, Frank Zappa, The Dickies, and eighties beach culture into the greatest and most consistent musical concept you’ve never heard. The Surf Punks documented the resentment of the snobby Locals in Malibu against the brain-dead Valleys of San Fernando Valley who would take over Malibu’s twenty-seven mile strip of beach and treat it like their personal ashtray every weekend. The Surf Punks mercilessly made fun of both sides of these “Turf Wars”, as well as everyone else who happened to get in the way, unless it was a good looking girl, and then they’d make fun of the surfers that were ogling the girl. You, the Anti-Gen Xer, end up getting completely sucked into their world like it’s a funny version of Dungeons and Dragons (no pun intended), even if you’re landlocked and have never seen a beach in your life. I recommend starting with the "Party Bomb" album or buying the download of "My Beach", and then working your way through all four albums in the Surf Punks saga, assuming you can handle the relentless humor and can curb your wealth envy.

Early SESAME STREET and the entirety of THE MUPPET SHOW. Everyone has seen this stuff and it has been incredibly influential and pervasive in Western culture in an underhanded way. But of course the Jester Syndrome kicks in and we think it’s stupid and just for kids. There is so much trouble and detail that goes into Jim Henson’s humor. In Sesame Street (Sesame Street: Old School - Volume One (1969-1974) and Sesame Street: Old School - Volume Two (1974-1979)), they purposely mixed children’s humor and adult humor into one cohesive whole in order to get adults’ attention and get them sitting down with the children and getting involved in the educational process. The sense of vaudeville and spontaneity is so strong throughout this material and Jim Henson’s one-of-a-kind, twisted sense of humor has such a strong fingerprint you can recognize it anywhere. I love watching the puppet characters like Bert and Grover interact with the children on Sesame Street like living beings and coming up with quips and responses right off the cuff; it’s especially amazing when you realize that each character has to have two puppeteers to run it. The Bip Bipadotta and "Mah Nà Mah Nà" sketches (the later being on The Muppet Show: Season One) are just stunning in their use of minimalism and suspense. And did you know that the song “Mah Nà Mah Nà” was originally from the soundtrack of a Swedish mondo movie called Svezia: Inferno E Paradiso of all things? I could go on and on about Jim Henson and his right hand man Frank Oz and what great art those men have given us, and how overlooked it is as great art simply because it’s funny and because some of it was made for children.

One last piece of advice for the would-be anti-Gen Xer:

The Unholy Trinity of Evil are: U2 (Satan), Radiohead (The Antichrist), and Coldplay (The False Prophet)

These three Satanic groups are the Kryptonite of all good Anti Gen Xers. Most Unholy Trinity-worshiping Gen Xers would probably take this slight as a compliment and start putting on their Michael Jackson "I'm Bad" face, unless they knew that the Satan they worship is the same one Saddam Hussein sodomizes in the South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut movie. Oh well, don't tell them; that'll make it even funnier.

U2: Funny how an off-kilter new wave/post-punk band can grow like Jack’s Beanstalk into the “Soundtrack of Our Lives” (albeit a boring one) for the Gen Xers of the world. Musically, U2 have their moments nowadays (like “Electrical Storm” for instance), but overall the best I can say is that there is a reason MacPhisto isn’t retiring—there are too many bedhead State University grad homeowners playing Rock Band on their Wii with their five-year-old Mini-Me’s in tow that need some musical reinforcement for their Gen X adultlescent lifestyles. But if you must listen to MacPhisto and the gang, go back to their roots and listen to them when they were a new wave/post-punk group. This U2 Deluxe Edition Box Set covers the period before this band morphed into the Angel of Light and Prince of the Power of the Air that they are now.

RADIOHEAD: In 1993, I never would have imagined that this Nineties Alternative group that was singing songs about being a creep and playing with themselves would end up becoming such a Beast in the music world. Just as the Antichrist is to be a counterfeit Jesus that “all the world” will “wonder after”, so Radiohead is counterfeit art that masses of latté-sipping Gen Xers uniformly sells their souls for. The closest I personally got to liking the Antichrist was "Kid A", which I thought had a prog-type bent to it, until I remembered several dozen prog records (like Amon Duul II’s Yeti for example) that are ballsier, less vapid, and far more satisfying to listen to. And if you want Post Rock-type atmosphere, go to the source and listen to Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock instead.

COLDPLAY is essentially U2/Radiohead lite; that is why they are the False Prophet. They begin a song with a good riff, but it gets boring and empty in about four seconds. But it’s supposed to be this wonderful, deep, artsy music. In reality, they are a lesser light pointing to Satan and the Antichrist and saying, “Worship them!”

Follow Metallica’s advice and Kill Em All! (And then kill Metallica!) Or, better yet, do your part and buy Killing Bono: I Was Bono's Doppelganger by one of Bono’s childhood friends who didn’t make it. Or do a search on the Web for the “I Hate Coldplay” shirt (the lettering is in the font Coldplay’s logo is in), or look for the British T-shirt that states, “Help Make Bono History”.


Congratulations for summoning up the fortitude to be an Anti-Gen Xer; you are part of a truly rare breed. We've looked at nearly one hundred items here that will help you on your way to thinking outside the box whilst showing Gen Xers and indie rockers just how inside the box they really are. It's a lot of stuff to chew on, so I recommend that you break it down by section and investigate each section as it interests you. You could start with a sacred cow that was waved in your face and use that section to start educating yourself, or you could start with a section whose music genre interests you. Either way, know that there is no reason to be snubbed or looked down upon just because you've never heard of Performer X or haven't had a chance to get into them yet; who knows, Performer X may not even be worth getting into.

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