[Hype Hype Hooray] The Dull and Pointless Sound

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Hype Hype Hooray is a biweekly “critique” of the music scene and the blogosphere that feeds it, told through the lens of Jamie Hale, a journalist who likes music about as much as he likes scotch and a firm leather chair. Please enjoy with a grain of salt.

I’ve been struggling to explain how I feel about the modern-day indie scene and why I feel the way I do. I’ve stumbled between descriptions like “uninspired” and “endlessly dull,” but I just can’t seem to put it into the right words.

I see modern indie as something of a dismal affair. In my mind, trying to keep up with the latest “blogged about” bands is like living out an episode of The Twilight Zone. It’s all black-and-white and melodramatic. Maybe we open on a man behind the wheel of a car. A wave of sweat rolls down his haggard face. A thick droplet pools in a dark bag beneath his eye. He wipes it away and sighs.

The car speeds down an empty desert highway. On either side of the road is an endless swath of brown. Heat pulses off the asphalt in the late afternoon sun.

“What sad hell is this?” the man mutters to himself. “I ask myself every day, but I’m no closer to the answer.”

His hand reaches mechanically to the knob of the radio. He winces and pulls it back suddenly, his wrist trembling. A soft sob rolls out of his mouth. He catches the cry and swallows it back down.

“No, man, not again,” he tells himself, his voice breaking softly. “It wasn’t different yesterday, it wasn’t different 40 days ago, it won’t be different today.”

He stares ahead silently, the thought of the radio lingering in the sweltering car. His neck twitches. His brow furrows. His fingers tap rhythmically on the wheel, adrift in the deafening silence. He glances at the radio from the corner of his eye. It mocks him. He explodes.

“DAMN YOU!” he screams “You’re–evil! You’re a horrid, evil machine!”

He pulls his hand off the wheel and throws furious punches at the console. The car swerves violently to the side. Knobs crack and give way. They fly into the passenger window and trickle to the floor, specks of blood dripping onto the dusty carpet.

He begins to sob quietly, cradling his bloodied hands.

“God, what have I done?” he cries. He stares at the thin plastic stumps where the knobs used to be. “I shouldn’t have broken you, I’m so sorry. I should never have hurt you.”

He steadies the car and fiddles desperately with the stumps. After several fretful seconds, a faint sound of static crackles through the air. His face fills with hope.

He quickly checks on the road and dives back down. With great effort he moves the frequency from 88.7 to 92.5. He wipes his hand on the side of his pants and focuses. He grasps the stump firmly and twists, the dial slowly rising to 94.3, to 98.6, to 102.4. At 103.5 a burst of music erupts from the speakers. The man throws his hand in the air, victory at last–but he stops.

A haunting melody pours from the radio. Swollen drums pulse an irregular beat. A mellow synthesizer bounces along. A harmless voice sings sad refrains about love. It’s twee elevator music from hell.

His body is frozen with fear. His mouth hangs twisted agape. A fat tear wells up from his eye and blends with a bead of sweat. The two dance elegantly down his cheek, dropping into the corner of his dry, cracking lips.

The song fades out. He casts a sideways glance at the radio, bracing himself for disaster. The next song starts slowly. A swollen beat kicks in. A mellow synthesizer rolls out a haunting melody. A soft-spoken woman whispers romance into the air.

“NO!” he screams. “It’s still the same, it’s always the same!” He beats his hands on the wheel, the car skidding dangerously across the empty road. “Why won’t you change? Why won’t you ever change?”

He hangs his head and cries into the wheel. “I try and I try and I try. I always think you’ll be a little bit better–something dynamic, something worthwhile.”

He raises his defeated face to the road. “But no. You’re just like this desert. You’re bland and you’re dry and you’re endlessly uninteresting. You’re void of life. You’re pointless.”

He sighs as his car speeds past another swath of brown. The sky turns a deeper shade of blue.

“But what choice do I have?” he mutters. “Between silence and the pointless sound?”

He grits his teeth and twists the volume stump clockwise. His car tears into the setting sun, soft music blaring from the windows. A singer croons a torrid tale of love, the band jamming smoothly in the background. The man drives into the distance, his bloody knuckles jumping sadly to the song.

OK, and then Rod Serling comes out and says something like “An endless trial of the patience of man. A cruel eternity without the crucial blood of life. A sad song heard only in hell? Or in the darkest depths–of the Twilight Zone?”

Then the theme fades in and everybody is all “Well that wasn’t really a twist so much, it was just sort of sad.” Then they have a debate about whether or not The Twilight Zone NEEDS to have twists all the time, or if it plays out just fine, thank you very much, as a good old fashioned tragedy. Then somebody puts on a Grimes record and they all talk about love.

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