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Monday, December 04, 2006

Ellen versus The Shark versus Judee versus Jacques-Henri Lartigue

A little while ago a writer from the OC Weekly named Ellen Griley reviewed (okay, panned) a show put on by one of our favorite Orange County-based bands, The Shark That Ate My Friend. Clearly the show wasn't to her taste: fine, that's fair, I like them, she doesn't.

But then there is her assumption that the members of Shark have lots of money and/or are bankrolled by their parents, who also must have lots of money (none of which is true, according to the band): I believe her words are "oh, the spectacle of being young and rich and idle." And that, really, is what she's getting at: not so much that she doesn't like Shark's music, what she really doesn't like is their families. In fact, that's what the entire article is about: the music is merely referenced in passing.

Well well well. Let me say right now that if I could've made being young, rich, and idle work for me, I would've embraced it like a lover! Two out of three would've been okay too (and pretty? I'd take pretty). But that's beside the point: there's an implied link in Griley's article between lifestyle, social class, and artistic (in)authenticity that's appealing to all of us who are lacking in those departments, but seems kinda dubious to me. So what if someone's dad bought them a $700 keyboard: can they play it?

Forget music for a second, what about someone like photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue, whom everybody just loves to death, myself included? Here's what: he was rich, richer than the golden teats that suckled tender Mammon! He was a genius, and flagrantly idle! And we love him! You see? He overcame the taint of his unfortunate wealth and now he's a patron saint of hipsterdom. What do you say to that, Ms. Griley? Eh? Well?

Okay, let's go back to music. Recently I was introduced to the music of Judee Sill, a 1970's singer-songwriter who put out a handful of lovely LP's and lead a life of fascinating hardship and self-destruction. I don't normally go for this sort of thing, but her music is wonderful and her lyrics fascinating, along with her stories of living as a homeless junkie in a 1959 Cadillac with five other people (how is that even possible?). Despite not being a rocker, she lead *the* epic rock and roll life before dying of an overdose at 35. That's an incredibly compelling and romantic story, far more appealing than, well, anybody else's that I can think of, but it's also an enormous cliché. And of course critics like Griley would LOVE old Judee Sill, certainly not for her music, but for the glamor of her miserable, tragic, wasted life. Because let's face it: being comfortable and sane just doesn't make good copy.

So. I say to my indolent, spoiled, gold-and-honey sprinkled, leisure-flaunting brethren: rock on, dear children! Someday time shall wash away the stain of your cash, and thy true worth shall be revealed. And, um, until then, could you spare me a few grand or so? I could reeeealllly stand to upgrade my bass amp. THANKS OMG BFF! And buy me a car.

Love, Eli

PS: Some live Judee Sill tracks from a BBC radio performance can be heard for free here, just beneath the picture of the record label.

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