SUM 41 — “Fat Lip”
CAKE — “Short Skirt Long Jacket”
SUGAR RAY — “When It’s Over”

A Brief Discussion Concerning Modernism (Loosely Interpreted) In Three Parts

“[One device of modernism is] the deployment of ironic and ambiguous juxtapositions'” (Barth, ‘The Literature of Replenishment’)

Listening to ‘Fat Lip’, I can’t help but think this is the product of some omniscient focus group trying to concoct THE perfect song that’d make MTV’s target audience slobber and pant. Super-stupid punk rock aping the usual post-puberty discontent (‘I don’t wanna waste my time / And be another casualty of society’), with some Beastie Boys style rapspeak leading into the guitar-chords-as-careening-pinball chorus. Cha-ching! And, and always, more proof that stereotypical punk rock is only one good undead mascot away from becoming stereotypical heavy metal. Not that anyone needs to see that heavy-metal snippet at the end of the ‘Fat Lip’ video. Blink 182 could sue for defamation of character after that hell-bent-for-leather move, but such meta-ironic litigious action could create a rift in the space-time continuum that’ll make the eventual meeting of matter and anti-matter come off like a duck fart.

“[Modernism might involve] an inclination to subjective distortion to point up the evanescence of the social world'” (Barth, ibid)

Cake, on the other hand, actually implements the focus group approach for their video. Take the song out to the people, the consumers, and give it a spin. Aspiring artist & repetoire representatives, please take note of these results. The German audience likes the ‘rising action’. Little girls are easy sells; middle-school girls are very choosy (or very indecisive). Businessmen and repressed aviators like to dance. Some folks are willing to buy two copies of a record (or single) if they like the song enough. And the geriatric demographic isn’t going to yield many record sales. Not bad results, considering the song sounds just like every other Cake song (sans John McCrae’s patented ‘oh no / oh yeah / oh no / hyeah, mule! hyeah!’ interjections) — same Rhino-compilation funk bassline, same Chuck Mangione trumpet, same droll spoken-word stupid-smart patois. I liked the dancing bear video better. But, then, I’m also a fan of the “rising action”.

“[Another modernist device is] the adoption of a tone of epistemological self-mockery'” (Barth, ibid)

It’s good to find your niche, though. Supposedly, it was suggested to Sugar Ray by their record label that pursuing the ‘hard rock’ sound might be fiscally prudent. And this was offered AFTER the unexpected success of ‘Fly’. However, since said ‘hard rock’ sound (found primarily on the album Lemonade and Brownies — hi, Ms. Eggert) yielded such modern rock staples as ‘________’ and ‘________’, the Sugar Ray braintrust decided to follow their mellower instincts. So, here’s ‘When It’s Over’, a whimsical little truffle that is just inoffensive enough to really offend the right sort of people — that is, the jaded hipster stereo types that can’t condone a band completely revising their sound to sell records, never mind condoning a band so unabashedly willing to please. My god, this band is so willing, they’re selling nostalgia to their audience! Oh, the panic & vomit. The video in question is a pre-modern pastiche of indelible pop culture milieus — the punk rock club, the hip-hop strip joint, the new wave posing, the — um — the ‘Sugar Ray video’ (adding splashes of red to the black & white film – there’s goes that media polyglot McG, referencing Senor Spielbergo). The video could almost pass for an amusing self-depricating run-through of musical movements from the past 20 years, but that damn Bruce Lee section (part ‘Fists of Fury,’ part ‘Enter the Dragon’, all Kareem) sticks a fork in that thought. Never mind the theoretical crab-grass that is the ‘Sugar Ray video’ portion. Pop culture is moving at rather high speeds nowadays, downloading and uploading tons of information, devouring its own tail at an alarming rate. Despite this, I’d think that a ‘Sugar Ray video’ becoming an indelible pop culture milieu (no matter how little shelf-life “indelibe” infers in the pop world) would be an idea that even the most ravenous metaphorical snake couldn’t choke down comfortably.