Friday, June 4, 2010

The best conservative rock song ever?

One doesn't anticipate that a simple act like seeking out the trailer for Cory McAbee's demented and brilliant low-budget musical space western The American Astronaut will lead to riotous laughter at the expense of an insular, dimwitted left-wing Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State. But such are the blessings of our interconnected age.

McAbee is rather unique in that his offbeat film work and his band The Billy Nayer Show are so in synch that their sensibilities make it hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Weird scarcely begins to characterize his ouevre, but to my way of thinking it has too much of a soul to ever feel like the work is straying into gratuitously oddball territory. You either embrace his alternate universe or you don't.

So, as one who happily embraces McAbeeland, what am I to make of it when my little search for The American Astronaut trailer also yields the funniest conservative rock and roll song ever?

My initial reaction to the song was as if someone had handed me a magical elixir of meat, beer, gold and Jessica Biel's naked body. I felt like a sailor coming into port and learning that today is "Free Hooker Friday." What else can compare to a song which inspires chuckles of recognition and wingnut wood with every verse?

But wait. No one makes a fool out of a too Waspy by half Irish Catholic with a Jewish-sounding fake internet name without risking the dirt nap from my roving squadron of attack bats. Before I gleefully share the song with the wingersphere, I thought, Does it mean what I think it means?

I pondered this for a bit. I thought about the list of conservative rock songs John J. Miller of National Review had compiled a ways back. That had been sort of a variation on a standard dorky conservative parlor game. Something done in fun, that we all know only matters in the way that George Washington Carver's presence in grade school history texts does. A little psychic gratification in a medium that matters to us on a personal level, yet more often than not expresses political sentiments we're inclined to disagree with.

Peanut butter didn't change the world any more than a smattering of lyrics with conservative sentiments changes the essential nature of rock - or even the politics of a particular artist. Alienation, angst, base emotionalism and adolescence are both the cornerstones of rock and of leftism itself. Conservative sentiments are bound to slip out on an intermittent basis in rock if for no other reason than some of the accumulated wisdom of a civilization is apt to reach shore even on a wave of adolescent vomit. After all, the history of rock and roll leans far more heavily on the insights of dropouts than it does scrunts who spent four years being indoctrinated beyond their intellectual competence at Oberlin College. Dogmatic leftism is a learned pattern of thought, after all, and exponents are its unwittingly servile monkeys.

The reason for even a momentary struggle with this song's meaning was that it's hard to imagine McAbee and his bandmates being right of center. Yet, my respect for his oddball craftsmanship is put to the test by how bad the song is should the perspective be anything else. Thus the conundrum. The song is hilarious on a conservative's terms. It's a failure as irony because the critique of the (California in particular) left which informs it is borne of genuine insights as opposed to anything that would enable it to successfully parody a conservative perspective. In a process which resolved itself in less time than it took for me to write about it here, I netted out at who gives a fuck? I think the song is great. Funny. And as a conservative I enjoyed it immensely.

What started as an effort to grab a movie trailer would have simply evolved into the kind of short post I prefer - featuring a funny rock video that I knew wingnuts would get a kick out of. Easy Peasy lemon squeezy. But what I hadn't anticipated was that in scanning National Review for John J. Miller's original piece I'd discover that one of the aforementioned servile monkeys - Michael T. Spencer - had just flung twenty pages worth of primate excrement in the Journal of Popular Culture on the subject of conservative expropriation of popular music. In the simian vernacular of academia, that means conservatives stand accused of “investing meaning in rock music through a dialectical process of negotiated use.” Miller's article was the focal point in this effort.

It's rather dispiriting that academia has devolved into such petty ideological short-bus-esoterica masquerading as scholarship, but the paper is awash in unintentional humor. Spencer cites comments on random left-wing blogs as authoritative and posts on right-wing ones to bolster his convoluted argument. SCIENCE! He misspells "Barak" Obama. He Doesn't know that the Georgia Satellites were a rock band. He butchers the timeline of the first Gulf War, thus rendering idiotic his criticism of Miller's suggested impetus for the lyrics in a particular Metallica song. But beyond things like that and the mountain of naked assertions which share this lumpy bed, the ultimate absurdity here is in the premise itself.

Does this ramen noodle gorging grad school chimp see no irony in his critique in light of the masturbatory zeal with which his peers attach significance to vapor trails in reinterpreting all manner of artistic expression? He mocks his own profession while typifying it. And in the bargain he accuses right wingers of failing to understand irony. It's like rain on your wedding day, Michael.

Miller made fast work of undressing him. It is worth reading in full, as is the Journal of Popular Culture submission itself.


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