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“Dolby’s Rupees: Red House Painters – ‘Funhouse'”

Postmodern literature, according to wikipedia, represents “literature characterized by… the unreliable narrator” and “tends to resist definition or classification as a movement.” So considering Lester Bangs sounded the death knell of rock and roll circa 1973 (thus chronicled by Almost Famous), you certainly can’t blame the Red House Painters for including “Funhouse” — a nine-minute dirge which crawls along at a snail’s pace and never reaches a volume higher than you grandpa in church — even on their very first album, Red House Painters I. The whole thing reminds me of that Atmosphere album cover depicting a morose and addled Atmosphere on the front and titled something like “You have no idea how much fun we’re having.”

Now, America seems like this crazy land of individualism and competition. Since this denotes something in the general zip code of “freedom,” though, it’s common practice (and inevitable practice, to an extent) to cozy up with one’s own concept of “luck” and just figure, Eh, I’ll try my luck with it. If I don’t succeed, it’s just bad luck. The alternative, of course, is trying to change the carnage-feeding political system, which even John Kerry, owner of three purple hearts and a bronze medal from the Vietnam War, tends to shy away from. [1]
So how do you CLASSIFY this amoral, luck-of-the-draw paradigm, within the medium of pop music, and what was it that brought about alternative rock, as juxtaposed with the origin of rock itself? Hip-hop, of course, is the main post-rock and roll bulwark and makes its creed the delineation of a world marred by gun violence and crack cocaine (which Kanye frames with the then-burgeoning Black Panther movement in the heart-stopping “Crack Music” from 2005 album Late Registration).
Or in other words, how is Nirvana different from Van Halen? Nirvana made no apologies for who they were (at least in the beginning). It wasn’t a puppet show reduction of the human mind to fit in with TV characters, the music was once again made sovereign, as the then-relatively-underground Sonic Youth and Pixies, as if money were but only a compensation for, and not the driving force behind, the music which pervaded the mainstream.
And not that I’d MIND hearing “Funhouse” on the radio along with Pearl Jam’s “Alive” and Soundgarden’s “Spoonman,” but these could have just as easily been influenced by classic rock — Red House Painters were the alternative emblem responding entirely to their own movement, on an artistic level. It’s even more opposite Van Halen, because it’s not even LOUD. Its merit, though, still lies in its realness — its ability to portray human struggle and strife audibly, just not in the anthemic ways chosen by the grunge poster boys. Red House Painters lead singer Mark Kozelek is now singer/songwriter Sun Kil Moon, whose style is heavily borrowed from by moniker-shifting Father John Misty, to put it lightly.
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Possible offshoot topic: Feminism as a lyrical influence on Nirvana, Pearl Jam (tales of domestic abuse, attempts at liberating women)
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[1] Kerry details in a December 21 New Yorker article that he conceded the 2004 presidency despite knowing “that in my country… we had problems carrying out that election.” He then offers the flaccid words to the defeated Afghani candidate Abdullah Abdullah: “There is a future. There is a tomorrow,” supported apparently by the fact that he himself is “Secretary of State of the most powerful country in the world,” discarding for the current time the subsequent ideological direction taken by said country.

 

 

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