*Originally posted 6/26, reposted because of technical difficulties.
As I alluded to, but didn’t EXPLICITLY mention, in my last post, the 1990s are sort of a misleading icon to be handled today (but then, so are the 1960s, with all the assassinations concurrent with moon walks and whatnot). It’s sort of the general conception that two decades ago was a time of friendly community and utter, all-encompassing cultural transcendence through music — well, I remember the sadistic people making fun of Nancy Kerrigan and that pointless, endless Monica Lewinsky scandal. Then, it would be tempting to, in a reductive conclusion, argue that Len somehow embody the extant animalistic mode of communication within said decade. Indeed, this isn’t too far from the truth, although such a discussion is certainly subjective.
I’m going to backtrack a bit here — I found this interesting thing on Facebook tonight called “Midwest Paranormal,” which ended up featuring this voice broadcasting from a time a long time ago. I knew the voice wasn’t from today’s day and age because it didn’t sound like an absolute a**hole. Anyway, to put things in perspective, it took this extraordinary stroke of otherworldly exposure to spawn in me the courage to look up the lyrics to Len’s song “Steal My Sunshine” (I have sort of a fear of being astonished and transcended and all that stuff)… in particular that chick’s verse is just so weird, like does she say “My stinky buns”?
Well it’s actually “sticky paws,” which is obviously nowhere as cool or as American as the other thing I suggested (Len is actually Canadian, despite that their archetypal video depicts LA, a phenomenon I’ll get into later)… I walked away from the experience compositing Len’s lyrics as roughly Cubist poetry, if not necessarily purposeful, let alone memorable, bulk of such matter.
But traditionally, Len, as their first two albums will diagnose, are alternative rock residing somewhere around the territory of a less riffy, more emo-y type Hum (Len is from Toronto to Hum’s Chicago area). Obviously, it’s impossible to judge their earlier albums (“Steal My Sunshine”’s You Can’t Stop The Bum Rush is their third) objectively having imbibed the infinitely playable if also infinitely goofy hit single they’d score in the summer of ’99, but I’d rate it as somewhere near the Lemonheads and Teenage Fanclub in both style and quality — so not necessarily the worst music at all. It even found a way to be full of personality, which is more than many bands can muster — in the song “Funny” the singer is badgering the badgerers, throwing shade at members of more successful bands which attempt to bash his own. Of course, for all we know this could just be an inner professional mantra based on the PARANOIA of such badgering, rather than a reaction to its actual existence.
Either way, it’s interesting to note how Len took three years to make You Can’t Stop the Bum Rush, their first album without an “intro” and on which “Steal My Sunshine” leads things off. In my Pink Floyd post I make the point that the band were essentially making unimpeachable pop on Obscured by Clouds, but that their success was hindered by the lead singer’s accent. Now, the accent on Len’s early material is fine, but the phenomenon is similar in a sense, for its wearing of the whole dumbing it down phenomenon, or rather, making things more dramatic (“10 years have got behind you”; “I missed a million miles of fun”). Superlatives sold. Think of the Bloodhound gang. For communal solidarity, or at least a mind in which such a thing is fathomable, you might have to look farther back than the ‘90s, maybe into “paranormal” realms.