Monday, April 19, 2010

Contenders Series #25: New Pornographers - "Crash Years"

"And like the rest of us you've got those old eternity blues"

So ... this is a New Pornographers song.  It's been out for awhile, but I'm just now getting around to blogging about it.  It sounds like most New Pornographers songs, but awesomely it sounds better than most of them.*  I love this one, and I'm fantastically excited for the new album.  I'm not really sure what else to say.

* Eugene, though, my resident New Pornographers expert, still prefers "Your Hands (Together)" of the two advance tracks from the new album.  Also, kudos to the band's marketing department for this album being the last of the big May releases to leak.  Or is it a good thing when your album leaks now?  I can't really figure out viral marketing anymore.

So I'd like to talk about Bill Simmons at some length.  I am, still, a huge Bill Simmons fan, even though it's no longer cool to be one.  I read everything he writes.  I look forward to his podcasts.*  I follow him on Twitter.  And yet, I also read and enjoy several websites that make regular features out of mocking him.

*They really make the doc review tolerable.  I also listen to Grateful Dead live shows sometimes.  Seriously.  The music has a kind of contact-high quality to it that really mellows out the hours of clicking "Non-responsive" over and over.  Work is changing me in ways I did not anticipate.

The argument against Simmons, as I understand it, is that he is self-important.  That he thinks being a Boston sports fan is like some kind of calling, a priesthood, and that Boston sports fans are fundamentally superior to all others, and that, in the same way, Boston teams and players are equally superior, even when they lose.  That he thinks his Vegas trips are the ultimate, craziest, bro-iest Vegas trips anyone has ever taken.  That he believes his ridiculous sports theories are chiseled on tablets and brought down from the mountain.  That his friends, though they mostly do not work in the sports industry and do not have anything like access, are experts whose opinions should be broadcast to millions of ESPN listeners.

And ... the more I think about it ... those are exactly the reasons I LIKE Bill Simmons.*

*I know, that little reverse straw man change-up move is kind of a hack-y device.  But I'm sticking with it here.

Listen ... I don't really think that Simmons (and his friends who come on the podcast) know that much more about sports than my friends and I do.  Honestly.  He makes impossible, "do-you-even-HAVE-an-editor?" factual mistakes with stunning frequency.  He knows the NBA better than me, sure, and probably the NFL (especially gambling and fantasy-related NFL).  I certainly know college sports better than him (and, to his credit, he doesn't claim to know anything about college football), and we both don't care about hockey.  I think I know more about baseball, but I think he would strongly contest this.*

*Honestly, I know Javy Vasquez is struggling, but you can't really believe he's not an improvement over Sergio Mitre.  That sentence almost literally doesn't make sense.  Even reading over what I just typed, I'm thinking "Okay, no, that can't be what he said."  But it is.

But this isn't some kind of sour grapes, "Why does Bill Simmons have a podcast and I don't?" post.  I don't really WANT him to know that much about sports.  Honestly, are you having a hard time finding sports news?  Are you frantically searching for stats?  I mean, I think the internet already has a handle on that.  The thing that I want from Simmons is the thing his critics constantly pick him apart for:  I love how important he believes his own sports-viewing experience is.

Here's the thing:  Logically, I understand that all sports fans love their teams.  I know that all music fans love their favorite bands.  I do.  On the other hand, viscerally, deep down in my gut, I believe that I am having a fundamentally different, and fundamentally BETTER, experience rooting for the Minnesota Twins (and listening to the Hold Steady) than anyone else is with any other team.  By rooting for the Twins, I have made the correct decision, and so it logically follows that other people made the WRONG decision.  It's borderline religious.  When the Twins lose, something, cosmically, went wrong.

And I think, when you write, you HAVE to write this way, or you're doomed to suffer a slow death by self-awareness.  And I think this happens a lot on the internet, where everyone is so terrified of being picked apart by angry commenters.  I feel like every piece of sportswriting (or music writing) now needs to have some kind of disclaimer where you kind of step outside yourself and admit that everyone else's opinions are valid, that you are not some kind of expert or authority.  Then you have to make a knowing, self-deprecating joke.

But who wants to read that?  Do you want to read this Simmons column:

"My favorite team is the Boston Celtics.  I would like them to win, but, if some other team wins, I'm sure their fans will be very happy.  I think the Celtics have some good players, but other teams have good players, too, and I'm probably not the best person to judge whose players are better.  I have some theories about how basketball seasons play out, and what we can expect in the future, but I'm sure other people have had similar thoughts, and doubtless many people have had BETTER, more informed thoughts.  So, for now, I would just like to report that the Celtics beat Miami last weekend.  The series still has more games."

How about this one:

"My friends and I used to go to Vegas when we were younger.  We would drink.  Not some kind of crazy, Hunter S. Thompson-level drinking, but enough that we were drunk.  We probably weren't the drunkest people in the casino at any given time.  Other people might have been having more fun than us.  Also, we would gamble.  We like to think we have special theories about gambling, but really, no one has gambling totally figured out.  That's why casinos are so successful.  We just try really hard to win money.  And sometimes we make jokes.  We think they're kinda funny, but maybe they're not for everyone.  But now we're older.  So we don't go as much.  Sometimes, my friends and I talk about those past trips, but I guess everyone reminisces sometimes."

Of course not.  I want Simmons to think that the 2004 baseball playoffs were the greatest sporting event of all time.  I want him to believe that his Vegas trips were unlike anything seen before or since.  I want him to call his friends at work and fill out NCAA brackets despite not really knowing the names of any of the players.  Because this is what I would do, if I had his forum.

I would talk about the Twins at incredible length.  I would have basically no idea what was going on in the National League.  Or the AFC.  Or the NHL (all of it).  But I would talk about them.  I would call Branny, and Elliot, and Schoeb, and Kass, and Strong, and Jerry, and we would joke around like it was just us, and we wouldn't apologize for our inside jokes and interminable, glory-days stories, and hundreds of thousands of people would listen to us.

But we wouldn't be nearly as entertaining as Simmons.  And that's why he has his own box on  And I don't.

So how do we tie this back to music?

Well ... I've ripped Simmons from time to time for the indie rock references in his column.  He sometimes acts like he's introducing the world to MGMT, or Vampire Weekend, months after serious music fans were already just about sick of those bands.  And I kind of assumed he had terrible taste in music.

But ... somehow he doesn't.  He tweeted his top 25 songs of 2009, and I agreed with most of it.  It had a few of the unanimous choices (Phoenix, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Thermals), but also some stuff I had never heard, like Pony Pony Run Run's "Hey You" or stellastarr*'s "Graffiti Eyes".*

*Though I think Ferrario tried to talk me into stellastarr* a few months earlier.  So ... half points.

Recently, he posted a mix of some of his favorite 2010 stuff.  And "Crash Years" is on it.  From an album that hasn't even come out yet.  And there's a song from the Broken Social Scene album that isn't out yet, either.  And two songs from the new MGMT album that the cool kids have decided isn't up to par, but which is actually really good.  And there's Broken Bells, Temper Trap, Metric ...

So the guy's pushing 40 now.  Where do I want to be at 40?  Married, kids, nice house, writing job, still obsessive about sports, still tuned into the indie music scene, keeps in touch with friends ... that's pretty much everything I want right there.

So who cares that he forgot that UCLA made the tournament two years ago?*  That's not the point at all.

*Jerry, that's who.

Download:  New Pornographers - Crash Years

Official Site
Hype Machine
Pre-Order Together

1 comment: