Featured Music: Wednesday, November 16, 2005
The Burning Hotels have a lot to live up to when they play the Wreck Room on Saturday.

Not Thoughtcrime: iPods are destroying pop music in incalculable ways.

Let me go on the record as the first (reasonably sane) person to say that iPods are evil. Yes, I believe the Apple contraption further atomizes our already microscopic attention spans, and, yes, wearing one in public is kind of like saying, “Leave me alone and stay outta my space, all you jerk loser jerkwads.” But I also think the device is demonic because it, more than any other technological innovation of the past half-century, is helping reduce music — beautiful, supernatural music — to sonic wallpaper, mere background noise.

When we can listen to pretty much any song ever recorded, anywhere and at any time, why bother listening? Why bother, y’know, actually paying attention? The inertia induced by too much choice, behavioral psychologists say, is similar to the hopelessness a person feels when he or she has too little choice. Economist Fred Hirsch calls this phenomenon “the tyranny of small decisions.” Recall that as part of Winston’s “re-education” in 1984 he learns not only precisely how he’s supposed to spend his free time but also that any number imaginable may serve as the sum of 2 + 2. His brain atrophies into jelly.

My concern is that the less we focus on what’s piping into our ears, the more susceptible we’re going to be to crappy music.

Not to sound like a crotchety codger, but I miss the days when a music fan regularly made personal connections with songs. The radio was his best enabler. My friends and I would often listen for hours for our favorite tunes. The more radio we listened to, the more good songs we heard. Though we had neither the money nor the greed to buy every record we liked, we savored the ones we did. I had to save two weeks’ worth of tips from working at my newspaper stand to buy Rush’s Signals when it came out — you bet your ass I enjoyed the hell out of that album. I’d lock myself in my and my brothers’ room, plug in the headphones, and follow along with the lyrics (conveniently located on the album sleeve). “Analog Kid,” about a young boy who dreams of eventually transcending his miserable provincial life, even made working the paper stand in the dead of winter somewhat less Gulag-ish.

Being able to top Mt. Everest and then choose a theme song from among the zillions of potential theme songs contained in your iPod has devalued music incontrovertibly. Pop music these days is no longer about connecting with it but owning it. In the presence of this totalizing disconnect, we’ve begun coping the only way we know how — by buying more music. An iPodder recently told me that he finds more pleasure in trawling music magazines and paying to download what they say is cool rather than actually listening to music. And you know there are a gazillion other music lovers just like him out there. The horror is that, in a universe where a pop song derives its cultural significance not from quality but from hype, the artists with the largest marketing budgets are still going to be the best-sellers, not necessarily the artists with the most talent. The average supermarket loads its shelves with more than 250 varieties of cookies — cookies — and, more than likely, the best sellers are the ones whose tv commercials are the most annoying. You remember how we all expected the internet to level the proverbial playing field in the music industry? Wow, we were dupes.

Old-fashioned musicians, like the kind who continue to put out genuine albums on polycarbonate, don’t stand a chance. Longer than jingles, their songs are as archaic as the format on which they’re mass-produced. Another iPodder friend of mine told me that listening to an entire album in the quietude of your domicile and through headphones is like watching black and white tv — or churning your own butter. It’s cool but not when you know you can be doing 10 million other things as the band palliates your bored, boring ears.

Break-In’s, Beatles, the Beat, Black Tie, and ... Goodwin

Local club owners, take care: One hazardous byproduct of the holiday season is an increase in burglaries, thefts, and robberies. A couple of clubs have already been plundered, and early Sunday morning someone broke into Fred’s Café in the Cultural District. He or she took money, nothing else. An all-cash business, Fred’s was hit hard, which is why several local musicians are holding a fundraiser on December 10 at a location yet to be determined. Check here for updates. ... Don’t be a weenie! So the weather’s getting a little colder — big deal. HearSay once lived in a town where digging out the family car from snow every morning was as ho-hum/everyday/commonplace as drinking cosmopolitans or taking a liberal interpretation of the Constitution or doing whatever you Southerners think we Yanks do most of the time. At Central Market tomorrow (Thu), the Weekly’s Thursday Night Live music series kicks off with San Antonio-based twang-rockers Micky and the Motorcars, from 6-8pm. Even though the gourmet supermarket at Hulen and I-30 will have space heaters strategically placed around the patio, you may want to bring a jacket. Weenie. ... Chris Hardee and his band Alan write and perform beautiful, haunting, technically complicated art rock. When listing their influences, I don’t immediately think of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Actually, the only bona fide Beatles-ish aspect about Alan, in HearSay’s lofty opinion, is Hardee’s mod haircut. Everything else pretty much screams anti-retro music that’s full of “live in the now, man!” esprit. (A Beatles-ish quality? I guess.) Imagine my surprise then when I learned that Alan plans on performing a set of John Lennon-penned Beatles songs Sunday on the roof of Magnolia Station, a Dallas address that is within spitting distance of American Airlines Center, where Lennon’s better music half, Sir Paul McCartney, will be playing to several thousand Range Rover-drivin’, Ben & Jerry’s-eatin’, soccer practice-watchin’ Baby Boomers. The goal, Hardee says, is basically to rock Macca fans on their ways to and from their cars in the AAC parking lot. The set list includes “Get Back,” “Across the Universe,” “Help!,” “Norwegian Wood,” “Eight Days a Week,” “Strawberry Fields,” and, the Beatles’ magnum opus, “A Day in the Life.” ... Every so-called musician in town must go out of his or her way Saturday to see New Music giant Jaap Blonk perform at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (3200 Darnell St, FW; 817-446-9884). The Dutch vocalist will take all you think you know about melody, structure, and theory and turn it inside out — and then eat it. He’ll be wringing musical anti-music from his own vocal works plus music and performance art pieces by Georges Apherghis, Hugo Ball, Kurt Schwitters, Tristan Tzara, and Robert Wilson, at 8pm. ... You may remember The English Beat from the band’s early-’80s chart and current Jack-FM fave “Save It for Later” and for occasionally spinning off into General Public, the super-sweet pop duo responsible for the one song for which every ’80s-era film director of romantic comedies set in American high schools would have given his teen-age daughter, “Tenderness.” Like all great bands whose bodies have been exhumed by retro-obsessed commercial radio, the Beat has a new audience of folks born after 1980 to exploit in the best way. Though frontman Dave Wakeling has been doing solo stuff and touring for years, many moons have passed since his brainchild traversed our amber waves of grain. Saturday, the Beat plays the Granada Theater (3524 Greenville Av, Dallas; 512-389-0315), and, in a thoroughly diggable coup, an act that will join Dallas’ Hundred Inevitables in opening will be Fort Worth’s foremost purveyors of New Wave-y pop, Black Tie Dynasty. The younger band’s penchant for darkness is a neatly orchestrated complement to the Beat’s ska-riffic, positive ’tude (that permeates just about every tune except the anti-Thatcherite “Stand Down, Margaret”). Tickets are available at www.granadatheater.com. FYI: Next week, Idol Records signees Black Tie will begin recording their second full-length, at Dallas’ Maximedia Studios, with the pAper chAse’s Jon Congleton. ... If a hike to Big D to hear either the Beatles or the Beat sounds like trouble, go to the Moon (2911 W Berry St, FW; 817-926-9600). No, seriously, the TCU-area bar is giving up its stage to rockers Goodwin (co-winners with Flickerstick of best rock band honors at this past year’s Weekly Music Awards). The Good’ boys have only one more show after the Moon gig, in December at Axis for the Fort Worth Arts Consortium’s annual Experience the Art of Music festival, then they’re going back to the lab. Goodwin Vol. 1, a multi-media c.d. they’re working on, will be released in “about a month or so,” according to frontman Tony Diaz, and the disc will include a previously unreleased track, “Trading Up,” and a lot of footage of band members and general hangers-on goofing off. The follow-up full-length to the band’s two-year-old eponymous debut is expected to be ready by the first of the year — 11 tracks of all-new material under the working title of Telekinesis vs. Indifference. ... Yes, here’s another Saturday show worth seeing. At the Wreck Room (3208 W 7th St, FW; 817-348-8303), Fort Worth’s answer to British-inflected power-pop-rock-punk, The Burning Hotels, plays its first show ever, a sort of non-verbal response to recently releasing on the down-low one helluvan auspicious e.p. that scenesters can’t stop raving about. The Hotels are opening for Supercell and Greatness In Tragedy, so get there around 10-ish (and meet us at the side bar directly afterward). At the Wreck on Friday, legendary North Texas alt-country rockers Woodeye play their farewell show, with Eaton Lake Tonics.

Contact HearSay at hearsay@fwweekly.com.

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