Welcome to Misophonia, our newest feature series curated by the artists we love and respect enough to hand over the exalted task of criticizing music. As shown above, the disorder known as misophonia consists of negative reactions triggered by specific sounds. For our series, we expanded the definition in order to place bothersome trends and habits in the cross-hairs. Misophonia is about ending the agitating aspects of music culture by putting them in the roasting thrown. With each edition, we’ll invite artists to isolate and terminate areas within music that make their blood boil.
I could very easily rant about all kinds of new music that I hate but I won’t do that.
“Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode was all over the radio one summer when I was a kid. I remember the first time I heard it was around sunset on a hot and humid night as we were driving through the woods in Massachusetts. I wasn’t driving, some adult was (though that would have been sweet if at age nine I was driving through the woods). I had just watched Pet Cemetery for the first time the week before at Zack Griffin’s house (where are you now Zack?) and freaked the fuck out. Especially that Zelda scene, ah so gnarly, still even weirds me out to write about it now.
The song was so hooky and moody it just burned in my brain, and unfortunately linked itself up with my seriously primal fear of Zelda’s nastiness that was also lodged in my head that week. The two were married and I became screwed for years after whenever that song would come on the radio.
I love Violator today but still laying off that Pet Cemetery shit!
Don’t need no creepy redheads lurking under my bed.
MAJOR DISCLAIMER: What you are about to read is one punk’s opinion, my personal perspective only. The sonic-based feeling of revulsion I am going to describe to you is my own, awful burden to bear; carried from sweaty basement show to basement show across the world, never knowing when it will strike but almost always leaving me looking for the exit when it does. I listen to a pretty wide range of “punk”-affiliated music, but I will readily admit that hardcore is not my primary thing. My knowledge of this insanely complicated and storied (sub)genre is VERY limited compared to that of many of my friends – I am not personally hardcore, per se. That said, the hardcore bands I do enjoy tend to have a unique take on the form, subvert/reject the genre’s hypermasculine/jocklike/politically reactionary tendencies and veer towards the more punk and/or strange ends of the spectrum – bands like Born Against, Econochrist, No Statik, Baader Brains, Permanent Ruin, Negative Standards, Needles, Spitboy, Harum Scarum, Iron Lung, Reagan Youth, Agatha, etc…However, if a more “generic” HC band is really passionate and good at what they are doing, don’t exude extreme macho energy, and obviously have a philosophical approach/ethics that are somewhat in line with my own, I’m probably going to enjoy them (at least live). Ok, disclaimers are out of the way now, let’s cut to the chase. Half-time breakdowns in hardcore (and hardcore-leaning punk) really, really irritate me at a primal level.
Objectively, I am well-aware that these breakdowns are dance-oriented (they are funky by nature) and have occasionally been used for the forces of good; I am certainly not against people dancing intensely as long as they are not being jerks about it and everybody involved is a respectful, willing participant. However, there is a part of me that will never truly be able to accept that the breakdown is capable of inciting anything other than a blitz of mirror-practiced violent knucklehead dance moves, eagerly busted out by the biggest dudes in the room like some terrible mix of Stomp and Street Fighter. Touring in my own bands, I frequently find myself watching a hardcore/punk band I’ve never heard before and am absorbed into their nervous, intense, propulsive musical energy and fury; carrying me along like a frenzied swarm of Winged Monkeys covered in patches of obscure Scandinavian crust bands. Then the bottom drops out and I’m instantly transported to a horrible, borderline-nu metal soundscape populated by giant Oompa Loompas juggalos wearing big wallet chains and XL Biohazard t-shirts; karate kicking everyone and everything in sight, then picking up the change only to throw it RIGHT BACK IN YOUR FACE!
To me, half-time breakdowns in punk/hardcore are like nails across a chalkboard – the first time it happens, I wince and try to refocus but don’t leave the show/classroom just yet. If the band is decent, I put the breakdown lapse into perspective with the rest of their set and give ’em another listen. However, if the breakdowns keep happening then I have to get away from the source of irritation as quickly as possible. This escape is often pretty complicated, because let us not forget that such breakdowns are also known as mosh parts (described in greater detail above), making a hasty exit across the room complicated at best and physically dangerous at worst. Yet I will need to take that risk and make that escape, for suffering through a full set of breakdown-heavy songs is simply not an option for me. My mind cannot take it, and my subconscious will begin to perceive the often well-meaning band in front of me as swaggering late-era NYHC tough guys or, worse, a side project of One Life Crew that just put out a digital-only release on Victory Records.
As mentioned earlier, I am objectively well-aware that the half-tempo hardcore/punk breakdown has occasionally been used for the forces of good. However, my own dark past experiences with such breakdowns (let’s just say they involve Hatebreed, Papa Roach and almost dying in a locked refrigerator) precludes any reconciliation with this particular musical mechanism in my mind. So if our bands are playing together at a show somewhere, you are just stretching out into a “sick” mosh part, and you see me leave the room in a hurry, just remember…It’s not you, it’s the breakdown.
John No plays bass and sings in Street Eaters. Just for the record, his bandmate Megan March wants to note that she gives zero fucks about breakdowns, one way or the other.
I’m very focused on the production in all music I hear, everything from top 40 pop to dark german techno, I think it comes with the territory, so I also notice when somebody rips of a good idea that somebody else already had. There is a fine line between “getting inspired,” which is a foundation for all new music to some degree, and “stealing,” and every time it’s crossed I get annoyed.
I’m not talking about stealing, like when Pharrell “took” a bit from Marvin Gaye. I’m more talking about how whole sub-genres that usually are considered underground and original are based on some idea that a few original kids got some years before the trend started.
To give a few examples, Art Department and few other started pitching the vocals down on house tracks in 2009, and that started a whole wave of producers making house tracks with deep-pitched vocals, and over the years the tracks have been less and less exciting. Same thing happened with trap. Trap was initially very ghetto, emerging from southern hip hop, but what happened was that a lot kids with laptops started mixing it up with dubstep, trance even top 40 and into some crazy EDM hybrid — something very far from it’s origin.
So whats wrong with it? I think re-doing a good idea so many times makes the original ideas and artists disappear in the noise of bad imitators because it’s so easy to spread music now, and suddenly a style that was once innovative and exciting is lost in repetition.