This was originally published in The Water Tower, a weekly satirical paper based in Burlington, VT.
I’ve watched at least twenty episodes of Law and Order SVU over the past few days and there’s really no telling when I’ll stop. I’m not sure what keeps me coming back – Ice T’s catch phrases? Perhaps it’s Olivia Benson’s ever-changing hair? Whatever it may be, I’m addicted like a balding shoe-salesman with a foot fetish. When I sit down in my thinking chair and think, I can’t help but find myself trying to answer a question that really might not have an answer at all: how do people go from helping old ladies cross the street, to hanging them by laces taken from their orthopedic shoes? This very same question can be applied to music – why do great bands go from really cool to really lame?
The first concert I ever went to had the line-up of my 6th grade dreams: Blink 182 and No Doubt. I vividly remember listening to Enema of the State over and over on my Sony Psyc Walkman, trying desperately to memorize the lyrics to “The Party Song.” Blink 182 was my favorite band of all time – with Tom DeLonge’s lip ring, Mark Hoppus’ pinchable-cheeks, and Travis Barker’s mysterious, dark demeanor – they had me at first belch. I remember thinking that these guys were so goofy that it was cool, whether it be because of their flawless Backstreet Boys impersonations or because they had naked midget-clones of themselves. Regardless, I loved them more than my checkered vans, and the last thing I ever wanted was to see them change.
No Doubt was also riding on that same boat to punk-paradise for quite some time. Tragic Kingdom was addicting from start to finish (except for “The Climb,” and I suspect that no one really knows what that track was doing on there). It was new and exciting, and Gwen Stefani was always doing push ups and wearing a bindi – it was different! And different was good. Different is good. To this day, I still find myself listening to Tragic Kingdom on long car rides, hopelessly imitating that 80s synth noise in “Just a Girl.” The bleach-blonde, sports bra and track-pant wearing monkey in my brain clapped his hands and jumped with joy at the sound of Gwen’s quivering voice, and I didn’t want that to go away any time soon.
So where are they now? What are these iconic bands that I once knew and loved doing today? After Mark left Blink 182, Tom started side-project and ultimate let down, Angels and Airwaves. I threw up in my mouth when I both heard and saw the video for “The Adventure.” Who convinced him that it would be a good idea to wander around an open field like Scott Stapp in a Creed video? It felt like a trip to Hades – Tom was Satan, and I was his humble minion, sentenced to an eternity of pure pain and suffering at the hands of his wretched album.
We can’t forget about our good friend Gwen, either. She started her own clothing line, L.A.M.B. (which stands for Love, Angel, Music, Baby…what else could it stand for that makes so much sense?!) and groomed a posse of Harajuku Girls for the spot light. I have to say, I was most thoroughly disturbed when she chose to propel her career into the hazy stratosphere of pop by featuring the one and only, Akon, also known as the 15-year old groping songstress.
Yes, yes I know, these people are all now in their 40s with children and grown-up lives, but that doesn’t mean they have to totally abandon what made them so successful in the first place. Show me where heart-wrenching lyrics like, “She’d teach me about modern art / And I’d show her it’s okay to fart,” are on any of the later Blink albums. Instead of farts we have, “Will you come home and stop this pain tonight / Stop this pain tonight.” Come onnnn, now. That’s not what I grew up loving. If I wanted to hear something sappy and mushy-gushy I’d listen to Taylor Swift.
Meanwhile, Gwen’s racking up the nominees for ‘Best Pop Vocal Album’ and ‘Best Rap/Sung Collaboration’ while working on a collection of L.A.M.B. Fashion dolls (if you don’t believe me, look it up, it’s TRUE…and creepy). And if that didn’t make your skin crawl quite enough, our old pal G-baby decided to launch a perfume called ‘L.’ I’m sure you can assume what the subsequent perfumes were called – I’ll give you a hint, they spell out the name of a furry little white animal. Let’s just remind ourselves of other creative celebrities who have put out perfume lines; Britney Spears, J-Lo, Paris Hilton…the list of geniuses is never ending.
Everything that once made these bands so cool has been on the steady decline for some time now. No one can say for sure what made Blink 182 and No Doubt cross over to the dark-side – be it a change in taste or a nudge on the shoulder from their music producer, Mr. Moneybags. The bottom line is, what once was, is no longer – goodbye Dickies and tube socks, goodbye pink hair and belly shirts, hello commercial radio and the big bad world of MTV. Who knows, maybe Blink’s new album won’t sound like overproduced garbage, and maybe No Doubt will surprise us with something ska-inspired – prove me wrong guys, I’m waiting with a barf-bag in hand, just in case.