Brandon Wetherbee is the host of the talk show You, Me, Them, Everybody. He’ll be hosting YMTE at the Wonderland Ballroom in D.C. tonight with guests James Nasty, Katherine Jessup, Natalie McGill, Legba Carrefour, Sadie Dingfelder, Ryan Schutt and Kevin Phillips.
On Wednesday evening I ended my monologue with a throwaway line I thought of on the way to the show.
A lot of people ask me why I do the show. Are you living your dream? Is this your dream? No. Why am I doing this? Because it’s not healthy to stay home and listen to The Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” and think about middle school.
It got a laugh. It’s not true (see last column), but for some odd reason, it stuck with me. I listened to “1979” last night. It holds up. It doesn’t sound like a song recorded in 1995. The lyrics still connect, something most songs that I loved in the mid to late 90s no longer do. The video makes it even better.
The Pumpkins released three more albums (Adore, Machina, Machina 2) before breaking up, getting back together and have released two more albums (Zeitgeist, Oceania) in the newest incarnation. In the last 19 years, the Pumpkins have officially released more than 100 original compositions as well as 100+ b-sides, outtakes and covers on re-releases. Most people that once loved the band no longer care.
Yesterday our Shows To Blow Your $$$ On post reminded me that Limp Bizkit exists. They’re playing the Fillmore Silver Spring this fall. I decided to watch all Limp Bizkit videos currently available on their official YouTube channel. There are 20 videos. (Side note: all, but one, Limp Bizkit videos on their official channel have more views than all White Stripes videos on their official channel.) I watched 20 Limp Bizkit videos, by choice, in a two hour period. One video has been released in 2014 (It is currently 2014. Limp Bizkit is releasing new videos). Another was released in 2013. The video from 2013 features Lil Wayne. Limp Bizkit is now on Cash Money Records so it makes sense. The first line of the song is, “Go fuck yourself!”
Limp Bizkit released six albums on major labels between the massively successful Significant Other (the album with “Nookie” and “Break Stuff”) and today. Most people that bought that album have not thought of Limp Bizkit in the past decade.
Neutral Milk Hotel played Merriweather Post Pavilion last week. Another band from the mid to late 90s that’s still on the road. The difference between The Smashing Pumpkins, Limp Bizkit and Neutral Milk Hotel is the output. I don’t want to get into major vs indie, well-read vs illiterate, super sad aging process vs hiding. This is about output. Neutral Milk Hotel has released no new music since 1998’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (the one release has been an EP of songs recorded between 93 and 95).
NMH toured the now legendary album upon release and then did nothing. Not a peep until 2010. 11 years of nothing. A few surprise sets by front man Jeff Mangum in 2011 led to a full solo tour in 2012 and the band reunited in full last year. Most people that bought In the Aeroplane Over the Sea still enjoy the record. Would they still enjoy the record if the band released 100+ songs in the last 15+ years?
I’d rather be Billy Corgan than Jeff Mangum. I’d rather create like Fred Durst than revisit the past like Jeff Mangum. I am not insane. I do not think Corgan or Durst are making good or even relevant art, but at least they’re doing something. Corgan has created a wrestling league, opened a tea shop, played a massive synth as an art project for 10+ hours and appeared on the cover of a regional cat magazine. These things sound fun. Fred Durst has directed children’s movies, continued to convince people to purchase albums and tickets and has acted in House. These things sound fun. Jeff Magnum created a piece of art about one of the saddest stories of the 20th century and then disappeared. That does not sound like fun.
Disappearing is a fantastic career move. If the Pumpkins sat on the bench and maintained radio silence between the release of the “1979” single and now, they’d be one of the biggest gets in the world. They’d easily be able to sell out arenas around the world with an original lineup reunion. Their cred would be at an all time high. But then what? Isn’t it better that Corgan, failures and all, tried? Hell, the same can be said for Limp Bizkit. It’s unlikely throngs of people in red ballcaps would be clamoring for their reunion, but they might be able to sell-out a few nights at Echostage rather than play the Fillmore. Once again, good for them. Other than the rampant sexism, anti-intellectualism and kowtowing to the lowest common denominator, at least they’re doing something.
I am a fan of Neutral Milk Hotel and do think that their 1998 album is one of the most important records in all of pop music. But I don’t want that life. In a weird, sad, maybe-I-should-tell-this-to-a-therapist way, I’d rather keep plugging away at what I love and fail miserably. I have another show tonight. I might fuck it up. That’s fine. If I fuck it up, I’ll do another one as soon as possible. And another. And another. It’s more fun to fail than to stay at home listening to a record I loved in middle school.