Thursday, 7 February 2013

I can't see where you're coming from

Argh. I want to rebuff some of Somik's last points about Pulp (and, less so, Blur) and agree with his assessment of the Manics' last album, but first it's time to talk about ownership.

Getting angry or involved with Youtube comments is like shouting swearwords at the sun in the hope that night will come.

There is, however, this odd thing that I keep noticing, and that's the concept of pre-popularity ownership. Don't worry, it's been around forever, and it'll go on as long as someone discovers something before it gets popular, but I just find it (a) sad and (b) a little bit funny, somehow.

Exhibit (A) would be Short Change Hero by The Heavy. On its own it has many merits, not least because it sounds like – to me – the perfect song for a modern spaghetti western, should such a thing be possible. Stripped of that, it's a strange mix of soul, indie-guitar and a killer chorus, just like I used to like, and whatnot.

I'd never have discovered it, except for Batman.

Let's back that up.

The first time I heard the song was in the trailer for Arkham City, and it does, really, fit therein:


I liked it enough to remember it, which, in the modern era of music, is a hell of a compliment.

After that, I didn't hear it again until I started playing Borderlands 2:


Where, again, it's used really nicely, playing even more into the Western imagery, and, as an added plus, there's a midget in a hockey mask.

But after this I started reading Youtube comments out of a bizarre sense of interest, only to discover the pre/Borderlands 2 post/Borderlands 2 fan split was both really polarized and really funny.

(As an aside, there's something interesting to be said about Rexon's cover of the song where the lead singer is cosplaying as a character from Borderlands 2 (well, from Borderlands in their Borderlands 2 form. I think. It gets confusing:


But even in those comments, people are arguing about Borderlands, not the song.)

(Also, as an aside, the song turns up as the theme to Strike Back 
and, also, in the film Faster:


 So here's the question; are put here and come here the same thing, where put here is knowing of a song before it gets featured in another piece of work and come here means drawn by the song's presence in another form of media? Just exactly why does it make you a bigger fan to be into something before everyone else? Why do you have to defend yourself on a worldwide internet forum against people you're never going to meet?

Is this just basic musical territoriality?

This is arguably even more interesting when the usage of the song changes the context of the lyrics. Look at Richard Thompson's Dad's Gonna Kill Me for instance:


As the put here argumentative viewers will state it, and as is the case, the song's about the occupation of Baghdad and just how shitty that is if you're a soldier.

It's arguably completely different in the case of Sons of Anarchy, where the song is used for the end of – if memory serves – the first episode of the third series, to underscore a really tense part (and aren't you glad I learnt how not to do spoilers?) of the end of the show. Bear in mind, however, that Sons of Anarchy is Hamlet crossed with Hunter S. Thompson's Hells Angels, so the song works in the context of the show but not with the original lyrical intent (unless, as you might argue, it signals the final and terminal shift of the show's protagonists from a wavering footing to a full on war footing).

I'm sure there are a multitude of other examples of this that will occur to me immediately after publishing this, but it fascinates me as a Basic Hipster Reflex in action to be into something before it was cool. It's the same reaction, albeit dialled down massively, that I used to have to hearing music I used listen to as a teenager on, say, Radio 2. (Fortunately, it's been four years since I've listened to Radio 2, but the scars still remain.)

Nobody owns a song. But it's interesting that they think they do.

- James

P.s. I did think about actually posting examples of Youtube comments and commentators, but that way, sadly, lies madness. Although, as one of them did put it, songs these days are too genetic

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