Cauterize This Wound And Hand Me My Tambourine
Musicians aren’t tough. Todays musicians are the modern version of court jesters and minstrels - Somersaults, jingly hats, little puppet head on a stick, and the like. Their raison d’etre is to entertain, to make us feel better, and sometimes make us laugh with joy. I don’t see the enjoyment in listening to a band and thinking to myself “Is one of them going to bury a shiv in my chest?”
That being said, why is it that musicians feel they have to look tough on their album covers? And worse, why do local cover bands feel the need to look tough on their PR shots? What is the photographer saying to them as they take the pictures- “OK love, show me “MAD”…show me “I NEEDED TO PICK UP A SECOND SHIFT AT DENNY’S TO PAY FOR THESE PICS”….show me “THESE LAWNS AREN’T GOING TO MOW THEMSELVES”. I mean really, your standard bar band featuring 3 dudes and a chick is not going to either fill me with a sense of impending doom OR ponder my position in the cosmos. And yes, it IS worse if you’re covering an 80’s metal band who at the very least was “edgy” enough to have unprotected sex in the mid 80’s and you’re taking publicity shots with some stupid grimace on your face and ill-fitting jeans. To paraphrase my dad, “You better wipe that puss off or I’ll give you something to frown about.” Again, what are you angry or distraught about? Your set list has 15 songs? Your chick singer has a muffin-top higher than her vocal range? Your drummer thinks he’s Tommy Lee but looks like Tommy Boy?
I’m not just going to pick on local meat and potato bands here kids. Taylor Swift is as edgy as a spork. She bounces from one talented male musician to another using the failed relationships as lyrical fodder for her next tween opus. There’s a fine line between Diva and Doofus. Aretha Franklin passed away this week- now THAT was a singer. She didn’t need to put on any airs of superiority or gravitas. The woman simply opened her mouth and sang- instantly silencing any pretenders. Same with David Bowie. And Prince. And speaking of Prince, don’t try to tell me he was using the “angst” face. Prince posed and primped to send the message he was going to bang your girl if you started slacking off. And when women looked at him on that purple motorcycle, those pics said “I’m going to bang YOU!” Of course now we’re talking sex appeal, which is a tough road to hoe for tribute bands when your drummer has hair like Linus.
So back to the beginning, What’s with the tough face? Does looking like you gotta take a shit make the music edgier? Do you get musical street-cred for squinting? Does your hand on your hip throw out that “looking for trouble” vibe? I think having the band engage in a bare knuckle brawl with each other would accomplish that so much better. Perhaps they could kick a small farm animal (not that I condone that, but I’m not the one trying to be edgy here). Maybe we can go back to artistic posters and album covers with motorcycles bursting out of the grave, giant robots crushing the band, enhanced mooseknuckles, or angels stealing cigarettes. And if you can name those 4 albums, you might just be tough enough to entertain me.