Should this be described as a "catfight"?

>> Thursday, October 25, 2007

Or what else do you call it when two Violent Femmes get into a fight with each other?

Apparently Brian Ritchie is angry at Gordan Gano for licensing "Blister In The Sun" to Wendy's for an ad campaign, and has now filed a lawsuit. Ritchie apparently says he didn't receive some royalties, Gano's camp denies it, they'll bicker and probably settle after pissing away a fair bit of goodwill for the band, etc.

I haven't seen the ad--I don't have cable and really only watch DVDs--but I have to wonder whether using a song about masturbation and teen angst to sell food products is really clever or, um, "clever" as in: "brilliant, Einstein." I think it might even transcend Mitsubishi using a song about death to try to sell cars. Yes, just as I associate luxury vehicles with the notion that I should gracefully accept the inevitability of death, I associate hamburgers with semen-stained sheets. Yum!

Whatever.

As far as the Femmes' latest disintegration, it's hard to know how to feel. I adore the band, and have seen them live several times, and love the albums. But there's no getting around the fact that they kinda peaked the second (and last) time in the late 80's with Why Do Birds Sing? Their shows sadly tend towards being a kind of punk nostalgia act--a whole lot of songs from the eponymous debut, a scattering of odd classics, and then... not much else. No sign that they've done anything else during the past two decades. No "Fuck you, we're playing the new album and we'll do 'Gone Daddy Gone' for the encore and not a minute sooner, you ungrateful shits." I mean, even if their last album sucked, you'd have to give them points for shoving it down the crowd's collected throats. (What was their last album, anyway?) This was a band that used to play "Country Death Song" over laughs and jeers until audiences started taking it semi-seriously, and yet these days their setlist looks like the back of an album they recorded in 1982. When I was ten. Before I had a mortgage and a law degree and half my friends had kids getting ready to start kindergarten.

And anyway, they need each other. Brian Ritchie may be on my personal short-list for "my fantasy band" (drums: Larry Mullen, Jr.; guitar: me, of course; keys: Rick Wright, maybe?), but I don't see him successfully rebooting his career. At some point, he'll want to buy something in Australia and Gordan Gano will need new boots or something, and the next tour will crank into motion. So, I'm not feeling too sad about all this, I guess.




4 comments:

rbird Friday, October 26, 2007 at 9:50:00 PM EDT  

i actually saw this commercial. the song wasn't really the song so much as the melody, and it seemed to be slightly different.

anyways, i am still forming my opinion on commercial sell out. my gut tells me, "ewwwww...why did they have to do that?" my mind tells me, "whatever....there is money in this...wouldn't i do it?"

Eric Friday, October 26, 2007 at 10:52:00 PM EDT  

I used to think the "commercial sell out" was lame; but a lot of these guys deserve the money, worked hard, and aren't going to get it from the labels that are supposedly paying them.

I mean, take The Clash: while it sorta seems hypocritical on first blush for a bunch of left-wing idealists to be selling a song about anti-consumerism to a car company, on further thought it's not like those guys had a pension plan stashed away for their old ages.

From the POV of a younger artist, it's a good way to break into people's consciousnesses. Love Moby or hate him, he's able to make a living as a musician in large part because he sold songs to advertisers and that ultimately moved more records (and merch) for him than the label was going to move through its own promotion.

I think there's going to ultimately be a need for artists to "sell out" directly: the labels have consolidated to a point where it's really not about the music or the artist from where they're standing. The really rational thing for a band to do, probably, is to sell a song to advertisers and make sure that they're linked somewhere--a web address at the end of the ad or a link on the company's webpage--and then to sell their stuff directly without signing to anyone.

And as long as the advertisers are clueless about the songs they license--using cuts like "London Calling" or "Do You Realize"--the bands kinda get the last laugh, y'know? Maybe Brian Ritchie should be laughing his ass off that an ode to wanking off is being used to sell fast food.

rbird Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 12:59:00 AM EDT  

well said. could using songs for commercial use be somewhat subversive?

i guess i'm also influenced by watching my boyfriend try to make it as a musician and eventually try his hand at the music publishing industry. if small-time musicians can make $10,000 putting a sound bite in a commercial then more power to them. if they can sell more tickets and get more myspace plays in the process then that's more than grand.

Eric Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 11:09:00 AM EDT  

When you look at an analysis like the famous essay Steve Albini wrote a number of years ago, "selling out" directly makes even more sense--the traditional "sign to a label, get rich while retaining 'artistic integrity'" was always a mirage. I suspect it's gotten worse.

If you haven't read (or have forgotten) the Albini piece, it can be found here:

http://www.negativland.com/albini.html

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