Survival of The Coolest

People think I’m highly critical. This opinion come invariably from people reading my regular writing gig for Athens’ Flagpole Magazine. You wouldn’t know it from the posts on here because, so far, I’ve tried to stick to covering stuff I like and haven’t really been bombarded with a whole lot of crap yet. Thing is, though, is that I don’t think music exists in a void. I think bad records, smarmy bands and the majority of the music industry (both indie and major) are culturally harmful. That is, I think bad records are demoralizing, smarmy bands prop up the division between band and fan and the music industry perpetuates the myths of super-stardom, is image driven and celebrity obsessed. (Actually, it’s the entire entertainment industry at fault here.) Don’t bother telling me that these things are not new. I know that. But the explosion of shit like Bridezillas, American Idol,Top Chef, Making The Band, etc. has turned Warhol’s prediction on it’s ear:

The future is now and no one will be famous for 15 minutes anymore. Everyone is already famous.

In a perfect world fame would be bestowed upon only the most worthy of accomplished individuals. As it is, though, specifically in music, it’s granted to those who squeak the loudest, pimp out their craft the slickest and strike the coolest pose.

Artist Seth Tobocman published You Don’t Have To Fuck People Over To Survive in 1990. (It’s been republished a couple of times but is currently out of print). I always liked Tobocman’s street-level art but have always been somewhat uncomfortable with the title.

It always seemed too either/or and, ultimately, sad. It set life up as a fight between fucking people over and “getting ahead” or merely “surviving”.

Where I’m coming from is here: You don’t have to fuck people over to thrive.

I don’t mean that in a “can’t we all get along?” way. We cannot all get along. Truth is there’s some people I just don’t like. But that doesn’t mean I think it’s a good idea to assail them as uncool, ridiculous or worthless just because I disagree with them or don’t like their band. (On the flipside, though, if a person does something uncool or ridiculous then I think it’s OK to call them on it.)

The point is that life is not a competition. It doesn’t have to be a rat race. Your life is yours. Live it.

All of which is to say that this weekend I stumbled upon the most perfectly titled record of the year. The band is The Softlightes (yes, with an ‘e’) and the album is Say No! To Being Cool. Say Yes! To Being Happy. It came out this past February but I just found it. It’s such a good mix of electro/guitar pop, genuinely sensitive boyish songwriting and is a completely unexpected treasure. A perfect example of how something comes your way when you need it.

I put a couple of MP3s here for you but if you like it please consider going ahead and buying it. (The ‘buy’ link is for lazy fuckers and those people who have no record stores in their town. For the rest of you…please support your local record shops!)The band is from California and the label (Modular) is in Australia. In the US it’s manufactured and distributed by Interscope. I just can’t get into the debate about all that right now but even if you’ve not bought a major label release in years I can recommend this completely.

It’s that good.

MP3: The Softlightes-The Microwave Song
MP3: The Softlightes-Black Skinheads In White Pants

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