Battle of Bands

There was a time, at The Ink Society, when we wanted to declare a specific website the rival/antagonist to our protagonism (not a real word) if, for no other reason, to make things lively. We even sent a letter through the postal service to their stoop in notification of our intentions and to fire a shot across the bow.

However, when it comes to actual protagonists and antagonists in the public square they stop, like our innocent societal website rivaly, at very surfacy (not a real word) cultural issues like taxes, sporting events, group exclusivity, public transport, weather trends, and mobile device dominance. It has become quite difficult to track down any meaningful discourse and exchange of thoughts on the true inner issues of individual life (and death). These personal topics are little revered in lecture halls or the office canteen (almost anathema). However, they are debated on Spotify!

Bands and artists, through the songs that they sing, seem to be one of the last publicly acceptable outlets for introspection without sarcasm and irony (In this ironic era). While most of the lyrics are ignored in the main, acceptable themes range from spiritual searching to relational struggles to the face of death ("What Sarah Said" by DCFC comes to mind) to just honest questions of meaning (Jack Johnson's "On and On" album comes to mind) to whatever rhymes with "beach" that was used in the first line of the chorus. In spite of the general public understanding that we all should be moderate and accepting of the scientific description of the foundation of things in naturalism, the heart in solitude rebels (it also rebels when it discovers another heart). It is just in this need for actually living the everyday life that truth is not lost to the "acceptable public moderation of discourse." It finds its voice in the lyrical, in the lilt and waver. In the headphones.

If this be true, the battles that really must be won are nowhere near a military base, a conference room, or a classroom. No, the victors in those arena's will prove meaningless, a chasing after the wind, but the place that a meaningful victory could occur would be under the neon theatre sign announcing a battle of the bands.

For this reason, I feel, it is time to bring back the old tradition. If no one else is going to talk outside of platitudes, let's let the bands paint kingdoms using the best tools they know (soaring choruses, or what-have-you, sharpening the lyrics) and go to battle.

Is it not songs that often fly in, capturing the pathos in those who live on after all meaning has been stripped from before their eyes? The writers and composers continue to reveal the longings, pains, motivations, worries, fears, perspectives, and experiences of the heart. They seem unabashed (except when speaking in public) through lyrics (however misguided) in the true fight for the heart which will not die despite postmodernism's naturalists, simply because the soul doesn't go away.

Now one must understand, the public image of these artists will have no part in the battle. For, as soon as the public asks for an interview, the artist becomes calm, collected, funny, rational, non-opinionated, settled, accepting, successful, and not bothered by the desperations of the soul in their songs. This facade has no part in the battle. For, while the "public image" accepts the Grammy, the people who identify with the vision or the personal cry the artist so passionately relates over and over again in albums are paying the musician's hotel bill.

Sure, there are styles, rhythms, genres, genre-breaking-genres and so forth, but that certainly does not exclude anyone from battle. Regardless of style, the songs are being written about something even if only to demonstrate non-conformist randomization. About something! Not usually what happened last week, who is playing ball tonight, which car would be best for a family of five, or "did you hear about that video?". Even if the song is about reaching the pinnacle of success which turns out to be through the pursuit of sexuality, so be it! At least it is espousing a kingdom in which one sees one's self and is supported by a soundtrack. The songs give an actual glimpse of what one really desires or questions.

Formal debates in this realm of meaning are problematic because no one can give a whole picture without some piece being pulled out and attacked while the rest is ignored in the rebuttal. Therefore, an entire album would be the ultimate kind of debate. One gets to make a complete statement of what he feels true and then another gets to say how he sees it (probably using a completely different type of music and even theme). The whole vision could then be judged.

This is not a war that is motivated by hate or disdain but rather, I suppose like all growing kingdoms, it is motivated by victory and being shown to be the better country; proving the knights are of more noble character, the princesses are more worth the saving, the mountains and rivers more worth the poetic turn. In short, a necessary battle of bands must ensue!

While, of course, there are more than a Catan's worth of competitors, one could suggest two to get the battle off to a demonstrative start. The first two proposed here would be The Oh Hello's and Mumford and Sons' latest works.

Therefore, let us sit on the slopes and listen to the roar as they meet in the valley. May the best band win (and sell the most albums, I suppose).

Phillip Tippin
Three floors above the street
Kansas City, MO

"At the Tavern" by Gustavo Simoni