I’m A Cad, But I’m Not A Fraud. Not Much Of One, Anyway

“There’s nothing like a celebration of a hard-days’ blue-collar work sung by the voice of privilege and played with un-callused hands. I just can’t wait to get home and tweet these Industrial era lyrics to my digital-age, millennial friends.” When Mumford and Sons decided to abandon Genericana for, um, whatever the fuck is going on with their new album, Amazon decided that the best way to get people to listen to the new record was to give it to them for free.

That’s right: Wilder Mind is available free to Prime subscribers, along with all the old soul records and precisely none of Taylor Swift’s oeuvre. Presumably the next step will be to pull a U2 and install Marcus And Friends’ moan-pop on every mobile phone around the globe via the surreptitious backdoors originally installed by the NSA and the Chinese government.

My personal hierarchy of Genericana goes something like this:

Avett Brothers > Lumineers > Mumford And Sons

but I cannot argue against the fact that of the three groups, M&S plays with by far the most energy and conviction. Their music is also the toughest to play, not because they use a few extra chords from time to time but because each song has its own wacky rhythm. The Avetts have just a couple of rhythms; the Lumineers have one.

So, in honor of Wilder Mind and the utter shellacking it received on Pitchfork, here’s one they did earlier. Patrick wants me to put it on the record that

0. He had never willingly listened to a M&S song before last night;
1. He did not know the song;
2. He hates the song.

Which is why I couldn’t get him to stop faux-twanging his vocals. I was also suffering from a bit of a sore throat here. But the purpose of playing music is to have fun. Unless you are Marcus Mumford, in which case the purpose of playing music is to make money. But if Wilder Mind craters the way I think it will and the band’s career comes to a screeching halt, maybe the time will come when he picks up the guitar and plays for fun, the same way the rest of us do.

13 Replies to “I’m A Cad, But I’m Not A Fraud. Not Much Of One, Anyway”

  1. AvatarBrian

    A friend and I were both big fans of M&S’ first two albums, and were very displeased with this ‘watered-down’ third effort. As the Pitchfork review said, without the banjo, there’s nothing to set them apart from the rest of mainstream rock. They almost sound like Coldplay now…

    As for the Lumineers, I loved their first album and wonder how they’ll do with their follow-up. Will they change their sound, too?

  2. AvatarSexCpotatoes

    The Mountain Goats is my favorite band, and they just put out an album (Beat The Champ) that’s a tribute to back-in-the-day Amateur/Professional Wrestling. I’d be interested in what Jack thinks of it, if he has the time to give it a listen.

    • JackJack Post author

      I will admit to learning “Love, Love, Love” in an attempt to seduce a very young alt-rocker girl a few years ago.

      Worth the effort, although I never really got it right.

    • AvatarReese B

      I’m sorry in advance. This is a lot of text.

      I’ll admit it: I used to be one of those tMG people, with the full oeuvre and an embarrassing number of archived live shows.

      I always preferred the raw, abstract stuff put haphazardly to cassette tapes, and honestly, around 2004 when “We Shall All Be Healed” came out, I disconnected. Lyrics went from telling a story which leaves just enough to the imagination, to frankly and autobiographically laying out way more than I feel comfortable knowing, and telling a story I didn’t honestly want to hear to by choice. That sounds more unkind than it is, though; I still have enormous respect for John D. as one of the most intelligent and interesting people I’ve ever spoken to, but there was a conscious shift in the music that I wasn’t able to follow . I haven’t been to a show since Zoop in 2007, and I haven’t listened to anything after “Get Lonely.” I’m afraid to read the novel he just published, “Wolf in White Van” because I know it’s probably very good.

      I meant this to be a short comment, but I remembered something he wrote recently, in response to someone asking the “meaning” of one of his old songs, “Going to Bogota.” In my opinion this is the very worst question you could possibly ask anyone who has ever written music, but to his credit he gave an interesting, revealing response, and there’s probably something to be gleaned here regarding different styles of creating a narrative:

      “Back in those days the songs were always at least partially about the strength of the initial image for me – I’d just write and let the need for rhyme dictate the line and then try to decipher what came up. I probably ran across the fire-eyed macaw in a dictionary of mythology somewhere and liked the sound of it, and working him into the song somewhere was probably a priority. The story that forms, when I look at it now, sounds like it’s about two people – one’s gone to Colombia for unspecified reasons and the other, who’s familiar to him/her, has arrived without saying why. They’re sleeping in a tent together but it seems to stay dark longer than it ought to. Portents of uncertain doom! The speaker has ideas about the fraying tent and the unreliable sunlight and strongly hints that it all augurs bad news, but doesn’t want to say things out loud that’ll make the bleakness of the situation manifest.

      There isn’t really any deeper meaning beyond the image. Back then, a lot of my storytelling intentionally focused on finding/inventing an image strong enough to stick in the mind, infusing it with feeling somehow, and trusting that the sense of a narrative would emerge from the image and the feeling. This strategy sort of duked it out with “tell a good story where something happens,” which is the one that won out, I think. But I had this long phase of wanting the image to do as much speaking for itself as it could possibly do, and that’s one of those songs. ”

      So, he used to give us the information to create a compelling story in our heads, and now he tells us the story. I preferred the former, but wonder why. Food for thought on storytelling in general. Either way, I should stop typing now.

      • AvatarFelis Concolor

        I can’t recall the name of the award winning poet who, upon being asked by his daughter to explain the meaning behind several of his most widely read and beloved works, labeled them as “braces; tuition; mortgage payment; car broke down…” it was a wonderful way to illustrate the true motivations behind one’s “art.”

        • AvatarDisinterested-Observer

          I believe it was the award winning poet Biggie Smalls, and he phrased it “Fuck bitches, get money”

  3. AvatarCharlie

    “…the most adequate commercial rock album of 2015.”

    Without thinking, I interpreted this line as “commercial rock” — not as in “rock music that’s made to move a shit load of units” but “rock music designed for licensing to commercial advertisements.” Fair? Fair.

  4. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    My daughter and I saw David Bromberg perform at the Ark in Ann Arbor in February. He was riffing on “Americana” and the fact that it didn’t exist as a genre when he was trying to make it big. He half joked that “folk music” was music that people played “where there’s no chance of money changing hands”, which is true if you think of the stuff people play around campfires or when fooling around with musical friends. He then said that Americana is “stuff in that vein, but done commercially. But things turn around, folks songs become Americana or rock n roll. Really some rock n roll songs are the new folk music. You know, a bunch of people sitting around, what are they going to sing?” Then his band launched into a very folksy version of Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home.

    That reminds me. I didn’t know that they were going to allow video, so I just brought my pocket camcorder. Even though the quality’s not great, the audio came out usable so I’ll have to upload that show to YouTube.


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