Saturday, November 15, 2014

Looking for life in the mainstream

I don't know if it's a feature of my age, of having moved back to a conservative town, or if I'm just running out of steam, but where I once was looking for inspiration and freshness in the avant-garde, outside, and extreme, I'm finding myself, at age 46, much more interested in seeking sustenance in stuff that is somewhat, uh, normal and - no offense intended to anyone mentioned below - average.

Take, for instance, Goddo. They're not some crazed metal band writing about disembowelment and mutilation (probably my last stab at excess was my brief flurry of interest in death metal and black metal a couple of years ago, but it's since run out). They're not the punkest of punk, they're not politically radical, they don't make bizarre and alienating noises, they don't masturbate or self-trepanate or so forth on stage. Good as they are, there's nothing particularly groundbreaking or challenging about their music - it's a heavy power trio, a guitar bass and drums, writing meat and potatoes rock songs. But what meat! What potatoes! They're utterly creative, sincere, and invested in what they do, and they do it very, very well. The fact that it's really quite mainstream (without being some falsified commodity; I don't mean to say they're mainstream in the way Bryan Adams or shit like that is mainstream - I don't mean mainstream to mean "spoon-fed to the masses") is actually really appealing to me, really comforting, like there's inspiration in just how sincere and full-of-life it is, while being in many ways quite (again, no offense here, I don't mean this pejoratively) average. Like my enthusiasm last year for listening to the Angels or, occasionally, the Kinks, I suddenly find myself listening to Goddo over and over. I get some weird comfort from revelling in how good it is, without being excessive or extreme or storm-the-barricades aggressive in any way shape or form. It's still great music, without needing to dye its hair purple or punch you in the face, you know? That seems really life-affirming, somehow.

I've been going through a similar thing with film, too. I've spent a lot of time in the past looking for worlds to conquer, applying myself to arthouse, experimental, and foreign cinema like I've been compensating for a deficiency, but mostly these days I crave comfort food and the pleasures of genre. There are still foreign films that I want to see - I'm on a bit of a Francesco Rosi kick at the moment, having been blown away by Many Wars Ago, and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Hands Over The City in my mailbox, plus I want to take in some more Sion Sono - but I'm a lot more excited lately to sit down to something like a Sidney Lumet (or Sydney Pollack!) movie than I ever used to be, even if I've seen it before. Even movies that I admit aren't that great - like, say, Lumet's Q&A, which I watched with Ma the very night after I stumbled across it in a thrift store, or, say some of the Scream Factory horror obscurities that have popped up in recent years, like Final Exam, Death Valley, Without Warning, or The Nest - all of which I have ingested hungrily in the last few months - are giving me a ridiculous amount of pleasure to contemplate, not because they're particularly groundbreaking or fresh or even that good - Death Valley is probably the best of those, and it's still only a B+ effort - but precisely because they are rather average, rather ordinary, rather un-remarked upon and unremarkable films, that nonetheless have a lot of craft to them. That they're alive without being in any way really remarkable seems in itself remarkable, and a cause for hope. Maybe this is all just my way of reconciling myself to what seems to be a pretty average life I'm going to end up leading - I don't see myself climbing Everest anytime soon - but to heck with it, it's the path I seem to be on at the moment, I might as well enjoy it...

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