Rock critic Gina Arnold once wrote that Cracker couldn't hold a candle to Camper Von Beethoven. I disagree. I like Cracker more than Camper, even if Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart might be one of the greatest ten records ever made. It's the same rationale I apply when I say I'd take Dave Gilmour over Roger Waters, even if you compare their two best solo efforts, About Face and Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking, which Roger wins, hands down, despite About Face being a damn fine record. About Face is terrific; Pros and Cons is a masterpiece. I'll take the body of work of Cracker over Camper. Not to mention, Camper simply didn't possess the pop sensibility of David Lowery's second band, and in particular that of one perfect pop nugget, "Teen Angst."
Always liked that term, teen angst, since it so deftly encapsulates everything I stand for. I wrote earlier in the week how I think I'll be able to avoid that teenage rite of passage with my boy, Holden, his hating me in his teenage years, since I never really matured past the age of 16 myself. "Teen angst" explains so many of my problems away. There comes a time in one's consciousness, which usually coincides with the onset of balls dropping (or whatever the fuck happens to girls, which I don't understand; they are a mystery to me), where we start to recognize a certain hypocrisy governing the action of adults. The priests who have been preaching sermons turn out to have been diddling little boys. The politicians chastising gay marriage are discovered boning their pages. It's across the board, a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do mentality that suddenly is exposed as fraudulent, disingenuous, corrupt and dishonest. Teenage years offer no perspective of course, just the realization, which is a dangerous combination. There are no extenuating circumstances. Just black. And white. Which fills you will ire and rage. Because you know you are right.
You get older, and, well, those shades soften. It becomes harder to hold a grudge against your father when you become a father yourself, and you are, once again, fighting about the gas bill, having not received a credible blow job in three months. You recognize that everyone, in a sense, is doing the best with what they have, however piss poor the results. And you are forced to let go of the some of the fist raised to the sky rhetoric. Which, honestly, gets exhausting. Not that these things aren't wrong anymore; you simply learn, to quote Billy Joel, that just surviving is a noble fight.
Could've gone with young Billy, but like Pete Townshend's "I hope I die before I get old" lyric, there is an intriguing juxtaposition that occurs with the later-day artist still railing against the system. Except Billy isn't exactly railing any more. Regardless of whether you like Billy Joel (and I am pretty sure most of the people reading this will fall into the "fuck no" category), you have to appreciate the...honesty (it's such a lonely word. sorry)...in his basically pulling up self-righteous stakes and saying, "Hey, I've got money now. Good luck with that whole 'taking on the man' thing. I'll be over here paying someone to polish my 86 pairs of really expensive shoes." Which appeals to me, for obvious reasons, even if Billy Joel will always be as lame, at least to the hipster, indie set, as a one-legged biblical leper on roller skates.
Now I don't know what Billy Joel, or Pete Townshend, think about privately, if they still clench their fist and hold it up high. They seem like grown-ups to me, though. Maybe that's just because they are bald, and all bald people seem like grown-ups to me. You can't see what's inside another, and when it comes to fading rock stars who are still prancing and singing about getting some at 60, you can either believe it's sincere or that it's an act. I take it at face value, because that is what rock 'n' roll is all about, after all. Even if Meatloaf changed his lyrics to reflect a shift in the conventional paradigm, I still want to believe in sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll.
Only that is a young man's fight. Partying too hard in your 20s? Somewhat cool. In your 30s? Not so much. And in your 40s? You're a pariah who doesn't get invited to Thanksgiving dinners and who has really bad teeth. And you really don't want to neglect your gums. Nothing is as unattractive as someone who has neglected his or her teeth and credit score.
They say the number one treatment option for drug addiction isn't AA, or religion, or any of the myriad fringe theories like Rational Recovery or Moderation Management; it's maturing out of it. You simply grow up. Which I guess is what I did. I certainly didn't do AA, whose rigid, dogmatic, my-way-or-the-highway approach gave me a terrific pain in the ass. I have a lot of good friends in AA (or as good of friends as I can have.) And there is always an undercurrent implication that part of my, shall we say, miserable disposition is attributable to my not working the steps and addressing my character defects.
It becomes the lesser of two evils, which one do I find less objectionable: a man my age who still listens to Blink 182, or a cop pepper-spraying the shit out of college kids sitting on the ground? Or to quote Johnny Cougar (Mellencamp), growing up means growing old and that means dying, and dying to me don't sound like all that much fun.
And I know my case might be made a little stronger were I to select less shitty musical examples. But I am a pop guy. I make no apologies for that.
It's what you identify with. I never left blue jeans and white tee shirts. I never put away Catcher in the Rye. I never learned to incorporate tempered expectations with a "that's just the way it is" mentality. Too much old school Old Testament still in me I guess. Righteous anger and all that. (What you rebelling against? What you got?) I am the other side now. I can't tack up James Dean posters to my walls any more, because once you get out of college, you can't tack up posters; they need frames.
Then again, maybe it isn't about an age, the physical years worn on a body, and it is all about a state of mind, however juvenile. Instead of viewing this perpetual adolescence as a character flaw, perhaps it should be embraced. That first glimpse of right and wrong is habit forming, the outrage of injustice, from bankers and insurance companies stealing your money to your old man tell you not to smoke when, yes, that hypocrite smokes two packs a day (or rather, he used to, until the cancer got him). Because I'll always believe if you take a look around and aren't at least slightly pissed off, then you aren't awake, and if you ain't awake, then you're dead. And Johnny Cougar is right. Dying to me don't sound like all that much fun.