Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Safe as Maron

So, Melanie and I were trying to figure out something to watch Saturday night, and because Netflix streaming kind of sucks, and perhaps because we both would have rather been reading, but were afraid to admit it to each other, we spent like, ten minutes--more--scrolling through choices and rather apathetically dismissing them.

Marc Maron Thinky Pain
Finally, a little exasperated at our bland and unadventurous selves, I came across Marc Maron's taped standup gig Thinky Pain, and after a moment's thought (still struggling to slay the reluctance) I pounced.

"Let's just watch this," I said, as emphatically as I could manage, and Melanie, who'd seen snippets of Maron's IFC show a couple times, and probably just wanted the agonizing selection process to be over, said alright.

I knew Maron from when he hosted the morning show on the ill-fated Air America radio network. If you recall, Air America was an attempt by corporate cash on the left to create a network similar to the one under the control of Rush Limbaugh on the right--only it didn't go so well. Debuting on April Fool's Day of 2004, Morning Sedition with Marc Maron lasted less than 18 months.

Air America logo
But I listened to most shows during that year and a half. The Bush presidency seems so long ago, now. Listening to that show, I felt like a full-fledged Member of the Opposition. In between Maron's stories about his cats, and his other neurotic expositions, I learned quite a bit about the sneaky methods and the truth abolition of the dangerous right.

I was first able, for example, to put all those "litigious society" stories I used to think were so funny in proper context because of something Maron said on Morning Sedition.

And then the show went away. I listened to the ESPN morning show with Greenie and Golic for a while, and then I bought an iPod. Started a music blog. Morning talk radio has never been a regular thing for me since.

Nor has Maron, though I did read an excellent a 5-10-15-20 piece he wrote for Pitchfork recently, and it did alert me to something I didn't know back in the Air America days: that the comic's something of a music fan.

But more on that later. for now, here's the thing that leaves me a little conflicted (as ever, right?) about Maron.

Marc Maron's WTF pdocast
He's since become pretty popular with that podcast of his, and he's got a TV show and specials and everything, and his schtick involves him talking about what a mess he used to be. Drugs and ex-wives and employer issues and job-related failures dredged from the bad old past . . . which in some cases is exactly the time when I became familiar with his work.

I thought he did a good job, you know? In talking now about how crappy he used to be then, he kind of discredits my own experience.

It is of course all about him, as he'd be the first to tell you, but it's that kind of conflict I was kind of dealing with as we began to watch the 2013 special.

But it's funny. Watch it, if you can at all stand the Neurotic Jew thing.

And quite apart from all the riffage on that, if you're a music geek--and why else would you even come across this site?--there's another treat.

Early on--really, it's the first funny bit--Maron's talking about how he woke up one weekend morning and his GF was sick. So he suggests walking down the street and getting her a breakfast burrito to make her feel better or something. But what he actually wants to do is to go into the used record store, and pick up that Captain Beefheart album he'd been thinking about.

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Safe As Milk
So he kind of times it all out, ordering the burrito, then going down to the record shop, picking up Safe As Milk, and then walking back to the breakfast place, feeling all hipster superior as he clutches the Beefheart debut under his arm. And then some dude at the breakfast spot--have I said I *didn't* think this was in Brooklyn?-- peaks into his bag, and says yeah, Safe As Milk is "a good start," and Maron is all like his podcast, WTF? I just ran into a major Beefheart fan at the breakfast bar? Who the fuck does he think he is?

Me, I have never gotten Captain Beefheart. They say he was like some genius painter, so there's that, at any rate. Cerveza tried to get me into Doc at the Radar Station when we were in college. "Ashtray Heart" conjures the sounds of scratched chalkboards and dislodged phlegm, for me. I tried Trout Mask Replica right around the formative days of this blog. Couldn't name a song these days without looking it up.

No dice.

Butthole Surfers Cream Corn From the Socket of Davis UK EP
All of Beefheart sounds like "Moving to Florida" to me, except that it's not as well-played. I've read some criticism, read reviews, message board postings, the whole bit. I've tried. Still I don't get it. I don't get it, and won't ever get it. (Unless writing this post spurs me towards trying <sigh> yet again).

But, boy, do I get Maron trying to brush up himself. I'm a music nerd. Of course I understand. There's no canon like the music-geek canon, and it is so very much like a music geek to not only buy the Beefheart album, but then to start feeling all superior over it.

It's all fun for the most part; I don't really think I'm all that great when I school Cerveza's kid about Dust, or Free, or turn the kid out in the warehouse on to Russian Circles and Atheist. But, you know, I kind of do. That son of a bitch Maron in his self-loathing was describing behavior I exhibit myself.

Which was why I found it so hilarious.

I mean, let's be honest. If I *wasn't* a music person, or if I were forced to look at my music fandom from an outside perspective, if I had to evaluate the whole thing with its "essential" canon of relative obscurities like The Stooges and Wire and Nick Drake and Skip Spence and fucking Boris, I don't doubt that I would find it all tremendously annoying, with its received knowledge and hipper-than-thou namedropping.

Original pressing of the first Faust LP
But of course, I *am* a music fan, so any annoyed headshaking from outside the camp of the sort that I would surely provide if only I *were* outside the camp is looked on very negatively in these parts.

They can't talk about our club that way. Only we can talk about our club that way.

Marc Maron is clearly part of the club, so in my book, he can say whatever he wants.

And I'll laugh and laugh and laugh, and then go find me some crucial wax, something like Sweep the Leg Johnny, or Faust.

File under: Hipster Assholes, and others like me

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