This is the next-to-last “classic” column. I'll run one more next week, take a week off and return with the new shit in September. Most of the reprinted articles were from the old SLAMM days. This week's edition is the last column that appeared in SLAMM, in August 2002, before CityBeat took over and the name and the direction of the column shifted.
To everything there is a season, my friends. In case you haven't heard, our fearless leader, Kevin “Give 'em” Hellman, is no longer the owner/publisher of SLAMM. He has sold the magazine to a publishing group-who will probably turn our beloved grassroots paper into some soulless, alternative weekly, ad-rag, distributed straight from the printing presses of Hell and inked with the blood of the damned.
But I kid the new publishers.
I'm just sorry to see Kevin relinquish the helm. I have a powerful allegiance to that MGD-drinking bastard, for it was he who broke me into the field of journalism.
The first piece I wrote for SLAMM ran on March 5, 1997 (Issue No. 16). It was an uninspired CD review of a now-defunct local band called Uncle Joe's Big Ol' Driver. Subsequently, I received my first-ever hate mail: “It is amazing someone would pay you for writing such crap.”
Imagine my glee. Somebody was offended by my little review. That, to me, meant somebody cared. As if what I said about anyone's CD actually mattered. Instantly, I became a hate-mail addict. And the hate mail poured in. I got letters calling me ignorant and sick and that I would burn in Hell, and that I must have a serious, upper-rectal disorder. (Actually, it's Ms. Beak that has rectal dysfunction).
Last month, I got a letter that said, “I hope you fucking die, ASAP.”
But my all-time favorite hate-response wasn't mail at all. Rather, it was a tune. A local, punk band called Spazboy was so incensed by my lackluster rendering of their CD, they lashed back in song. Shortly after my review, they wrote and recorded the hit single, “Ed Decker Thinks We Suck.”
And it was a damn good song. Dare I say great. When I heard that song I finally understood-it's all about conflict. That's why the song is great. Conflict, baby-a protagonist and an antagonist. And not just in art. Conflict is all. Mountains are formed by the conflict that is a volcano. A forest emerges thicker and stronger after a fire. Bill O'Reilly, the Grand Exalted Imperial High Priest of Antagonism, has the top-rated news show on cable. And a Spazboy song is propelled into greatness by their loathing of a rock critic.
That is what the Book of Ecclesiastes means when it says, “To every thing there is a season A time of love, a time of hate, a time of war, a time of peace....” It means the universe revolves on conflict. Turn, turn, turn.
Which is why it is so gleefully much more fun to write a review about a band that sucks than a band that's decent. Otherwise you end up having to write something innocuous like, “Listening to Roger McGuinn play bass is like listening to puppies softly barking on a fluffy cloud of happy sounds.”
Of course you'd rather write something nasty. You didn't get into this CD-review business to blather about the brilliance of others. Fuck that noise. You got into this business to showcase your amazing wit, and your amazing style, and your amazing repertoire of assonyms. Yes, you are the genius who truly understands conflict. And you want to scream out, “It sucks. It sucks! Roger McGuinn's bass line sounds like fecal logs barreling down your intestinal flume into the toilet of mediocrity.”
But that would be wrong. After all, Roger McGuinn is a fabulous bass player. So you write about clouds and puppies, and at night in bed, staring at the ceiling, you say, “Ugh-is this all there is?”
Then one day I asked Kevin, “How about I write a column about bars. You know, a satirical look at the comedy and the tragedy of the nightclub scene as told by some drunken, malcontented, neo-Bohemian, bartending anti-guru in search of higher truth through casual sex and serious drinking? We'll call it ‘Sordid Tales of a Bartender in Heat.'”
And Kevin Hellman said yes.
And Charles Bukowski turn, turn, turned in his grave.
And writing “Sordid Tales” has been the best writing gig of my life.
And now, Kevin has turned our lovely paper over to some new publishers and editors-whom I just learned aren't publishers and editors at all; no, they're convicted puppy rapers who plan to use the offices of SLAMM as a front for their heinous puppy-raping operations!
But I kid the new publishers and editors.
I just wanted to say, “Thanks, Kevin.” Thanks for publishing my drunky ravings. And thanks to all the SLAMM editors, like Andrew Altschul, Troy Johnson, John Shore and Will Shilling, for letting me invent words like “assonym” (synonym for the word “ass”). Thanks to my literary neighbor, Ms. Beak, for bringing so many readers to our little cul-de-sac in the magazine here. And thanks to Tom Gulotta, for laying it all out, clean and professional-like, so “Sordid Tales” doesn't look like what it really is: drunken half-thoughts scrawled out in the middle of the night on crinkled cocktail napkins.
To hear “Ed Decker Thinks We Suck,” go to www.edwindecker.com and click on the juke box. Visit www.spazboy.net.