On The Record: Thomas Jones Is Killing Me
It recently occurred to me that I am a terrible judge of talent.
This is a realization based mainly on the fact that I staked my entire fantasy-football season on the drafting of Thomas Jones, a corpse of a running back who I figured would have an awesome season, but has so far rushed for just 290 yards — and no touchdowns — in five games (in case you don’t know, that is not good).
Far be it from me to write an entire column based on my fantasy woes (though that would be totally awesome in a completely dorky way) because no one cares about the struggles of my fictional team, but on some level, Thomas Jones is much more than just a terrible running back. He’s also a 5-foot-10, 215-pound metaphor for my internal struggle to differentiate between what is “good” and what is “bad.”
And I’m not talking about TJ as some sort of moral compass (everyone knows Shaun Alexander is the running back that helps me decide between right and wrong) but rather as a living, breathing example of why I am no good at making the call between greatness and, well, 21st in the league in total rushing.
This is particularly important now, with the CMJ Music Marathon less than a week away. See, over the past few days, we’ve been having meetings to determine just how we should cover the fest — which bands we think are gonna break big, who’s gonna matter, etc. — and as I sit there, staring at a laundry list of confirmed acts, I’m struck by two things: how little I know about anyone playing and, perhaps more troubling, how little I care to start learning.
I listen as people with better haircuts than me extol the virtues of bands like Professor Murder or Jay Reatard (“He doesn’t even have an album out yet!”) and tell me why I should no longer care about White Rabbits but should definitely be on the lookout for British Sea Power’s comeback. I am told about the “buzz” being generated by the Black Kids, who sound like the Cure (but, you know, not as good as the Cure) and don’t have an album out yet. And, of course, at the end of each meeting, I find myself still not caring. In fact, I probably care even less. And this is not good.
It worries me because I don’t want to be the dude who’s out of touch … but at the same time, I have a hard time not thinking the entire mechanism that supports these bands — the never-ending cycle of style-over-substance and “I heard ’em first” that manifests itself in immeasurable qualities like “blog buzz” — is beyond ridiculous. I firmly believe that the people manning the hype machines are bad, and the people buying the hype are even worse. Perhaps this makes me obsolete, or close-minded, or just plain old. But perhaps I don’t care.
The only CMJ bands I want to see are Islands, Georgie James and the Bouncing Souls … the former two because I liked the bands they were born from (Unicorns and Q and Not U), and the latter because I am old and lame. And this will not change, no matter how much some kid who used to be an intern tells me that Vampire Weekend are gonna be “huge.” Because it’s just never going to happen (no offense to Vampire Weekend, who are probably the best private-school-educated, soukous-playing gang of hipsters you’ve never heard).
“Huge” is like “buzz”: a word that has no tangible form. Is a band “huge” if it sells out Madison Square Garden? What about the Bowery Ballroom? Does a band need to sell 1 million records to be “huge”? Does that even matter anymore? If there are no qualifiers, then how is “hugeness” truly measured? And why do I feel like I’m the only one who’s asking these questions?
And yes, I understand that this entire column makes me sound like Andy Rooney, but I’ve been doing this for a while now, and forgive me if I’m beginning to feel my age a bit. I’m starting to realize that trying to out-sprint everyone is ridiculous, so why bother? I’ll be the dude wearing jogging shorts, laying back in the cut. And I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that I don’t think any act playing CMJ is going to be “huge” or important or even remembered in six months. And I’m willing to bet that I’m right, because all the blog buzz you can muster doesn’t amount to much of anything in the real world.
Then again, I’m the dude who’s stuck with Thomas Jones … so what do I know?
B-Sides: Other Stories I’m Following This Week
Hannah Montana tickets are selling like hotcakes; tickets to see her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, are given out with orders of hotcakes at McDonald’s (see “Hannah Montana Ticket Bonanza Spurs Officials To Investigate Resellers” ).
If this were a real flick about the Fighting Irish, it’d start out overrated, get blown away by Georgia Tech, then limp along to a 1-11 conclusion (see “Mark Wahlberg Getting Ripped For ’Dream-Come-True’ Fighting ’Irish’ Flick” ).
Lil Mama is by far the most talented 35-year-old 18-year-old working today (see “Lil Mama Celebrates Births Of ’Hip-Pop’ And Herself” ).
Questions? Concerns? Thomas Jones? Hit me up at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.