The Sell Out Paradox
The Josh Wells Weekly, Episode 121
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Jinx is hanging with Santa Yoda. Jinx is definitely on the naughty list and set to get a whole lotta coal for Christmas.
I’ve been reading this book, ‘Sell Out,’ (more on that in the book section below), and it’s been causing an ongoing debate in my own head on the whole topic. Am I pro-sellout or anti-sellout? I think I’m mostly pro-sellout and I was starting to wonder why. I guess it’s mostly because I think that if you can make money and reach more people in any sort of artform, you should go for it. That’s what you’re in it for, to share it with people and hopefully be good enough at it to make a living.
But I can’t help think that there’s a younger, more idealistic Josh of many years past who was more anti-sell out. Stick to your guns. Build your own crowd. Don’t compromise your vision. Garage shows for life. Who needs Coachella? The shows are better when you can reach out and touch everyone anyways.
To oppose that, I also can’t help but think that if it wasn’t for selling out, I’d never even have an opinion in the first place. My first foray into edgy, alternative-type rock music was Nirvana when I was about 13 and it was, ‘Nevermind.’ I wasn’t one of those cool kids who knew what, ‘Bleach,’ was beforehand. I watched MTV. I saw the, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ video, and that changed everything. And in a sense, Nirvana sold out to be there. Nirvana sold out so kids like me could get into edgier rock and roll which would inevitably lead to punk rock which would further lead to bands who were preaching to never sell out and I’d give it a listen and agree whole-heartedly. But I never would’ve gotten there if Nirvana never signed a major label deal. It’s the sell out paradox.
I think ultimately it’s fine to see it both ways. You can be Ian Mackaye or Dave Grohl and I’ll be a fan and respect you either way. I guess I just worry that as I age, I keep leaning more towards the pro-sellout side of the spectrum. A part of me misses that bullheaded determination and stubbornness of youth that tries to live by a set of ideals and if you betray them somehow, you’re in the wrong. I miss a younger me that put more value on integrity and honor than bags of money. I’d love bags of money but I think I’d love it more if I absolutely valued my ideals more and I’m not sure if I’m capable of that in this moment.
Movies I Watched Recently
Tick, Tick… Boom!
This is a biographical musical drama about Jonathan Larson (the dude who created, Rent’), directed by that, ‘Hamilton,’ dude, Lin-Manuel Miranda. ‘Tick, Tick… Boom!,’ is the name of the project Larson did before, ‘Rent,’ and this re-creation I believe is a mix of songs from that play and biographical stuff from that period in Larson’s life.
The whole premise is great. The, ‘tick,’ part refers to the ticking of a clock and it’s all about aging (Larson is dealing with turning 30 soon) and wondering what you’re doing with your life, have you done enough, will you do the things you wanted to do, etc.
Larson is struggling to try and chase his dreams. One of his best friends sells out and gets a job in advertising and is suddenly struggling no more and even though Larson doesn’t want to give up on his Broadway goals, his friend’s life seems nice. He also has a relationship that is falling apart, due to his girlfriend getting a job that involved, among other things, moving away.
There’s a lot of feels in this movie. I think a lot of it is sorta knowing how it ends. This isn’t a spoiler and they don’t really cover it in this movie, but Larson eventually creates, ‘Rent,’ but dies the day before it debuts. That’s heavy and seeing him go through the struggle, a struggle that I think most people feel on some level at some point in their own lives, and all he sacrifices, it’s just hard not to feel things.
There’s also the specter of AIDS all around him. That adds a lot to the heaviness. Young friends dying is just some of the saddest stuff possible. All I ever want is for all my friends to grow old and happy and live long, fulfilling lives and sometimes shit ain’t like that and it feels like the most completely unfair thing in the world.
Despite all the sadness, there’s also something very triumphant about this movie. There’s highs and lows and it never lets you settle into one or the other for too long. It fills you with a sense of purpose and also makes you wanna hug your friends. Powerful stuff. Can’t recommend enough.
TV show I’m currently watching
I’m not really binging anything right now but shout out to Amy Schneider on Jeopardy! who is currently on a 13 game winning streak. She usually kills and makes some gutsy Daily Double and Final Jeopardy wagers. She currently has more money than Ken Jennings did at 13 wins and I know that because Ken Jennings told me so because he was hosting for a few weeks there.
Amy’s also become something of a transgender icon. Her first win was during Trans Awareness Week. She’s also the first transgender contestant to qualify for the Tournament of Champions which I think is pretty cool.
She’s getting a bit of a break because they’re doing a tournament of professors for a couple weeks. But she’ll be back and probably well rested which I imagine will help her extend her streak even further.
Killing the other contestants with a smile and a pearl necklace.
Album of the Week
Peace Meter / Marissa Paternoster
For those not familiar, Marissa Paternoster is the frontwoman for one of my all time favorite rock and roll bands, the Screaming Females. I was very excited to give this album a spin and I was not disappointed. Paternoster shines and separates herself from her usual foray into fuzzy, loud, rock and roll music. The music on this album shows a much more mellow side to her songwriting abilities. Her singing is given more space to shine and some of my favorite parts are the vocals where she’s harmonizing with herself (which is, by the way, a trick I find that some people pull off well and some don’t. It’s done well here).
I’m tempted to use words like, ‘heartfelt,’ and, ‘thoughtful,’ to describe these songs but that wouldn’t be fair to everything else she’s done musically. Screaming Females’ music is definitely heartfelt and thoughtful, but you have to dig a little through the distortion to find it. It’s a little more on the sleeve on this album.
And maybe the biggest thing I liked about this album is that it doesn’t sound like a Screaming Females album at all. I love the Screaming Females and look forward to their next record whenever that is, but if it’s a solo project, I definitely wanna here something different. It feels fresh. It’s not a rocker, but it’s got a pretty chill vibe that gives it good replay value.
Paternoster does her own art on, if not all, most things. I love her weird drawings. This is the album cover.
Book I’m Currently Reading
Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo and Hardcore (1994-2007) / Dan Ozzi
This it the book that inspired my ramble up top in this issue of the newsletter. I finished it yesterday and it was great. Super enjoyable. If you like any of the bands that are written about in this book, I totally think you owe it to yourself to at least read the chapter devoted to the bands you like. But I got a kick out of all of it. There’s a couple bands I don’t care for much, and even their stories were interesting.
I love the Distillers. I think they’re one of the most punk bands who ever punked… and even they sold out. They released three albums, all of them great, fast, loud, and then disappeared into oblivion (until their reunion tour right before the pandemic which I was lucky enough to score a ticket to).
There’s a lot of high school-like drama in this chapter due to lead singer Brodie Dalle’s marriage to punk rock icon, Tim Armstrong. There’s a divorce and it gets sloppy. I don’t like that a lot of punk fans felt like they had to choose a side on this one. Fans turning their back on the Distillers because of a divorce is just silly to me.
My Chemical Romance
Not a huge fan but they plant a flag for New Jersey and I’ll always put respect on that. I kinda forgot that MCR were the biggest band in the world at one point. They were weird but cool and they made that shit mainstream and I’m very okay with that.
Probably my least favorite band in this whole book. But I can acknowledge that they have a very marketable sound and they didn’t make any compromises on the subject matter they sang about.
I love Against Me! so this was a really fun chapter for me to read. I had previously read Laura Jane Grace's autobio (co-written by the author of this book) so I knew a lot of the stuff going in. Against Me!’s trajectory was so insane. They practically wrote a manifesto that at one time felt like it might reinvent not just Axl Rose, but punk rock altogether. But y’know, things happen. And when it feels like the world is against you and your own fans turn on you, there’s gonna be a part of you that just wants to say, “you know what then, fuck all of you. We’re taking the money.”
I got into Against Me! very late in the game, post-New Wave. So they had already done the major label leap and I’m not sure if I would’ve gotten as into them if not for that leap. So who am I to say what was the right or wrong move here?
But I think that helps me transition into a final thought on this book:
You can stand on your morals and be against your favorite bands selling out. But there’s gotta be a limit to how far you go to express your disdain. No one knows what anyone else is going through or what the circumstances are. Write about it, tweet about it, but the moment you start vandalizing or throwing things or slashing tires, you’ve gone too far. You’ve compromised your sense of humanity all because a band was enticed to increase the size of their audience and bank account, things that are very logical to want. I think the real villain in the selling-out scenario is the fan that takes it too far.
Dan Ozzi is also a good Twitter follow (@danozzi) He also has a newsletter because all the cool kids do:
Random sports thought of the week
There’s a MLB lockout and I don’t care. I don’t like baseball and the season is too long. If this lockout shaves a few months off the season, it’d be a blessing in disguise. There’s 162 games in a season and then playoffs. At the end of every season, as the playoffs approach, I’ll hear baseball fans say, ‘that’s why every game counts,’ and it’s like ugh, maybe you’re right, but it’s still 162 games. How do you want me to value each one as uniquely important?
A lockout don’t bother me none. I’d much rather watch the movie, ‘Major League,’ 162 times anyways.
‘Wild Thing,’ just sorta naturally plays in my head when I look at this picture.
Random pro wrestling thought of the week
War Games came and went and it was pretty cool. It’s probably my least favorite War Games since NXT started doing it, but it’s definitely my favorite thing so far to come out of NXT 2.0.
The Black & Gold team lost so we can all put that behind us now. It’s time to stop living in the past. It’s gone and never coming back. HHH is not gonna ride in on a cool motorcycle and bring us back what was my favorite thing in wrestling for several years. It’s gone another direction and they are dialed in and going for it. Let’s just be happy Ciampa gets to be the champ a little while longer before he inevitably loses it to someone who wasn’t on TV 6 months ago.
No more arena shows. No more undersized superstars. A year from now we’ll be watching Bron Breakker and Von Wagner ram into each other for 20 minutes for the NXT championship.
I guess Gargano is staying (sad face emoji) and Kyle O’Reilly is leaving. I could be wrong about both these things, but after this week’s episode of NXT 2.0, it feels like that’s where things are headed. Gargano could still surprise me though and show up elsewhere (AEW please, Mr. Wrestling).
One of my favorite moments of War Games was O’Reilly flashing the Undisputed Era sign over Von Wagner.
Weekly Top 5 List: Top 5 Against Me! Albums
1- Reinventing Axl Rose
2- Searching for a Former Clarity
3- as the Eternal Cowboy
4- New Wave
5- Shape Shift With Me
“On credibility: Jack White has just done a song for Coca-Cola. End of. He ceases to be in the club. And he looks like Zorro on doughnuts. He's supposed to be the poster boy for the alternative way of thinking... I'm not having that, that's fucking wrong. Particularly Coca-Cola, it's like doing a fucking gig for McDonald's.”
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Fri, Dec 17th. Me and Yobs have birthdays that week. Come check us out. This is going to be a fun one for sure.
Sat, Dec 18th
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