Monday, April 17, 2017

Just Arguing About Smashmouth In Cracker Barrell

Spent the weekend at Alex, so did not get as much done as I intended, but it was a good weekend. On Saturday, we were having breakfast with one of his other friends on who was hanging out with us, and a music argument started up.

 I don't remember how it started, but Darren was speaking disparagingly of the music of the '80s and '90s, and the 2000s as well, he was undecided which of the three were the two worst decades for music. Especially in comparison. For the record, Darren's a little younger than me, so it isn't as though he grew up through the '60s or '70s, which he touted as being much better. He seemed annoyed especially by what he felt was a large number of one-hit wonders.

Anyway, he somehow settled on Smashmouth as indicative of everything bad about the more recent eras, because they made, quote, 'the douchiest song possible,' which I think was a reference to "All-Star", but could have been "Walking on the Sun". That everything was about just trying to cobble together something that would be super-popular, and there was no artistic drive involved.

Which, hell, could be true, probably even is true, but I countered - out of contrariness than any desire to defend Smashmouth - by asking if he believed that, for example, Creedance Clearwater Revival had made every one of their songs from a place of deep artistic vision. He conceded the point, sort of, though he and Alex both argued that CCR was writing their own songs, and there weren't a bunch of producers involved.

Again, sure, that's true for all I know. And I'm not going to try to argue for Smashmouth over CCR, but that wasn't really what I was interested in. I was more interested in the idea that the music from before Darren was alive was better than the stuff he lived through. It reminded me of the discussions about pitchers I see in baseball arguments. About why pitchers today can't throw as many innings as pitchers used to. But the arguments - while also ignoring differences in the game, ballpark dimensions, tape study, better drugs, whatever - cite the few pitchers who were able to do that. The Bob Gibsons, the Nolan Ryans, and so on, but ignore the legions of pitchers who were contemporaries of those guys who never came close. Who managed one, maybe two of those years, and then collapsed, or the guys who blew out their arms in the minors and never got close.

Survivorship bias. We look back and see the pitchers or bands that made it and think that's all there was. But for the stuff we lived through, we remember the ones who didn't have sticking power, and so there seems like a much lower percentage of big successes. Darren remembers all these one-hit wonders and bands he liked when he was younger he now knows were terrible, and sees an ocean of crap. But if he'd been alive in the 1960s, he'd have encountered a bunch of different bands he would have loved that faded into obscurity or that he hated once he got older.

Which doesn't dismiss his feelings about Smashmouth, but it was a discussion I enjoyed. Plus it prompted Alex to pose a poll online about Smashmouth vs. CCR just to tweak Darren, which CCR ultimately came from behind to win (after Darren posed a video of Alex scratching "Down on the Corner" on his turntables), which was funny to me.

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