Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Two Things I've Avoided for Years, But That I Now Realize Are Really Quite Good

Sometimes you love something but you "go off it" for some reason. I used to enjoy eating cheddar cheese, pistachio nuts, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but I couldn't even THINK about any of them for years because I got sick once while eating them (at different times, not all together).

It took me a long time to appreciate cheddar cheese and pistachio nuts again. Sometimes you need to distance yourself from a thing in order to learn how much you love it, though Kentucky Fried Chicken still grosses me out (for different reasons than it did originally).

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life

My family was very much a British humour household, maybe because PBS was the only reliable channel we got. At some point Monty Python became a regular staple for us and I loved the TV show and the movies for many years.

Then, in high school, people started to QUOTE it around me. This got worse in university when the people who quoted it were thoroughly annoying (and should have known better). I had become exposed to the Monty Python Cult, and I ran away for fear of being associated with them. I stopped watching the films. I "went off" Python, and every time I saw a poster or a video cassette cover featuring Python artwork I felt vaguely hostile and ill.

Last week I found myself buying "The Meaning of Life" on DVD, and I'm now distant enough from my childhood and my bad "cult experiences" to see it for what it is: absolute genius. Maybe the film has actually gotten better with age, its "sketch" format no longer so jarring and its shocking bits more "fun" than "rude."

I'm most struck at what good ACTORS they all were. Well, Gilliam and Jones were never very good, and Idle was I think only middling, but Cleese, Chapman, and Palin were EXCEPTIONAL. They were no longer amateur performers relying on silliness and enthusiasm to sell their characters; they'd become 100% confident and skilled. And as Gilliam wonders on the movie's bland commentary, why did they all give up acting together just when they'd hit their peak?

And the musical As a kid I giggled about sperm and I think, holy cow, Terry Jones (and the choreographer and the set designers) deserve an award.

Skinny Puppy

My adolescent devotion to Skinny Puppy was based on angst, isolation, and novelty. When they started to repeat themselves (Ogre hits himself, falls down, gets dirty, falls down again) or produce total crap (Ogre "sings"), my interest began to fade. And when I decided in 1994 that I'd rather be HAPPY than hateful, I relocated my Skinny Puppy CDs to the shelf below the ABBA, and that was the end of that.

This month, high school chum Lynda reminded me of Skinny Puppy (she'd introduced them to me way back when, and we'd both gone to their Toronto "Too Dark Park" show). I said I didn't like them anymore. But in the back of my mind I wondered...hmmm.

So I dusted off the CDs and brought them to work, and (like with "The Meaning of Life") I was able to view their work with a new distance and maturity. NOBODY sounds like Skinny Puppy -- an overpowering, sludgy cacaphony that still sounds impossible -- and even though I no longer feel "the pain" I can finally appreciate "the creativity and the skill." They weren't simply making angry noise, they were making a new kind of music, and they knew exactly what they were doing.

"VIVIsectVI" is still my favourite (!!!DISTORTION!!!), as is "Bites" (for its relatively fresh early sound) and "Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate" (the clearest mix between percussion, keyboards, vocals, and samples). "Too Dark Park," which I didn't like at the time, sounds particularly good in these post-White Zombie days.

"Rabies," however, still pretty much sucks. It was the Kentucky Fried Chicken of Skinny Puppy albums. Just so you don't think I've lost my critical perception.

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