Daniel Boczarski, Redferns Following an altercation during SXSW -- that went…
- Posted on Dec 15th 2010 5:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
Daniel Boczarski, Redferns
Punk-rock fans were among the first to flock to message boards and chat rooms, and as amateur critics took their opinions online, Screeching Weasel frontman Ben Weasel wasn't sure he liked what he saw. Writing songs for 1998's 'Television City Dream,' an album recently rereleased on Fat Wreck Chords, Weasel weighed in on the day's digital discourse, speaking his mind as he had since the late '80s -- with bratty, lightning-fast Ramones-style punk.
"One thing that infused the record or a theme that reappears, sometimes forcefully and sometimes with subtlety, is the kind of effect I was starting to see from the Internet," Weasel tells Spinner.
In those days, the singer and songwriter would sometimes visit AOL chat rooms and his own band's message board, and he remembers how, even then, long before the rise of naysaying music bloggers, the anonymity of the Internet turned Jekylls to Hydes.
"For the most part, in real life and in person, these people were often very timid and socially inept, but they would grow big balls on the Internet," Weasel says. "Lots of bands were writing about it, but I think it infused ['Television City Dream']. That kind of tone, my reaction to that kind of tone, you can see it in a song like 'Your Morality,' and, to a lesser extent, 'Count to Three.'"
"In the past, if you wanted to kind of be a dick like that, you'd do it in person, or you had to write a letter to Maximum Rock 'n' Roll and wait three months for it to be published," Weasel adds, referencing the long-running punk magazine for which he once wrote a column. "What that meant was most people didn't get involved, because if they can't have the immediate back-and-forth, they're not going to get involved in that, and they're not going to get riled up. With the Internet, everything was there and immediate. It seemed like people felt like they had to express strong opinions in order to be heard. They wouldn't be like, 'Yeah, I don't care either way,' or, 'I'm not going to weigh in.'"
'Television City Dream' also features 'Punk Rock Explained,' a parable about '90s alt-rock stardom. In the song, an unnamed punk group forms for fun, gains some underground notoriety, signs with a major label, sells millions of records and alienates its fans. In the end, the band splits up, and accountants and lawyers swoop in to pick up the pieces.
"It was my attempt to explain, albeit with some humor, what it was like to be a band like ours and to be a band like a lot of bands -- to go from being this little DIY thing that nobody cared about to suddenly people do care, to suddenly before you can even blink your eye, you're not cool enough anymore," Weasel says. "It was almost like a songwriting exercise to think, 'Can I add all those major elements in essentially three verses and three choruses, with guitar leads in there, too.' It was kind of to challenge myself songwriting-wise. It's funny -- when I was listening to that song recently, I was struck by how good it was. My memory was that it wasn't particularly well-written. I think it's pretty solid."