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Grudge Match

My friend Rob Baniewicz (of killer improv comedy duo Meg & Rob) shared an article from the Onion A/V Club Q&A titled “Lifetime Grudges.”

The article caught my interest because it’s about lifelong, subjective, sometimes irrational grudges that people develop against artists. Many of the Onion’s regular contributors shared their personal grudge matches, from Sofia Coppola to U2.

Surely you’ve done it. A movie star whose weird mouth-shape you just can’t get past? A musician whose utterly terrible new album forces you to lose faith? The reason doesn’t matter so much. just that they’ve jumped your personal shark permanently, never to return to your good graces.

A few spring to my mind immediately. Alanis Morissette – by her fourth US record she had entirely quit writing catchy, interesting music, so I gave up. Chuck Palahniuk – wrote too many overly-convenient, repetitive books for me to care that he might eventually get better. Jason Mraz – I found his songwriting schtick underhwhelming from the first second I heard him.

The grudge article is an interesting counterpoint to something else that has been on my mind lately: permanent “must-buy” policies. Lifetime subscriptions, let’s call them.

Surely you have these too – an unflinching desire to consume everything by a specific artist. I’ll buy any song by Garbage, watch any movie by David Fincher, and love any print by Mucha, no questions asked. It’s a form of brand-loyalty – these artists appeal to some aspect of your personal aesthetic, and you’ll support them forever for it.

Who is your #1 Grudge, and why? What about your most major undying, devoted subscription? Could the grudge ever (re)earn your trust? Could the subscription ever fall from the pedestal?


  1. My grudges aren’t going to win any fans, and I don’t say this to rile you up, Peter, but I can NOT stand to hear this triumvirate of artists: Dave Matthews Band, Ani DiFranco or Tori Amos. Allow me to quickly explain.

    In Mr. Matthews’ case, it was the fans that turned me off forever, and though I’ve read him in interviews, and find him funny, and engaging, and even musically adventurous when solo, I can not cotton to any of the DMB output.

    Can’t stand Ani DiFranco’s voice. Not years ago, not now. Unless that fundamental part of her changes, there will be no listens from me. Also, I feel like her music is ALOT about message message message, which is why I stopped listening to RUSH years ago. Come on, Neil Peart, just drum, or lighten up.

    And Tori Amos… that’s a bit more complicated. Part of it is related to a long-ago friend who tried to convert me to listening to Tori Amos’ music against my will (though I did, and still do, honestly like the songs “Cornflake Girl” and “God”. “Past the Mission” wasn’t bad, either). The other part of it was my uneasy relationship with Trent Reznor’s music in high school. I felt like she was his female musical counterpart (and I know they had some sort of musical/personal friendship or partnership of some kind), and I was never that comfortable getting into HIS music, even at the time I felt the way albums like Pretty Hate Machine and Downward Spiral catalouged. For me, she symbolized more of that same emotional dredging, with cleaner pianos and a nicer (yet still incredibly overwrought) voice.

    As for lifetime subscriptions, there are three, which do have conditions:

    Clutch, the Melvins, and Billy Joel.

    I love Clutch and the Melvins, and have seen both of these bands live more than 14 times each. I have almost everything they’ve ever put out, except the live records in both cases, and 3 albums in the Melvins case. The Prick album almost ended my love for the Melvins. I hated it so much, I took it back, and it remains the ONLY album I’ve taken back and not allowed to grow on me. I also never got Electro-retard, because it was remixes or stuff I already had on other releases. I haven’t gotten their last one, Nude With Boots, due to laziness.

    And Billy Joel? Well… he’s the Piano Man and it was sort of a birthright in my family, after my mom became a fan. My sisters and I are all fans, and growing up with the man’s music, I had to get everything.

    Generally, though, I won’t buy box sets and usually, I don’t buy live albums. What’s the point, if you have all the studio albums already? Just give me the b-sides or rarities in a separate disc, and I’ll have everything. And live albums? Pshaw, just go see `em.

    And yes… I realize that’s impossible for broken-up bands or dead artists, but oftentimes, live album sound BLOWS.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Permalink
  2. krisis wrote:

    Oh boy!

    DMB I share with you nearly verbatim. His music isn’t so exciting, and his fans are frequently insufferable. I tend to like him solo, because then it’s just about melody and guitar.

    Ani I got into before my obsession with good vocals, so she was grandfathered out of that rule. The thing is, at early stages she had a beautiful voice – especially on her first album. It started getting barkier and talkier around 4-5 before it became what it is today.

    I shared your Tori grudge for a long time. Tori fans are notoriously bad at choosing songs for non-fans. Recently a Tori board had a thread on that topic, and the fans were choosing the most screechy, boring, or off-putting songs as what they’d play for a potential fan. My favorite example is “Blood Roses,” her most harrowing and screechy song. I love it, but why would you subject someone to that first?

    The Trent/Tori connection is interesting and, in my opinion, apt. I think Boys for Pele is certainly a NIN analog. I’d be interested in floating one or two Tori songs your way sometime to see if I can circumvent the grudge :)

    I wonder if I could have sympathized with you two or three years ago, before those two women began to disappoint me? Or, can I see the obvious flaw with everything I love so unconditionally, as part of my unconditional love?

    (I think I’m more defensive of the next tier of artists on my “must buy” pyramic. Tori, Ani, Garbage – I can see why someone wouldn’t like them. Say something nasty about PJ Harvey, then we have an argument on our hands.)

    Yes, box sets, reissues, and live albums are also generally exempt from my “buy all” plans. Most live albums, in the words of Ani, “make my teeth itch.”

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 3:33 pm | Permalink
  3. I’m honestly dumbfounded why this post hasn’t generated more of a response. Do your readers not care enough about music to voice their opinions?

    But to answer a question you posed in your response, I would certainly not be averse to auditioning a few songs per your suggestion, although I do have to say, once I’ve been turned AGAINST, it’s extremely difficult to turn me FOR a band/artist. Case in point: Metallica

    Years before Metallica took on Napster and wrote a never-ending series of horrible albums, they put out the self-titled “Black” album. I’d been a fan in the late 80s, with … And Justice for All back through their first full length, Kill Em All. Something about that first single, “Enter Sandman”, rubbed me the wrong way, and though I was but a freshman in high school, I said NOPE that’s it for me. This band is musica non grata on my walkman, hereforward. I never got that album, and all subsequent material I felt was garbage. Their covers of “Turn the Page” and “Whiskey in the Jar” weren’t TOO AWFUL, and there was one particular standout track on their bloated S&M record (Symphony and Metallica, I suppose; I never bothered to find out). What that track was, I can not now recall. It wasn’t enough to make me plunk down my hard-earned money to investigate one song (and this was the days before iTunes and the .99 song ).

    Josh Browns has said I was wrong about their new album, Death Magnetic, and that it’s a return to 80s speed metal form. Yeah? Not from what I heard, and I’ve been forced to hear more than half the record (my wife still hangs tight with Metallica on occasion).

    No more. Not for me, and the continued crap material they keep releasing is further proof that I was right in my decision years ago to affix the CRAP label to them. I think they should just throw in the towel and go on American Idol like KISS did.

    Besides, aren’t all the kids androgynous and wearing skulls and studded belts anymore?

    Sorry… I guess I’m boo-hooing for the loss of truly good, truly offensive, unapologetic rock and roll. I need a AC/DC welded to a Bloodhound Gang taking graduate economics and literature classes with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.

    Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 2:06 pm | Permalink