Here’s something I haven’t done in a while: A long-form music feature published somewhere other than this blog. My buds Jon Mann and Derek Hawkins — two men of many talents, whom New Yorkers of a certain persuasion might recognize as the dual frontmen of the Brooklyn punk/powerpop band Sunset Guns — edit and contribute to a really fun blog called Square Zeros, which has a couple different functions. One is the online home of the Square Zeros podcast, in which Jon and Derek talk to active musicians about their very first bands, revisiting recordings their guests had made as teenagers. The other is the “In Defense Of…” series, in which musicians, writers and aficionados write about records or musical acts they love, but that are somehow underappreciated. That doesn’t mean those acts are unpopular. In fact, in most cases in this series, the act at the center of the story is extremely popular, or at least was for a brief moment. But in most cases, the writer thinks the act isn’t taken seriously enough by people of “discerning taste,” and sets about explaining what they hear in this record that makes it special to them. The best “In Defense Of…” posts get into some really interesting questions about art and fanship and subjective experience: Do I like this record because it’s good, or because I first heard it at a pivotal time in my life? What do my perceived tastes say about my hang-ups and prejudices? What do the things I like say about the person I think I am?
Turns out I’ve been writing an “In Defense Of…” column in my head about one of my 25 or so favorite albums for the past, I don’t know, seven years. After Derek posted my story about my deep, strange personal relationship to the Electric Light Orchestra album A New World Record, a number of people chimed in, saying something like, “Huh, I had no idea ELO needed defending.” And to that I say, “HANG OUT WITH ME FOR A WHILE THE NEXT TIME I MENTION THEM IN CONVERSATION.” I have been defending ELO ever since I got into their music. Thing is, ELO is one of those bands that, ever since their run of big hits in the ’70s ended, has remained always kind of popular, but never quite fashionable. Gush about their music, and for every three high fives, you’ll get a raised eyebrow and a derisive smirk. Being an ELO fan is kind of like being a fan of, say, Pizza Hut. Finding people who are on the same page as you is easy, but everywhere you go, someone is going to think you’re kind of lame for that opinion.
Anyway, this story is a little bit about A New World Record, and a little bit about that period in a young person’s life when you finally feel like you’re an adult, and you simultaneously get the feeling you’re failing at adulthood. You can read the whole thing by clicking on this link to my guest post on Square Zeros.