Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tasha Robinson

Let's get one thing straight right away: I am a very loyal AV Club reader/listener.

However, I feel I have to voice my respectful discord with pretty much everything Tasha Robinson has expressed in writing or podcast form. I hope she does not have a Google alert for her own name (I do for mine, so don't talk shit about me! Or that Christian pre-school teacher also named Becky Ferreira!). Even though everything to come is mild, I'd still feel guilty. Please, you know I would not post bitterness against any AV Club writer without much consternation first. I have seriously consterned over this.

Some qualifiers: I no longer know whether I actually disagree at heart; I just know that I am on whatever side she's not. There's a reason for this. Over the course of my AV Club fandom, I have read a lot of her articles. I am a devoted AV Talk subscriber. She has made many points that I find boring or most often, just blandly irrelevant. She'll shy away just when the discussions get interesting. Even so, she's usually mere increments off of what I actually believe, but she's far enough often enough to consistently annoy me, especially in contrast to the rest of the AV Club writers. I've developed a sort of Pavlovian conditioning to her work; I am so used to being irritated that it doesn't matter whether I agree with her or not anymore. Just as the dog salivates when exposed to certain stimuli, so too will I take the contrary opinion of whatever she says. She's that person I sometimes run into at parties who seems completely nice and smart and cool and yet for some reason, I want to argue her into the ground about everything.

By the way, I am convinced Keith Phipps feels the same way. The more AV Talk I listen to, the more frustrated he seems with her. I fully accept that this is probably wanton projection, but in the Tooth Fairy and Shutter Island podcasts, he does seem genuinely irritated when she misconstrues what he's just said (which, in my obviously biased opinion, she does at least twice in each podcast).

I've felt this way about Tasha Robinson for months, but it took something special to actually goad me enough to post about it. Like I said, she's smart and clearly awesome: I respect her. She's just becoming my nemesis is all, and a week or so back, she really took the plunge into arch enemy territory. In anticipation of Valentine's day, the AV Club posted a Q&A called "Falling Out of Love Hard" about things the staff writers loved at a certain stage in their lives but that didn't hold up later. Great choices abounded, such as Lost in Translation (proud to say I always hated it!), American Beauty and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Tasha Robinson's choice? THE CURE. The motherfucking CURE! Now, you may already know this, but I love me some Cure. I don't think I qualify as a mega-fan of any band (have you seen the shit real mega-fans do?) but if I were, that band would be the Cure. The Cure is the only band that has remained a staple since I first started getting into music all the way through to today, with the exception of Queen. However, Robert Smith comes slightly closer to touching my soul than Freddie Mercury, which is crazy, because if you read this blog, you'll know that about a month ago Freddie Mercury actually hitchhiked in the backseat of my soul for a while. Well, Robert Smith has been hanging out in that backseat since 1994.

Anyway, I'll let Tasha speak for herself:

The first thing that leaps to mind for me is The Cure. I discovered them in college, which was maybe already a little too far past my mopey, lovesick, self-absorbed-pain phase of life for them to really hit the emotional sweet spot of a band that says what you’re thinking. At the same time, they were something new for me: I’d never been into punk, I’d never heard of goth, and I’d never heard music that touched on so many genres at once. It was like finding a Rosetta Stone that let me translate between the pop I was used to and all the music I’d never been exposed to and was just then discovering. I listened to The Cure a lot for a couple of years. And then… I moved on. Fairly recently, I saw some cheap Cure CDs and picked them up and re-exposed myself, and lo and behold, what once seemed innovative and deep and emotional now just sounded like a bunch of samey whining. The music hasn’t changed, but I have; that’s just how it goes.

The thing that frustrates me so much is that once again, she is only a few degrees off of articulating something great (ie. my opinion), and then just veers off into awful-land. Of course, one of the reasons the Cure is so great is that they evoke so many genres in their songs, and she really summarizes that perfectly. Similar to Tarantino, Robert Smith really wants you to geek out about recognizing homages to his music idols in his work. He wants you to seek out his influences, and he wants the musicians he inspires to have a broad tapestry to draw from. She gets it! She momentarily gets the Cure! Then she fumbles, hard!

One of the things that has always astonished me about people's perception of the Cure is that they are, in her words, a band of "samey whining." They are viewed as just this moody goth band for teens. I'm aware that a lot of their songs live up to that reputation (though I would argue those songs are way better than most moody goth songs for teens). But for fuck's sake, people! This is the band that gave us great slow punk songs like "Accuracy" and great sexy synth songs like "Let's Go to Bed" and so many great ecstatically happy pop songs like "Just Like Heaven," "Hot Hot Hot," Close to Me" and "Friday I'm in Love." My favourite Cure songs represent just how un-samey Robert Smith is, and obvzzz, I'm prepared to provide examples. First of all "The Lovecats." I'm sorry, but try to find a song like that anywhere. Come back to me with a song that sounds like "The Lovecats." Deliver that to my doorstep, world. It's one of the weirdest, coolest songs ever written! IT ENDS IN A MEOW CRESCENDO!!! And there's another favourite, "Wrong Number," which is basically proof that Robert Smith went into space at some point and wrote a pop song there. Of course, there's also "Why Can't I Be You?" which spends a decent amount of time being my favourite pop song, frequently usurping "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen or "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5 for the spot. Seriously, if you've never listened to "Why Can't I Be You?" do yourself a favour and buy it right now, and feel like you are on a billion hits of ecstasy for three minutes and fifteen seconds.

And the song that got me into the Cure, the song that has remained my favourite song if I had to name a favourite song, not just from the Cure but FROM ANY BAND EVER: "Lullaby." Heard it when I was around 10 or 11 and loved music thereafter. It has insinuated itself so far into the fabric of my neurons that I still have recurring dreams about giant spiders with candy cane legs invading snowy Who-like towns in the night. Bear in mind that at around the same time I got into the Cure, I was also obsessed with Tim Burton movies, especially Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas. So I really had no choice but to have recurring dreams about giant spiders with candy cane legs invading snowy Who-like towns.

Listen, I get growing out of bands. The band I listened to the most in junior high was Our Lady Peace and the band I listened to the most in high school was Nine Inch Nails (hands fucking down!). I grew out of both, with the exception of Pretty Hate Machine. Seriously guys, that's still an amazing album! My BFF Chris Dingwall knows it, and I know it, and that's really all that should matter.

But this claim that the Cure didn't change, while Tasha Robinson did: it irks me. The Cure is one of those special bands like the Beatles, Queen, Springsteen or Led Zep that doesn't need to change. Digression: "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" was one of my favourite songs when I was a kid, because kids love fantastical imagery and the otherworldly soundscapes. Also, my sister's name is Lucy, and I took it very literally to be a song about her going diamond-hunting in space. The song didn't change, but it meant something different to me as a pseudo-rebellious teenager, when I knew LSD had actually catalyzed the fantastical element. It means something different to me again today: an awesome ballad about the joy of exploration. The song will continue to accrue meanings for as long as I return to it, and it will also never lose the past meanings. It's still a song about my sister finding diamonds in the stars as much as it is a discovery song. The song doesn't change, but it doesn't have to. Who does Tasha Robinson think she is, demanding that the Cure change with her?

The first time I listened to "Lullaby," I liked it because it reminded me of Danny Elfman. Today, I have put layers upon layers of new meanings on that song, and tomorrow I'll dump even more on it. You have a relationship with a band not dissimilar to the kind you have with a person. That's why when bands make music we love, we feel understood, and when they stop making music we love, we feel cheated.

And that's the thing that bugs me about Tasha Robinson's falling-out-of-love with the Cure: it doesn't seem like she was ever genuinely in love with the Cure. She is judging them by the stereotype pinned to them by outsiders, who have noticed Robert Smith loves to wear make-up and black clothes and extrapolate (very incorrectly!) from there. And I think it's what bothers me about her generally. I follow the AV Club because I love being an uber-fan of uber-fans. I love nerding out over nerds nerding out. Tasha Robinson has never persuaded me that she's an uber-fan of anything. She never has that excitement in her voice on the podcast, and her reviews are flat out clinical. I'm having serious doubts about whether she's actually a nerd at all. In fact, I'm pretty positive she's not. I think she's just a smart, calm person pretending to be a nerd, a wolf in geek's clothing.

As Robert Smith would say, "HEY! HEY! HEY! Yes, I like it when that lightning comes/ HEY! HEY! HEY! Yes, I like it a lot/ HEY! HEY! HEY! Yes, I'm jumping like a jumping jack/ Dancing, screaming, itching, squealing, fevered feeling HOT HOT HOT!"

Those lyrics mean something to me because I'm a fan, bitch.


Tasha said...

Alas, I do have a Google alert on my name; I think everyone at the A.V. Club probably has one at this point. Sorry!

That said, don't feel bad. I wish all my detractors were as intelligent, cogent, and well-written as you. This is by far the nicest excoriation I've ever gotten.

The only quibble I have with you here is this: You seem to take the "I've changed and The Cure hasn't" statement as an accusation against them, as though I was dismissing them because they haven't kept up with me. I intended that to be read in the exact opposite direction — more a strike against me than them. I'm not dumb enough to think that something I no longer find as relevant or appealing as I used to has changed in some way — the "They used to be cool, but now they suck, solely because I personally don't like them any more" argument. My tastes have changed; that's no strike against them. They're still there for the true fans.

tonks said...

My main problem with Tasha is her overuse of the word 'elide'.

beckyferreira said...

Tasha, I'm sorry to say that the fact that you commented on my blog pretty much nullifies your potential for arch-rivalry with me.

For the same reason I'm shocked that you have a Google alert for your own name (ie. that I consider AV writers to garner enough blog praise/criticism for alerts to get annoying), I'm surprised that you would care enough to defend yourself, and by proxy, the Cure (and by a second proxy, all goodness). Thanks! At least half of the stuff I would previously have found irritating due to the Pavlovian conditioning detailed in the post is going to be scaled down a bunch now. I listened to the Cop Out AV Talk today, and experienced no rage-inducing episodes.

I say this not to be conciliatory. I say this to challenge you to continue to find ways to be my arch-nemesis at the AV. I have one for every website: Emily Yoffe for Slate has definitely incurred more wrath than you could ever aspire to, but you could make it halfway. I don't know what to do if I can't hate at least one part of everything I love.

Seriously though, I appreciate that you read this and wrote back. Keep on being good at having a different perspective on things than me (ie. keep on avoiding the only true perspective).


PS. Please let me write a Classic TV Club for Futurama.