Follow or Face My Wrath

Monday, June 10, 2013

I Advance Confused: A Look at a Not-So-Guilty Pleasure

First, an explanation of my protracted sabbatical:
After our beloved dog Sandy passed away last month, I spent two weeks dealing with a bout of what I can only call depression, though my particular appellation seems more focused on the "lack of energy" side of the equation than the "sadness" side.  I wasn't sad per se, at least not in a fully conscious way, but I definitely wasn't happy either.  I'm happiest when I am either working with gusto at some writing project, or enjoying an evening with my lovely wife and a lack of energy doesn't bode well for either activity.
With no small amount of encouragement from my wife (read: nagging and ass-kicking), my generally positive nature won out and I returned to work.  At that time, however, I was on the home stretch of my current writing project, and didn't wish to expend a single ounce of my still-fragile energy reserves on anything inconsequential.  Like this blog.  So I didn't blog for like a month.
Big whoop, wanna fight about it?
Today, after an invigorating bout of housework, I found myself listening to Coheed and Cambria's most recent record and it sent me on an inner tirade.  And sharing such tirades, those of you who have been with me since the beginning will know, is the whole reason this blog exists.  For good or ill.  So here we go.

Some time in the early 2000's I picked up a free, cardboard-sleeved copy of the latest Equal Vision Records sampler.  Indie labels will periodically do this; they put out samplers of all their artists and give them away cheap or free to encourage further sales.  I used to have a truckload of these types of CDs.
On this particular compilation was a band whom I had heard of once or twice from my good friend Ben, a band called Coheed & Cambria.  He described them, saying they sounded like "Michael Jackson singing for a hardcore band."  The song featured on the sampler was "Everything Evil".  I dug it. 
Years went by and I maintained a passing familiarity with the band's work, though I never really gave them a hard listen.  They were primarily a curiosity, most notable for their lead singer's unusually high vocal range.
Let's take a moment to talk about that.  This is what Claudio Sanchez looks like:

And this, for whatever reason is what his voice sounds like.
Not what you were expecting?  Me either.
During the years of passing familiarity, I became aware that Claudio's voice was the sole dividing factor on whether or not you liked the band.  That impossibly high register makes my manhood shrivel every time I hear it, and yet...  can't stop listening to them these days.
Around the time of their third album, I went ahead and acquired all three then-existing records.  I listened to a track or two on each, images of shrinky-dinks floating through my head.  The band rocks pretty hard - at least to those of us with musical tastes rooted in punk and metal. 
I couldn't decide whether or not I was a fan of the band at that time.  So I filed those three records away, saying to myself "I'll listen to the next record when it comes out, and if it's good then I'll go ahead and let my self like this band.  If it sucks, these records are going in the trash."
And then they came out with Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV Volume 2: No World for Tomorrow.  (By the way, that's quite a mouthful of an album title but it's nothing compared to its predecessor, Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV Volume 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness.)
Good Apollo Vol. 2 rocks damn hard.  DAMN hard.  The vocals at that point in the band's career were becoming more tempered, using more of his lower range in addition to the familiar high-pitched wail.  They broadened their sound, becoming markedly less Emo, and much more Prog-Metal.  It was at that time that I accepted my fan status and fully familiarized myself with the band.
I, a rabid fan of concept-heavy progressive music, was delighted to find out that all of their albums were chapters in a single concept-album-rock-opera-sci-fi-mega-saga.  Each of the first four albums relates a chapter in the saga.  The fifth is the prequel to the first four.  Their sixth and seventh together form a tale set in the same story universe, though not directly part of the same narrative.  Claudio even has a side project, The Prize Fighter Inferno, that tells another story that is indirectly linked to the primary story universe.
And all of the albums are linked with comic books and/or novels that detail the story (not exactly, we'll go into that in a moment).
It's incredibly ambitious.  To tell a huge story like that through the difficult medium of rock music.  It's hard enough writing good rock songs.  It's really hard writing good stories (I know).  Doing the two together, while also crafting the lyrics and songs to stand on their own, so that an understanding of the story is not essential to enjoyment of the music... that's genius.
I won't go into the story here for three reasons. 1. It's really huge.  2. You can learn about it on wikipedia.  3. I haven't read it.
The comics have been through a good deal of difficulty in the publishing process.  The art department has been a revolving-door cast since the beginning, and the money/enthusiasm on the part of publishers has not always been present, so the actual output of the story has been VERY inconsistent.  There isn't even a single issue to accompany Good Apollo Vol. 2 yet.  Now that the band is pretty huge, they're going back through, re-releasing it, crafting some new stuff, making it better, continuous and consistent.  I've decided to wait for the 20th anniversary Complete Amory Wars boxed-set before I bother to turn a single page.  I'm not a sap, I don't want to spend a million dollars picking up this copy or that issue or the new edition.  I just want the story, so I'm gonna wait until they put it into one big, hulking thing and then I'm gonna buy it once. 
But I know most fans won't feel that way.  And that is why Claudio Sanchez is really freakin' smart. Not only did he diversify into multiple mediums, he parted it out so that he could build a rabid fan base, foaming at the mouth with anticipation for that next installment.  Granted, the guy's not getting super-rich on comics, but it's still a good idea.  And there's always that stack of cash from album sales to fall back on.
Now, apparently, Mark Wahlberg's company has optioned the thing for a movie.  How they're gonna squeeze it into one, I don't know, and if they're smart (which I believe they are) they won't try.  They have the groundwork laid to do a minimum of 5 movies out of this thing, and the band's following, plus sci-fi movie fans, plus comic book movie fans, plus general hollywood fans (presuming the casting is done well)...  that makes a pretty huge audience.  If Mark Wahlberg et. al. are halfway intelligent, they'll keep the fans on the hook and milk this thing for every drop.  That's what I'd do.  Plus a big story benefits from not being rushed, so it's the artistically sound thing to do as well.
As totally stoked as I am about all of the above, I still have a tiny part of me that hates the rest of me for loving this band.  And Claudio's voice isn't the reason.
The fact that has come to light over my research on the band and the story is this: Claudio Sanchez is one self-obsessed egotistical motherfucker.  And I can't really blame him: after all he would have to be stupid to not know how smart he is.  But sitting there and watching it go on... after a while I'm like "Okay, you're interesting!  I GET IT."
The thing is, the main character in The Amory Wars shares a name and physical appearance with Claudio.  And if that wasn't enough, in the comic of Good Apollo Vol. 1, the story takes a detour into the world of a character called "The Writer" who is writing the story of the main characters, who ALSO shares important physical attributes with Claudio.  IF THAT STILL WASN'T ENOUGH, Claudio's comic company also produces a corny, violent, jokey comic series called "Kill Audio".  If the connection there isn't obvious to you, I hereby forbid you from ever reading another word I write.  I've never read "Kill Audio", but from what I can see it's a cartoony version of him going around getting in fights.
As annoyed as I am by all of that, I still like this band a lot.  I can't help myself.  And it's not even a guilty pleasure, like my occasional listen to Korn.  I actually, genuinely like Coheed and Cambria.  I'll defend it in conversation, even though I'm aware of their faults.  Somehow, despite the improbability of everything, they pull it off.  They're WAY too big for their britches, but somehow it still fits.
I'm a nerd.  And Coheed is a band that beckons you to nerd out on them.  It's brilliant strategy on Claudio's part, that he can hook a skeptic like me, come off looking like a total bastard and still keep my approval.  It's like a fucking magic trick or something.
It's no mystery why I, an avid metal head, would like a song like this.
What doesn't make sense to me is why I like this song too.
And yet I HATE this song. It sounds totally lame to me.
But this one doesn't.
I'm frustrated.  But what the hell, you only live once.  AFI blows, but Coheed and Cambria kick ass.  I'll stand proud and say that to my most bearded-up, whiskey-guzzling, metal head friends.  Fuck you.

#coheedandcambria #amorywars #amorywarsmovie #sorryimnotsorry #claudiosanchez #metal #punk #emo #music

Oh, and that's another thing.  You're gonna start seeing hashtags in these posts.  I was an idiot to never include them before, they drive up your web traffic like crazy.  Even though the point of this blog is just to be my journal essentially, it doesn't hurt to create a little buzz around yourself if you can.  I eventually would like to charge people money to read my stories, you know.

#commercialism #capitalism #getpaid #shamelessselfpromotion #imawesome #yousuck