Sunday, April 21, 2013

Exactly What We Don't Want To Hear

For those of us who knew him even a little, the sudden, unexplained death of Scott Miller last Monday was a nasty punch to the gut. Scott may have been an obscure cult singer-songwriter whose career peaked in the 80s and 90s, but he had not been idle. His recent book, Music: What Happened?, combined music criticism with personal reminiscence, employing the same wit and charm that filled his quirky, infectious songs. And, saddest of all, it looks like he was on the verge of reuniting his early band Game Theory to record some new material when he was taken away.

Scott's music could be glibly classified as "power pop", but his bands would never be mistaken for the late 70s/early 80s wave of skinny-tie bands singing predictable songs about crushes on pretty girls to recycled British Invasion riffs. Every Game Theory or Loud Family album was stuffed with terse, complex, melodic songs that reveled in wordplay without losing their essential warmth. Not the stuff of top 40 hits, and strangely out of time with the aggression of punk or the smoothness of synth-pop, Scott could have ridden the coattails of bands like REM or the Smiths, but the timing wasn't right. (Who can predict these things? A lot of people pretend they can, but in the end all it amounts to is dumb luck, wild guesses and bullshit.) But even if the "heartland indie", "rock of the 80s", and "alternative rock" booms passed him by, Scott always had a hardcore fanbase who loved his unique gifts.

I was always dimly aware of Game Theory, but with so much to pay attention to during the independent music explosion of the 80s, I never made it a priority to check them out. I may have to chalk some of that up to an aversion to more pop-oriented music I had at the time. I felt a need for something more primal and rude. (Less Beatles and Kinks, more Stones and Who, maybe.) I did finally see the light, though, when the Loud Family wound up on the same label (Alias) as my band X-tal, and put out the jaw-droppingly good album Plants And Birds And Rocks And Things. We played a label showcase gig together where I met him for the first time. I don't remember much of our conversation, except that he was an incredibly friendly, upbeat person with a way of putting you at ease. He was the same the other time I met him, when the Loud Family played Terrastock 2 in 1999. Just a genuine, sincere, very cool guy.

His personality came across in everything he did: the songs, the book, or in person. He left behind a wife and two children. He was 53. Strange how, in a week of tragedies and deaths his was the one that affected me most. This was personal. Scott Miller was one of the good ones, and I'm sorry to see him go.

Check out my all-time favorite Loud Family song here. Even with 75% of the lyrics delivered as a spoken-word piece, the tune is ridiculously catchy. The words themselves deserve to be quoted at length; it's the story of a character who spends his life striving to be the quintessential alpha male, only to realize his entire belief system is a ruse. I would love to do a video of this song using nothing but footage of Don Draper in Mad Men:

I used to go out with supermodels
But it didn't make my life okay
I used to be the cold stare, don't care
Stay fresh in the Frigidaire
I just assumed that was a moré*
I didn't spot the setup

I used to get A's in psychology class
But it didn't make my life okay
I used to be the point-blank think tank
What I say or daddy spank
I just assumed that would pay the way
I didn't spot the setup

And I could always be the judge
And bear the grudge
And tell you where you lost it
And I could always be the one
Shade your sun
And steal your fun away
But it didn't make my life okay

BY THE WAY: An untimely death has already garnered Scott some of the attention he deserved more of when he was alive. To catch up with a great artist you may have missed out on, the Loud Family website will get you off to a good start.

*OK, this is driving me slightly nuts. All the lyric websites think he said "amore", but I always assumed it was the singular of "mores" as in cultural values, as in "I just assumed that was the way it was supposed to be." Wordnik claims "the singular is rarely used", but it just seems more right somehow. If only Scott was around to straighten this out...

FURTHER UPDATE: A site has been set up to help out Scott's family. Click here for the Scott Miller Memorial Fund.


Anonymous said...

Possible Law Case with Georgetown University for Sexism and Racism Discrimination in Enrollment Process

Brief: A female advisor in the admissions department at Georgetown University has been caught openly admitting that she committed the CRIME of discrimination based on people's race and gender in the application process.

This has the potential to create a large scale lawsuit against Georgetown University, and with the momentum building at the rate it is building, seems very likely that will be the outcome.

Below are the main links to all of the information regarding this news story and case.

J Neo Marvin said...

Looks like we got us an MRA spambot. Thanks for the oh-so-relevant comment.

J Neo Marvin said...

Wow. This butthurt factoid is all over the intertubes this morning. For extra cuteness, on Whiskey Fire, the author is "John Rambo", rather than just being anonymous.

If there was a Youtube link for it, I could answer with another Scott Miller song (remember him? This was supposed to be a post about him), namely, "Ballad Of How You Can All Shut Up".

J Neo Marvin said...

Oh by the fucking way: as regular lurkers will know, I am currently enrolled at a major American university. Setting aside my miniscule amount of Native American ancestry, I am a middle-aged straight white guy. I had no trouble getting in, and I see no shortage of white males on campus. of course, I see a lot of OTHER people there besides, which may be Anonymous John Rambo's real problem. What a sad day when your white skin won't automatically open the door for you. Boo hoo, already.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

You're definitely right about the word more. Amore doesn't make any sense, and considering the way Scott wrote songs, it would be unexpected at least.

Coincidentally, I used the same title for my post about this. For which one of my regular commenters told me I was blogging incorrectly then flounced off. Oh well.

Regarding the MRA crap: don't bother with the latest Blue October album. It's like the lyrics are lifted directly from AVFM.