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 Everett True

Song of the day – 326: Odd Future

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Yes. I think so.

I don’t wanna cross no picket line, but I like N.W.A., The Frogs and Jerry Sadowitz. Shock tactics have their place. It’s good that folk respond, and it’s good that folk don’t let the use of such shock tactics go unquestioned, but it’s good to have shock tactics too. 2 Live Crew sucked because they sucked. Buju Banton just weren’t funny (cos it wasn’t shock tactics, for one). I can’t condone Ike Turner’s lifestyle. But the flow is elastic, and the imagery inventive. I like Odd Future. Ricky Gervais says totally offensive stuff in that 2010 coming-of-age movie Cemetery Junction, but that’s OK cos he’s an actor (and it’s as funny as shit because we’ve been given a context within which we’re allowed to find such stuff funny as shit). I’ve met Nick Cave a few times, and – seriously – I don’t reckon he has ever killed or raped a woman. Same goes for Mike D, too (who I’ve also met a few times). I personally find Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer or a film like London To Brighton or pretty much any mafia-glorifying movie way more offensive than almost any music I can name, even Coldplay. I really fucking enjoyed the character of Kid Marvel in Alan Moore’s Marvelman: doesn’t mean I want to go out and rape, pillage and plunder half the earth, or even harbour a secret desire to. The lines have been blurry for a very long time now, probably forever (looking back to 16th Century depictions of Hell).

I interviewed Marilyn Manson just after the Columbine killings (which the media were trying to blame on him), and he was one of the most erudite, intelligent interviewees it’s been my pleasure to speak to.

So my question here is: since when was the singer ever the song?

Stay tuned for Neil Kulkarni’s brilliant summation of Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All from 2010, being reprinted on Collapse Board later this week.

Also, what Lucy Cage says in the paragraphs below reprinted from here.

“I feel sick that there are people out there that think this is ‘a bit of fun’. Trust me on this one, rape is not entertainment or fun.”

Hannah, sorry to go about this, but it is something that I feel really strongly about: those lyrics, however repulsive you find them, are not rape. And they are entertainment. Those kids are having fun, even if you might not understand why or feel utterly offended that they are. They may well be doing all sorts of other things culturally as well but they are primarily making music. Not raping anyone, or, directly, making fun of any individual who has been raped.

Thinking something, writing something down, making art out of it is not equivalent to doing it, even if the subject matter offends you to the core. Whoever said it was black black metal had a good point. I’m reminded of Marilyn Manson being blamed for Columbine or the banning of A Clockwork Orange. It’s scary shit but that’s why we’re talking about it.

Whether or not you think rape a suitable subject for kids to be rapping about is where criticism comes in: are those lyrics really damaging anyone? Do they create or reflect culture? Are they simply playing with the darkest shit they can dredge out of their hormonally-buzzing teenage minds or actually inciting people to action? Why do they want to disgust the old, the white, the middle-class so? (Sure that’s pretty obvious, really.) That’s where the debate is, calling them up on the fire they’re playing with. And calling up the writers who rave about them, too, as Wallace is doing: is it really the “guiltiest of thrills” to enjoy their songs, as one (male, hipster, intellectual) blogger wrote: what the fuck’s that all about? But the fact remains that they are having fun and making art, not murdering anyone.

23 Responses to Song of the day – 326: Odd Future

  1. Wallace Wylie April 18, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Why did people get angry about this then?

    http://clembastow.tumblr.com/post/3590311295/some-days-i-love-my-job-more-than-others

    Who defended him and said that he wasn’t really a rapist?

  2. Everett True April 18, 2011 at 8:17 am

    For the same reason I didn’t find Buju Banton funny. You take each case as it comes.

  3. BC April 18, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Who said the singer is the song? It’s about perpetuating rape culture. And yea, it’s much easier for ppl statistically much less likely to have to deal with rape to shrug it off and enjoy a good song.

  4. Wallace Wylie April 18, 2011 at 8:54 am

    If Lucy’s words mean anything then they have to apply to art we like and don’t like. Now, as far as the Brian McFadden song goes, he was forced to make a public apology, the song was pulled, and money made was donated to charity…and this was seen as some kind of victory. Aren’t we getting into the realms of censorship at that point? Seems to me anybody who agreed with Lucy’s words should have been out there fighting for the song’s right to exist, for people to understand that Brian McFadden was not actually a rapist. If an Odd Future song were ever pulled from the shelves (or the internet) for being offensive the anger it would incur would be enormous. But where was that same moral indignation in regards to a piece of entertainment that many found trite?

  5. Lucy Cage April 18, 2011 at 9:33 am

    @Wallace: there’s no discrepancy, as far as I can see. Of course Bryan McF is not a rapist. Of course his crappy song has every right to exist. It may be shite but I wouldn’t call for it to be banned/pulled/burnt, just pulled apart by the fierce and furious of the blogosphere; Clem Bastow’s tirade is a fiery piece of writing which stirred it up righteously and called him out on his unthinking misogyny (there’s one difference with Odd Future right there: they are quite consciously and obviously being provocative, whereas Bry was just being a dumbfuck twat and needed it pointing out to him by someone with some nous), just as you quite rightly unpicked the peculiar blindspot demonstrated by the LA Weekly article which brushed aside Odd Future’s lyrics with the word “weird”: that wasn’t just poor writing on her part, it revealed something quite telling about the nature of writing about culture at this particular moment in time.

    I’m glad he got his arse kicked, but the only ‘victory’ won in the Bryangate war, of course, would have been a sea change in attitudes towards women.

  6. Wallace Wylie April 18, 2011 at 10:02 am

    @Lucy.So if you were stopped from buying am Odd Future track because some people complained you would be silent on the subject?

  7. Everett True April 18, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Wallace, why would you even equate Brian McFadden with Odd Future?

    A much better parallel would be Jerry Sadowitz.

  8. Wallace Wylie April 18, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Because I want people to apply their defence to people that they don’t like. The rationale behind defence of artistic output should be the same regardless of whether the art is good or bad.

    Saying something completely shocking to get a laugh is a different thing. Do Odd Future want to get a laugh? What do they want? Did Brian McFadden want to get a laugh?

  9. Lucy Cage April 18, 2011 at 10:28 am

    If I thought that some organisation had censored Bryan McFadden in order to suppress his, um, *art*, I would be shouting from the rooftops about the injustice. Possibly. But as far as I can tell he asked the song not to be played on the radio and said he was donating the proceeds to charity. That’s either genuine remorse or canny PR; either way it’s not censorship.

    If people’s complaints about Odd Future resulted in their tracks being withdrawn/banned, it would presumably be without their consent. Different kettles of fish.

  10. Everett True April 18, 2011 at 10:38 am

    @Wallace Actually, I agree. I think there is a certain amount of disingenuous selectivity going on, and folk should ‘fess up to that. Which is partly the crux of your original argument, right?

    So why is it OK for Nick Cave, The Beatles (“I’d rather see you dead little girl/Then to be with another man”) and A Clockwork Orange, but not Odd Future? All, in their time, have been imaginative, innovative, provocative. Why is it OK to like The Godfather, which totally glamorises gangster culture … or hundreds and thousands of slasher movies? (I’m not saying you necessarily think any of this, Wallace.)

    However.

    The rationale behind defence of artistic output should be the same regardless of whether the art is good or bad.

    I’m not sure I agree with this. I don’t think it’s possible to apply a universal law to art. Not least because then you get onto the very thorny territory of trying to define what ‘art’ is.

  11. Scott April 18, 2011 at 11:04 am

    To ET’s above list of ‘uncomfortable art,’ I’d like to add pretty much anything by William S. Burroughs (hell, he actually shot & killed his wife), ‘Bodies’ by the Sex Pistols, and ‘Land’ by Patti Smith. Also Patrick Suskind’s ‘Perfume,’ a shitload of 19th-century french writers, ‘Straw Dogs,’ etc. etc. etc.

    Hell, ‘Stray Cat Blues,’ by the god-almighty Rolling Stones is sung from the perspective of a guy having rough sex with a 15-year-old girl. And The Beatles have lines like “I used to be cruel to my woman and beat her and kept her away from the things that she loved.” And that actually WAS autobiographical. Even ‘Summer Nights’ from Grease features the guys wondering “did she put up a fight.”

    But for the record, I do think that rape is really bad. And I think if the only hate you express is towards those you perceive as weaker than you, then you’re basically a coward–or in OFWWJD’s words, a fucking pussy. Doesn’t stop me from listening to their music, but it does keep me from having a whole lot of respect for them.

  12. Lucy Cage April 18, 2011 at 11:10 am

    ^^^ Or indeed, what ‘good’ or ‘bad’ are all about.

    Wallace, I don’t think being wholeheartedly against censorship is incompatible with either defending or attacking any piece of work by writing about it, whether it’s one you think is brilliant or one you find disturbing. Or banal. Or unpleasant or even downright nasty. There’s plenty of art that I don’t either get or don’t like that I’d defend from censorship, even while I was railing against what I might perceive it said about the society which spawned it. Death metal springs gruesomely to mind. I’d rather articulate what it was about the art that was fascinating or terrifying or zeitgeisty, why I thought it was shit or why I thought it was awesome, than censor it.

    Not that *I* could do any banning anyway: critics may get to say what the fuck they like but censorship is almost always a play of power and privilege. And doesn’t usually even achieve what it sets out to do: if a song is banned for (apparently: complex call) glorifying violent rape, say, you’re doing less than fuck all to protect the women who are actually getting raped. You’re diverting the focus of attention from the problem itself (society being rooted in patriarchy) to a manifestation of the problem. It’s like trying to cure measles by dabbing TCP on the spots: not only hopeless but potentially lethal.

  13. Chad Parkhill April 18, 2011 at 11:26 am

    “You’re diverting the focus of attention from the problem itself (society being rooted in patriarchy) to a manifestation of the problem. It’s like trying to cure measles by dabbing TCP on the spots: not only hopeless but potentially lethal.”

    ^ Quoted for truth.

    I’ve been following the debate about Odd Future on this blog for the last few days and it seems that a lot of people’s understanding of media is arse-backwards. Media are only ever created within a cultural and societal framework. If you see an idea or image in media – no matter how shocking, nice, or banal – it’s an idea or image that is already floating around out there. Censoring those media because you disagree with it won’t kill that idea or image, since media aren’t the only way we communicate, and people tend to have their ideas reinforced if they feel that cultural élites are suppressing their free expression.

  14. Lucy Cage April 18, 2011 at 11:33 am

    I realise, by the way, that I am droning on about censorship when that’s not exactly the debate that is going on here. In response to Wallace’s original question, sort of, I’d welcome a decent, sharp feminist or queer critique of Odd Future’s songs, but it would have to take into account what it is that is so thrilling about their music; their knowingness; the fact that words aren’t deeds; the hipster hyping by whitey and the power-play stuff going on there; the world they exist in and their age – hell, most of the stuff my teenage Facebook friends write to each other on their walls is quite as shudder-inducing as listening to EARL – so that it wasn’t an indiscriminate dismissal of something that is by its nature incredibly complex.

  15. Wallace Wylie April 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I can only say again, and I hope it’s understood, that at no point did I ask for censorship.

    Isn’t all misogyny that comes out of an individuals mouth simply a manifestation of societal patriarchy, and wouldn’t any attempt to challenge it be simply challenging the manifestation and not the patriarchy itself? Challenging some loudmouth guy in a bar who’s spouting sexist bullshit could actually get him angry, and he may take that anger out on a woman, so does that mean we shouldn’t challenge him? What we accept and what we reject can all be rationalised in some way. I just think for a music site that bases a lot of its critiques on the inherent sexist nature of society and and in particular the music business a lot of these arguments that are being used in defence of Odd Future actually undermine arguments made in others articles and comments that focus on manifestations of misogyny.

    @Everett. I think it is the overwhelming amount of rape references that disturb me. I think there is a certain amount of sexism and violence that a person simply has to allow or else almost no art would be enjoyable, but it seems to me a person should be allowed to say “Isn’t this too much? What are we actually being entertained by here?”. I’ll certainly admit to there being selectivity on my part, but I’m not sure what the reason are. Why yes to “The Godfather” but no to Odd Future? Why no to “Straw Dogs”? Why no to Lars Von Trier? I clearly have internal limits and I’m not sure there’s a logical way to pinpoint them. I think another reason for my original outburst was that I am uncomfortable listening to Odd Future and I want to know why other people aren’t.

  16. Everett True April 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Well, I think Lucy has argued fluently as to her reasons. And we have Neil Kulkarni coming up (again) tomorrow … I’m intrigued as to why I’m not uncomfortable listening to Odd Future, whereas a film (that most others took as innocuous) like London To Brighton really upset me. Does it come down to what Beth says:

    It’s much easier for ppl statistically much less likely to have to deal with rape to shrug it off and enjoy a good song.

    I have several feminist friends who are fans of Odd Future, who DO approve of censorship in other areas of the media. Like Wallace, I’d like to know their take on this.

  17. Princess Stomper April 18, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    “Why yes to “The Godfather” but no to Odd Future?”

    Because Nick Cave is to The Godfather as Odd Future is to Saw. I personally think the first two, though of high quality, are rather overhyped, and the last two … the minute you take the arguments about whether it’s “too much” out of the way, you’re left with something of middling quality that’s not nearly as groundbreaking or interesting as it thinks it is.

  18. BC April 19, 2011 at 12:52 am

    TBH, for me, as I get older, I have less of a thick skin about violence, misogyny, racism, ableism in media and don’t find jokes that I once would have laughed at at all funny or commentary that i would once have found profound to be particularly affective.. While one can develop a character in a song, wouldn’t it depend on whether that character takes misogyny to such an extreme that even misogynists feel uncomfortable? I could transpose the critique to experiences of watching Borat in cinemas, where, even though it’s meant to be a satiric reflection on racism etc, it actually just has a whole lot of ppl feeling reinforced in their prejudice and saying fuck yea!

    I’m not for censorship of any kind, for any artist, mainly because I think pushing things underground makes them worse. But I can choose who to give power to by listening to their music/watching their films etc. This, for me, has meant disengaging with a lot of (particularly mainstream) media (and is also why I never liked john lennon, because he actually was a wife beater). Is that a bad thing? does it mean I am somehow sheltered? – I don’t know – I feel like I’ve seen enough rape scenes in movies (of both men and women) to last me a lifetime, none of which seem to provide new insight or critique into what it would actually feel like to be raped, and most of which seem like another round of humiliation to throw at rape survivors. Also, if you wanna know about rape etc, you can pretty much read the feminist blogosphere any day of the week and get educated about some more awful shit that happened to women somewhere.

    I’m not advocating other people should follow suit, but I don’t think people who can’t/will not engage with media that asks them to forgo strongly held political beliefs should be called too PC or some shit like that, so long as those opinions are applied equally across artists, genres, etc.

  19. Erika M April 19, 2011 at 3:12 am

    @BC John Lennon “actually was a wife beater”? Is that some kind of common knowledge? Boy am I out of the loop.

  20. BC April 19, 2011 at 8:38 am

    That’s what I’ve heard – that the lyrics about hurting women (jealous guy and other songs) were about lennon’s abusive relationship with wife no. 1. Maybe I got it wrong?

  21. BC April 19, 2011 at 8:38 am

    I never liked his music regardless.

  22. Darragh April 19, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Fuck Odd Future and their songs about rape, I’m putting on some Manson Family tapes and kickin back!

  23. Patrik April 20, 2011 at 6:30 am

    One thing that seems to get glossed over in all this Odd Future rape hype is what young women the artist’s age think of the lyrics. It’s easy for those of us who were exposed to 90s feminism to forget that sexual dynamics change quickly. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that many women might actually be titillated and excited by the misogynistic sentiments expressed in some songs (Hell, look at how popular Mad Men is, a show which basically peddles in misogyny. And Don Draper is a sex-symbol now). Sexual fantasy/role playing is very popular, and is often much darker than typical “naughty nurse” or domination scenarios. God help us all, rape is another genre of porn now.

    I don’t want to defend Odd Future’s lyrical decisions, I just wanted to bring up a side of the argument I don’t see being put forward in the blogosphere discussion. Girls and women like Odd Future, too, and I’m not totally convinced they just ignore the lyrics as childish (although that’s what I do). Remember that they are a generation who grew up in a world too safety conscious to allow see-saws on a playground; a certain banality pervades their lives and it doesn’t surprise me that they end up expressing their inner thoughts and soul in ways that are considered extreme.

    And who’s to say the artists in question aren’t just exercising personal demons through a confessional? Would that be better or worse? I remember pages of Kurt Cobain’s journal dedicated to telling the story of how he statutorily raped a mentally handicapped girl. I don’t know that the story was actually true, but is it worse that his mind fabricates twisted fantasies or that he’s expressing remorse for a terrible indiscretion? I guess that’s what sometimes makes art interesting.

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