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Why Everett True is sort of wrong… er… well, not exactly right… partially right yet partially not… oh well… whatever… nevermind…

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everett true the short-tempered philosopher

by Joseph Kyle

A few weeks ago, Mr. True made a comment on his Facebook about being wrong. I snidely remarked, “Why not have a ‘Why Everett True is Wrong’ week,” an idea to which he quickly agreed. My original suggestion was made as a desire to refute his overwhelming opinion towards The Polyphonic Spree’s cover of ‘Lithium’.

Part of Mr. True’s rather heated, vitriolic — and, well, somewhat amusing — opinion of the cover stems from his obvious relationship with the song’s author and the band that made it. While his connection with grunge in general and that band in particular cannot be denied, I will not go on record as putting him in the awkward position of being the band’s defender, guardian, or spokesman, because, well, the man’s a legend, and he earned the title well before he knew that scruffy kid from Aberdeen.

Attempts to rebut his piece became a daunting task. I’m sure that many of the souls who wrote supportive comments about what he said were simply doing so out of sycophancy, because Everett True is a legend, has a history, blah blah blah bullshit bullshit statements about fame and renown. Those kinds of comments are easy to spot as they usually consist of flattery mixed with even angrier comments. Some people were brave to defend their take on the song, especially because those doing so must know that, well … Everett wasn’t joking in his opinion.

So though I, as a Polyphonic Spree fan, find his take on the band silly, if not downright misguided, I do appreciate that his animosity towards their cover comes from a proximity to the original that I simply cannot have, and, as such, I cannot fault him for his belief, nor would I care to engage in any attempt to dissuade him to change his mind. Is that wimpy of me? Perhaps it is. Maybe if I’d been in a van with the man, talking about the songs that he was playing, getting to bond with the songwriter, maybe my opinions would be different.

Perspective is sometimes difficult. Back in the 90s on an email list about Tim Buckley, I inadvertently offended Lee Underwood, bassist, longtime friend, and advocate of the late songwriter. In a discussion about drugs I paraphrased a quote about Nico, stating, “In the end, he was just another damn junkie casualty”. Underwood — being a friend of Tim’s — was upset by this. I pointed out that no offense was meant, yet if Buckley didn’t want to be forever labeled a junkie he probably shouldn’t have died of a morphine-related overdose. After the heat calmed down, he conceded that the subject of his death was a touchy one, but because he was a friend he sometimes forgot that others have a different point of view,  not being close to the subject in question.

At the same time, I too come to this conversation with my own biases, especially towards The Polyphonic Spree. I have been a long-time supporter of the band, being amazed and enthralled by them mere months after their formation. I have a debt of gratitude and love towards Tim DeLaughter and The Polyphonic Spree that is perhaps on the same level as Everett’s feelings towards Nirvana. I have been a supporter since the band self-released its debut, and have supported them through thick and thin. When albums weren’t that great, I bought them anyway, because I knew the people behind them and knew their intentions were good. After all, when you know that a musician or a band is ‘one of the good ones’, you still support them, right?

[Before Tim DeLaughter was in The Polyphonic Spree, he was in a band called Tripping Daisy. Here’s their big 1995 hit ‘I Got A Girl’.]

(continues overleaf)

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22 Responses to Why Everett True is sort of wrong… er… well, not exactly right… partially right yet partially not… oh well… whatever… nevermind…

  1. mmc August 7, 2011 at 10:12 am

    I was thinking about trying to say something in semi-defense of Tim DeLaughter / Tripping Daisy / Polyphonic Spree when Everett first went postal on the Nirvana cover, but in trying to figure it out I sort of lost the plot. I liked TD/TD in a casual one-hit-wonder way in the nineties and, later, felt like I was supposed to like Polyphonic Spree more than I actually did. Sort of like Flaming Lips after their conceptual album Zaireeka. The Nirvana cover fits in with a broader strain of art and culture that has troubled me for most of the last decade. One day I’ll figure it out and write a book, maybe.

  2. Stocky August 7, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I’m sure I’m late to the party on this but it’s the first time I’ve heard that shit-for-brains jock Fred Durst has a Kurt Cobain tattoo.

    I wish I never knew that.

  3. Princess Stomper August 7, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    When I saw that title, I thought you were going to say: “Because he talks roughly equal parts eye-opening wisdom and eye-watering bullshit, and has simultaneously the best and worst taste in music I’ve ever encountered.” 😀

    Ah, I know what it’s like when you really, really LOVE a band. You know, as people. When it comes to my own favourite, if I had a little voodoo doll, I’d cuddle it just to make him feel more loved. Wouldn’t let him off the hook on a bad record, though. Your choice is basically between saying, “I love you dearly, but that is a fucking terrible piece of music,” or shouting, “LOOK! A BEAR!” any time someone mentions it and running away.

    That was a pretty bloody awful cover version, but it’s good to hear that they’re really nice people. I can’t compare that version to the original because frankly I never, ever, ever, ever want to hear anything from Nevermind ever again. Not because it’s bad, but because I just played it way too often (to the power of 120,000) when it came out. They played Smells Like Teen Spirit EIGHT TIMES at our High School disco, ffs!

    Nice to see a well-worded, passionate defence, though. 🙂

  4. Lucy Cage August 8, 2011 at 12:04 am

    “So though I, as a Polyphonic Spree fan, find his take on the band silly, if not downright misguided, I do appreciate that his animosity towards their cover comes from a proximity to the original”

    No, I don’t think it does. Not just, anyway. His argument, as far as I could see, was that the PS took a song that is essentially a howl of despair and played it as if it were a euphoric hymn to the glories of life. Unless their bopping and grinning and faux-godly hands-waving is a clever and pointed play on the disjunction between the communalistic adrenaline-rush of the music (and I’ve seen this played enough times at clubs to know that this is exactly what it is: everyone get on the floor and shake your fucking hair and ROAR) and the solipsistic anguish of the lyrics (is this not a song about being utterly, hopelessly, devastatingly alone?), then Polyphonic Spree were just being dumbfuck clod-hopping twunts.

    I didn’t know Nirvana personally but I like this song: it spoke to me then and it still has resonance now. It deserves better than being so misrepresented, being turned into a bounce-along-with-the-happy-people love-in. It’s a fucking disgrace actually, is what it is. I’ve enjoyed Polyphonic Spree songs immensely in the past, have nothing against their crowd-carrying joyful endorphin whooshes and have no doubt that they are an absolutely delightful crowd to be pals with but proximity isn’t the issue here. It’s just a really, really bad interpretation of this particular song.

  5. Joseph Kyle August 8, 2011 at 1:08 am

    @Lucy:

    You know, I got to thinking about your point, and I asked myself, “Well, what does ‘Lithium’ mean to me?” I honestly hadn’t thought about that aspect of my interpretation of the song, and whether or not that might have an impact on why I like the PS cover.

    To me, “Lithium” is a weird, oddly-positive, self-love feel-good anthem for the unlovable, loving the person within and being comfortable with it. You know, the cliched, “how can you love anyone if you don’t love yourself first” sort of thing.

    Obviously there is a connection with the medication Lithium, which I don’t necessarily think factors into the song. I could be wrong, of course; as stated before, I see the song as a paean about finding self-satisfaction and the person within.

    Or it could be about Courtney, which, of course, is the easy way out in terms of interpreting it….

  6. Joseph Kyle August 8, 2011 at 1:15 am

    Though, if it’s songs about Lithium you want, then this cannot be beat:

  7. Joseph Kyle August 8, 2011 at 1:48 am

    @Princess Stomper:

    I met Kurt in 1991 in California. He came up to me for a cigarette. I had no idea who he was, just that he was in the band playing with the Melvins. He was very friendly to me, when he found out I was from Texas, he asked me if I knew and/or dug Daniel Johnston/Scratch Acid/Butthole Surfers, and, more surprisingly, The Judy’s. We chatted about music, and about my dissatisfaction at being in Northern California. I returned to Texas shortly after that show, with a glaring disdain for the San Francisco scene and leftist punk in general. “Never let any scene dictate what you like or dislike. The minute you do, you die inside,” was the thing I remember most about that conversation.

    It didn’t really register with me that the band I saw was Nirvana until way after the fame came, and a friend of mine mentioned that to me. I liked the Nevermind songs–and “Lithium” was my fave of the bunch–but it wasn’t until well after Kurt’s death that I owned a copy of the album. To me, Nevermind was the same sort of music that the rednecks around me loved–the year before they’d bought Guns ‘n’ Roses, because, well, that was THE metal record to have, and the next year they’d buy the Metallica Black Album, because that was the one to buy.

    When In Utero came out I fell in love for it, simply because it made those same people say, “what the fuck is this shit?”

    Stomper, I’ve been trying to find a clip from the documentary Hype!, wherein Eddie Vedder has some wonderful things to say about that phenomenon about the backlash of hype…but I can’t find it…

  8. Lucy Cage August 8, 2011 at 2:36 am

    “Obviously there is a connection with the medication Lithium, which I don’t necessarily think factors into the song”

    Um, I think it’s key. I just don’t buy a song which is named after the medication given for bi-polar disorder, talks about hallucinated friends, which switches between homocidal urges, over-enthusiasm and total numbness – a song which epitomises extreme mood swings in its very bones for goodness sake! – being a feel-good anthem.
    It’s what the music is doing against the lyrics that might make you think that, but that’s surely the trick that Nirvana pulled off so well, making an adrenaline-buzz anthem out of mental confusion and isolation.
    Polyphonic Spree do not pull it off. Poncing about with grins and robes while singing such lyrics verges on the offensive.

    I’m not claiming my interpretation is the one and only, it just seems to me to fit.

  9. Joseph Kyle August 8, 2011 at 3:01 am

    Maybe it would be offensive if they did that for only that song, but they don’t….so it’s not an “act” for that interpretation of the song, ’tis who the band is in general.

  10. Lucy Cage August 8, 2011 at 4:03 am

    No, I don’t think it’s an act and I don’t think that was one of ET’s accusations either. And it’s no more offensive *really* than one of my favourite covers ever (a steel band doing Joy Div’s Transmission http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mm6ycEz2A8) and of course anyone can do whatever the hell they like with any song and if their style is happy-clappy euphoric then so be it. Offence is nothing to shy away from. Difference is that the Joy Division cover is funny (it takes the tune of a sacred cow of a dirge and makes it infectiously joyful); unless I’m missing something, PS’s Lithium is not intended to be funny. They mean it.
    What I baulk at is the smoothing out of the song’s wrinkles and contradictions, making it platitudinous and facile. If you were feeling shit and friendless and unbalanced, Nirvana’s version might make you feel someone was articulating your alienation; the PS version would make you want to stab someone in the eye with a their own jaunty little flute.
    My gut reaction remains “get your jolly the fuck away from my song!”

  11. Joseph Kyle August 8, 2011 at 4:49 am

    We’re getting perilously close to talking about “irony” here, Lucy. 🙂

  12. hannah golightly August 8, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Fuck off (ha ha sorry but you tempted my cheeky side with that invitation. Couldn’t resist.)

    You make a good point about biases but that’s what music criticism is: personal bias. Stating the obvious. But that sometimes needs to be done. This is why I automatically resent the self-proclaimed ‘Taste Makers’. This is also why I like reading stuff by ET instead.

    p.s. I don’t like Polyphonic Spree and they have a silly unappealing name that doesn’t help matters. That’s my personal bias.

  13. Joseph Kyle August 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Haha i wondered how long it would take for someone to take me up on that!

    I just think that the “I’m friends with the band, therefore they rule,” sort of thing in art and criticism is along the same lines of the parental, “Because I’m the parent and I say so!” rule–an unqualified opinion that’s justified simply because one has more right to an opinion than others.

    Not that any music critic or journalist would ever engage in such behavior….

  14. Everett True August 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    … an unqualified opinion that’s justified simply because one has more right to an opinion than others…

    Jesus! No.

    What I baulk at is the smoothing out of the song’s wrinkles and contradictions, making it platitudinous and facile. If you were feeling shit and friendless and unbalanced, Nirvana’s version might make you feel someone was articulating your alienation; the PS version would make you want to stab someone in the eye with a their own jaunty little flute.

    What she says. As ever, if the magazines and websites I’m involved in are gaining are any sort of positive reputation it’s because of the talented females (and also males) involved. And yet, everywhere I read, it’s “Everett True’s Collapse Board” … Sigh. It was worse at Plan B Magazine, admittedly – which right from the onset had a FEMALE editor.

  15. Matt O'Neill August 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Man, I fucking love Lucy Cage.

  16. hannah golightly August 8, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Isn’t the proof of the pudding in the eating? Didn’t Nirvana knock Michael Jackson off the top of the charts? When a band with such an uncompromising sound gets to the top of the pop music charts then perhaps there’s a little more to it than simply a bit of hobnobing with journalists. Maybe they just sound excellent. Maybe the change people’s lives and perceptions. Maybe that makes their music sacred to some. And maybe some covers are not appreciated as doing justice to the much loved original. Maybe it’s like when the pop group All Saints did a butchering cover of Under The Bridge by Red Hot Chilli Peppers. And maybe you are the All Saints fan in the equation. Plus what Lucy said.

  17. Joseph August 8, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Hannah,

    Why must it be an either/or situation? Why must music–this fluid, ever-evolving collection of sound–remain in one staid, recognizable, acceptable form, sacrosanct by those that love it, and untouchable? The immortality of music comes in part from its ability to be adapted into ways that speak to others. It is not up to you or I to decide which arrangement is better; the individual must make that choice. You don’t have to like a cover version, but your opinion of the original does not invalidate others’ musical interpretation of it.

    The power of Nevermind was an illusion. It may have seemed to “change” things, and in some ways it did, but did it change things for the better? (Hello, Creed!) Yes, Kurt’s songwriting was great. I can’t help but think, though, that the album’s success had a great deal more to do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in promoting it. Major label MO’s at the time were, Let’s spend as much as possible on the debut, and if it is a super-success, well, great! Then, when they do their next album, we don’t spend so much on promotion, let’s let the b(r)and-name be its promotional tool.

    If you can stomach it–watch that Miley Cyrus video of her doing “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” You’ll notice something interesting: she is not singing in a vacuum; the kids at the front, in the camera’s view—are singing along. What’s up with that? Staid conservatism of “making their music sacred” aside, if those teen girls that were singing along to Cyrus love that song, and pick up Nevermind as a result, and then come to love and appreciate Kurt as an artist, then what great crime has been committed?

  18. Everett True August 8, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    This is a killer pop song. I never liked that Chili Peppers cover, but there again I never could abide the Chili Peppers.

  19. hannah golightly August 13, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Yeah and some people think the Polyphonic Spree are good! Wonders will never cease!

  20. hannah golightly August 13, 2011 at 11:12 am

    “I just think that the “I’m friends with the band, therefore they rule,” sort of thing in art and criticism is along the same lines of the parental, “Because I’m the parent and I say so!” rule–an unqualified opinion that’s justified simply because one has more right to an opinion than others.”

    Eat your own words dude. Just because you like Polyphonic Spree doesn’t mean that their cover of Nirvana is good. Got that?

  21. hannah golightly August 13, 2011 at 11:15 am

    ET. If you didn’t like Blood Sugar Sex Magic you missed a trick. It’s in my top5 albums of all time. I don’t like anything else they’ve done in over ten years, but the fact of their previous genius remains with me.

  22. Duncan August 13, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Joseph,
    “I can’t help but think, though, that the album’s success had a great deal more to do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in promoting it.”
    Sorry, but this is far from the case. ‘Nevermind’ had almost no promotion, by major label standards of the time. DGC had such little faith in the album’s commercial prospects that only a tiny number of copies were shipped to the UK, and the same was true in the US. Their success took everyone by surprise, including their label. That was the real joy of living through those months. It was the song that was everywhere,not giant billboard posters. And that had little to do with promotion, more to do with just how great it was. Well, that, and that zeitgeist-capturing video.

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