curly strings

CURLY STRINGS are a new and sincere {Estonian} band. I love them but their sincerity bothers me. They have achieved, perhaps with a few young others, what those of us who have tried to escape the mucky muck of swampy postmodernism have long sought after but only partially achieved — the ability to say something honestly without using cultural references or props to disguise or flavor the message.

Consider this audience member, Justin. Yesterday, I wore my Question Mark and the Mysterians t-shirt. I wear this t-shirt because I like Question Mark and the Mysterians’ music, even though their hit song, “96 Tears,” was recorded in 1966, many years before I was born. When I was a teenager, I was not supposed to like this music because it was my parents’ music, and therefore did not belong to me. To me, belonged nothing, because anything anyone my age produced was derivative and thus nothing. Even Nirvana produced nothing but noise and anger and therefore nothing but the soundtrack to this hollow nothingess. It was the Golden Age of Nihilism.

Consider this. In 1966, Question Mark, the lead singer of a rock band, claimed to be an alien, which seemed to jibe with the Star Trek future fascination of that more idealistic era. The name “Question Mark” referred to questions about his origins. His song about his feelings, “96 Tears” was sincere. In 1996, a person singing in a rock band who claimed to be an alien was merely referencing the past. His rendition of the song was in half jest, he was partially mocking the naivete of the past. Even if he enjoyed the song secretly, and felt the lyrics expressed his true feelings, he would be mocked as being a poseur and derivative. And so postmodernist man learned to smile when he was sad, and not say anything when he was angry. The postmodernist world was brutal like that.

The only means out of this postmodernist hurt trap matrix was quirky metamodernism, which is what I latched onto to save my heart. This was the acknowledgment, in film, in literature, in music, of the existence of the postmodernist critique, backed by a healthy middle finger in the same direction. It was a “that’s right, I’m going to dress up like Question Mark, sing ’96 Tears,’ and you won’t even know the difference, because even though it’s derivative, it is also sincere, and everything that came before was derivative anyway …” Maybe you even changed the name of Question Mark to Question Rick, just to be that subversive. One can sense this rebellious attitude in Wes Anderson’s 1998 film Rushmore, when the main character, a teenager named Max Fisher, attempts to build an aquarium on the school’s athletic field. When told that the authorities intend to halt his absurd project, Max responds, “Fuck it. I’m building it anyway.” He is later expelled.

And now to finish this with Curly Strings, those fortunate young souls who have escaped this urban rumble of the modernisms. They are just a folk band with fiddles, mandolins, banjos, basses, curly hair, and sincerity. Even if their songs critique something, it is not a mean-spirited postmodernist critique, and it is not a determined-but-struggling metamodernist burrowing out from the black space hole of late 20th Century cynicism. It just is a message, delivered sincerely, and well. Well done.

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