Fated to Pretend


New Pazz and Jop Village Voice rock critics’ poll.  I contributed to this for years and was always thrilled when the editors chose a couple of my elaborately-wrought witticisms/quips for inclusion in the commentary section.  The only one I remember is something I wrote about Pavement “giving the Badfinger to the rock and roll singer,” which they used as the caption for a photo of Pavement; this made my week/year, nerd that I was.

It makes me a touch melancholy how little the Pazz and Jop poll now seems to matter.  Before blogs, it was one of the only occasions (the only?) for pop music critics to crack wise, make jokes, and spin out ambitious theories apart from the strictures of a record review or band profile.  Now Robert Christgau’s over at MSN.com, and at best, it’s just another concatenation of online opinion.

So anyway, my big discovery so far from the poll (which is still useful as a guide to the year’s music) is MGMT, whose name I’d seen but had not paid any attention to.  They’re two former Wesleyan undergrads who make a kind of psychedelic electronic pop; their song “Time to Pretend” (#4 on the singles poll), extravagantly produced by a guy from the Flaming Lips, is beyond brilliant and catchy.  Youtube won’t let me embed the video for some reason so here’s the link.  Gets my vote for best/catchiest “single” of the year along with “Paper Planes” (btw can I say how ripped off I felt when I realized that the song does not actually appear anywhere in Pineapple Express, not even in the closing credits?  Whoever had the idea to use “Paper Planes” in the trailer made that movie.)

I also just finished reading Barney Hoskins’ history of pop music in L.A., Waiting for the Sun, and “Time to Pretend” resonates with the book for me as a delirious narrative of dropping out, jettisoning the straight life for good, and disappearing into an abyss of drugs, money, models, and rock and roll:

This is our decision, to live fast and die young.
We’ve got the vision, now let’s have some fun.
Yeah, it’s overwhelming, but what else can we do.
Get jobs in offices, and wake up for the morning commute?

Forget about our mothers and our friends
We’re fated to pretend
To pretend
We’re fated to pretend
To pretend

I’ll miss the playgrounds and the animals and digging up worms
I’ll miss the comfort of my mother and the weight of the world
I’ll miss my sister, miss my father, miss my dog and my home
Yeah, I’ll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone.

There’s really nothing, nothing we can do
Love must be forgotten, life can always start up anew.
The models will have children, we’ll get a divorce
We’ll find some more models, everything must run it’s course.

We’ll choke on our vomit and that will be the end
We were fated to pretend
To pretend
We’re fated to pretend
To pretend

It could be the confession of any of the lost narcissists of California pop whose stories Hoskins tells, fantasists “fated to pretend,” some geniuses, some just poseurs or hangers-on (some both, needless to say), making up their identities, doing way too much coke, marrying and divorcing models; for the less fortunate ones, an eventual ignominious death by mishap, for the luckier, eventual rehabilitation with memoir a la David Crosby.  Hoskins really allows one to see Darby Crash, Arthur Lee, and Tim Buckley (for example) as part of the same continuum of doomed/self-destructive L.A. singers.  (On rock and roll deaths, see this site.)

Anyway, the song is an irresistible “amuse bouche” as Charles Aaron put it, filled with outlandish musical flourishes and unearned grandeur.  “Kids” is also great.

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