Top five songs about killing your television
Without TV, Riff Raff's hater count would be a small fraction of what it is today.
We're only a decade or two removed, at most, from the retirement of the phrase "fall television season." It's a misnomer, an anachronism, as if television totally disappears from the face of the Earth every May, only to miraculously re-appear when September rolls around. No, my friends: television is everywhere -- on a cartoonishly huge screen at home or in a doctor's waiting room or in an airport lounge or in the palm of your hand. And television is whatever you want it to be: hackneyed One Day at a Time re-runs, 1980s hair-metal videos, hyper-partisan throw-downs, ultra-niche web comedies, whatever. And, it's (mostly) a waste of everybody's time and attention.
5. The B-52s, "Channel Z"
In which New Wave's party-down flower children Just Say No to cathode rays and televangelists and, you know, pop videos where people are afraid to dance, really dance. (Disclaimer: the author has spun Cosmic Thing more than you have Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Trust.) In a lot of ways, the clip for "Channel Z" is sort of the spiritual (if not stylistic, really) antithesis of this thing, which is still reasonably brilliant and "fuck vicariously-inspired displays of passivity" in its own stunted way.
4. Riff Raff, "White Sprite"
Even Riff himself probably couldn't tell you what this song is about, but I here's how I interpret the chorus: bizarre underground rapper/MTV reality star gets is incessantly hated on; incessant flow of Hatorade keeps bizarre underground rapper/MTV reality star up late; waiting out crippling insomnia in the company of 4 a.m. infomercials while sipping a Sprite from his ICEE chain, bizarre underground rapper/MTV reality star is inspired to immortalize the surreal experience of watching carbonated detonations in a room lit by a television while barely awake. Or something.
3. Robert Pollard, "Television Prison"
Our Bob mocks the concept of cobbling together one's persona entirely from televised scraps. (From the hallowed Kid Marine, harking back to the days when Robert Pollard albums were largely unfuckwithable.) Or maybe he isn't, but if he isn't, how would you even be able to tell for sure? Oh yeah, right, like you've never used media to explain something about yourself or preface a story about something that happened to you. Unless you've lived in a cave until five minutes ago, if you claim this, you are lying, and I will not loan you my bank card.
2. Tool, "Vicarious"
Art-metal's stingiest standard-bearers excoriate the larger culture's hard-on for televised warfare in grand, epic fashion -- see also L7's still-timely, still shred-y "Wargasm" -- to the extent that it's easy to get caught up in the sonic pyrotechnics and miss the message altogether, which happened to me the first couple times I listened to 10,000 Days. Also, James Maynard Keenan always sings like he's been constipated for three weeks straight, which is splendid.
1. Black Flag, "TV Party"
You could argue that this song -- and this video -- are dated, insufferable, and insipid. You could argue these things and be totally right. (You could also argue that it sort of anticipates, well, this.) But at the same time, take a moment to listen to other people talk passionately about a television show you've never seen before and know little to nothing about, and think about how insane that sort of fandom is, dedicated to fake and/or contrived situations and canned laugh tracks and polished cynicism -- when you'll rarely hear the same people this exhilarated about their friends or families or waking, non-network lives. "TV Party" isn't the Best Black Flag Song Ever by any stretch of the imagination, but it succeeds in holding up a mirror to fascinations that don't deserve to exist, like my adoration for Project Runway. None of us are innocent.
Bonus: By popular request, we have added the song that actually seems to be the most direct expression of this theme, Ned's Atomic Dustbin's "Kill Your Television."
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