It takes me a while to come around to certain musical artists. I like to think that I am pretty open-minded about these things, but I have realized there is a certain situation where I have a negative reaction that instigates a pattern of events. It goes like this: 1) I notice a bunch of hype about an artist. 2) I go to itunes or some place where I can hear a quick sample of their music so as to see what the fuss is about. 3) I hear 30 seconds of a song and have an immediate negative gut reaction, often because of high-pitched, yelping male vocals. 4) I ignore all the hype about the artist and decide that I am better than all these people trying to be hip. 5) After a lot of time has passed and I see that people who have good taste like this artist, or maybe I have additional exposure by seeing the artist on tv or hearing them on the radio, I begin to wonder what the deal is and I decide maybe I need to give the artist a better chance than a fifteen second listen to one track. 5) I get the album from the public library (its usually just sitting there on the shelf waiting for me by this time because a lot of time has passed and everyone else who wanted to hear it has heard it) and listen to it all the way through. 6) I end up liking or at least appreciating the artist, usually because of their songwriting skills and not their voice, a year or two after their album originally came out. I have gone through this pattern so many times that it’s ridiculous. Some of the bands I initially hated have become among my favorites: The White Stripes, The Arcade Fire, Tapes n’ Tapes, Spencer Krug’s various projects (Wolf Parade/Sunset Rubdown/Swan Lake), and there are almost none that I don’t at least appreciate now. I don’t know if this belated appreciation pattern will ever end for me. Sometime soon I will probably be giving Joanna Newsom her proper chance, but I haven’t yet.
But there was one artist I thought would never give a real chance. Two years ago I clicked on the sample link, and I heard a whiny, effemanate voice shouting “Clap Your Hands!” over a hurdy-gurdy and choir of his whiny self, and I thought, “No way. We have to draw the line somewhere, and I am drawing it here. I officially hate this band.” I personally know dozens of people who can sing better than that. I think I can sing better than that. I remember thinking the guy’s voice sounded like the voice of the “Jerry-In-The-Box” character from The Island of Misfit Toys in the old Rudolf movie. I was going to make a moral stand against crappy vocalists by hating. At one point, I thought I might make a t-shirt that said “Stomp Your Feet Scream No” to illustrate my disdain (I still might do this). I was not going to stand for more crappy vocalists (although since then I’ve come around to Spencer Krug, who can be as yelpy as they come).
And now it is two years later, and I am sitting here listening to the two full-length albums by that band known as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Nobody wants the library copies anymore, so they were easy to get. I’ve listened to them several times now, and I actually like some of the songs. I don’t think I’m going to go out and buy them, but they are interesting enough. I still maintain that their vocalist is extremely sub-par. They would be a hundred times better with a better vocalist.
I wonder though, how many of the people that said they liked them in the first place actually liked them, and how many were just going along with it because for a little while it was hip in some circles to like them? I actually think that when I start liking something, you can rest assured that it is no longer hip.