IMPO…

On Thursday I will be driving down to Boston to spend the weekend at Anime Boston, specifically with the primary intention of attending girugamesh’s concert and panels. I’ve been prepping for it by listening to their albums and tuning into their Ustream events online. Pretty foolproof.

In anticipation of the founders of Visual Kei fusion genre Anime OP <3’s Teen Angst girugamesh‘s long-awaited US appearance, and following on the heels of their January release (first original album since ‘o9’s toeheaded NOW), entitled GO, I’ve been ruminating on the black-clad host boys an awful lot lately. So before I hit up Boston and see them live and then have everyone blame this on post-concert bias, I wanted to address some things about girugamesh and Visual Kei Today.

Over the past 2 or 3 years, there’s been a lot of griping about what girugamesh has been and will be doing stylistically. As far back as 2008, they began entering their re-debut of adolescent, agonized expressionist experimentation that stirred up some mixed feelings from fans. What started out as white-noise steadily developed into doubtfulness about where the band was moving with its sound and image as they began incorporating elements of mixing, pop and electronica into their previously hardcore shredder scene. This developed into outright concern with releases as early as MUSIC, and certainly increased over time when NOW disappointed in its offerings. Now, with the release of b-average sub-standard singles such as COLOR, doubt and concern is turning to dissatisfaction and, potentially, dissension.

I’ll admit, I have not been remotely hesitant to express my opinions and concerns for the future. Although it’s not usually my wont to do so, I may have, of late, been (in regards to girugamesh, among others) unselfconsciously harsh and, possibly, somewhat insensitive to the quivering, vulnerable feelings of COLOR-loving fangirls.

Although I don’t feel the need to explain myself or my views, as I believe vehemently in that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and certainly I believe that my own blog ought to be allowed to be the vomitorium of my own personal opinions, with or without explanation, but that being said, I have an immense respect for, and value highly, the qualities of objectivity and fairness. Generally I think that if people have something negative, critical, or hateful to say, they should save everyone’s time by not saying it at all. I believe that any criticism should not be spoken unless it has at least a somewhat intellectual argument to back it. If you have an intellectual argument, you can say whatever you want as long as you can express your opinion in a respectful, un-trollish way. Any criticisms that I may have toward girugamesh, or any other band or media figure, would never see the light of internet unless they were spoken from a sense of constructive debate and, from the heart of a Visualist and follower of the band, hopefulness for their continued success and talent.

We should know better by now than to judge something without really giving it a chance, but that being said, sometimes some things are just not a good fit when you first discover them. If you judge or criticize something and then do a 180 and start to admire or respect what you previously bashed, I personally don’t believe in that type of “hypocrisy” at all. When I was younger, I used to ardently despise hardcore music, screamo, death-metal, heavy-metal, hard-rock. Even if I talked bull about it when I was 12, that was just because it hadn’t found me yet. When the correct circumstances came into place, I became quite passionate about that kind of music.

I’ve had a lot of 180’s over the past 5 or 10 years, and through them I’ve (mostly) learned not to judge things or people without a good reason. And if there is a good reason to judge it, and I feel like judging it, it doesn’t make sense to waste energy judging something I don’t even like, so it’s better to make peace with it in yourself and just let it phase right out of your reality. This is why I believe a “dislike” option on Youtube is a pointless idea, and why people’s negative comments look intensely foolish. If you don’t like something, just walk away from it.

For everything you like, there is someone who hates it. For everything you hate, there is someone who loves it. I don’t care how anonymous the internet is, when you bash something, it hurts someone who takes pleasure from the something in question. It’s always easier to find a creative way to say something negative about something you dislike– criticism is by default easier than critique.

I’ve read some reviews on blogs and websites that really buy into negativity. People can write the way they want, and if I don’t like their blogs, I just choose not to read them. However, I do have a hard time accepting critics who have difficulty differentiating between “good music” and “music that I think is good”. Obviously all critics are doing is expressing an arbitrary opinion. All they are saying is “I think this is good,” or “I think this is bad,”, and in the end the only way we can truly judge its quality is by the way it makes us feel. When I listen to music that I think is really superb, it’s struck a certain note in my soul, it makes me feel something. Of course there’s quality of technical content– lyrical composition, programming, skill of the musicians. But I’ve heard some really good musicians play some really boring music and in the end it made me realize how, for me at least, technical quality is just a backseat factor, not a deciding one.

 I don’t think “good music” is a flawless recording played by great musicians. “Good music” is any music that speaks to you, that makes you feel like you could take on the world– regardless of how cheesy or obnoxious it may be technically.

Although mostly all bloggers and critics (professional and amateur alike) post their reviews and critiques as if the contents are Fact, every critic should be forced to have IMPO… tattooed to their forehead for whenever they start dishing.

Musical tolerance is really difficult for a lot of people. I used to only want to hear the music I liked and everybody else could go to hell–and take their mixed tapes with them. But, over the past year or two especially, I’ve developed a lot of tolerance for other types of music. This helps to make you not look like an idiot. And now that I’m a little more open-minded, I can tolerate listening to my sister’s rap music or a friend’s Top 40 station in the car without my soul shriveling up into some cold slimy dead thing in the recesses of my being. Even if I wouldn’t choose to listen to any of that music, I can still hear it from time to time and be able to think, that was really good. I enjoyed that.

Tolerance and acceptance is great and all when you’re wandering around like some kind of Ghandi letting people play their entire Muse discography for you, but sometimes the harshest judgment I see passed is by fans, on the bands they love most. Amidst the irony this makes sense, because obviously you love a band for its most prominent sound, and when the band goes to change that sound, it’s like they’re shattering your hopes and dreams. Stop waving your pitchforks– I know all about this. To be perfectly honest, although I appreciate GACKT’s music and projects now, I wish that on the day I get to see him perform live, that it was his 2004 self. Part of my soul curled up and died when I realized I would never hear or see the Sixth Day Seventh Night tour. Ever. That’s a regret I hope they carve on my headstone.

But people change. People need to change. Look back on a photograph or creative work from a year or two ago and you’ll see how much you have changed reflected in it, even if just a little. Now think what it must be like to have fans all over the world watching your every move. It’s much harder to change from that place, I think. It has to take a lot of courage and trust– trust and belief in your followers that they will support you in doing what needs to be done. If this is the GACKT that he needs to be, now that he is older, wiser, more insane, then I can accept, admire, and appreciate that. And know that I own that particular DVD, so it’s all good really.

I know it seems blasphemous that girugamesh goes from being one of the most awesome, angsty, screamy groups in Jrock today, to being a mainstream pop-rock group. However, if you listen to albums such as NOW and GO, they’re not really bad quality, or even worse than girugamesh or 13’s Reborn, they’re just different. They have an inherently different quality. Their music isn’t as dark, but it’s still pretty heavy. They may have added some rap and electronica elements– that’s popular in Visual Kei right now, better learn to accept it or stop sounding surprised whenever you pick up a new release and find that there’s a whole ton of sounds mixed into each track and, no, those aren’t guitar effects.

I’m not going to stop expressing dissatisfaction with a new release if I find reason to be dissatisfied, and I’m not saying that I won’t review an album I disliked just for the sake of having a blog about rainbow-puking unicorns. It’s important to be tolerant and appreciative, yes, but it’s equally as important to be transparent and honest, and be able to call it when a band fucks up. We’re not drooling adolescent fangirls who will “love” any old single just because one of the band-members has a shirtless gravure up on Photobucket. But GO got me wondering if giru‘s new stuff was really that bad, or if it’s just a case of Visualist stubbornness.

4 responses to “IMPO…

  1. I gotta say, this post really struck a few chords with me.
    First off, I hope I wasn’t included in that list of COLOR-loving fangirls just because I point out every chance I get how much I liked it. =P

    Secondly, I agree very much with what you said about fans who state their opinions too vehemently – not only do they make fools of themselves, they offend other fans who happen to like the song/album/single in question. Personally, if I don’t like a song or a release, I don’t write about it. Now, yes, in today’s music world that can really limit the list of things to write about, but I still don’t do it.
    As for musical tolerance, that’s another skill that more people should learn. I highly doubt that I’ll ever come to like mainstream music (at least, the kind that the people I know listen to), but for the most part, I bite my tongue and try to nod along. The only genre that I refuse to put up with is rap – I find most of the lyrics to be very offensive and I have no problem asking my younger cousins to turn it off when I’m in the room.

    As for VK bands making changes in their sounds… This seems to be a topic that everyone is up in arms about these days. I know your policy is to judge music based on technical and emotional quality rather then simply because your favourite artist released it, and for the most part, I agree with that. Saying you like a song for no better reason then “it’s by so-and-so, it’s gotta be good!” is a pretty fangirly reason and should be left to fangirls alone. However, having said that, I will admit that I approach songs by artists I know and like with a more open mind then I would something by a band that I’m new to. For one thing, I trust bands like BUCK-TICK and D’espairsRay to do a good job with what ever they try – whether it’s pop or their trademark rock style. I also believe that when you truly respect an artist or band, even if you aren’t crazy about certain songs, you should still respect ALL of their music. They wouldn’t release something if they didn’t believe in it. And really, when it comes down to it, yes, bands rely on their fans liking and buying their music, but most of them make music for themselves – not the fans.

    I hope you have tons of fun in Boston, I’m looking forward to a lengthy live review when you get back. *smile*
    Take care.
    ~RazzleDazzle~

    • Of course I wasn’t pointing fingers at anyone in particular when I mentioned “Color loving fangirls”. And in fact, I didn’t mean any direct criticism toward the single itself, having warmed up to the track considerably myself. I’m pretty sure anyone included in that demographic already hates my blog, and probably wouldn’t be here reading it as a result.

      Now, I guess the thing to understand is, I’m all about freedom of speech and people “expressing their opinions vehemently”, goodness knows I like to indulge in that myself. It’s not really that they express an opinion, negative or positive or neutral, but why they express that opinion. I think I’ve covered this before, but I don’t mind repeating it: there’s a fine line between “constructive criticism” and “straight-up bashing”. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to write their blogs or how to review an album, or even how to listen to an album; all I’m trying to say is, everything that comes to be from artistic expression has been made with joy. It’s art made from inspiration, and that in itself makes it priceless, regardless of whether you, personally, appreciate it or not. People who make their work tearing these things apart are usually just screaming out to the world that they haven’t found their joy yet, creative or appreciative. Or maybe I’m too nice.

      Of course there will always be music that we can’t resonate with. And that’s perfectly okay. I for one cannot abide country rock music, for example, and, like yourself and the wee ones’ rap, I have absolutely no issue vehemently requesting that the channel be changed before I rip someone a new set of banjo strings. However, even so, if someone made it known to me that they loved country rock, you would never find me criticizing it openly. Who am I to judge what they respect? I would never say, “That singer’s a-typical American Dream protein shake physique is really disgusting.” And in return, I ask that my preferences and aesthetics not be judged either.

      “I will admit that I approach songs by artists I know and like with a more open mind then I would something by a band that I’m new to. For one thing, I trust bands like BUCK-TICK and D’espairsRay to do a good job…I also believe that when you truly respect an artist or band, even if you aren’t crazy about certain songs, you should still respect ALL of their music. They wouldn’t release something if they didn’t believe in it.”
      I liked what you said here quite a bit. I think many Visualists would be able to relate to this statement– I certainly know that I do. I think for Visualists who have a real, heart-connection with the bands they follow, it’s impossible to completely let go of bias. Although, there are also certain bands (not naming any names, coughThe GazettEcough, sorry– something stuck in my throat), who I feel have lost that certain je ne sais quoi, but for the most part I’m content to continue appreciating their classics, and someday if they release more stunning tracks, I’ll pre-order it in a New York Minute.

      Thanks, as always, for reading…and in particular for always leaving really thought-provoking and interesting comments. I enjoy reading your responses, as I’m sure the rest of the readers do as well.

      Take it easy.

  2. I totally agree with you. I love music that makes me feel, that speaks to me. To feel sadness, love or happiness just by listening to a song…isn’t that more great and difficult to achieve than a technically correct song?

    There are as many opinions as there are people, therefore one can’t live life pleasing everyone…Isn’t it better they change their style and continue to feel good than braking up the band?

    Gackt is a very special person :P I like originality, so boring when artists do the same things…but others who do like it – I don’t care, as long as they don’t try to put down what I like, because of it.

    • Yes, I think what you’re saying is definitely correct. There’s an endless slew of talented musicians– any one of them can write a technically beautiful song. And, really, many of the Jrock and Visual Kei songs that have been in question (not necessarily in a positive way), are technically excellent, beautiful songs. There’s just a certain oomph to the really great pieces, those melodic fingertips that just reach out and pluck your heart-strings. Not everyone experiences things the same way.

      Funnily enough, this is an extremely circular topic. Here we are, arbitrarily discussing the arbitrary qualities of arbitrary perceptions of quality. We’re all wrong, and we’re all right. As my bass teacher often says, “Well, here’s a somewhat vague answer to your question: Yes and no. Does that make sense?” Sometimes it does.

      Thanks for reading.

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