i’m sick of this place

I’ve been writing songs for a long time, and I’m pretty much of the mindframe that anything goes as long as it winds up sounding cool. I mean, if you can put a keytar and a tuba into a funk metal song and it’s got scat jazz vocals and it all ends up sounding awesome, well, that’s the result. It’s awesome. There should be no reductivity when it comes to music. You’d be an idiot to dislike something simply because a component of it was a style or instrument or style you’ve decided that you don’t like. Case in point, Kna’an’s song “If Rap Gets Jealous” features Kirk Hammet on guitar and is a full on rap/metal fusion song. That’s not something I generally get behind, but in the case of this song, it’s awesome, and I’d be a fool to not like it simply because of some preconceived idea about what should or shouldn’t be paired with rap or metal.
Similarly, there’s room to like parts of songs that are otherwise terrible. Take the song “last resort” by Papa Roach. The song is dumb, the band is dumb, the lyrics are stupid, the production is the sonic equivalent of a cheap plastic sports car covered in spoilers and decals, but fuck me if that main guitar riff isn’t totally FACE MELTINGLY KICK ASS. There’s just no way to deny it.
It’s finding shit like this that will ultimately make you an interesting songwriter. You should never be dismissive of something because it’s not cool. I mean, so, for example, you find that riff in Last Resort. It’s an amazing riff surrounded by poop. Well, here’s what you do, rip off that riff and put it into a song that you think is cool. That’s the fucking secret of success. To once again paraphrase Picasso, “brilliant minds create, geniuses steal.” Look at Willie Nelson, one of the greatest singer songwriters of all time. His entire vocal delivery and even guitar playing style is stolen. The way he waits, lilts until the very last possible minute, kind of singing almost slower than the beat of the music, being very, very cavalier with the idea of rhythm, that’s all stolen from Billie Holiday. He’s admitted it in interviews, and once you know that, it’s shocking how obvious it is, but the amazing thing is that since he recapitulated smooth parlor room crooning into fireside singalong/guitar soloing, it becomes its own cool thing. That’s pretty much the most important thing about making anything, songs or not. There’s really nothing that hasn’t been done, and there’s a zillion things out there that are awesome, but they definitely haven’t all been applied to whatever you’re trying to do, be it a computer game or a new way of delivering gasoline or a funk song. So yeah.
There is, in fact, only one thing in music that I can’t stand, and that’s a certain lyric that is for some dumb reason pretty pervasive in popular music. That lyric is “I don’t care.”
I think it’s fucking stupid on a lot of levels. Firstly, I deplore the idea of creative expression based on a lack of passion. That’s ridiculous. If you don’t care, songwriter, why did you write a song about it, and more to the point, why should I care? What impetus is there for me to empathize with the idea that you can’t be bothered to feel one way or the other about something? It’s stupid, it’s lazy and it’s, in general, a phrase that people constantly misuse. People say “I don’t care” when they mean “I don’t like that” all the time, and people say “I don’t care” when they mean “I’m desperately empty inside” both of which are GREAT hooks for an emotional response to a song, but “I don’t care?” fuck you, man. I don’t care either. Get out of here with your lazy gen-y songwriting bullshit.
Okay, so full disclosure, I definitely sing a song that’s out there for public consumption that prominently features the line “I don’t care.” It’s called “Sick of this Place” and it was performed by my old band, Slapstick. Here’s the thing, firstly: those lyrics were not written by me, and secondly, I was 18 when we recorded that song and it was, in fact, that very song that made me realize how much I despised that lyrical choice. I don’t know, man. I just think it’s terrible. That’s the one place where I reserve prejudice, is for songs that feature the phrase “I don’t care”. Pretty funny that I care so much about apathy, eh?
Is that galactic poetry?
Nah…grumpy old man wanna-be talk. And with that, I’m off to serve sandwiches to assholes.

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31 Responses to i’m sick of this place

  1. niko says:

    Doesn't "Pensacola" have "I Don't Care" as one of its lyrics as well?

  2. Scott says:

    excellent post sir. There are too many people in the world that judge things too quickly because of one element, without taking the concept as a whole. I myself have been guilty. I agree, there are much stronger points to make than "I don't care." Give a reason, make us understand. There are too many people who want us to believe they do not care about anything, but they are the same people that spend 2 hours getting dressed to look a certain way or only buy things because it fits some preconceived ideal of what they think they should be doing. Those people definitely do care but are the first to bring down the rest of us by attempting show how much smarter they are than us or how their useless attitude is far superior.

    On a side note, I definitely just bought a new Broadways shirt. You have been writing great songs for a long time. Keep it going.

  3. planespotting says:

    So who wrote "Sick of this place" then?

    Also, who wrote every other Slapstick song, what is the back story of each one, what do the lyrics mean, and what landmarks in Chicago should I go to to pay homage to each one?


  4. Donnie says:

    after "I dont care" you do say "three words that I hate saying" So I think you covered your tracks.

  5. Maximilian says:

    the ending line was gold.

    and yeah, i'm someone who judges things as well. i can't stand tapping. it's such a useless element and i don't really like metal much cause tapping is so anoying. get a fucking keyboard assholes…. wait, that's not really better either.

    and yeah there are a few bands who use this element wo aren't that bad, but for the whole thing tapping is pretty stupid.

  6. dustyfloors says:

    I had a similar revelation much like yours of Willie Nelson. You once mentioned that your vocal style may have been assisted by the bass player in the Goo Goo Dolls. I revisited their early stuff (Jed, Hold Me Up) and I get it.

  7. Mark says:

    You also say "I don't even care" in Cheat to Win. Does that count?

  8. hairy_knees says:

    The Slapstick track "Nate B.," always bothered me where you sing, "I never meant to fuck you over/guess I did it unconsciously."

  9. FranklinStein says:

    papa roach actually ripped that riff from iron maiden's "genghis khan". the riff in said song comes in at about the halfway point (1:47) and continues for the rest of the song:

    perhaps that's what you were implying by saying "rip off that riff and put it into a song that you think is cool," but you failed to mention where papa roach got that riff from…

  10. Josh says:

    Max, listen to some Tera Melos, that dude has made tapping an art form.

    It can be overused and done poorly, but when you get a guy who really knows how to use it (Thomas Erak from the Fall of Troy), it can really ad to the music.

  11. kylewagoner says:

    I love the Papa Roach riff thing. I laughed a lot and I know what you mean, being a somewhat-songwriter. I also hate street punk songs about revolution and stuff. That gets old.


  12. Rick says:

    "I'm off to serve sandwiches to assholes" I'm reading this as my 7th grade students are taking a quiz and I laugh out loud totally fuckikng up their concentration.

  13. Andrew says:

    i'm of the belief that a cool riff or single lyric can make a shitty song sound better.

    i don't mind listening to that papa roach song because that riff is cool. At first I hated "over and out" by alkaline trio but then i started paying attention to fucking awesome bass in the middle, which made the entire song better.
    I really like the lyrics in the matchbox 20 song "unwell"

    it's all music. no particular genre is out of my boundaries.

  14. Eric Baskauskas says:

    you appear to simply be arguing against lazy songwriting, of which the phrase "i don't care" is, to you, the most offensive example.

    as a human experience, however, apathy is just as compelling as love or hate or politics or food. maybe not food.

    and what about simplicity as a lyrical tool? ramones' "i don't care" and circle jerks' "don't care" come to mind as fuckin sweet songs which use the words in question.

  15. Heather says:

    For sure at the tapping/tera melos thing. Tera Melos is mind blowing.

    And there's nothing wrong with keyboard either! Or anything you can use to make noise.
    Unless its a kazoo, fuck that shit.

    Also, you can appreciate something for what it is without particularly liking it. For example: I fucking hate the dave matthews band. But those dudes are some musicians, no getting around that.

  16. Nick says:

    Whoa, Hey. Why do you have to pick on kazoos? Have you not listened to Can't Maintain?

  17. Mark says:

    Can't Maintain the AJJ album?

  18. Heather says:

    Ick. I've had this exact conversation before. This broad in the cubicle behind me blasts AJJ all day. I may have at one point felt nothing-ish for them, but now all I have left is a hatred for terrible harmonies and throwing in kazoos for no reason. If it sounded cool then fine, fine! No thankyou. 🙁

  19. STACEY MCCOOL says:

    i was reading this at work when a friend from high school stopped by. i asked if he ever listened to the lawrence arms. he said, "sure did!" and recalled a story about a show in oshawa, ontario some time in the 90s when he asked you to sign a slapstick cd and you asked "what the hell for?" and signed it with only a 'B'.

    i laughed.

  20. Moore Sketches! says:

    good call on the maiden rip-off/borrow/whatever…

    i love that stuff. nothing is original! or everything is original?

    all i know is Maps & Atlases is a great Chicago band with awesome tapping!

  21. jbody says:

    hey robb,mccool's blog is a good example of the hipster/'flagrantly non vegetarian foodie' phenomenon I was failing to coherently explain during one of our infrequent actual conversations.Sorry to talk about you like you're a zebroid or something stacey.good blog.Im sure that "I don't care" would be a sentiment shared by keith morris,any of them ramone zombies or josh caterer for that matter upon hearing that bk has denounced said phrases use in songs.Im sure I missed the point..ah fuuuucck

  22. Jesus says:

    All of your music entries are automatically favorites. Whether it be stories of TLA, song writing blues, hate-ons for whomever managed to cross your vengeful path, or just plain old music stories, they're always platinum.

    PS. The new hip thing to say: Salty.

    "Damn dude, you see that bitch? She is salty as hellll."
    "The movie last night was salted! So sweet!"

    Try it, it totally grows on you.

  23. Dave says:

    I never heard Ghengis Khan by Iron Maiden but I always the riff from Last Resort was taken from the Iron Maiden song "Infinite Dreams."

    Either way, I agree with Beex, it is a pretty cool riff.

  24. Ann.H. says:

    I agree w/ Jesus. Always love the music related posts. I hate to admit that I care, but I'm still curious how NY girl's weekend went. Was it indeed a four day fuck fest? Also agreed, that's an awesome band name…

  25. Robb says:

    the smoking popes song 'If you dunk hair' seems at first to contain the repugnant 'i dont care' cliche but it's actually a classic mondegreen! the lyrics proper are 'If you dunk haaair/I dunk haAaair/we don't belong together cause…'. it's on their latest record Stay Down which has sold 63 copies to date and features the worst cover art since Crazy Town's 'gift of game'. Shit wrong! Caterer deserve better dawg!!

  26. Toto says:

    "So call me up and tell me something. I'm dying to believe. I dunno. I DON'T CARE. I just sit and stare now. I don't think. I just listen to the drone of this old being"

    you sing "i don't care" there too, or maybe i misinterpreted the lyrics, wich would be really stupid since it's in my top 5 of "all time favorite" songs.

    BK you have been punk'd.

  27. Toto says:

    yes, i have song rankings…i'm really organized lately.

    Robb:that crazy town cover can't possibly be worst than this one :


    more like "jesus ABUSED me".

  28. egodiego says:

    Can't Maintain is wonderful, but I'm gonna have to say I understand where Heather is coming from. AJJ is just not one of those bands people would appreciate being forced on them. They're an acquired taste, or something like that.

    I am one of the 63 proud owners of Stay Down. I agree that "If you don't care" is definitely not about not caring. That song is kind of a punch in the stomach, if you get into the whole Smoking Popes-punch in-the-stomach-lyrics thing, which obviously I do.

    People act like I'm crazy because the Tossers are my favorite band and I listen to them constantly. They can't understand the idea of listening to Irish music all the time. I'm just hearing fantastic musicians. And good god, Tony's voice.

  29. Maximilian says:

    well…. i think i didn't get the point. or maybe was just lazy when i was typing that. there are some fine tapping parts if it's used as solo or something like that. they are rare, but there are. what i really hate is this overused stuff where one guitar does that shit the whole song. or both guitars for some part.

    but what i really don't want is tapping in my band. cause you have to practice new songs for some time and than it gets really annoying.

    and yeah, keyboards can be fine too, but not in most parts of rock music i like. there are exceptions, but not many.

  30. Josh says:

    Again Max, scop some Tera out. The guitarist for them uses tapping almost exclusivley.


    Listen to 40 Rods for the Hog's Head, it's tits.

  31. C.J. says:

    Dan H. Wrote that song. Its a song that really means a lot to me. Jeez Brendan! You diss a LOT of your older work! Haha.

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