October 11, 2010

Alice in Chains & Animosity

El Ten Eleven had the masses dancing at Bluebird Theater last week, and Russian Circles will be a heavy Halloween party at Marquis Theater.

Modern bands such as these contribute to my music library, but sprinkled throughout the playlist are monster albums from the 90s.

There are certain tracks from that (recent) era—gems like Weezer’s “Buddy Holly,” Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” and Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”—that inspire a kind of awe often absent from today’s tunes. How did they think to create that?

But while I embrace the whole timeline, some jaded fans proclaim nothing contends with pockets like, for example, Seattle grunge. Yet although I won’t put it atop a pedestal, 90s rock does win out in one realm: online commenting.

Well, the Internet as we know it was a baby, so just commenting. I’ll explain.

The lead singer of Alice in Chains, Layne Staley, fought a wicked battle with drug abuse. As he deteriorated, so did the band. Their manager retired in 1998, at which point a publication called The Rocket poked at Staley.

“But who’s to wipe and clean Alice in Chains now?” a particular article asked.

A few days later, The Rocket received a package containing a jar of urine and a bag of excrement. An attached note quipped, “Wipe and change this, mother…”

The editor assumed it was from Staley. Epic, right?

What isn’t epic these days is the inundation of scathing remarks littering online message/commenting boards. From music forums such as Lambgoat.com—visitors proclaiming they hope certain bands they dislike flip their touring vans on the highway—to supposedly more intellectual crowds on, say, my alma mater’s newspaper Web site, I’m astounded by the number of reply-leeches, sucking the civility out of any dialogue.

Now, Staley shipping bodily fluids via USPS isn’t civil, either, but that dude put forth effort that would likely be absent from many of today’s embittered usernames. The immediacy and anonymity of our digital age encourages the firing of enraged, of-the-moment digital bullets that likely would never leave the holster if they required an envelope, a stamp and a walk to the mailbox. Tempers might cool; rationality could return—unless you’re on heroin (see: Layne Staley).

Arguments can be invigorating in respectful, educational ways. Passion will certainly steer them off-track now and then, but an occasional virtual handshake or touché would give Web tit-for-tat much more appeal.

Unless you disagree, in which case go ahead and reply, wishing a chainsaw accident upon my hands so that I may never type again. Then I couldn’t respond, though I probably wouldn’t have anyway.

Ryan Arnold | @ryarnold


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