Beer and Pavement

Talking to Girls About Pavement

Posted in Intersections, Live, Pavement by SM on January 7, 2011

I’m currently reading Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield[1]. The premise is basically that the author has a million and one stories about trying to explain his love for music to various girls and women. He’s confused about how to talk to girls and music is all he can talk about. It’s a relaxing read before I go to bed every night. I like reading about others’ obsession with rock music. It makes me feel as though this coalition is bigger than I once thought.

The book got me thinking about my relationships with girls and women and the music over which I obsess. I haven’t normally had to explain a lot to the women in my life, but there have been times when I felt it was necessary. There is my sister who used to stay home from school and secretly dub all of my CD’s while I was at school or practice. Now, she influences my tastes as much as anyone. There are the infinite female friends who show me up indie-geek-style on a regular basis. Still, I’ve generally dated or pined over women who don’t share my obsession, at least not to the extent I do[2].

How does one talk to girls[3] about Pavement?

I mean, in the beginning, they were barely a band. Hell, throughout their history, Pavement was barely a real band. Only through years of familiarity and SM’s drive did they begin to resemble a seasoned and cohesive unit. Who needs rehearsal, right? Overdubs? What’s that?

How do you make sense of that? How do you get your girlfriend excited over a band that probably will tune their guitars for most of the set? How do you explain that you actually like Stephen Malkmus’ voice? Why does every song have an inside joke?

Eventually, I quit explaining. Maybe I’d make a mix tape or take a girl to a show, but I lost the need to explain myself. Simply presenting the band as is became sufficient. You can like them or not. I don’t care. I do.

Still, there’s this compulsive need to talk to girls and women about the things we love, particularly bands[4]. I don’t know what it is, but I do it. I’ll tell my partner about this new band or record. If she doesn’t care for the music, she’ll change the subject. If she likes the music, she’ll humor me. Even then, I can only talk for so long before she grows bored.

And it’s not just my wife. At some point, Pavement or some review I wrote on this or past blogs comes up in conversations with other women[5]. The conversation turns south either at the moment I hit over-saturation or I inadvertently insult someone’s favorite band. Still, I go on. I can’t stop.

Now, there’s a new girl in my life. She’s only two, but she’s incredibly responsive to music. Lucia[6] goes through phases with songs. Right now – and for quite a while now – she’s obsessed over Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago” and she’ll periodically pick up on new instruments or sounds she didn’t notice before. Lu’s incredibly attuned to music.

Just the other night, she asked me to sing. She hasn’t wanted me to sing to her in bed for a while. So, I pulled out a song I’ve sung to her since she was a newborn: “Cut Your Hair.” She listened. Then, Lucia asked me to sing it again. I sang that Pavement song three or four times before I told her she had to sleep, but she was into it. My kid was into Pavement.

I’ll talk to Lucia about Pavement and other bands, but she doesn’t care. She knows that one Yo Gabba Gabba song gets her to move. She knows that she loves the chorus to Deerhoof’s “Milkman.” And she knows that she loves the “Ooh Ooh Song” daddy sings to her at night. It’s not important why. It just feels right. It makes her happy.

So, I start to wonder if I really do have to talk to girls about Pavement. Of course, like any kind of art, we should discuss it, but do we have to tear it apart and dissect every note and lyric? Probably not. Does it have a good beat that makes you want to dance? Can you sing with it? I think girls and women can get Pavement as much as I do. I don’t have to figure Pavement out for them[7].

It all makes me think of this Eef Barzelay[8] song, “Girls Don’t Care.” It can come off as condescending or slightly sexist, superficial and stereotypical at best. However, that’s not the point[9]. Listen.

Maybe so much talking isn’t necessary. Maybe we can just enjoy music or beer or whatever. Sure, part of the enjoyment is some nice conversation, but obsessing begins to dilute that enjoyment. The conversation and what consumes us should be the people with which we’re sharing the experience. The girl or woman (or whomever) you’re talking to is what’s important.

This explains a lot about my history with women. Now I know why so many girls lost interest in me when I talked about The Graduate[10] or  played another Guided By Voices seven inch. That stuff is fine, but they were interested in me and possibly wanted me to be more interested in them. I guess I figured this out[11]. Hopefully, I’ll keep it in mind as my daughter grows up.

I haven’t finished Talking to Girls About Duran Duran [12],but I suspect Rob Sheffield comes to a similar conclusion.

1This is significant for a couple of reasons. First, I honestly don’t read many books. I read plenty, but I have never had much patience for books. However, anything about indie rock, I tend to devour it. That and Sheffield’s last book about mixed tapes was really good.
2This isn’t completely fair as they’ve all had pretty specific tastes in music. Some good, some not so good. Currently, my partner likes stuff like Sea & Cake, Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Rachels, Beirut, etc. So, that works.
3It should be understood by now that this doesn’t have to be about girls or women. It could easily apply to boys and men or anything in between. I’m just using girls/women because that’s how I related to Sheffield’s book. We’re boringly awkward straight dudes who could never talk to girls. That’s all.
4Although, I think this topic easily could apply to craft beer or homebrewing. When someone writes Talking to Girls About Beer, I’ll rewrite this post. Until then, I’m writing about bands.
5And by “other women” I don’t mean “other women I am fooling around with” just to be clear. It’s just conversation.
6Pronounced “Loo-sha,” not “Loo-see-ya.” I really wish the nurse at the doctor’s office would read this so that I wouldn’t have to correct her every time.
7I do realize the obviousness of this observation. Still, if it were so obvious, why do we boys feel the need to explain why this album’s great or that movie is brilliant. Don’t we prefer companions who figure this shit out for themselves? My point is that it must not be that obvious. It’s easier to make this assertion than it is to simply quit telling girls how to like music.
8An artist I obviously love as this is the second post in this blog’s history that purposely features his work. Interesting that I don’t have that many of his albums. Maybe that needs to be rectified.
9I’ll get to what it has to do with this post, but the song is more about idiot boys obsessing over things, aesthetics, and media. For me anyway, it’s not about simplifying things for girls. It’s about, well, I’ll get to it. Keep on reading.
10My favorite movie ever, but I’ll save that for a later post.
11Still, even after five years of marriage, I slip back into that mode of talking at my partner about this band or that beer. I’ll learn my lesson for real someday.
12I love how this sentence makes it seem as though I still talk about Duran Duran. Because I don’t. Really.

4 Responses

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  1. Pizza Cottontail said, on January 7, 2011 at 10:56 am

    If you’re looking to go down the Eef rabbit hole, start with “Bitter Honey” or Clem Snide’s “Ghost of Fashion.” He also does a really good cover of Velvet Underground’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror.”

    In re footnote 1, if you’re looking for a second book to read, you should pick up Jonathan Franzen’s new one. It features some pretty good commentary on indie/dad rock (of the Bright Eyes/Wilco/etc.) variety.

    I’d love to see a book called Talking to Girls about John Updike.

    • builderofcoalitions said, on January 7, 2011 at 3:21 pm

      I have both of those albums, but not much beyond that. Eef’s first set on Daytrotter was pretty amazing. You played the VU cover on your radio show today.

      Thanks for the book tip. I feel like there was another book I had my eye on, but it escapes me at the moment.

      I think you should write that Updike book. You and Sheffield could start a whole genre of writing about talking to girls about our nerdy obsessions.

  2. Carrie said, on January 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Why does everything always have to be so gendered with you? I kid–with a wife and a daughter you probably think about the man/woman thing a lot.

    I’m gonna make some broad hypotheses here, if they’re hooey, forgive me:
    Recent observations do indicate to me that perhaps it is arguably different for the female music nerd to choose a mate than for a male.
    I know a guy who seems to know about everything in the universe about all kinds of obscure, weird shit music-wise–subscribes to a bazillion rss feeds, keeps up on stuff–still BUYS CDs. Yet, his wife has “listened to the same 200 songs for the last 25 years” and he has no qualms about it (okay maybe a few–she loves the Eagles). And you’ve mentioned that sometimes your partner just kind of goes along with your music nerdery.
    See, I think for a lot of dudes, while music may seem to be one of the only things they can talk about, it’s not the only thing they can use to relate to people. If that chick is appealing enough, you will find other things to talk about, I think.

    I–and perhaps other female music nerds–have the problem of it being a way to relate to people. The suggestion of having to explain my biggest obsessions in life to a guy repeatedly sounds like the most dreadful thing in the world. I’ve dated dudes who didn’t “get” the music I was into, and/or who liked shitty music, and it was unbearable. The thought of spending a significant portion of my life in the same house as someone who has to make some snarky or disintrested remark when I’m listening to droney post-rock or noisy lo-fi makes me want to be alone forever (and now that I’m living with my parents, this is, in fact, the case).

    And (please excuse me if I’m getting too personal) I will admit that a lot of my motivation to be a music nerd comes from wanting to talk a big game and impress dudes with my breadth and depth of musical tastes and knowledge out of the fear that I’m somehow physically inadequate to attract them otherwise (granted, this all started when I was about 20 lbs heavier, in braces, with ass-long pigtails wearing whatever oversized thriftstore sweater and earth-toned corduroys I could find–in retrospect, unconsciously unsexy). But I don’t want it to sound like I’m not really into music, because I FUCKING AM, but music has given me a talking point in a world where I was once shy and silent.

    • builderofcoalitions said, on January 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm

      So much to unpack here…

      I write so much about gender because I’m a feminist…and I am married to a Women’s Studies professor, have a daughter, and have generally been involved in causes and professions that involve women overwhelmingly. So, it comes up a lot with me. Plus, this book got me to thinking about talking to girls about bands I like.

      I think there’s a lot of truth to your hypothesis. I also think dudes like to be the only one who knows music in their homes (if that’s what’s important to them). Of course, I haven’t dated a ton of music nerds over the years, but I have several girl-music-nerd friends.

      The only thing that I’d argue is that the women I’ve been into had their own tastes, but certain bands impressed me more than others. My wife introduced me to Neutral Milk Hotel (which still baffles me – How did I get out of the nineties without knowing that band?). A girlfriend had ‘Gish’ (when that was cool) and a ton of Van Morrison (also when that was cool). One girlfriend was constantly stealing all my GBV and Jon Spencer stuff. All of these women had some crummy bands in their collection, but they liked just the right number of great/interesting bands that kept me interested.

      I too don’t like to explain my musical tastes. That’s just what dudes do. However, I’ve always appreciated the girlfriend who would at least listen and even adopt some of my tastes. Playing shitty music all the time rarely happened. And when it did, we didn’t last long.

      Music is one those things that unites or divides. It’s *the* talking point IMHO. That’s one of the reasons I write this blog. I feel talking about music (and beer) bring people together. Hot or not, Carrie, you’re part of the coalition and I’m proud to have you aboard. (Although, good for you for losing the braces, oversized sweaters, cords, etc.)

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