Saturday, February 23, 2008

N Degrees of Kevin Bacon: A Musical Preference Just-So Story

Kevin Bacon appeared in Stir of Echoes alongside Kathryn Erbe, and Kathryn Erbe was in Entropy alongside the members of U2 -- my thanks to the internets for doing to the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game what hand-held calculators did to long division.

Having grounded ourselves in references to Kevin Bacon, let's begin with a hypothetical music fan who likes U2, and follow the contingencies from one musical act to the next.

U2 fans, especially those of a certain age, were forever being told they should like REM. And why not? REM, "The One I Love"



The REM fan could contentedly while away the months between REM albums with Uncle Tupelo. Uncle Tupelo, "Chickamauga":



Uncle Tupelo came apart but songwriter Jeff Tweedy kept going under the banner of Wilco. Wilco, "Monday":



Lyrically, Wilco connected some of the Big Themes of REM and U2 with the introspective, personal, idiosyncratic, and quirky. Pavement attached the smartly weird to relentless hooks. Pavement's "Shady Lane":



Did somebody say weird lyrics and hooks? The listener might well have gone here from this point, but a more direct line went to the Silver Jews, one of Pavement's better splinters. Silver Jews, "Random Rules":



The Silver Jews' toying with Americana was both expanded and contracted by Yo La Tengo. Yo La Tengo, "Sugarcube":



Yo La Tengo, like Pavement and Silver Jews, had a way of rewarding the listener who withstood the surface madness through repeated listenings, which is an exact description of the proper approach to Sonic Youth. Sonic Youth, "Drunken Butterfly":



The battering of the more experimental efforts of Yo La Tengo and Sonic Youth left the listener prepared for almost anything but longing for a little order. How about pop fugues accompanied by Franglais vocals? Stereolab, "The Noise of Carpet":



The listener is intrigued with a thought experiment: what if you strip Stereolab to three members and insist they pay homage to Sonic Youth? Deerhoof, "The Perfect Me":



Deerhoof and Stereolab have made room for horns, or at least synths that sound like horns. And this has cleared the way for Arcade Fire, which hearkens back to the grandiosity of U2. Arcade Fire, "Neon Bible" (performed beautifully in an elevator):



Postscript: Could this be a meme? I would be interested to see others assemble just-so stories like this one. If you like the idea and have a blog on which to put it, please consider yourself tagged. Feel free to apply the idea to books, films, poems, thinkers, writers, artists, ideas, etc.

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