Letters to the Music Snob
Dear Music Snob,
So, I just got back from Israel, B”H, and moved into my YU dorm. I’m in Muss Hall, if you must know. Laugh all you want. Trust me, it gets worse. My roommate—and don’t get me wrong here, I love Russians. I even applied to YUSSR once but pulled out when I found out about…you know…the whole ixnay on the deoderant-ay issue—anyway, my roommate, Boris Meltsin…haha, I know. He told me he gets it all the time…is kinda cool. He knows karate. He said he served in the Russian army the summer in between Seventh grade and Eighth grade. But all he listens to is this heavy metal garbage all sung in Russian. I’m like, gevalt, Boris, what’s he saying? And he says something about sacrificing all the first born and Satan eating Sunday brunch…and I’m like, I am not mekabel. So, we have been working on playing some music in the room that I like. Some Jewish music.
Gasp, I know. You don’t like Jewish music. Which is why you are the Music Snob. And it’s also why you are never called up to the Torah. No, it’s true.
Anyway, before I left for Israel, I was a very different boy. I listened to Dave Matthews, Phish, James Taylor, Pearl Jam, R.E.M. You know, stuff like that. Rock music. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. I mean, if you still like that kind of thing, that’s all right. It’s not as bad as bad as eating trief….or is it? But I found this album and I am thrilled because it’s the perfect combination of everything I love. It reminds me of the rock music I used to listen to in the past while simultaneously speaking about Jewish topics and even biblical passages (ha! I know! That sounds so goyish). The CD I speak of, Blue Fringe’s “My Awakening,” is truly great. I mean, it stands out from the rest of the Jewish music Boris and I listen to. Boris always says, this is a CD I could stand, just don’t put on that Miami Boys Cryer. And I say, no, Boris, its “choir.” Yeah, he says, like I said “cryer.” Ahhh, Boris, you little mechutzaf.
So, I’m writing to you, Music Snob, because I know how much most Jewish music gives you…how did you say it…stomach aches in your ears? And I want to know what you think of Blue Fringe’s album?
Back In Black Hat
Dear Muss Boy,
I’m glad you wrote. Coincidentally, I actually did a summer in YUSSR and I know Boris well! Tell him I say “hi” and I still haven’t found that Kemodo dragon he hid in my duffel. Ha! Good times.
You bring up the Blue Fringe album. Ah yes. First off, I have to be fair in revealing that I know Dov personally and the rest of the band. They’re all true gentlemen. And I hear Dov is single. Ladies, get on that.
Back to the album: yes, you’re right about me being a music snob. And I’m not embracing that title because it makes me look so cool like I’m a tortured artist. Like saying, man, I am such a rebel. You know what? Forget “music snob.” I’d like to think that I have discerning tastes After listening to as music as I have over the years, it’s just harder to find something that exceeds what has already been done. Ok, so I am a music snob. But…
Jewish music, for example—and yes, this is an absolute generalization to which there are exceptions (Elie Kranzler’s voice, specifically, can still effectively break my heart in the sweetest way)—is unsatisfying because of the production. The execution. It’s like the thought is there but then it just falls flat. Would you write your thesis in crayon? No, I didn’t think so. Although, if it was in macaroni n’ cheese yellow (an actual color!)…
Blue Fringe, on the other hand, deserves a real pat on the back (or rather a yasher koach ) for pushing the genre to the outer limits of truly enjoyable rock music. Way out to the fringes that are….err…that are blue. And that is so commendable.
The strumming on the first song on the album, “Shma Koleinu,” actually feels like the opening of a Smiths’ song. And the vocals are all breathy and sultry like singer, Dov Rosenblatt, is serenading a girl on his cordless phone while walking up and down the halls of Rubin Hall. G-d! What imagery!
Then the next song, “Ani Maamin “(my favorite on the album), has an actual guitar solo, courtesy of axeman, Avi Hoffman, that wouldn’t be out of place on a Joe Satriani record—ok, I apologize for the secular music references. I’ll stop putting a stumbling block before a blind man. Moreover, despite the cliché lyrical content—I mean, who hasn’t written a song using the words of Ani Maamin? I’ll tell you who; OZZY! —The tune’s harmonies and the non-chalant delivery make it a song that you vicariously enjoy because you hear the band having such a good time while playing it. Track 5, “Vayivarech,” sounds musically like a lost R.E.M. or a Rembrandts song that took an ulpan . No, that’s a good thing.
Incidentally, Back In Black Hat, I should say that Dov’s vocals are very strong and I assure you that he has the most goyish lungs in the Jewish music genre. I think that they’re more enjoyable, though, on the Hebrew songs. The English songs kinda remind me too much of the bands that I know Dov likes but I don’t (see my Jason Mraz review)*. But that’s more or less my only criticism on My Awakenings.
Trust me, it could be way worse. I mean, have you heard the new ___________ (insert new Jewish music release here)?
So, BIBH, thanks for bringing up the Blue Fringe album. It’s a winner and I’m proud of the little pishers. And by the way, the CD you brought up about Satan having brunch—that’s mine. Tell Boris I want it back.
Keep it real,
For more info go to http://www.bluefringe.com/
To read more from Arye Dworken, check out his new personal website www.bringbacksincerity.com