I was trying to write a blog about nerdy music. It was really hard.
That was almost a haiku. Let’s try again.
I was trying to
write a blog about nerdy
music. It was hard.
That was the worst haiku ever.
Wow, I’m really easily distracted these days. Um, anyway. So I was thinking about nerdy music. And I ran into an unanticipated logistical problem. What’s the difference between the music that nerds listen to, music that is played by nerds, and music that is inherently, intrinsically nerdy? It’s tough.
For the most part, the nerds I hang out with (you know who you are) have really great taste in music. But that’s totally biased, isn’t it? Because I listen to the same stuff. This is not a legitimate control group. We’re metalheads from the grunge era. With a penchant for ska an d classic rock. On the other hand, I love Beethoven and The Smiths in equal measure. There are all these bands that, for no good reason, I lump together in my head as being nerdy. Stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel and The Decemberists. And if I’m being honest, most of the people I know who like them are actually hipsters (sorry, guys). There’s no way to judge the nerdiness of music by the people who love it. It’s just not possible.
Then there are a bunch of 90’s bands that stick out as having nerdy musicians. They Might Be Giants, Weezer. They came around at the beginning of geek chic, or maybe they were the beginning of geek chic. These glasses I wear? Pure Rivers Cuomo. Weird Al comes immediately to mind. But is his music nerdy? Not all of it. Or is he just a tremendous nerd? Definitely. But you’ve got to be kind of a genius to do what Weird Al does, frankly. And a lot of the music he spoofs is mainstream and not nerdy at all. But there’s an air of nerdiness about him and his music that’s kind of undeniable, you know? Dude plays the accordion, for fuck’s sake. It’s one of those “you know it when you see it” situations.
There are all kinds of weird crossover conundrums (conundra?), as well. There’s that one line about ringwraiths in The Battle of Evermore. Ok, I’m kidding about that last one. Not really. But sort of. See? This is really hard.
So then I got to the hard bit of trying to figure out if there actually is anything that stands on its own as nerdy music. Lyrically speaking. I figured I would just begin at the beginning and, being true to my generation, ask the interwebs. And let me tell you, our technological overlords were super helpful. Things I found, in no particular order of ridiculousness:
Nerdcore – hip hop with scifi/comic book/pop culture themes – way more awesome if you listen to it for the lyrics and don’t try to judge it by mainstream hip hop standards
Geeksta rap – like nerdcore, but more about serious science, chemistry, math, computers
Filk – scifi/fantasy fan folk (that is hard to say out loud…really, go ahead, try it) – lots of balladic, medievalish, LARPer stuff, think lutes and lyres and songs about Hobbits
Nintendocore – heavy metal plus video game sound effects – sounds like Russian techno, but good in a thrashy kind of way
Wizard rock – Harry Potter metal. Oh, yes. But only Harry Potter. No other wizards allowed.
Chap hop (my personal favorite, just because of the silliness of it all) – Steampunk rap. Seriously. No, no, let it sink in for a second. I said: Steampunk. Rap. And really, what more can you say?
These are just some teensy snippets from my first eighttenfourteen hours with Google and Youtube. I encourage you to look it up because, man oh man, there is a lot of stuff out there. To a certain degree, which of these you actually like depends on your particular flavor of nerd. But come on: a song about Marvel vs. DC? A song about Neville Longbottom being the real chosen one? A whole album about Firefly? I can dig it. My Spotify runneth over. I’ve been glued to my computer for like two weeks, just eating this stuff up. And some of it’s really great and some of it’s really awful and some of it’s just so fucking weird I listen to it over and over just to see if I’ll eventually understand it. I will say this: I’ve got a whole new and exciting list of references I didn’t understand. Score. New blog topics.
Here’s the bottom line. I’m so happy about this stuff, good or bad, because these people are just singing and making music about what they love. And fuck the mainstream for trying to delineate what is cool or nerdy or whatever. Fuck the mainstream for saying what will or won’t work on the radio, or make money, or find a fanbase. If the musicians are passionate and the fans are passionate, they’ll seek each other out. That’s all that matters, really. Sincerity. Honesty. Earnestness. They’re what music should be about.
Also, while we’re on the subject, I’m learning to play the Tetris theme on the ukulele. I’ll let you know how it goes.