Whores and ugly buildings, so the saying goes, acquire a certain amount of respectability if they stick around long enough. Likewise for aging rockers, KISS and Mick Jagger and Aerosmith, and all the other ilk of wrinkly millionaires who don’t know when to hang it up. But it’s a Pyrrhic respectability with respect to the music, which just keeps getting limper and more bereft of new ideas the longer they maneuver to stay in the spotlight. At this point they’re pretty much famous just for being famous, and the legions of grubby rockers they’ve spawned in the decades (decades!) that have elapsed since their heyday could mop the floor with these aging relics.
I saw the Rolling Stones in 1998, on the Bridges to Babylon tour, and it was pathetic. Just like in those Chick Comics where the dead are literally depicted floating to heaven when the Rapture comes, I looked around me and saw large bills floating out of thousands of billfolds and right into Mick Jagger’s pockets as he pranced and preened around on stage. I couldn’t have cared less about the Rolling Stones, circa 1998. I was there because a friend of mine offered me a job selling Rolling Stones T-shirts (the equivalent of $45 in American money), Rolling Stones sweatshirts, rain ponchos, varsity jackets, buttons, pins, tie-tacks and every other damn thing that people with more money than common sense are desperate to buy just to prove they were there. The money that changed hands at the stand I was working (one of 11 such booths) got thrown into a Rubbermaid bin the size of a garbage can.
They looked way too old. They were way too old. The emoluments of lead-singerdom in the world’s most famous band may have kept Mick Jagger spry enough to put on an agile show, but all the money and groupies and posh real estate in the world can’t buy the Rolling Stones a new idea. Rockers should find some new hobbies when they get too old. It’s time to cede the spotlight to the young people, because young people are and always have been what rock is all about.
Youth highlights—take your pick. This week, I’m going with Seattle’s Catheters. They’re barely 21, and their second LP, Static Delusions and Stone-Still Days, has got more cut-loose piss and vinegar than a stack of your other favorite Seattle punk rock records. Just when I think the whole dirty-rock/retro Stooges thing has been bled dry (the old farts aren’t necessarily the only ones prone to running out of ideas once a winning formula has been mined for all it’s worth), along comes a wicked smelly riff like the one that kicks off the Static Delusions opener, “Been There Before” to make me want to jump off a speaker stack.
Static Delusions is chock full of burning hunks of teen moxie that call to mind everyone from the Saints to numerous regional predecessors like Mudhoney and the Nights and Days. More recent reference points would be Sub Pop labelmates the Murder City Devils, but singer Brian Standeford’s voice is far more fraught with malice than MCD frontman Spencer Moody’s one-delivery rant, and the beat-up rawness of the Catheter guitars occasionally lets up long enough for an irresistible hook to work its way through. For all the hype, the Murder City Devils are a pretty dull band in comparison.
I know from reading interviews that the Catheters get pretty sick of people dwelling on their tender age, but they should take it as a compliment from those of us who never had a band as cool as theirs when we were that age. A bands with songs as infectious as “Been There Before” or “The Door Shuts Quickly,” both of which seem to spring full-formed from the thigh of great guitar bands whose prime was gone long before these striplings were even born. And gather ye rosebuds while ye may, ya little bastards!