Giving 'bad music' another chance

Back in May, “Best Worst Movie” director Michael Paul Stephenson wrote an editorial about loving bad movies. It was titled:

Bad Books Are Bad, and Bad Food Is Bad. But Bad Movies Are Not Always Bad

What’s missing from the title? Music. Specifically bad music.

Perhaps Stephenson left bad music out of the conversation for a reason. Because there’s something intrinsically attractive about bad music that, like bad films, is certainly interesting.

Take brokeNCYDE, a crunkcore/scrunk group that’s almost critically reviled and became the butt-end of an Internet joke when their video for “Freaxxx” hit the web in late ’08. Yet, they have loads of fans, which no doubt fueled a lot of the angry words hurled at the band.

When so many individuals are bent on calling brokeNCYDE purveyors of “bad music,” I’ve got to wonder if anyone enjoys them simply because of their perceived negative qualities. Does the amalgamation of screamo, crunk beats and autotune sound so terrible it becomes kind of enjoyable? Or is there just something intrinsically peculiar about a band that goes to the extreme when trying to find a new voice, no matter how bad it sounds.

I was fascinated with brokeNCYDE the minute I discovered them. Apparently, so was Damian Abraham, frontman for a critically-beloved Canadian hardcore act known as Fucked Up. Exclaim! TV featured an interview Abraham conducted with brokeNCYDE, and though the folks at Exclaim! seem happy to wallow in the irony of these two disparate musical worlds colliding, I’ve got to give Abraham credit for discussing brokeNCYDE in terms most music outlets would never dare to think about. DIY and brokeNCYDE? Perish the thought!

Well, Abraham hardly let the thought go to waste with his intro to the interview, but the actual interview is a bit, well, light. The guys in brokeNCYDE seem so stuck on the same subjects (ie, we just want to create something new, haters hate, etc.), they don’t really get away from the same ole’ same ole’. Though the band members casually complain about being lumped into categories, there’s not much they do to take the conversation about their group in a new direction.

It’s something I encountered when I did a piece for the Boston Phoenix about brokeNCYDE and the whole scrunk scene that took over last year’s Warped Tour. I spent the days leading up to my interview with brokeNCYDE’s Mikl thinking and re-thinking of questions to ask the singer/rapper, but the answers I got were run-of-the-mill. I wasn’t expecting bombshells, but I was hoping for an ounce of difference, a little bit of perspective from these kids that people apparently don’t understand. All I heard on my end of the phone was much of the same, “we don’t care about haters” discussion.

Still, I got some quotes for the article, quotes I hoped would shine some new light on a story I felt wasn’t getting the proper coverage a musical “phenomenon” usually receives in the press. I thought I got it down to the button, and I still do feel like my piece covered the attitudes being brought to that scene within the Warped Tour universe.

But, I was struck again by brokeNCYDE yet again today. Abraham’s interview made me revisit the sound everyone was so hot to dismiss, and, even with its insanely bad qualities, there is still something irresistible to it all. And, to me, it has a lot of the enjoyable qualities of a bad film. There’s just something so appealing about a bunch of kids who want to try something absurd, and give it their all. Christopher Weingarten put it best in an interview with Eye Weekly last year:

What the worst records you’ve had to endure?
Well, obviously the Brokencyde record… I hate to dog on those guys because it’s kind of an internet meme to make fun of Brokencyde. And if someone pitched the idea of southern bounce beats plus screamo, I would totally say that sounds like a great idea.

The idea is great, and even in their “failure” of execution, I can hear some ghost of botched genius hanging out in the background. Despite the horrid sounds, it’s certainly different. And the sincerity, much like the sincerity of the directors of good-bad movies like Troll 2 or The Room, is all there, loud and clear. It’s hard to hear through the obnoxious screaming and insipid lyrics, but the guys in brokeNCYDE really believe what they are saying. I certainly find a line like “Get crunk, get crazy/All fucked up/Make me wanna punch babies” poorly perceived at best, but I really believe that, for the members of brokeNCYDE, there’s something fantastic about getting drunk to the point of wanting to harm an infant.

It’s not a sentiment, or sound, I could ever agree with, but I may finally give brokeNCYDE props for really giving it their all.

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