Andrew Jackson Jihad – Hate Song for Brains

Year :
Ghost Mice / Mountain Goats / Daniel Johnston

It’s about that other time of year, when those of us who are students or continuing students finally get to rest, even for a moment, and not think about papers and quizzes and readings. We get to rest our brains. We can lay off the smart overdrive and just be normal people. So it’s this time of year where a song like this gets me. It’s somewhat appropriate, then, that I found this song (albeit somewhat indirectly) through contacts at school. That’s where brain hatred begins, really.

See, for me, my brain doesn’t shut off. I still overthink everything, and not having classes can sometimes make that aspect rev into high gear. No more education distractions. Time to think terrible things. Worse still, in the context of education, when I do need my brain, sometimes it gets over-distracted. This semester was terrible for this. It seemed as though I had my knees shattered at the start of the race, and never really healed. I felt like I hobbled over the finish at the back of the pack. Why? Well, this was not an ideal semester for the ol’ thinker, and between a disruptive and emotionally draining September and a nonsensically overbooked October, not to mention a November that started with a busted laptop, the punches kept coming. Keeping on task is a chore even on good days. I need to check my mail, see who’s on facebook, play this or that game, check for concerts, browse some shop or other, look at restaurant menus, respond to interweb rants… my mind runs from the things it needs to focus on, and focuses on anything else. When I sit down to do real work, it wanders in other directions. My brain is an asshole, and sometimes I hate it.

I also have this theory that being smart makes you otherized in a way. This isn’t me calling myself smart, though I like to think so. No, this is based on other people… the ones who want simple stories that don’t rock the boat (my family is classic in this regard), or the people who love the mind-numbing. Look at the current Duck Dynasty controversy: people would rather have a ludicrous half hour of mind-rot than accept that there are consequences to ignorance and hate-speech. I find it difficult to relate, and so I find myself on the outside. It’s also regularly manifest in relationships with the opposite sex. Intellect (again, their sense of it, not mine) is invoked either to shame for not realizing something apparently obvious, or to make clear a firm friend zone barrier. It is a rare condition indeed that intellect makes you a prime mate. It’s a total friend quality: you want to keep smart people around, not potentially break up with them. Which makes some degree of sense, but there are times, in the throes of self pity, that I’d give up being seen as clever for being seen as desirable. That’s a weird quality, incidentally, if you do it: praising your most platonic friends to high heavens. It’s a little like the people who keep their furniture covered in vinyl wrap. But then, that sort of ingratitude is its own reason to hate my brain. It keeps me from potential connections, but not accepting what I have makes me a more terrible person. Oh the paradox.

Being a terrible person is where the song itself comes in. Here, I think we can all relate if we consider it. Think about what you WANT to say every day. Maybe you have self control, and let the snark seethe under the surface. Maybe you have none and start childish drama on the regular to get attention. I know both sorts, and I’ll give you three guesses which I prefer. But whether you ascribe to the checking-yourself-before-wrecking-yourself model or the truth-will-set-you-free one, consider some of those outbursts, made or censored. Did you REALLY think that? I won’t give personal examples; I want you to keep reading my work, after all. I am sure, however, you have had those moments when some weakness made a super offensive non-sequitur explode off your lips, or at least rocket toward them so fast it felt like your teeth would break when you managed to hold it in. How could we be those people? Goddamn it, brain! Don’t do that!

But where does it end? In the folk-punk aesthetic (and yes, that is what this is called), there is a huge focus on social changes. This song touches specifically on the singer’s privilege, and his inability to be aware of it at times. What do we have that others do not, that we complain about what we do not have? I still have some tolerance for the so-called “first world problem,” depending on what it is, but Andrew Jackson Jihad makes sure we are aware of it, through the singer’s own awareness. It’s my sister’s roommate being thankful for her ceramic hair straightener and “chillaxing” a decade ago. It’s “la da dee da dee, we like to par-tee” becoming the anthem for modern youth today. What sort of trash do we care about while not caring about the rest of society?

And yet, to the same degree, why am I calling out Miley over there as if her triteness is any different from some of my own generation’s? Am I not finding myself becoming the same out of touch old man that cursed Elvis for hip-gyration, or saw hip-hop as the single-handed destruction of society? Do I not realize there are civil rights pioneers from the 60s who today find the whole “gay thing” “a little weird”? What foolish things did I believe in my youth that I don’t believe now… that I’d be deadly embarrassed to admit to, even. That’s sort of the irony of a song like this: the genre seems to be full of youthful passion and ambition, but also youthful naivete. What does AJJ think of this, or any, song in a decade? Do they see a well intentioned but childish rebellion, or a lasting statement? It could go either way. We do change our minds in the face of new information. That’s healthy. But looking back on what we thought before? Well, it has about one possible result.

This is the familiar pattern. You start with the one seed of an idea, and then it branches out. There are new problems and questions, other possibilities. We get bogged down in the insignificant details. Maybe we just over-analyze. Maybe we ignore the analysis we should be making. In the end, though, there is a conflict between our happiness, and sometimes our perceived goodness, and our overactive minds. We should always strive toward thoughtfulness and intellect, but there are just too many times when our brains become enemies. Thankfully we’re approaching Christmas: nothing helps mellow out the old brain like rote tradition and familiar roles. This year, I need all the help forgetting that I can get.

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Alex Lupica (@Alex_Soundtrack) has been in love with music since he was a toddler, despite its infidelities. (Really, music? Nu-metal? How could you!). Alex is Editor-in-Chief at The Daily Soundtrack.

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