Dedicated to those songs that I can’t stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included Weezer’s “El Scorcho,” Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time,” and New Order’s “Age of Consent.”
Christmas in Southern California is strange. Perhaps it’s my Midwestern mindset throwing everything off, but snow-based decorations placed in a non-snow environment freak me out a little. Just knowing a plastic glowing snowman will never be covered with anything resembling winter depresses me. With busy schedules, rising airline fees and a desire to stay near my own bed, this year will mark our first Christmas away from our parents and actual winter, giving my childhood another crushing blow. And while we’re expecting family visitors and many merry presents and fun by all, the actual absence of a “traditional” Christmas has me in something similar to a melancholy mood, only more antagonistic. I’m in a Stooges mood, and I need their caveman-simple riffs to support me. This is all it takes to make a song “perfect” for this moment. It only needs to fit as the appropriate score for how I’m feeling. And I’m feeling like Christmas isn’t so great, so I need something that agrees with me on some level.
No matter how much you may “love it,” “No Fun” remains a tough song. It’s a steady rock song and sounds like what you want, which means you’ll wish to share it with others. But if you do this, they might read too much into it. Are you trying to imply that your friend is no fun? Or that you’re currently upset about nothing in particular? Do you want to be left alone, or do you want people to know you’re alone and that they should want to visit you but won’t actually visit you? And then there’s the practicality of the song itself: It’s five minutes of the same perfect droning riff with minor inflections and changes thrown in. By sharing this song, will people question your ability to be bored? Will they think you should be more into techno than you are? From it’s “Hello,-I-Love-You”-esque drum opening, it seems like it should be an excellent opener for a show or movie, but the tone of its simple title contains no gray areas.
Regular readers will know I pretend I can play guitar, and some may even know that I taught myself to play by strumming a 5-string acoustic along with Ramones songs. And while this worked fine, I would have had an even more solid foundation in rock fundamentals if I had started with the Stooges — one of the bands the Ramones originally strummed along with. Only problem is I might have gotten bored with the Stooges and guitar playing if I’d done this. “No Fun” is like basketball dribbling drills for guitar. You dribble with the left, then the right, then back again, and back again and again and again. Got it? Let’s do it for the length of practice. “Droning” doesn’t begin to describe the Stooges’ style. It takes a certain kind of idiot to do the same thing endlessly in a loop, and it takes another kind of idiot to record it and call it music. And while “No Fun” may be the least fun song to play along no matter how loud my amp, it continues to be a great song to hum to myself. Perhaps “endearing droning” might be a better description.
It may be trite and cute to sum it up this way, but “No Fun” is fun because it’s intellectually no fun. “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening once said he loved animation because it was an artform that existed only in motion, that you couldn’t look at a single drawing and see “animation.” Rock ‘n’ roll has a similar quality where reading the sheet music or guitar tabs does no justice to the music being created. On paper, “No Fun” is A-E-A-A-A-E-A-A-D-A-D-A-D-A-E-A at it’s busiest. That’s just the early parts. For the last 75% of the song, it’s just the A-D riff with the flair in the middle. It’s not even a complicated strumming technique. If you’ve ever held a pick, you’ve made this strum. That’s because it’s entirely natural. Nothing about the Stooges is intellectual. Choices are more instinctual responses.
The vocals aren’t much different in their perfect stupidity. In karaoke, I’d bet the lyrics get massacred because the singers would just sing the words as is. This is entirely wrong. Iggy doesn’t sing. He grunts. And he doesn’t just grunt the words as they are, he starts every line with the tiniest half-beat “uh” transforming “No fun, my baby, no fun” into “Uhno fun, uhma’ baby, uhno fun,” and exchanging lifeless, pointless, flat ideas into dumb, fugly rock. This style of music festers and breeds with itself until it vomits itself onto some sort of microphone.
“No Fun” is primal. I could romanticize the Stooges and tell myself they couldn’t read music, and they just came up with riffs and they made noise as close to elemental neanderthal sounds as an electric guitar can get… so I will. Their image begs for it more than any other band I can imagine. Only “Louie Louie” approaches the level of heightened, sincere idiocy in which the Stooges wallow. Played in a loop, “No Fun” develops a kind of sonic gravity. It’s a black hole of music from which nothing can escape and everything gets broken down to its basic elements. After an hour or two of continual “No Fun”, time becomes insignificant. It’s just like Southern California: you could be here 5 months or 5 years, but you can’t tell because it always feels like the same season save for a few random irregularities.
Got a weird way to celebrate, avoid or disavow the holidays via music?