Friday, 3 September 2010

Freaks | Music | RPGs are like guitars

Freaks and Geeks, the utterly enjoyable Judd Apatow project from the late nineties (here’s an introduction: look out for Franco, the most exquisite man on God’s green earth, in action. No, not that Franco) offers a useful model for pigeonholing ‘genius’ in such a manner as to contain it, thus rendering one’s own lack of, y’know, genius credentials 50% less depressing. It also gave the world Linda Cardellini’s lovely little white-teethed smile (above, with Franco) but that’s a story for another day. Probably involving Grateful Dead records and a certain amount of crying.

Genius as freak, or genius as geek. There are no alternatives. But what, I hear you cry, about Jack Kerouac, roguishly handsome college jock (he went to university on a ‘football’ scholarship) who cracked a tibia and decided to piss out prose for a living instead of, I don’t know, commending people for the quality of their ‘hustle’ and running into giant foam men at ‘practice’? (Obviously, American Football players are massive freaks, in both senses of the word, to you and I – in an average NFL season, a defensive player’s body will be expected to withstand the human+padding equivalent of forty 60mph car crashes, not to mention an unceasing stream of verbal abuse from a fat man in a cap. But in the American high school social hierarchy, the freaks are something quite different. They are the Francos: the kids what take drugs, what grow their hair, what drive rusty cars, what don’t a shit etc. etc. The revolutionary serfs to Mr Dreamboat Quarterback’s king.)

What, I hear you cry, about Frédéric Chopin, charmful salon-surfer who cruised into aristocratic comfort via his invention of the instrumental ballade and via George Sand’s vagina? (For as Cruel Intentions’ dazzling juxtaposition of Choderlos de Laclos’ atop an American high school proved, in the early 19th century, rich kids were the cool kids.)

Perhaps. I mean, Kerouac drank a fuckton of booze and Chopin almost certainly spent the first twenty years of his life staring at sheet music so I would argue, Kerouac as freak, Chopin as geek, but let’s not get bogged down in specifics. What’s undeniable is the way one can trace the binary through any era of literature and music, squeezing a full spectrum of manifestations of extraordinary talent into a schema of school popularity. T.S. Eliot, geek, Ezra P, freak. Frank Black, freak, Steve Albini, geek. Blake, freak, Coleridge, geek. Lord Rochester, freak, Dryden, geek. Deerhoof, freaks, Deerhunter, geeks. Marlowe, freak, Shakespeare, geek. The apostle John, freak, the apostle Luke, geek. Bach, freak, Handel, geek. Early Schoenberg, geek, late Schoenberg, freak. Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower, freak, Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower, geek. Iggy, freak, Brian Eno, geek. Kraftwerk, geeks, Faust, freaks. Und so weiter (as both Faust und Kraftwerk would surely themselves put it).

The particular Freaks and Geeks clip I kicked off with is so important in the context of the series, however, because it represents that point at which a freak, Franco, starts hanging out with the D&D playing geeks (I was always more into Warhammer Quest myself) – the point at which freakery and geekery combine in a FUCK YOU CONFORMITY vision of a world without judgement or social expectation or big bullying chaps like Kerouac making life miserable. A world in which RPGs are like guitars. A world sans douchbagery.

And it seems to me there are a very select club of men and women (shit, there aren’t any women in the above list, shitshitshit, um, um, Joplin, freak, Joni, geek, um, Woolf, geek, Plath, freak, God, how embarrassing) who represent precisely this potent union of freakery and geekery. What follows is a Silkworms tribute to the geekfreaks/freakgeeks. Because it’s the geekfreaks/freakgeeks who will sculpt that world. Not by actually writing guitary songs about RPGs (Iron Maiden- and Rick Wakemen-style) I hasten to add. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it’s an attitude thing.

IT’S TIME TO PLAY... match the quotation to the sayer of quotation. (It’s not. It’s really not. That would be fucking lame. This isn’t the back of the Times, for goodness’ sake.)

‘I was like an egg rolling through time until I was 24. Then the egg cracked and I popped out.’

‘It might just be that simple.’

‘A dwarf who brings a standard along with him to measure his own size, take my word, is a dwarf in more articles than one.

‘I was a high school basketball player and high jumper, so I thought I could help.’

I remember finding records like Sleep Gently in the Womb by a Japanese medicine professor compiling sounds of what (an unborn) baby would hear on Side A, and on Side B connecting it with classical music. That was an excellent record. Unfortunately it melted under a lamp.

Sam Kinchin-Smith
Music Editor

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