Thursday, May 03, 2007

Remembering Hating Brenda

At this point, I have as much interest in wanting to study the seeds of ironic embrace of pop culture as I do wanting to cough into a petri dish and see what grows. However, for those who are interested, you will likely find yourself making a pitstop to check out the odd and rewarding history of Los Angeles based 'zine-turned-magazine Ben Is Dead.

Ben Is Dead -- started by Darby Romeo -- was very much ahead of its time. Long before magazines like Vice or Blender came along to aggressively market themselves as great ways to pass time reading the printed clash of pop culture trivia and the underground of past and present while doing one's business on the can, Ben Is Dead had already carved that niche. However, you could read Ben Is Dead much like you could have a conversation with the staff who produced it, which made the magazine quite unique and enjoyable -- even if you thought the hit/miss ratio wasn't incredible. Vice and Blender are, in each its own way, uni-directional and over-confrontational. I don't know anyone who has fallen in love with Vice or Blender. Many lucky enough to have access fell in love with Ben Is Dead, including myself. And reading one issue would easily exhibit why. Ben Is Dead never left out the love or the bile, often on the same page. There was something immediately identifiable.

Ben Is Dead wrote often about Beverly Hills 90210. It's entirely possible they may have been responsible for the U.S. underground's fascination with the show -- despite musical appearances by The Meat Puppets (doing "Attacked By Monsters") and The Flaming Lips (doing "She Don't Use Jelly") playing "live" at the beginning and near the end of the show's run, respectively. (And the rumor stating members of Pavement having a fight with a 90210 cast member on the set, squashing the former's chances of being that elusive first rock band on the 90210 pilot, was just that.)

90210-mania was growing, as was Ben Is Dead's obsession, eventually spawning the infamous I Hate Brenda newsletter.

Harnessing the popularity of the 90210 faithfuls across the world, especially those who despised Shannon Doherty's character Brenda Walsh, the Ben Is Dead squad gained a stampede of new readers beyond their dreams. 1993 saw the release of The 'I Hate Brenda' Book, written by Michael Carr and Ben Is Dead head Darby. That year also saw the release of the whole point of this entire entry:

Rump - Hating Brenda - (1993)

"Rump" was an agglomeration of Los Angeles creators, obviously featuring Ben Is Dead staff but also local rock bands and luminaries that were part of Loyola Marymount University radio station KXLU 88.9FM in Los Angeles. Ironically, that album cover was concocted in the comode of neighboring University of California, Irvine college radio station KUCI 88.9FM in Orange County, CA. (Geek Confessional: I was there. No kidding. I even contributed some of the anti-Brenda graffiti waaay in the back behind "Brenda"'s cigarette.)

Hating Brenda, released on Caroline Records, was just a fun audio peripheral to the whole anti-Brenda mania which Ben Is Dead rode like a prize rodeo champ. It was an eight-track compact disc of various songs, ranging from dance music, rock, and noise all venerating that halo of bile that hovered over Brenda Walsh and nothing more.

On a relisten, however, at least half the record -- much like Ben Is Dead -- was quite ahead of its time!

  • Jonmark & Rump - "Who is Brenda? (six six six mix)" [3:56 / mp3 / 192kbps] - 1993

  • Who is Jonmark?

    Who cares! "BREN DA BREN DA BR-BR-BR BREN DA" over and over, please. This track was initially penned to be "grunge rave" or "grave" music as part of the album's press release. There's no "grunge" in the track at all, however this is a great slab of early Prodigy-esque hardcore rave music with grittier sounding bass synth. Perhaps only Angelenos might remember the very brief year that MARS-FM graced the southern California airwaves with this type of dance music exclusively, once featuring DJ Don Bolles (yes, that Don Bolles) during his more adventurous "All Night Truck Driving" radio show. "Who is Brenda?" might have been a reaction to the MARS-FM stereotype which quickly developed.

  • Rump - "Brenda Can't Dance To This" [5:28 / mp3 / 192kbps] - 1993

  • OK. Not only is this clearly the greatest track on Hating Brenda, it's a flat-out ignored dance club classic, period. No track from a decade prior would so succinctly foreshadow DFA Records fodder -- and I say this as a current fan of DFA records. The beginning symphonic ambience gives way to flanged-out muddled disco beats and the entrancing, whispered "Brenda Can't Dance To This" chant just before the tasty disco bass-line fades in, and the sloppy Spanish sung verses bring it on non-stop. It's a spacey slab of fun for feet. It's shocking that this track got passed over by everyone much less anyone.

    Do yourself a favor and give this track the beloved 14-year anniversary party it deserves. The spirits of Ben Is Dead would thank you. Brenda would still hate you, though, but, like, who cares about Brenda?

  • Rump - "Choot'er" [4:10 / mp3 / 192kbps] - 1993

  • Most memorable for the "Brenda gotta big ol' butt" "sample", "Choot'er" was the token gangsta lick on Hating Brenda. It's not as enjoyable or replayable as "Who is Brenda?", much less "Brenda Can't Dance To This". However, for the few of you who, like myself, appreciated the New England hip-hop fucktards Hawd Gankstuh Rappuhs MC's Wid Gatz, you might have an idea what "Choot'er" foreshadowed.

I promise to mine, ur, "serious" stuff in the near future as well, but I figure that -- with the Big Audio Dynamite Revival Deluxe already accelerating toward us like fallout from a big ol' dirty bomb, and many bands wanting to revive the likes and sounds of Gaye Bikers On Acid or Pop Will Eat Itself but with a blurry boring sheen (Hello, Klaxons!) -- you might want to seek shelter with something that might make you smell, I mean, smile on occasion. OK, no more fun allowed. Time for homework.

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Anonymous Adi said...

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4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:23 AM  
Blogger lantz said...

i loved this album. i used to work the late shift at a subway back in 1993/1994. at 4am when the crowd wasn't getting the drift to get out, i'd put on 'brenda can't dance to this' and the place would clear out quickly. i loved the album and the track, but clearly, it just wasn't for everyone.

3:52 PM  
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9:04 AM  
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