I was once a little…um, okay, terribly obsessed with iTunes. I got my first iPod in 2004 and became immediately entranced by Apple’s seeming infinite lists of music for sale. Over the years, I spent way too much time on iTunes and spent way too much money on music, some of which was great, and some of which was not. In 2011, for the sake of my sanity and my bank account, I went cold turkey. I suspended my iTunes activities and completely stopped visiting site. With the iTunes Diaries, I take a look back, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly in music that I just had to have in the moment.
My iPod as been as much a ground for experiencing the unknown as it has for the known. When I was heavily into purchasing songs, with each playlist, I endeavored to buy at least one unfamiliar song. Or rather, a song with which I wanted to form some sort of relationship, from simply learning to appreciate the song itself, to perhaps building something with that song’s artist. In some cases, things worked out, and I found myself dabbling in new and exciting musical waters. Other times, things didn’t work out.
What is that they say about the road to hell being paved with good intentions? Well, that was the case with “Blister in the Sun” by the Violent Femmes.
Okay, so remember the soundtrack to Grosse Point Blank? If you were at least a teenager in 1997, I bet you do. Terrible as it may be to admit, I’ve never seen the movie, but goddamn if that damn soundtrack wasn’t in every single CD player of every single car ride I took during the summer of 1997. Now, I curse in jest, because honestly, it’s a good soundtrack…that is, if 1980s new wave, alternative, punk, and ska happens to be your thing. In 1997, none of them happened to be my thing, not really anyway. My journey into those realms was only just beginning, thanks mostly to a head-over-heels infatuation I had developed for Sublime. So deep was I into that addiction (R.I.P. Bradley) that it took a good year or so for me to see the forest for the trees. (No pun intended.)
So along comes Grosse Point Blank and its musical mix of everything from The Specials and The Pogues to the Pixies and Echo & the Bunnymen, and yes, the Violent Femmes. I wasn’t deaf during college, so sure, I had heard of these bands. I even knew some of their songs. And I had friends were were especially rabid fans of what I would have then deemed “college rock.” So I had heard “Blister in the Sun,” but I didn’t pay it much attention. The general sound that emanated from that song, and other likes it, just weren’t that appealing. My happy descent with Sublime had led to the discovery of Bad Religion (through it’s cover of “We’re Only Gonna Die”) and West Coast punk, and I was pleased enough to live in that genre for awhile. Shame on me for ignoring such popular and cultish bands? Eh, it didn’t bother me one bit.
Ten years later (really, it was early 2007), I’m sitting in front of my computer with a brand new iTunes card, sifting through the iTunes store for songs for my next playlist. I don’t have any particular theme in mind for the list, so I wander for awhile, through what was then a number of iTunes decades-based lists, like “1970s Dance” and “1990s Jams,” hoping that inspiration might hit. I eventually landed on something like “1980s Alternative” (or maybe it was Alt-Rock?), which is where “Blister in the Sun” was waiting. And what was one of the “related” options to pop up but the soundtrack to Grosse Point Blank! I mean, it had to be a sign! I listened to the 30 second clip, and…! Le sigh, it was just as uninviting as it had been years ago. Or…was it? Any disdain that I harbored had long since dissipated, really. I was in a much more accepting place with music, and maybe I had missed out on the “best” of 80s punky-alternative-whatever songs? Maybe now was as good a time as any to see just what the Violent Femmes had to offer, and maybe I could do that through accepting “Blister in the Sun??” I struck while the iron was blazing and suddenly owned the song.
And here we are, nearly another ten years later, and every time “Blister in the Sun” rolls around, I think: “I don’t really like this song.”
Whatever fire that had burned so brightly for the Violent Femmes on that day quickly withered. Oh, I had every intention of exploring their back catalog, but that just goes back to that thing I said about “intentions” earlier. Things didn’t work out. Though, as much as I don’t like “Blister in the Sun,” I don’t hate it with a passion either. It remains as a reminder that I probably never was as “alternative” as my ego might have once led me to believe.