Confusion Corner : Rock around the Wren

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GRAPHIC // REBECCA KLINGER

Strange days have descended upon us. The symbol of our generation is the Juul and its voice belongs to the former hero of Degrassi High. Will we vote Bobo the Clown in for another four years or give Barack Obama’s salamander-jawed sphincter puppet a smack on the a— and tell him to get in the game before it’s too late? And, last but not least, the alternative rock charts continue freewheeling around on an exponentially intensifying joy ride through the land of utter disarray. In other words: it’s essentially pop music for kids who like to wear tie-dyed hair in their face and shop for oversized recycled wool sweaters. Touché, Billie Eilish — who wouldn’t want their fifteen minutes of fame as the world crashes and burns?

Not that Billie “Eyelash” deserves vilification. Who else would “Bi Tri Delt” lifting fraternity brothers “Captain Curl” and “Whey Warrior” turn to in the throes of their darkest hours? One sing along with “Bad Guy” is all it takes to wipe those testosterone tears away, leave the greasy imprint of an abnormally vascular forehead behind on the mirror and return to swiping through Tinder over yet another plate of unseasoned pan-seared chicken breast and Uncle Ben’s instant brown rice. That said, it still feels like the indie scene is being force fed “emo edge” now more than ever. You heard that correctly, folks: depression is cool these days. It makes me wonder: how did The Smiths make living well beyond the bounds of social acceptability look so damn natural?

“Not that billie ‘eyelash’ deserves vilification. who else would ‘bi tri delt’ lifting fraternity brothers ‘captain curl’ and ‘whey warrior’ turn to in the throes of their darkest hours?”

Ladies and gentlemen, please return your seatbacks and tray tables to their full upright and locked positions; we hope you enjoyed your time in the preface and welcome to the thesis of this “Confusion Corner” soliloquy. 

I’ve thought it through thoroughly in the days since writing the first few paragraphs, and well… absolutely nothing has changed. That’s because — believe it or not — I knew what I was going to write about this entire time, so here goes nothing. In the sixteen score and seven years since the ink dried on the charter for the College of William and Mary, students have scratched, spit and gouged just to stand out. All this aberration has culminated in our campus appearing to an outsider as if we’ve coordinated matching Mac DeMarco Halloween costumes and forgot to take them off. 

Basically, both the alternative music industry and students’ means of self-expression at the college are crumbling at the seams thanks to a sore lack of originality. But things need not be this desolate. It just so turns out that one issue holds its solution in the other. Have I lost you? Allow me to explain. It’s all over campus, but you have to have an eye for it. Namesakes, phrases, puns, peachy excerpts from class assignments — you name it. Promotional flyers are a breeding ground for this sort of thing — stay corny AMP. All it takes is some creativity and maybe a dash of ignorance and any of these one-to-three world blurbs is easily flipped into a legendary band name! No talent? Don’t sweat it. Just spread the word and somebody will inevitably run with it all the way to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.

Maybe that last bit was somewhat of a stretch. Although seeing your own creative contributions immortalized for something you hardly had anything to do with would be quite gratifying, if not one hell of a missed opportunity. Let’s unpack some examples. Fish Rotation; a few months back, I was wolfing down a bowl of Lucky Charms at The Caf like a barbaric halfling when my free hand instinctively glommed onto the napkin dispenser. 

All of the sudden, my friend sitting next to me fell under a spell of hysteric cackling. When I asked what the deal was, my gaze was redirected toward said almighty napkin dispenser. A schedule was embedded behind the clear plastic. The title of this schedule was “Fish Rotation”. Its purpose was to inform students where they’d be able to track down some thawed faux flounder on any given day of the week. But really, who gives a damn? My friend continued to giggle at the silly headline until it hit me: “Fish Rotation” would be a kick-a— band name. It implies a sloppy, grimy sort of raw energy that doesn’t compromise rhythmic versatility. I daydream about a punchy bassline and a loose-lipped vocalist that sprinkles a mouthful of Pabst into a crowd of thumb-tacked facial piercings and acrylic-stained black denim. Chaos, I’d like to introduce you to poetry. 

” ‘fish rotation’ would be a kick a— band name.”

Thus, the list was born. Whenever I’m struck by this same type of “inspiration via alias,” I write it down. Another instance required an excursion to the chalk-colored city a few hours north of here. I had a hot date in Dupont Circle. A running gag naturally developed thanks to my on-campus residency in a hall bearing the same French name. If you live in or around The District, you might know what’s coming next. 

Enter the gigantic red flight of steps displacing the straight shot of the sidewalk in favor of a downward dive. Along the banister, white spray-painted stencil etches out the words “The Dupont Underground”. Color me dazzled. Yes, I understand this could be taken as a cheap play on “The Velvet Underground”, just bear with me. Upon first interaction, Velvet is soft, fuzzy and elegant. But it also oozes with sexual undertones. In many ways, Dupont Hall is the antithesis of these things. Not only does a healthy irony serve as a songwriters’ best friend, but the contrast would also essentially force the group to divorce themselves a decent amount from the Velvets’ textbook merger of rock and avant-garde that so many subsequent acts have tried to emulate. If you really thought that Lil Nas X straddled his disgusting horse across music’s last frontier, then you better look alive for the Dupont Underground.

Of course, none of these bands actively play, record, or even exist beyond the hormone-polluted imagination of a college student. On the bright side, nobody could really could ever put a deadline on this sort of thing. But hey, what time like the present. I would do it myself, but the extent of my musical dexterity reaches somewhere around “Hallelujah” on the ukulele and no further. But that’s alright, on account of being dubbed “the dude who walks around campus with the teddy bear fastened to his backpack” my look doesn’t exactly scream “rock-god” anyway. 

Still, since rock ‘n roll instilled itself as the voice in my head as a kid — a shiver trickles down my spine every time today’s artists slander its name through gritted teeth, embarrassingly unaware of the shoulders they’re standing upon. So please for the sake of the scarce beauty and dignity this world has left, somebody — anybody — steal my idea and do something cool with it! I promise I won’t knock down your door pleading for compensation, even if I need to buy a new Mr. Bear for my backpack. Besides, the culture at the College could definitely use it. 

Other band names on “the list” considered for a spotlight in this article include: Gene of Interest, Roses of the Unborn, Goat Guardians, Smooth Jiff, Spellbound Mound, The Heartless Horns, The Physics Boys and The Hemichordates. All embezzled from somewhere or someone on or around William and Mary’s campus.

Lastly, keep in mind that any day now, Jeff Bezos’ army of cyborg clones will descend upon us and eliminate half the human race by forcing excessive quantities of Botox serum down our throats while the survivors are left to slug it out over bags of robotic liposuction waste just to keep warm at night. In short, hurry the hell up. The end.

Matthew Kortan is a Flat Hat Confusion Corner columnist who is not interested in seeing Car Seat Headrest with you simply because he goes to The College of William and Mary, noting that “mumbling a prepubescent rendition of a Serbian orthodox hymn set to Modest Mouse back catalogue instrumentals and topped off by lyrics pulled from a top hat without a rabbit just doesn’t turn him on.”