With the dawning of social media and increased connectivity, the public’s voices have never been louder. As the political climate changes, and the everyday citizen becomes increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo, it’s sometimes hard to know how best to use your voice.
Affectionately labelled as pub rock, Bad//Dreems encompass so much of what makes quintessentially Australian rock music so identifiable, and with their new album Gutful, they hammer in a very political message.
Alex Cameron, the band’s guitarist, wants listeners to know, everyone’s opinions matter. “People may look at a band like us and assume that’s not what we’re about, and same thing with our fans. People may think that we may not believe in things like [social justice].
“That’s a real problem in the world right now, that we tend to stereotype, generalise and over simplify things, when in fact it’s very interesting to deliver those messages in the form of a garage rock’n’ roll song.”
The changes to the political climate over the past 18 months prompted the band to write about this heavy subject matter. From the Trump administration to the circus of Australian politics and the ongoing debates surrounding immigration, Cameron sighs as he admits, they’d had a gutful.
“The motivation for the title track is being fed up with the kind of round-a-bout, futile debates that take place in our world today, and of the bullshit being spouted by these people. Other songs are about more personal subject matter, and Mob Rule about the dangers of the mob mentality – it’s an album of the times.”
The aforementioned title track is considered a call to arms for those feeling underrepresented by public figures.
“You don’t need to have a PhD in humanities or political theory to be able to talk about these things. Obviously they’re very complex issues, but they can also be very simple. It’s an interesting exercise to write about issues which are very prominent in Australia right now. What better way to explore those issues than within a presumption about the genre?” Read more
The Smith Street Band’s emotionally charged lyrics, often expressing the grinding torture and blinding emptiness of living with mental illness, have become a signature element of their presence on the music scene.
Frontman Wil Wagner’s experiences with depression and anxiety are consistently laid out for the audience in a heartbreakingly raw fashion, something he’s happy to do, considering his words provide hope for those in the audience that need it most.
“The fact that I have this relatively small platform, but a platform nonetheless, to talk about that stuff, and make people feel like they aren’t alone in the universe feeling these things, is so important and empowering for me, because I have those bands for me as well. If I’m feeling a certain way, I put that band on, and it comforts me. I listen to the band’s words and it inspires me. And to be that band for one person, I feel like my job on this planet is done.”
Suicide remains the biggest killer of young people in Australia, with suicide in men approximately three times higher than women, consistent across all states and territories, and other Western countries. Despite experiencing high rates of depression and anxiety, men are less likely than women to seek help for these feelings. These hard statistics are something that drives Wagner to continue to write with beautiful self-awareness and honesty, using his music to start a dialogue with the audience about mental health.
“I think especially because I am a big guy, I have tattoos, I’m sort of blokey, I like that I can express those things, and especially get young men to relate to those things as well. I am proudly someone who deals with all of those things in a quiet and extreme way, and sometimes it can have a pretty disastrous affect on me.
“Predominantly our audience is young men between the age of 18 and 25, who would be the least likely people in society to admit they feel anxious or vulnerable. That I can contribute to removing that stigma about being anxious and being sad, I really don’t feel like words can describe how much that means to me, it means the fucking world.” Read more
After 18 months of intense fan anticipation, April 1 saw the first episode of the third season of cult television show Rick and Morty drop as a surprise April Fools prank.
The episode was a triumph, showcasing the show’s creativity, heart, and humour at its best. Yet the episode did more than entertain, it started a cultural phenomenon, best served with chicken nuggets.
Within the episode, Rick recalls a McDonald’s Szechuan dipping sauce that was served for a limited time in 1998 to promote the Disney movie Mulan. In the final scene, he proclaims valiantly to his grandson:
“I’ll go out, and I’ll find some of that Mulan Szechuan teriyaki dipping sauce, Morty, because that’s what this is all about, that’s my one armed man. I’m not driven by avenging my dead family. I’m driven by find
ing that McNugget sauce. That’s my series arc, Morty. If it takes us nine
seasons, I’m going to get that dipping Szechuan sauce.”
With one line from the protagonist’s stammering, drooling mouth, the show’s creators, Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, created an army to serve one purpose. No, not to pass butter, to get sauce. And that army is rather large.
By and large, Rick and Morty fans are passionate, gathering online using platforms like Reddit and Facebook to discuss the show. And since the release of the episode, the discourse of these groups has been almost entirely dominated by the topic of McDonald’s Mulan-inspired szechuan dipping sauce.
Hardly contained, the mania has progressed beyond these curated spaces. One of the most viewed YouTube videos this week is a how-to on making szechuan sauce, and a change.org petition urging McDonald’s to bring back the sauce is gaining traction.
Alleged packets of the sauce, and even photos of packets of the sauce, are now being auctioned on eBay, with the most impressive fetching bids in excess of 50,000USD.
Though an obsession with McDonald’s sauce may seem to contradict this fact, Rick and Morty is an incredibly clever show. Its whip-smart writing and mature themes attracting and nurturing the huge fanbase.
The star of the show, Rick Sanchez, is the ultimate free thinker. The literal smartest man in the universe, rebelling against not only his dimension’s rules and social norms, and the status quo of a multiverse, but also against a citadel made up entirely of infinite versions of himself.
“Think for yourselves, don’t be sheep.”
In line with their hero, it is well documented that much of the Rick and Morty fandom consider themselves smarter than those who do not watch the show, or other members of the fandom they consider inferior, taking their passion to emulate this free-thinking genius to an arguably obnoxious level.
Yet these same fans have heavily promoted McDonald’s, a brand synonymous with capitalist culture.
In the time that has passed since the dawn of the Szechuan Sauce era, fans questioned within the aforementioned online groups over their alleged susceptibility to the product placement, have been quick to claim the show’s reference is satirical, unable or unwilling to critically assess the use of the sauce.
Whether or not the show did mention such a specific condiment in truly irreverent fashion, the McDonald’s Mulan Szechuan Sauce is tough to swallow (and not because it was made in 1998.)
Today’s consumer has the option to approach much of the advertising they’re exposed to with a healthy sense of scepticism, though this scenario made that difficult. The fundamental problem with this kind of audience manipulation is subtly, it hits when the viewer is most vulnerable: expecting to enjoy a story, not listen to a sales pitch.
In this case, there is no denying that the viewers were completely won over. The show’s fandom has become so dedicated to the product they were told to like, that an animated alcoholic’s wish may very well be granted in the real world.
While there’s no official or public partnership between the show and McDonald’s, the two parties are communicating on Twitter, and a corporate McDonald’s chef has tweeted his support of the movement. With a live action Mulan remake currently in the works, everything seems to be lining up neatly.
The sheer volume of free advertising the golden arches have received over the past week is an astounding display of the power of fan culture. It’s product placement gone meta, and the fans don’t mind one bit.
For to be in favour of bringing back the sauce, is to be a part of the narrative of the show they so dearly love, of something bigger, of an exclusive club, and the pursuit of that is at the root of what online communities and social media are about.
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Highlight of 2016: I met a dreamy man, who makes me happier than my own company, and got to share many wonderful musical adventures in this wrap up with him. Lowlight of 2016: Losing a job with no warning. But it was okay, I found my way to Beat and better things. A Wild Prediction for 2017: Surprise posthumous release of a festive David Bowie album: The Freakiest Christmas. Read more