The recent success of the AMC series “The Walking Dead” is a bit of a surprise. It’s been an uneven ride to say the least: the pacing has been inconsistent, the characters painted in broad strokes, and the scope & range of the series shifts on an episode-by-episode basis. The recent wholesale sacking of the writing staff is also a troubling sign. Just as in the show, no one is safe. Yet it should come as no surprise to fans of the zombie genre that “The Walking Dead” has persevered, staggering forward and earning followers and accolades in the process. The production value is high (not a surprise for the adventurous cable channel) and the half-season we’ve seen so far has poached the best bits from previous entries in the zombie canon. What makes this show work? Let’s devour the basics first.
(A nostalgic repost of a piece I wrote in 2003. Simpler times they were.)
So this past Tuesday we’re at Harry’s in Northampton for an open mic night, having a beer, hoping to catch some decent music. The first band isn’t half bad although you can tell they’ve been spending alot of time with The Bends and OK Computer in their stereos. But who can blame them, they’re both great albums, and if you knocked every Radiohead-influenced band off the airwaves, British radio would have to shut down due to lack of material. So this band finishes up their set, clears off the stage, and the MC announces next band will be The Tapeworms. Fair enough. We go into the bar next door and watch the end of the Red Sox game for a while and then come back, hoping the Tapeworms will have started by then. They have. There are three women on stage. In the center is the singer sporting brightly dyed red hair and a polka dot dress, hunched over, alternately singing and moaning. Flanking her is a keyboardist who stands playing a single note, holding a violin, and a woman who seems to be manipulating a rack of guitar effects. “Christ is in my crotch” the singer moans as the other two drone on a single note, sounding like the tone-deaf offspring of Moon Safari. The whole mess slops along for a good ten minutes before it sputters to a halt. People applaud and some guy in front requests an AC/DC song.
Chris Pappas from the Everyday Visuals wrote an interesting blog about people wanting to know the “story” behind bands. “What could our story be?” he asks. “We, in the Visuals, try so hard not to fall into that trap - but if it costs us new potential fans, then what is the point of being stubborn…why not give them a story?” This, obviously, got me thinking about the issue of art & artists. For as long as there has been art, people have been interested in the artists. The first caveman to rhythmically smack rocks together, the painter(s) responsible for the cave of Lascaux, that blind bearded guy who babbled/wrote The Odyssey; I’m sure they were all discussed in a non-artistic context. “You know that guy who was bangin’ those rocks last night?” a fellow caveman probably said. “Lived with him at Cave College. Majored in Mammoth Clubbing. Nice guy. Real talented.”