Dave Hill is a comedian, writer, musician, and highly boneable public figure. He is the author of the book Tasteful Nudes (St. Martin’s Press, 2012), host of The Goddamn Dave Hill Show on New Jersey’s WFMU-91.1, frequent contributor to This American Life and singer-guitar player for the power-pop band Valley Lodge. His new comedy album Let Me Turn You On is available now, as is his second collection of essays, Dave Hill Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Penguin/Blue Rider Press). Dave also smells incredible and can play sweet guitar solos without even really trying. You can follow him on Twitter here.
I was sitting around my apartment the other day, minding my own business while listening to Earth, Wind & Fire, when suddenly, and seemingly from out of nowhere, I discovered my pants were at my damn ankles again.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Dave was cranking up ‘Shining Star’ or ‘After the Love is Gone’ or something and things just ran their natural course. I mean, we’ve all been there.”
But that’s where you’re wrong, because it was actually new Earth, Wind & Fire. I was listening to, specifically, their latest album Now, Then & Forever, which — from where I’m reclining anyway — brings just as much heat as their classic efforts, the ones perhaps now most commonly associated with oldies radio or retro dance nights at that newly renovated Holiday Inn lounge down the street that the Cinnabon lady keeps going on and on about. Yeah, I know — I couldn’t believe it, either.
You’d think the members of Earth, Wind & Fire would have collectively run out of steam or even just plain old died by now, but here they are, over 40 years into the business of being Earth, Wind & Fire, still delivering the goods with songs like “Love Is Law,” “Got to Be Love,” and “Belo Horizonte,” an instrumental that I am still pretty sure is about banging, at least based on what the percussionist is up to anyway. I won’t bother getting into specifics about the album — instead I’ll just say that you should get it because it sounds like Earth, Wind & Fire, which is great for everybody — because there are larger matters at hand.
As I stood there fastening my belt once more while battling my neighbors’ usual cries to “close my blinds” and “honor the conditions of my parole,” I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where Are the Earth, Wind & Fires of today?” And I don’t mean where are the r&b/soul/funk/disco/jazz/rock/gospel ensembles with 900 members plus a horn section of today either — I’ll save that question for another time. What I’d like to know is: where are all the bands with that primal urgency and honesty when it comes to singing unapologetically melodic songs about life and love and perhaps most importantly, good old-fashioned porking? It’s that last bit especially that seems to be missing from most of what passes today as music. And — to be fair — I’m pretty sure there isn’t a single Earth, Wind & Fire song that actually contains the word “porking” at any point (though they should think about it). But you can still totally tell that this is a group of guys who have totally done it. And that’s what counts.
This past summer, as part of my ongoing research on human behavior with regard to music and/or boning, I attended a number of outdoor music festivals around the country, specifically the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware, Outside Lands in San Francisco, and Bumbershoot in Seattle. And while I had a lovely time, heard plenty of great music, and met plenty of nice folks at the bus station on the way there and back from all three, there was still something, for the most part, missing — songs that made me just want to drop my pants regardless of any and all local ordinances. And while that may have been a relief to those around me, it remains a disappointment to me.
As best I can tell, bands in popular music today fall into one of three categories. There are those bearded, banjo-strumming “bands” that cajole the audience to shout “Hey!” along with them in at least every other verse, which — for the sake of brevity and also the fact that there isn’t a comments section open to the public on this website — I think we can all agree are completely dreadful. Then there are the more dance/pop-oriented bands that would be pretty much screwed if anyone were to accidentally spill a Coke on their laptop. And, finally, there are the bands that — if they even bother to strap on actual guitars — play with a timidity that suggests their mothers are waiting impatiently for them in idling minivans in the parking lot and wear their instruments so high it looks like they quite simply couldn’t fuck their way out of paper bag.
In short, most bands today (with the exception, of course, of those with the decency to play heavy metal), don’t make me want to drop my pants. And that’s unfortunate. I’m dating myself here, of course, but I remember a time when almost every band, even the ones relegated to playing on wing night somewhere, took the stage with an urgency that seemed to say “We are here, we are alive, and — assuming we’re doing our job up here — we’re pretty sure I’m gonna wind up having sex tonight, maybe even before we get the van loaded.” And that’s what I miss — standing in the crowd, watching an artist, and wondering just how many members of the audience they are going to put it to later. (You know, assuming they felt like it and weren’t presently suffering from sort of inflammation or another.)
I probably should have gotten this out of the way earlier, but to borrow a phrase the great and always right Morrissey in his description of Lady Gaga, far too much of today’s music manages to be “the exact opposite of erotic.” Fortunately for you and me, and even Morrissey, though, there’s still Earth, Wind & Fire, doing their part to make things right for over four decades now. Speaking of which, I was just watching an old YouTube video of the band performing live back in the ‘70s and they were all wearing loose-fitting robes. And can you blame them? I bet they get major boners while listening to their music, too.
Keep up the good work, fellas. I don’t care what the neighbors say.