For a while now I’ve meant to write a post just off the topic of music, but waited because I wasn’t sure odyshape was the kind of place for it. Well, the Dude works in mysterious ways - and his devastating Phil Hoffman eulogy is probably the best thing you’ll ever find on this blog. Read it if you haven’t, then read it again… and then share it, an urging devoid of self interest even as half this website’s content generation.
I won’t even try to aim that high, which is appropriate because my subject matter wouldn’t either. I want you to meet Josh Clark and Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant, the two most interesting guys you’ve ever met Thursday night at your favorite local bar. Together, they’ve hosted nearly six years the Stuff You Should Know podcast, a subsidiary of HowStuffWorks.com, which is itself under Discovery.com.
Their premise is laughably simple to the point of irony: two intelligent slacker liberal arts majors now approximating middle age sit down across a studio desk and discuss a topic they’ve spent the past few days researching. Think two Cliffys from Cheers facing off sober (though occasionally you have to wonder) for forty minutes. These guys are not experts, do not profess to be experts, get all kinds of things wrong, digress ad infinitum into pop minutiae, take very little (except politics and alcohol) seriously - and dammit are the Abbott and Costello of the Information Age.
That’s really want makes it fizz: the interplay. Chuck, who looks and talks just like Kevin Smith, plays it as straight as a man who chortles politely at everything can: a former Hollywood PA turned freelance writer, he carries with him the Old Left morality of common sense Southern populists, lapsed Christian guilt, and playful overindulgence in sweets and alcohol. His rambling cohort is probably my favorite person in contemporary media: Josh Clark, who could best be described as… adorably precocious, dry in excess, aggressively Left, and maybe not all there. You have to listen to him speak - his voice and intonation conjures a similarity you’ll never place, no matter how infinitely close you get. I’ve given up, and accepted it merely as LSD with a head cold.
I don’t need to plug these guys: their podcast floats between 9th and 1st on iTunes’ weekly charts, and has remained more or less in that range for almost half a decade now. But they’re the reason I’ve spent so little of 2014 listening to music (aside from the Dum Dum Girls and Against Me!, who I’ll address next week). I want to give my audience of readers, who I’m sure aren’t familiar, an intro.
Don’t start by listening to topics you’ve mastered - you’ll only get pissed because they forget x or y. Try their historical sojourn into beer, or how pizza became such an American thing, or the who what when where of exploitation films. After that, head on to music sampling and the evolution of hip-hop; they claim in both to be squares who aren’t qualified to comment on these subjects, but that’s kind of the point. That, and they totally nail it. Like, how much can you tell me about musique concrète, and the first guy to deconstruct Elvis reel-to-reel? If you’re as big a fan of music (or barrier reefs, earth worms, ejection seats, mountaintop removal mining, the number 0, silly putty, peak oil, money laundering, Friday the 13th, or Malthus’ carrying capacity) as I am, then you’re already a fan of SYSK. You just don’t know it yet.