Endless Loop: Jail

downHave you ever had one of those songs that gets stuck in your head for days…weeks…years? Sure you have. These are the songs that always make the cut. The songs on repeat. We all have them. I have a ton. Welcome back to Endless Loop.

“Jail” by Down

Separating the art from the artist.

It seems like something that should be pretty easy to do, or maybe it’s not at all.  At any rate, it has increasingly become something that I see discussed and debated over and over again online as some celebrated artist puts his foot in his mouth, or is revealed to be kind of a creep, or turns out to have been a monster all along.  Whether it be the closet rapists and perverts being swept away by the #MeToo movement, the outward xenophobic and homophobic bigotry on display from a myriad of famous Trump supporters, or the mind numbingly tone deaf declarations that clutter up my Twitter feed on a daily basis, it turns out our artists, our singers, our actors, writers, and celebrity personalities are maybe not the idyllic entities we’ve built them up to be.  As it turns out, a lot of them are assholes.

And I’m not just talking about Kanye.

In January of 2016, former Pantera lead singer Phil Anselmo threw up a Nazi salute at a concert in Hollywood while shouting “white power” at the audience.  Footage surfaced, and the blowback was fast and deserved, the singer then trying to walk back the incident claiming it was an inside joke, or that he was drunk, or that he was deliberately antagonizing his audience, or this or that or whatever.  Any one of these things might be true, but unfortunately, it was also not the first time Anselmo courted controversy of that nature.  And it tarnishes everything that came before.

To be honest, I haven’t really followed Anselmo’s career the last 20+ years, but his antics have made it decidedly more uncomfortable to go back and listen to those early ‘90s Pantera albums, tied to my adolescence though they may be, or any other band he may have been a part of, the stoner metal band Down in particular.  That group’s 1995 debut NOLA gave us a churning, smoky mix of sludge metal and southern rock, but also the acoustic track “Jail,” a quiet, reflective, and flowing moment of stoned depression and detachment that stood out in stark contrast to a record of chugging riffs and bong hits.  It’s a haunting and beautiful five minutes of sound that always seemed like a deeper and more emotionally complex side to an artist otherwise known for his kicking, sneering, and screaming combustion of anger and rage.  And I’ve always loved it.

So, how do I listen to it now?  Do I separate the art from the artist or do I abandon the work altogether?  Do I listen to it guiltily or not?

I don’t know.

There really isn’t a right or wrong answer to any of these questions (depending on the circumstances I suppose), and I’m not here to answer them anyway or to persuade anyone in any particular direction.  But we do need to confront it.  We do need to evaluate it.  And ultimately, we need to decide what we’re comfortable with and what we’re not.  Sometimes assholes and monsters make brilliant art, so maybe we stop idolizing them.

I guess I’ll leave it at that.


Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

One Response to Endless Loop: Jail
  1. Shawn C. Baker Reply

    Well. Fucking. Said.

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