In early 2001, scholar, mystic, bassist, visionary and ex-Contrarian contributor Jebson Interlandi moved into my apartment. He brought with him not only a range of bizarre personal proclivities, but also a treasure trove of weird shit — random cassette and VHS tapes, fitful scribblings and bootlegged Eastern European alcohol.
In 2002, he played me an audiotape of a Berklee School of Music student’s senior recital. Now, I’m something of a connoisseur of bad art, but this thing was truly beyond the pale.
The performance took the form of a Christian-goth-progressive “rock” epic, complete with horribly out-of-tune vocals, as well as keyboard, guitar and bass accompaniment that set a new threshold for ear-obliterating cheese. It was one of those recordings that, upon first listen, you can’t believe is for real. And yet, despite its unrelenting awfulness, we could do little but marvel at the conviction of the players. These pitiable bastards were giving it their all — refinement, meter and tonality be damned!
It never fails to amaze me how some people make a serious study of music, believing in their heart of hearts that it is their destiny to share their gifts while being bereft of anything conventionally recognizable as talent. As an actual musician, with you, know, skills and aesthetic sense, I have spent a goodly amount of time puzzling over such specimens. How can they be so clueless? What actually happens in their brains when they hear music? Why do “prestigious” Universities like Berklee accept and graduate so many of these hacks? (Certainly profit has something to do with it, but still.)
As a professional critic, I’ve encountered scads of so-called musicians who truly BELIEVE that they have what it takes to rally the world through song. In fact, I actually began to wonder if there isn’t a clinically diagnosable mental illness or developmental disability that drives some people to think they have talent where clearly they have none. What bothers me even more are the academic institutions that profit on these delusions. Now, I’m all for the democratization of technology that lets amateurs dabble with their “creativity” — Garage Band is great, just don’t force me to listen to your stuff. But when accredited colleges and universities charge these people gobs of money to perpetuate heinous personal misapprehensions, I can’t help but clench my fists.
I understand that this phenomenon is not limited to music — as a writer and editor, I’ve been bombarded by fresh-faced journalism and English majors with shiny degrees and no comprehension of how to string together a proper sentence. Though horrifying from a professional standpoint, it actually makes me feel better about the fact that I went to music school at 16, quit after a couple of years and never again pursued institutional learning. Three cheers for autodidactic savants!
But back to the original story. Over the next few years, Jebson and our handful of mutual acquaintances would pull out this audiotape and revel in its awfulness. The song itself began to permeate other parts of our lives. We’d be at a job interview or a nice restaurant or in the middle of hormonal intimacy when the tune would pop in our heads with a vengeance. After a bit too much drink, we’d find ourselves spontaneously singing its a capella section “in the round.” Through good times and bad, this marvel of musical egregiousness never failed to put a spring in my step and a smile on my face, and I’m grateful to this day that Jebson played it for me.
Fast forward almost a decade. I never made a copy of the audiotape, and figured that it was lost to the ages. Mostly, I was content with my memories. The melody would flit across the mindscreen from time to time, but I had no way of sharing its brilliant awfulness with new people in my orbit. Such is life, right?
Well, yesterday, Jebson e-mailed me a VIDEO of this performance, taped at Berklee in 2002. Now, I’m pretty sure that I’ve built this up to a degree that it can’t possibly live up to your expectations. Or can it? The creator’s MySpace page will prime the pump for what you’re about to witness. The “band” is called Christian Counterpart, and they’re here to deliver the goods. Or at least they were in 2007:
All you need is one great rock show to change the universe. That’s what we gave in 2002 in Berklee Recital Room 1W and as you predicted, we single handedly changed the face of LDS rock.
We are the face of Berklee alumni, coming at you from every different angle to rock you and move you and shake you LDS style.
We are Christian Counterpart and as you are reading this, we are recording our as yet unnamed album due out very soon.
We will continue to change the world. Be witness to the amazing rise of one of the most influential bands of 2007 — Christian Counterpart.
Now, for the video. Unfortunately I can’t embed it, so you’ll have to click the link. It’s a little slow to get rolling — plugging in cables, general fidgeting, etc. — but once it does, I guarantee you’ll be floored (please, please watch the whole thing):
Keep in mind that these people were graduated from Berklee — outside of the conservatories, one of the most esteemed music schools in North America. WTF, right? Oh, and check this “documentary” interview with one of the gals in the band.
I can only hope that Christian Counterpart comes back strong in ’09. A group like this represents the apex of flawed art. And this aural abomination is to be treasured and passed through the generations like a precious heirloom.
[UPDATE: Holy crap — I didn’t realize this at the time, but the second song on this video is obviously about Ayn Rand‘s Anthem. UNREAL. See what horror this woman hath wrought?]