Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Eagles take over the City Dump

Quit defending the Eagles! They’re simply terrible -

The first thing that one has to do is give the Eagles their due, which is their ability to write tunefully, maintain tight harmonies and sustain an impressive level of musicianship. To their credit, these guys have always had a sound that makes them stand out in a crowded field, and they've always sounded like a real band, not an assembly of hired professionals. Normally those would be items that would lead to being an additional 500-700 words of praise for a particular album or live performance, but I've always hated this band. They are distinct and professional the way Disney Products, especially Marvel Movies, are professional, which is to say their efforts are superbly assembled works composed of elements skillfully, artfully, cynically chosen for their capacity to appeal to a mass audience of males who have a self-righteous and self-pitying chip on their shoulder and the women who love all those misunderstood and misunderstood men. Don Henley's voice is a nasally and grainy combination of Rod Stewart and Neil Young and reduces the calculated pathos of the lyrics to an aggravating noise like the ice machine goes off next to the motel room you rented just when you're entering a select acre of nod. Their sense of telling sagas of heartbreak, stoicism in the face of a hard choice, and despairing about the end of innocence after the party balloons have shriveled and the last flake of cocaine has been wiped from the mirror and rubbed some last-gasper's gums are unsoulful, overwrought, overwritten, and overacted. 

Their narratives are goon show narcissisms that are designed to impress, not express; they skip the dramatic altogether and settle over the melodramatic. Theirs is the suicide-prone "code" of Hemingway, the arrogance that rather than cope, grow, move on with a life to which change, a significant change has inevitably come to , one instead nurtures the hurt privately, does not complain and carries on as before, exhibiting a pretense of "grace under fire" (Hemingway's coinage) while stewing in their own private hell of resentment, jealousy, anger, self-loathing and compensating arrogance in the conceit that their ability to take a punch, to take many blows to the head and to the ego, makes them a higher caliber of a human, male human, white male human, than the lesser masses who inhabit the planet. Everything about their message and sound--the guitar work that is too tasteful in country accents and too rubbery with the more rocking workouts--props up this multi-platinum hoax. I am very fond of Joe Walsh, having seen him a few times from my Detroit days when he played with the James Gang at area venues and festivals, but his personality seemed all but erased when he joined this egregious unit. His persona, a bohemian for whom there are no big deals and that what whatever travails and tragedies befall are likely because he made a decision that was ill-chosen and that life, such as it is despite the bad luck, is good so far ("Life's Been Good"), seemed an odd fit for this professionally pessimistic posse. His sense of humor and life-preserving irony couldn't keep them from absorbing Walsh into their uniform sense of weltschmerz. Even Joe's famously chunky brand of blues-rock guitar couldn't lift the band's music anymore. The truth of this band is plain: The Eagles blow.

The serious Eagles fan would come to the defense of this band--seemingly as much despised as they are loved by fans--and maintain that their cynicism, despair, and weariness were anything than the routine posturing of experience-glutted rock stars, the more being that they were artful and could write good song hooks and manage to keep their songs under a certain length. Granted, although a tune like "Hotel California" , paced at a tortoise crawl and it is slow in duration, is a notable exception, notable in that it contains everything that is objectionable to this band a collective projection of the zeitgeist. The lyrics are laden in downcast metaphors where the secreted meanings are grandiosely proclaimed, exhibiting a "you know what I mean " vagueness that is a bullet to interests in whatever forbidden knowledge these musicians gleaned from their adventures at the edge of their own limitations.  An amazingly successful rock band with some indisputably talented musicians, the Eagles are a band I never cared about. Even in their best songs they seemed, smug in the depths of despair, depression and bad-luck stories their songs evoked. Tuneful, well crafted, laden with nicely arranged guitar textures and incidental instrumentation, the sweetly harmonized lyrics were the first-rate evocation of bankrupt imaginations trying their best to out-bottom the rest of rock and roll's iconic desolation row residents. In meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, there is the tradition of having a leader "qualify" , that is, telling their tale of what it was like, what happened and what it's like now. The telling, or testimonial, if you will, would normally contain some sordid tales of their past that their powerlessness over alcohol led them to, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly; the point is to make the listener understand the inevitable destruction this path results unless the alcoholic or drug addict has their moment of clarity and grasps a solution, which are the components of the "what happened" and "what its like now" parts of the formula. There is the habit of some members with years of recovery (such as it might be for them personally) who eschew the solution and instead tell one horrible anecdote after another; this is not generally appreciated by other group members seeking confirmation of the hope that is supposed to be contained in the rooms where those meetings are held. This turns testimony in a drunkalogue and the effect is of someone who takes inordinate pride in the horrible things they have done--each instance of bad luck, lying, theft, jail time, divorce, traffic accidents, job loss,  sexual misbehavior become like bullet points on a resume. 

Whether they intended to or done, those who overshare such things wallow in the gloom and their words become pointless. So with the Eagles, who have spent decades writing songs as if they are the only witnesses to the end of the world, a world where only they are citizens worth listening to. Theirs was a music akin to an old car with a great, shiny new paint job; attractive surface gleam, noisy and tired under the hood. For all their gold records and fanatical fan base, they have proven to be even more tiresome than U2. 


  1. Spearchucker Jones10:39 AM PDT

    I always felt there was a major difference between the likes of the Byrds or the Buffalo Springfield and the Eagles, who came along later to consolidate the innovations of earlier L.A. band into immaculately-groomed commercial product. There was a certain innocence, a lack of formula to what the Byrds and the Springfield did, whereas the Eagles radiated a smug, self-satisfied arrogance from their first album onwards-- something many rock bands are guilty of, of course. The Eagles fused this overweening ego with a palpable glow of MELLOWNESS, a Peaceful Easy Feeling Tequila Sunrise banality that made them far more obnoxious than your run of the mill pompous rockers. The fact that co-leaders Henley and Frey were so technically good at what they did only made their work more intolerable. They must be the most unlikeable duo in popular music; as they have advertised for years, they can't even stand each other. Maybe they can't stand themselves, which, as Liberace's brother once said, doesn't stop them from flagellating themselves all the way to the bank.

    1. No argument here about your ideas about what distinguishes the bands from one another. A particular grouse I have against the band ,
      besides the fact that they elevated dime novel existentialism and made that generic bleakness the source of fantastically profitable music, is Don Henley's voice, half bluesy croak ala his old boss Bob Seger, half cultivated whine. It's a voice that is nothing less than the voice of a bus passenger who conducts a monologue on the history of their doctor visits on a long ride to work. Henley manages to sound both overwhelmed by the horrors he has been through and smug for having journeyed through them: "I am humbled and despairing at the tragedies I have seen, so don't you try to out do in the dues paying department, smart ass." He makes you want to smack him and tell him to go spend his money somewhere else.


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