Wednesday, October 8, 2014

War On Whimsy, Vol.1 - Ukuleles

Fuck a ukulele.

10 years ago, ukuleles were a novelty instrument. Whenever you heard one, you were either in a Hawaiian airport or listening to Tiny Tim sing "Tiptoe Through The Tulips".

Actually, 9 times out of 10 you were probably listening to Tiny Tim sing "Tiptoe Through The Tulips".

These days, however, you hear and see them EVERYWHERE. They're trendy as hell, like flannel and wallet chains were in the mid-90s. Similarly to those fashion relics, you might see people walking around on sunny days, carrying a ukulele, but not playing it. Perhaps they even have a leather case for their "axe". That's because, like, a wallet chain, it's enough to be seen carrying one. We're almost at the point where you could walk into any North American bar and shout, "Is there a ukulele in the house?" and someone could oblige.

You know, just in case you had a some cutesy song in your heart that needed to get out.

Now... I realize I live in a "tiny bubble" of whimsy called Portland, Oregon. I GET THAT. And that's what ukes are, whimsical. Oh GOD, they're so whimsical. Anyway, there may be an inordinate amount of ukulele fashionistas in this particular city. But does that excuse this ukelele Misfits cover done by Toronto ukelele cover band, The Fruity Ukuladies?! NO. Actually, you could probably search "ukulele cover" on youtube and pretty much see for yourselves, this ain't Portland's fault, this is a full blown, international epidemic.

I understand the appeal of the instrument, which is distinctly Hawaiian with roots in Portugal. It's small and therefore easily transportable. It has a small neck board and four strings, replacing much of the complexities of a standard guitar with a beautiful, simple, and accessible instrument, perfect for anyone who wants to flirt with being musical. There are also a variety of prices one could pay, the cheapest being around $30, an infinitesimal price that is very appealing. Even for $250, which might get you a not-so-good acoustic guitar, you could get a beautiful ukulele made from exotic woods.

My problem with the ukulele is more of a problem with whimsy in general. And as my brain seems more tuned to sound than any other sensory input, it's only natural that I attack that which is providing the soundtrack to the cute and whimsical. There are elements to this culture of whimsy which I admittedly subscribe to: I make wine and pickle vegetables, for example. But I also listen to music that doesn't have anything to do with being precious and/or coy. I am an adult. Keep those playful, quaint thumb-strummed ditties until either I have children or I'm 90 years old and shitting myself like one. When I'm drooling and toothless. THAT'S when you can bust out a ukulele.

But like I said, ukuleles are a symptom of a greater cultural virus, one that I believe has been spurned on by the cat memes, Zooey Deschanel, Wes Anderson movies, Arcade Fire, and the Adventure Time cartoon.

As I am at work and probably being spied on by my bosses, we'll have to explore this theme in future posts.

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