Extended Thoughts: Meta-Wrock

Hooy-boy. This one has been a long time comin’.  If you aren’t aware, the post with the most comments on this site is currently my review of Demons at the Helm (a review I intend to edit someday, trim down all of that unnecessary OH WAIT THIS IS WHAT I AM DOING NOW PLEASE LOOK AT MY THOUGHT PROCESS CAN YOU TELL I HAVE ADHD YET?), which weighs in at a whopping 134 comments, most of which are between Whompy and myself.  Somewhere in there, I promised to write an in-depth article explaining my thoughts on meta-wrock, as well as discussing Demons at the Helm specifically.  Again.  Let’s get right to it, shall we?

So, this article is going to be even more like the review that spawned it, in that I’m revising what I’m doing and leaving the evidence out in the open for the world to see (hi, guys!) – for example, this Extended Thoughts (I’m not quite yet at a place where I can call it “ET“) is actually not really going to be about Meta-Wrock in general – there is a planned Extended Thoughts that will include a discussion of meta-wrock, and I’d rather get into it then.  So, I’m instead going review the meta-wrock aspects of Demons at the Helm. Again.

Starting with the first song!

We start off the album with four second of silence.  As silence goes, it’s pretty aight.  Then “Don’t Let Me Explode” really starts, a mellow song with some really nifty lyrics… nah, just fucking wit’ ya.  I’m not going to review the whole album again, but instead talk about specific points.  Hopefully, this will go rather quickly, and be a bit on the shorter side.  Oh, and Happy Fourth of July, I guess.  #DamnINeedMyRitalin  Shit, did I just use a hashtag in a blog post?  That’s it, I’m going to sleep first, before writing any more.  I hope you’ll wait.

Firstly, let me just talk about a couple specific points that were brought up in the comments thread – specifically, about the song, “A Conversation With My Demons”.  You see, I said it was definitely not meta-wrock, whilst Matt countered by saying that the last line, which is about how he can find inner peace through song writing (and, presumably, making out with ghosts), made it meta-wrock.  I then counter-countered by saying that since the lyrics did not specifically say that it was writing wizard rock songs, then it’s not meta-wrock.  Matt called BS on this, and in hindsight, I would have to agree with him.  In my defense, it was late o’clock in the morning, but still, it was a weak excuse.  That being said, I still don’t see that “A Conversation With My Demons” is a meta-wrock song.  Why?  Because yes, while the last lines are about wizard rock, the majority of the song, and the major thrust of it, is not.  If you wrote a song about driving along a highway, and all the adventures you had along the way, and at the very end, it is revealed that the destination was a wizard rock concert, or what kept you driving, even through the hail of Tickle-Me-Elmos, was a wizard rock mixtape, would that be a wizard rock song?  I would submit to you that it would not.

In fact, for me to classify a song as meta-wrock, it pretty much needs to make multiple references to wizards, and the rocking thereof.  So, for me to accept Demons at the Helm as a full-blooded meta-wrock album, every song would have to contain lines like “Just a-rockin’ in a wizard rock band” (oh, and by the way, in “Watch Me Grow Older”, who is “SG”?).  However, and this is a major point that I feel I never really made clearly, if this had been the case, then “Demons” would be a far worse album.  A big reason for why I loved the album so much were the amazingly clever lyrics, and if Matt had dropped the phrase “wizard rock” into every verse, the album would be meta-wrock, but it would also suck eggs.  Plastic easter eggs filled with marshmallows and gravy – possibly the most disgusting concoction known to man.

And, even if every song had the phrase “Wizard rock” in it, some of the songs probably still wouldn’t be meta-wrock, because the point of the song is not about the wizard rock that’s going on in the background – that’s all scenery, just a unique setting for the universal experiences and emotions being displayed.

Now, I think I’ve said everything I want to say about this debate, except for one, small, unimportant detail – if I wasn’t a talentless hack that uses big words to hide the fact that inside I HAVE NEVER KNOWN TRUE JOY I would have a nice, smooth, transition for this, but I am and I do so I don’t.  Anyway, that small sidenote is that, upon review, I would have to revise my, well, review, in saying that it’s not meta-wrock.  I’ve thought over it for a long time, and I’ve come to the conclusion, that while I still believe that the majority of the songs are not meta-wrock songs, I was looking around at all these trees, and wondering where the hell was that forest everyone was talking about.  You see, I stand by all the statements I made about the meta-wrockness of each individual song, and by most of the comments and points I made in the debate that ensued in the comments (except for the ones touched upon in this article).  But, when I really think about it, Demons at the Helm truly is a meta-wrock album.

Why?  Because wizard rock is what ties everything together.  There are a fair amount of songs that have little to nothing to do with wizard rock, but the thing is, Matt would have never had those experiences sung about or reached those points in his journey if it wasn’t for wizard rock.  Well, if you subscribe to the multiple universes theory, then maybe he did, but at least in this universe, he probably wouldn’t have (incidentally, if you’d like to have a debate about parallel universes [universi?] in the comments, I would love to).  No, I’m not going to go back and change the review and everything to reflect my new opinions, partly because it would make the ensuing 134 comments look really odd, and partly because I just love that shiny gold F, and I’ll never get to use it again.  But if I did, I would keep my evaluation of each song on it’s meta-wrockness, mostly because I find it to be an intriguing mental exercise, but I would remove that cop-out beginning about it being the worst album ever (because I was mistakenly under the impression that causing unnecessary stirs would increase or keep my readership, instead of alienating it), and I would remove me giving it an F and everything, instead inserting a variation of the above couple paragraphs, and moving on to giving it a B, no asterisks included.  Oh wait, I mean an E.  Whatever.

So, now that’s truly about all I have to say about Demons at the Helm, and meta-wrock, at least until the super-speshul-secret-awesome Extended Thoughts that’s coming in the next couple of weeks (as well as that article about “tiers”).  And let me just say that after whatever discussion will be spawned by the comments of this post, I am going to take a very long break from even thinking about the concept of meta-wrock, because quite honestly, I’m getting a bit sick of it.  Welp, hope you had a fun and somewhat safe 4th of July (unless you don’t live in America, in which case I hope you had a terrible day and became involved in a freak logging accident) – Wrock Snob out.

P.S. I know that this postscript has the potential to open a whole ‘nother can of worms, but I feel I must say this: While I do now agree with Whompy that Demons is meta-wrock, I absolutely disagree with his assertion that it is wizard rock, unless of course you count it as wizard rock vicariously through its meta-wrockness.  You see, in a blog post that I somehow haven’t yet linked to in this article, Matt came up with an alternate interpretation for the album, besides it being about the humanoid Matt Maggiacomo being in a wizard rock band, and the various trials and tribulations he faces – that you could interpret it as an album about the Whomping Willow inhabiting the body of some dude who happens to be named Matt Maggiacomo, and thus it would be a wizard rock album.

I just have to call bullshit on that.  Why?  Because it seems so needlessly silly, and I feel that that interpretation devalues the album.  Take Wizard Rock Heartthrob for example – it’s a bit silly, yet it’s also sort of a sad song.  It is self deprecating HUMOUR, but it is self-deprecating nonetheless.  Now, it would be possible to make a song about how the tree feels truly woeful about being stuck in Matt’s body, and play it completely straight, but that would be like the Airbender movie – it’s seriousness would end up making it even more silly, and become ridiculously void of any real emotion or character development or plot AND WHO THE FUCK IS “AUNG?”  I MEAN WHAT THE FUCK, SHAMALAMALAN? WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Seriously tho, Wrock Snob out.  For realsies.

But LORD ALMIGHTY, did that movie suck.


15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cristiline
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 00:58:52

    “I was mistakenly under the impression that causing unnecessary stirs would increase or keep my readership, instead of alienating it”
    Well, it is a little true. Controversy brings readers. It will often bring you NEGATIVE attention, but you probably would get more comments (see: review of Demons at the Helm vs review of Hermione and the House-Elves). You shouldn’t abuse that, of course, but I’m just saying.

    That aside, I think it’s admirable that you’re able to own up to making a mistake! I disagree that meta-wrock isn’t a part of wrock, though. If you argue strictly that wizard rock has to be about the book/movies, okay. But I think that wizard rock should encompass songs about the fandom, too. Meta-wrock is just a subset of wrock. And how would you classify songs that are about fanfiction or fanart or some other part of the fandom that isn’t wrock?


  2. Russ
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 04:44:21

    Big props for admitting you were wrong. Glad to know you put a lot of thought into the idea of “meta-wrock” and saw the value and tie-ins to “real” wizard rock. It always warms my old cynical heart when a lengthy discussion gets people to step back and review their stances.

    I also still feel bad for those who refuse to listen to this album (and songs by other wrock bands) because they don’t fit their narrow idea of what “wrock” is. In fact, I once met someone who said they refused to listen to any music that was not “canon wrock”. That really made me sad.


    • wrocksnob
      Jul 05, 2010 @ 11:12:50

      Basically, if someone asked me whether or not I would recommend the album, I would recommend it, with the caveat that if all you want are silly songs about magical trees, then this probably isn’t the album for you, but you are worse off and narrowing your musical experience that way.


  3. Whompy
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 07:05:20

    SG = my guitar. I used my wonderful Gibson SG to record the album.

    I also made a mistake: getting so heated and demanding that you change your mind, essentially because I said so. That was silly of me and I still kinda feel bad about it.

    The debate was interesting though, and I really do appreciate your challenging me and other wizard rockers with thought-provoking questions.

    I like your point that the songs aren’t necessarily meta-wizard rock when considered individually, but become meta-wizard rock when the album is considered as a whole. That’s basically exactly what I was talking about for much of that debate. Demons is a story, and constant reminders of what the story is about would’ve been unnecessary/distracting.

    Finally — the science fiction/Whompy possessing me argument is totally legit, and it’s something I thought about a lot while constructing the album. The whole concept of my band from the beginning is that the Whomping Willow inhabits my body so he can play shows. I’ve covered it in various songs along the way, and while Demons functions more profoundly on other levels, it definitely fleshes out the possession concept more than anything else I’ve done. I mean, look at the cover art dude.


    • wrocksnob
      Jul 05, 2010 @ 11:09:43

      Yeah, I mean to say, that the sci-fi perspective is a viable way of looking at the album, but I don’t think it’s a lens that should be used to view the album, just because I think it undervalues the album, and I just prefer the “possession” songs to be ones that are silly – because, let’s face it, the entire concept of your band is a very silly one indeed, so merging this silly concept with a very serious (though never truly gloomy) story just seems odd. I like to view any mention of the actual Whomping Willow in this album as a metaphor for your demons – it just works better that way for me.


  4. Sectumsampra
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 11:49:03

    All things aside, do we really need an article on tiers? As in the infamous tier system ranking members of a community which tries to teach equality? I’d rather not see it given any more attention than it has already had, and I think anyone who puts themselves higher than someone else can get their head right out of their ass. To be fair, I don’t know much about how it came into existance, or what the rankings are, etc, only heard rumor, but hey, this is your blog, so go right ahead! 😛


    • wrocksnob
      Jul 05, 2010 @ 12:47:34

      Actually, the people who are on the top tiers are the same people who hate the tiering system. That alone is interesting enough to warrant a look into it. And the tiering system is not about quality – it’s about popularity, and let’s face it, everyone is not equally popular. That would be impossible. So there has to be some sort of handy system of easily indicating which are the more popular bands, and the various levels of popularity.


      • Sectumsampra
        Jul 05, 2010 @ 13:52:15

        Oh believe me I know most of the people at the “top” do not care about it one bit and find it to be ridiculous, that I agree with. And of course there are different levels of popularity among the fandom, I just don’t understand why it needs to be ranked. From my understanding of the tier system, people in bands are at the top, followed by people who are friends with the bands, followed I guess by various levels of who knows who and who does what. I just don’t comprehend the need to sit and sing songs about how great friends everyone is, and how we all love eachother, then to say “But this person is clearly more popular than this person.” I’d be very interested to read your breakdown of the system, and what positive effects it has on people, other than telling people not in bands that they, though part of this loving family, are ranks lower than others. I guess my main issue is many people I’ve spoken to the fandom talk about how they felt alienated in high school or various siutations like that, and now we have our very own system of creating cliques by popularity. Though if this is not how the system works I would love to hear about it! 🙂
        ps. Great job on being so quick to respond, and keep the articles coming!


        • wrocksnob
          Jul 05, 2010 @ 17:35:05

          Oooooh, I know see what you mean. No, I’m talking about a completely different tiering system, not that one that’s about the fandom in general. I’m talking about a tiering system that’s just for ranking the popularity of the bands. Yeah, I think that fandom-wide tiering thing is stupid, but I do think there needs to be some easy, definite way to convey popularity of bands.


          • Samantha
            Jul 05, 2010 @ 19:53:39

            Ahhh gotcha 😛 Well then I am definitely excited to read your article!


          • Abby
            Jul 06, 2010 @ 10:05:26

            Unfortunately, ranking and pecking order are just part of human nature. We’re pack animals by nature’s design. It’s being able to overcome our genetic shortcomings that makes us evolve.
            Just throwin’ that out there. Try not to get to uspet about that stuff, folks, it really means nothing in the grand scheme of things.


  5. DK Anderson
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 11:22:49

    Excellent article and comments so far! I’ve been putting a LOT of thought into the subject of meta-wrock for a while now.* That’s partly because I’ve been seeing Luna’s Ceiling move steadily away from being the full-on wizardtronic project it started as and becoming something of a hybrid. It’s also because some comments made by Zoe (Split Seven Ways) regarding her hiatus from music made me realize that there are only so many songs explicitly about Luna and the rest of my beloved Wizarding World we can make without becoming repetitive and thus boring.

    That leads me to a comment about the nature of meta-wrock itself. I find myself using the term not just to describe music that’s about wrock itself, but also for music that’s not explicitly about characters and situations from the series, yet is still placed within that context. That is to say, instead of singing about Harry or Luna or Hogwarts or what-have-you, meta-wrock could simply be an idea of what music made by wizards and witches might sound like, were all this wonderful madness real. For example, if Luna’s Ceiling were indeed a techno-industrial synthpop project being carried out by two witches and a cranky old wizard (me), would we be singing explicitly about people in our little world? About events like the Battle of Hogwarts? Possibly…but I suspect the majority of of songs would be more lyrically generalized, more metphorical.

    There’s also the question of serving one’s audience, as well as one’s own artistic muse. A musician should, in my view, do a bit of both, if only to avoid the trap that totally personal-inspiration-oriented artists can find themselves in, namely that of producing self-absorbed crap no one else wants to listen to. How’s that relate? Well, in my case, I find myself in the curious position of having a wrock band that has a very small footprint in the Wizard Rock world…but has begun (to my utter astonishment) to generate a fair bit of buzz in the goth-industrial/futurepop world, at least here in Portland’s hypercharged music scene.

    Do we not also have a responsibility to cater to the latter audience (especially given that it’s a substantially larger one than our wrock audience)? Not that the goth-industrial crowd seems to mind the Potterverse context (more big grins than rolled eyes seem to follow those “hey, this is about Harry Potter” epiphanies)…but I can easily see myself writing songs to my black-clad friends – hell, Kat and I already have, as the upcoming CD will make obvious. The wizarding content of such songs is likely to be pretty subtle, simply because other things are going to be in the forefront of my (alleged) mind at the time. Would such songs be wrock? Not really…but they’d be meta-wrock, simply because Luna’s Ceiling will always have one foot firmly planted in the Potterverse.

    Bit of a ramble, the above…sorry!

    *Dinah, if you’re reading this, I haven’t forgotten the promised article…I’ve just been re-assessing how I feel so I can actually write the bloody thing).


  6. Arodhwen
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 12:29:41

    I’m torn between agreeing that it’s great that you can admit when you’ve made a mistake, and being disappointed because I still agree with your original position on the album.

    I haven’t read the comments (or even the entirety of the original article) because I’ve been doing a ton of other stuff- like amassing votes for the HPA. (Thanks for tweeting about the contest, btw.)

    I’ve never been 100% handed the definition of metawizard songs, so I formed my own. The end result is that if I can listen to a song with a muggle friend, and they can’t tell that it’s HP (fandom, books, movies, non-canon, whatever otherwise) related, it’s not wrock. (By this definition, a lot of things go out the window.) That doesn’t mean I don’t still like the songs, and can’t see the connections that are there.

    I’m actually now wondering what’s the difference between nerdcore and meta-wrock? Is it just that meta is specific to HP fandom? (Or maybe I’m wrong about what I think nerdcore is. It wouldn’t be the first time I made a comment on this site and was wrong.)

    (And, let me just reiterate that I agree with the ENTIRETY of what you said before- It’s [mostly] not wrock, but it’s a FREAKING AWESOME album in general.)

    /two cents (More like five, yeah? SO MANY WORDS.)


    • wrocksnob
      Jul 11, 2010 @ 19:35:30

      Thanks for the comment! Pretty much everything I said before I still stand by, except that I know say that if you take the album as a whole, you can see these threads that end in places far award from wizard rock all starting in the giant wizard rock ball of multicolored yarn. Also, I used to describe meta-wrock like you do – if a muggle can’t tell, it’s not wizard rock, but I feel that leads you down a slippery slope into a pit full of tigers. By that definition, much of Split Seven Ways’ (and especially Malfoy Manor’s) work is thrown out, even though you can clearly tell who she was singing about, and that SHE knew who she was singing about. Hell, some Harry and the Potters songs, like “Ice Cream Man” would be thrown out, because most muggles do not know about the ice cream vendor who knew about History of Magic sub-sub-sub-sub-plotline that just got completely dropped in DH.

      Also, for me, there are two types of meta-wrock: The first is music that’s about wizard rock (Demons at the Helm, “I Found Love In Wizard Rock”, “Transparent”, etc.), and the second is music that’s about the books in the context of them as books, or the fandom, or the people who helped make the books and/or films (“For Jo”, “End of an Era”, the two open letters on the 2009 Peeved EP, etc.).

      But the thing about meta-wrock that I think gets lost is that all it is is a subgenre. At the end of the day it’s still wizard rock, just a slightly different lyrical focus. Despite me spending thousands of words discussing meta-wrock, the difference is really not a big deal. The reason why I spent so much talking about DatH was when I wrote the review, I felt that it was a straight-up muggle album, and that is a difference that is a bit of a big deal. Or is it? You see, I have come to acknowledge, and possibly accept the fact that wizard rock is becoming more and more muggle – I’ll be discussing this in a later Wednesday – at least, when WordPress STOPS BEING A DOUCHE.

      So, yeah. Words. They’re cool.


  7. PK9
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 18:22:17

    I recently purchased Demons at the Helm and listened to it all the way through. My new impression:

    1. The album as a whole is meta-wrock. As Whompy discussed, it is a personal reflection of his journey as a wrock musician, and when listened to in order (including the measured song intervals), the album conveys that beautifully.

    2. That said, a number of the songs individually are Muggle songs. If they came up on shuffle, there would be nothing in them that identified them with being about Harry Potter or the Harry Potter fandom. An average listener who was not paying attention would not notice that they were HP-related at all.


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