Live Photos and Gig Review Credit: Margarita Khartanovich (Photographer/Live Gig reporter
Punk is not dead! But it has aged badly. All those rebellious teenage idols, that used to preach “Fuck off”, “Life sucks”, “I don’t give a shit” attitudes and that are still (fortunately) alive, have turned into a neat copy of themselves – they have their own families, children, business and art projects, secure cosy lives. When they go onstage, they seem to forget about how well off they are now and take their “rage” against the iniquity of fortune out on the teenage (mostly) audience. Does it mean that the fans get a sort of raw deal? Or is it a common practice nowadays when “pseudo-punks” treat music as a job rather than a statement? Let’s check out a show of Mindless Self Indulgence and find out.
Mindless Self Indulgence (MSI) is a band that’s been pretty successful for 16 years already. They’ve always been a peculiar experiment of their frontman Jimmy Urine (James Euringer) who decided in late 90-s to mix punk with techno and hip-hop. Maybe it doesn’t sound very musical and sophisticated but it is definitely a cut above some other bands in loudness, bounce and self-irony. “Son of a bitch! /God likes me/I am the best/Fuck everybody else/Suck on my dick/I’m perfect” says Jimmy in his new song “Witness”. Then he adds: “It wasn’t this way all the time/No money, No girls, denied/Can you fuckin’ believe it?” Yes, we can! Jimmy is 44 now, married, an owner of a record studio “Uppity Cracker” and are currently collaborating with Serj Tankian on an album entitled “Fuktronic”. Anyways MSI open their show in Helsinki with “Witness”, which is also the main single from their latest album with a symbolic name “How I Learned To Stop Giving a Shit and Love Mindless Self Indulgence”. As if they admit that they are a bunch of accomplished grown-ups with the punk past that they cherish and don’t what to give up on.
But who needs this bunch of ex-rebels? At the gig in Nosturi I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was back to school and was hanging out in its backyard with misunderstood outcasts, trying my first cigarette and drinking my first shot of vodka. When a group of teenage girls started to jump to Ting-Tings’ song played before the show, I had to inhibit a desire to consume both a cigarette and a shot to hide my embarrassment. MSI have always had a very young audience, that’s why they prefer to play all-ages venues. In his interviews, Jimmy often compares his band to high school teachers because “whether it was 1999, 2009 or 2013, it’s not the same exact people”.
Whatever country they travel, they make the stage performance personal – they “update” the content of the gig. In Helsinki Jimmy flattered Finns with Angry Birds and the Voice TV show and criticized the lameness of heartagram tattoos popular in Finland and the ceiling in Nosturi (which unfortunately represents a heartagram too). He bad-mouthed Russia (Finland’s neighbour) altogether after having a show there a day before. For example, when for the song “Evening Wear” Jimmy wore a pink bra onstage, he exclaimed referring to Russia and its notorious anti-gay law: “Finally, we can play this song without being put to jail!” But that seemed to be not enough for MSI. Jimmy didn’t shut up for a second and continued winning the soft hearts of Finnish teens with phrases like: “I can’t even look at your, you are so gorgeous”; “Once a year we travel to Helsinki to be loved unconditionally” and “In Helsinki you are rich and beautiful!”
Quite a few times he threw himself into the crowd to be torn apart (almost) and jumped back onstage with the comments: “You don’t only look good – you smell good” and “You only want to fuck me – you don’t wanna learn my interests and needs”. After that he took a video camera and filmed the crowd and the band pretending he was a talent scout: “So many potential actors and models here!” And why not drink some whiskey and receive a call from God himself? Jimmy grabs a telephone and picks up a receiver: “Hello God! Thank you for my power and talents, very wise choice on your side… I am in Helsinki, not Hell… not that one. Yeah I’m gonna do that song for you!” What else? Let’s play more with the audience and point at each of a person in the crowd saying “You are hot! And you are shit. You are hot shit!! Ok, hot. Shit. Shit. Hot shit. Hot.” And to top it all, let’s count “motherfuckers” – 1, 2, 3…
There were a few moments in the show when Jimmy’s nonsense actually made some sense. For example, when he lay onstage pretending he was having a rest he said: “This is my vacation. I’m so tired. Had to make records. Fast. Been like that for 20 years. But that’s enough of rest! Back to work. I’m amazing, I’m back.” It is a true story. MSI had a break in their career. They needed to reflect on things like if their following record was huge, were they going to tour forever? Everyone who wanted to have babies, get married or do side projects, went off and did what they wanted to do. Lindsey, the back-bending goddess, married Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, gave birth to a child and had an exhibition of her paintings. Steve, Righ? got married too and under the name Dr. Death Defying lent vocals to the tracks of same Gerard Way – luckily this collaboration didn’t involve having a baby. Even Jimmy got married, though he expressed his slight disapproval of the whole wedding thing by having the ball-and-chain put on his ankle during the ceremony.
“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when” lip-synched Jimmy in the total darkness after all his band mates left the stage, only a retro microphone glowing with red light. And again it is rather symbolic: there was a chance MSI wouldn’t reunite after the break – they bet everything on the latest album and abandoned it to its fate on Kickstarter. The whole point of the Kickstarter was from Steve’s idea that if they got the money first and didn’t have the music, no one could steal it. Jimmy thought this platform could be good for the hostage situation. MSI addressed to fans with a claim: “If you don’t give us money, we’ll burn this record and throw it away”. It worked out! And eventually, a label picked it up.
What’s next? So far we can expect only 11 versions of “Fuck Machine” song to be released in 2014. As Jimmy says: “We love being in this band. Everyone else in the band has different likes, all outside of music. It’s more like a geeky friendly art project, a fun project.” So, does it mean that we will meet again with professional punks who will act again like high school teachers that sort of understand the pain of being a denied teen? Will they look as pathetic as aging rock stars or will they manage to keep their self-irony and reinvent themselves again without reinventing the wheel? “All the problems make me wanna go/Like a bad girl straight to video/Little darling welcome to the show/You’re a failure played in stereo” (MSI “Straight to Video”)
2. Shut Me Up
3. It Gets Worse
4. Stupid MF
5. You’re No Fun Anymore Mark Trezona
8. Fuck Machine
10. Bring the Pain
11. Bring the Acapella (Method Man cover, first half)
12. Ass Backwards
13. Evening Wear
15. Ala Mode
16. Dicks Are for My Friends
17. Planet of the Apes
18. On It
Straight to Video
We’ll Meet Again (Vera Lynn song, lip-synched by Jimmy)