Dick Vernon vs. Lauren Mayberry - The “Hughes” of Chvrches

by Joshua B. Hoe So this has been a big music week for me...Yesterday the new Kurt Vile album was released and today Chvrches new album came out (not to mention Dungen’s new album).

I will most likely talk about Kurt Vile’s album later this week but, this one is about Chvrches blissfully fun new album.

Chvrches Every Open Eye

I will freely admit that my roots are all tough guy...I was an early american punk guy...I wore the outfits and had the crazy hair...I am 6’2 and wide...before becoming a punk person I played football and baseball...and loved basketball.

But, as they say in certain circles, my insides didn’t necessarily match my outsides. As I have mentioned, much of that tough stuff was a facade created to protect me from physical and social abuse when I was young.

Well, I am not young anymore...so, probably time for some truth.

I have some serious goofy tendencies...Guess this will put the cat right out of the bag.

I am often judgmental about music, food, television shows, books, and certainly about movies .

When it comes to movies, I am often a snob,

I have seen the entire AFI 100 (and several of the sub-lists)..I love Kurosawa, Fellini, and Welles

But what most people don’t know is that one of the things that makes me laugh more than anything else is the character Doug in Pixar’s UP.

I also have a really serious soft spot for the movies of the 1980’s (the decade I really grew up in). I can probably still recite most of the dialog from The Breakfast Club...I will watch Sixteen Candles virtually any time that it is on (My response is emotional and about nostalgia but some things you really can’t defend..more on this below). I love Daniel-san...I love Cameron and Ferris...I love Louden Swain.

And It’s not just movies, I have many silly and goofy tendencies. I also love amusement parks, comic books, video games...and I love Chvrches and 80’s movies.

Anyway, when I listened to the new album by Chvrches (Every Eye Open) I was immediately taken by how much it made me feel like I was back in the 80’s...in a movie theater...watching a particular brand of movie.

The 80’s Movies Of My Memory

I am not talking about all 80’s movies, sure there were some objectively amazing films (Full Metal Jacket springs to mind)...I am talking about a specific form of 80’s movie...

And now, my 80’s movie generator...so you know the movies I am talking about

You know the story, about the plucky nerdy:  girl or guy

Who is often: bullied, teased, discounted, blocked

But who only wants to: get that date for prom, win that game, be accepted by the in crowd play in that concert

Did you like that movie?

Do you remember the scene at the end when everyone is in happy tears as the metaphorical plucky ugly duckling became a swan? Did it make you smile? Do you remember it fondly?

If you answered those questions yes, you are going to love the new Chvrches album.

And I mean that in the best way possible.

Some Kind Of Wonderful

I am not sure anything I have heard since the 80’s has felt more like the soundtrack to a John Hughes movie (and again I mean this in the best possible way) then Every Open Eye.

If you remember Duckie, Ferris and Cameron, Sam, Farmer Ted, Watts, Gary and Wyatt, Bender and Claire, Andy and Alison, Daniel, and Brian fondly this Chvrches album is the soundtrack Hughes always wanted but never really had.

If you cheered when Louden beat Shute...this is an album for you.

The first track “Never Ending Circles” would be perfect for that montage moment when our hero is all alone in the locker room crying to her/himself knowing the odds are nobody will ever really understand him.

I can almost see Judd Nelson standing up and walking defiantly down the halls as flashbacks of things that have happened to him remind us the mountains he faces.

“Leave a Trace” is that montage scene where you see how much our hero really loves the girl or guy...You know the scene when you see the person he/she loves the way he/she sees him/her. Where you see the protagonist seeing all the little things the person he/she loves does that maybe nobody else sees. The things that make them really special.

“Keep You On My Side” is the training song. Louden Swain could have trained to “Keep You On My Side.” It is the song that happens while the hero is learning or doing whatever they need to do to win. Lauren sings that “she doesn’t sleep well” and neither did Louden. Beating Shute is a Vision Quest damn it (yes, I know Vision Quest is not technically a John Hughes movie, but still).

Watts practices drums to “Keep You On My Side” I am certain of it (Or umm...practices drum machines? Doh..)

“Make Them Gold” is what plays as the hero turns the corner towards the win...romantically, academically, musically, whatever….”we are falling but not alone”

This is Chvrches graduation song….the song when the camera cuts away and you see that even the villain is impressed with whatever the hero accomplished (maybe even while wiping away a tear).

“We will take the best parts of ourselves and make them Gold”.... If that doesn’t tell you it’s time to be inspired...I mean you have no soul.  This song is the big ending...Fireworks explode….

Lauren Mayberry is inside John Hughes head and that is a very good thing here….

This is when Sam realizes that her dream guy really likes her…When Watts and Gary realize they won the girls (and I guess when they realize that the house is okay)...When the breakfast club graduates from detention (not suggesting at all Simple Minds was not perfect).

“Clearest Blue” is the “don’t you get that you should love ME song.” Watts and Ducky would live equally well in “Clearest Blue.”

“High Enough To Carry You Over” is that song where the hero drives around town at night sad and frustrated because he/she is losing his/her love...probably the car is a Camaro. Many brooding shots of the heroes face would be shown...Very brooding, trying hard to keep it together. Emilio Estevez would work well in this song in virtually any of his 80’s roles.

I mean he is too strong to let it show, but darn it...this really hurts.

“Empty Threat” is the song after the win...when they are together and the credits are rolling...It keeps the happy feelings rolling...”Take it back with no regrets” (I mean not in Ferris, because the end of Ferris was Yellow’s “Oh Yeah” and that should not change).

“Down Side Of Me” is when things are kind of starting to go sour between the two main characters...or when the hero starts to lose their focus….or realize that things just aren’t going to go the way they hope...maybe this song could be Duckie’s lament.

You get the idea...I mean the whole movie is here..and the sound is perfect for the period.

I am not suggesting, at all, that this was intentional by Chvrches...But, I mean I was transported from the minute track one started playing to that very specific place and time.

Thanks Chvrches

Most important, from a guy who listens to music with a certain edge and with a great deal of studied cynicism...It was really nice to listen to an album that just made me smile from ear to ear.

I would think it would be nearly impossible to stay down after listening...as one critic put it, it is “Like a deep gulp of cold air on a clear bright morning after.”

I am not saying your album is the music equivalent of Doug….But, would that be such a bad thing?

I am very interested in politics, my education is all based in Political Science, and I have been really depressed by the feeling that all of the GOP candidates seem to be playing a round of “intolerance olympics” where they try to tie up the support of the Nativists at the core of the Tea Party movement.

Kind of like, just to get elected, they are willing to hurt millions of people just to get the votes of the core assholes who think Muslims are infiltrating, that gays are condemning us to hell, and that immigrants are here to “take our jobs.”

Hearing something nasty every day about Muslims, Immigrants, LGBT people, our current President’s origins, ahistorical and pandering harsher approaches to law and order, and of course Black Lives Matter has been really depressing. I am not a Republican, but I would really like it if even one of them aspired to Lincoln’s mantle (true political courage in the face of intolerance).

Sadly, as Dick Vernon put it, “When you grab the bull...you get the horns” :(.

But screw that, as someone who knows, on many levels, how painful hearing yourself made a scapegoat on television can be...It is a very depressing period...Listening to commentators talk about how Trump’s support comes from people who are “tired of insider politics” sounds good, but let’s face it Trump’s support is coming from the racists and nativists.

Which brings me back to Chvrches…

There are a large number of other reasons that I like Chvrches (Lauren Mayberry’s courageous stance against online abuse for instance) but, this is just a musically happy album…fun in the best possible way.

I think hearing Pope Francis talk about valuing all people and listening to this album really picked me up.

I am not sure many albums this bright sounding will appear here again...but, I really love this album!

So thanks to Chvrches. Both for making me feel the best kind of nostalgia and for sharing something happy and fun to listen to.

Okay and now Apologia For Years of 16 Candles (Where I apologize profusely for liking this movie)

16 Candles is on regular rotation on several channels these days and was one of the popular John Hughes movies of the 80’s...In retrospect, it had some big problems.

If you just wanted the happy music part above, sorry...This has to be said.

First, Long Duk Dong,

I want to start by saying you really cannot defend Long Duk Dong as a character, the absurdity of the racism is so over the top and only serves as entertainment for majority culture eyes. I sense no attempts at an ironic presentation (although the character transforms it is to being the prototypical cool American teen - not as any kind of meaningful juxtaposition of the value of his essence).

But, one of the biggest dangers is for a dominant culture to deploy the protection racket...In other words, not allowing people from vulnerable or minority communities to defend themselves or fix their own problems.

There is no doubt that the character of Long Duk Dong (played by Gedde Watanabe) is placed in some pretty awful stereotypical shoes...I mean for god’s sake they literally hit a gong everytime he shows up for the first half of the movie (I am sure this was just awesome for Asian American kids all over the country).

However, the character grows way beyond his initial portrayal...His character goes from basically being a slave for the Grandparents who take him in as an exchange student to becoming one of the coolest kids in the movie (by the end of the movie he has picked up a girl, “borrowed” the car of his foster parents, and basically told them all to go jump).

It is almost as if his character refused to accept his own stereotypical skin….I mean, I am not sure the point should be for him to excel as an American style teen...I am not sure that should be the growth point for a character so absurdly introduced and designed.

I am certainly not saying his almost immediate assimilation isn’t problematic and I am certainly not saying that his absurd cartoonish almost Mr. Moto racist depiction at the beginning of the film is acceptable...it is not, at all.

I am just saying that maybe LDD breaks his own chains, at least a bit, which I hope is a testament to Watanabe's performance????

There really is no true defense for this character...I guess I just like that he basically tells everyone that they can go F themselves at the end….Hopefully that included John Hughes for writing and directing the racist parts.

Second, and this is the worst (one of the worst moments of any 80’s movie because of how it is rewarded and not condemned).

The object of Samantha’s (the heroine of the movie) desire, the HUNK Jake Ryan (most popular guy in school + hs quarterback), tells his drunk (obliterated) girlfriend Caroline that she should go home with “King of the Geeks” Farmer Ted because Ted “is Jake”...

In other words, he trades his drunk girlfriend to Farmer Ted for information and help in getting Samantha (who he secretly likes despite being in a committed relationship with head cheerleader Caroline now currently drunk). By doing this, he gets help in cheating on his girlfriend and gets her out of the way (without having to break up) by selling her to someone she would never have consented to being with (ever).

Yup, Farmer Ted has sex with Caroline while she is 100% wasted apparently pretending that he is Jake (This is made obvious when she wakes sober and admits that they had sex).

I mean...wow…and it is not only shown as natural, but as almost heroic.

Hahahahaha (Isn’t that funny...no, not at all).

Jake Ryan is shown at the end as a worthy object of Samantha’s affection and she is shown as having won by ending up with him at the very end of the movie.

Ted is shown at the end as a winner for having been with Caroline and her admitting it might even have been “good” (the sex).

Probably says a ton about how much times have changed in that I do not remember anyone saying very much about this at the time (including me).

In fact, if I am honest, I probably looked at it the way it was presented (“see geeks can win popular girls too” or something like that).

Really awful...no defense. Not even sure what to say.

It is embarrassing to like the rest of this movie, because every time I reach the scene where she wakes up in Jake’s car after her night with Ted...and the movie makes it seem like he has WON the battle of adolescence...like this was a HUGE victory….It makes me really ashamed.

I remember when it was, and apparently still is, a huge part of high school and college culture to get women really drunk to make them less likely to refuse sex. That is pretty awful behavior, but literally removing any capacity to consent is even worse. It certainly was not heroic...And it is hard to watch, especially in a breezy comedy (where everything is made seamless and natural).

You may feel it is obviously not serious, it is a comedy...but it seems pretty clear that this was presented as 100% natural and okay...extreme, perhaps, but heroic...and a neat solution to all the male characters problems and a way to get Jake and Samantha together at the end.

Movies and books are not reality, but we are influenced by what we see. At the very least, if what is presented is a snapshot of what is acceptable, that says something about the culture the movie (or book) is presenting (and how the writer and director explains the world).

And even if you disagree, you have to admit the point of the movie is to present a world where people can transform from duckling to swan...Samantha and Ted….This is a vision of how Hughes thinks the world SHOULD be...How you present wish fulfillment says something about you.

The denouement of a movie should probably not happen at the expense of a person suffering a “happy” sexual assault.

Anyway, I feel very bad about liking this movie.

What did you think of Every Eye Open? Blissful fun or cheesy? Do you love it or hate it? What 80’s movies does it make you think of? What 80’s movies do you love? What do you think of LDD? Would love to hear your opinions...leave a comment!

OpinionJoshua B. Hoe2 Comments