GateHouse — So it turns out that using music as a means of torture – which is an idea that all music fans have entertained, if not implemented, many thousands of times, mostly depending on how long they’ve been in high school and how many Color Me Badd tapes they currently own – is considerably less funny when you learn that music has actually been used to, what’s the word, torture people.
Like Will Ferrell movies and the third “Ghostbusters” sequel, music torture is funny only when it’s theoretical. Or it’s funny when you’re maybe in the seventh grade and your cousin has this Debbie Gibson cassette that she’s preposterously obsessed with and will not remove from her candy-pink Service Merchandise-model jam box, no matter how many times you beg and plead with her to play something different for a change, something awesome, like the Fat Boys.
But when it’s used as torture torture, not just torture – that reads funny but is actually exactly how the Bush administration described it in memos — the wacky aspect sort of evaporates. Yet that’s what happened in the early part of the century, part of what were previously dubbed with barely contained giddiness Enhanced Interrogation Techniques(TM) at Guantanamo Bay. (The word “enhanced” there always bothered me, because it always connoted to me some sort of progress was being hinted at, like, “Look, we’re using much more conductive wiring now.”)
Sure, the idea of using music as some sort of negative stimulus is familiar to anyone who ever had a sibling, to anyone who’s listened to a classic-rock FM DJ talk out loud with his mouth, to anyone ever stuck in the car with a boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband who uses the music of, and I’m just throwing names out here, Michael Buble as a conduit for abject hostility. My preferred means in high school, for instance, was Tesla’s “Five Man Acoustical Jam,” which was convenient, because I actually liked Tesla’s “Five Man Acoustical Jam” and could pretend that I was irritating other people ironically while wrapping myself deeply in the brittle, heartbroken wails of singer Jeff Keith as he broke down “Love Song” into a series of cold, dejected refrains of “I know.”
But that was in theory, and I was dumb. In actual practice, it’s a different story entirely. That said, it’s a story that will result in the only logical question that can be asked of such a thing: What songs?
Luckily, there’s a list that veers wildly from the vicious to the macabre to the yacht-alicious: everyone from Metallica to Nine Inch Nails to James Taylor to the Bee Gees to Don McLean appears on a list published by the AP last week, which, if you’re a music fan, proves extremely confusing: It is hard to see, for instance, that the songs of David Gray are on this list and not immediately leap to a punchline, such as that someone has finally found some use for the music of David Gray, even if it’s Dick Cheney, which in turn sets up the ethical dilemma: if it comes down to David Gray vs. Dick Cheney, can there truly be a winner?
But it turns out there’s another group that hates this idea: the musicians themsevles, probably even including David Gray. A coalition of big-name artists — not surprisingly, notable lefties types like Pearl Jam, R.E.M., the Roots, Trent Reznor and Tom Morello, many of whose songs were used — demanded last week that the government release the Guantanamo playlist, which, and this’ll blow your hair back, had been kept totally secret from people. I know, right? CRAZY TALK. And if you feel like doing it anyway, and after you’ve ignored all the sticky “rules” and “laws” and “Constitutions,” at least have the decency to go with Debbie Gibson.