My good fortune takes the form of setting me smack down in the presence of exceptional artists, and when I find myself blessed to be in the company of such greatness, I ask for free shit.
I got two albums from the adorably cool Korean American kids Scrabbel, a nice collection of charmingly interpreted covers, including a melancholy and moving take on “Suicide is Painless,” better known as the “Theme from M*A*S*H*,” where they sample me(!), and the sweet and lilting pop opus, “1909,” which sounds like foggy mornings on the bus, immigrant myths made legend, the drama of pedals held down on the piano you are forced to practice and the sugar-frosted sadness of Asian-American teens.
I like the sunny softness of their sound, the loneliness and precious misery of the gently progressing chords, the romance of drinking Cosmopolitans, even though you know they turn your face red as hell, cellos turned back on parents with a vengeance. They remind me a little of the seminal Korean-core band Seam, a little of Elliott Smith, a little Belle and Sebastian, a little of all my younger family members.
Frontman Dan Lee says that his father lived across the street from my father in Korea, and he says he has been hearing about me for a long time, even before my success because my father was complaining about me to his father, prompting his father to use me as a cautionary tale. After I became rich and famous (ha!), Dan could then point to me as an example of a Korean who “made it.” It is hard…and I so get it…Asian parents do not want to let their kids become rock stars, because the future is uncertain. But isn’t everyone’s? We all live in uncertainty, we don’t even know where our next breath is coming from. Why bother with vain attempts at practicality?
Still, it is hard to argue with the overwhelming finality of an immigrant parent’s resolve. There is something about their unwavering stance that makes us want to abandon our dreams rather than oppose them. We look at white kids with guarded jealousy, because we assume they are “free to be you and me” while we toil under the blazing hot sun of expectation. As we offer up our lives to guilt rather than satisfaction, our Asian American mouths are filled with bitterness, which slowly sets and hardens into regret, as we remain another generation invisible outside the worlds of medicine, money and computers.
This is why I love Scrabbel, because they make the music despite the heavy sighs and the emotional blackmail. Rocking the opposition is the only way we get by.