The Cultural Cringe: Coming From Bountyland

As I stood with a friend outside the Palais Theatre, its musty scent floating out into the street upon the cool sea breeze, a taste of Fleet Foxes’ baroque-pop expertise drew ever-nearer. I watched as Luna Park’s rollercoaster made another lap, rattling through its peaks and troughs.

“I’m not a ‘ride’ person, but I reckon I could take that,” I declared, the carts ascending towards the highest plateau of the park. “Although, I suppose I can’t know for sure. I’d have to pay to enter, then I’d probably see the circuit in its entirety and freak out.”

“Also, you don’t like fun,” my friend added facetiously, as we turned our attention back to the theatre.

For better or worse, it’s in our relationship to trade verbal barbs. More often than not, I come off second best in our battle of wits and this occasion would prove no exception to the rule. I fumbled for a sharp comeback, though with nothing leaping to mind, I was resigned to laughing the whole thing off. Much of the night – and this revelation, I expect, will stir great delight in my gig buddy – was spent picking at the comment compulsively. Roughly three days later, I came into possession of the best rebuke conceivable: a ticket to Aqua’s show at The Palace, on March 15th.*

Aqua reborn / vaguely sexy. Who’d have thunk it?

As a ticket-holder to the aforementioned event, I’m proud to proclaim myself an official ambassador of fun. I expect my attendance will be subject to much scrutiny, at least where cooler-than-thou hipsters are concerned. I expect it will also earn a dubious response from those close friends who have me figured for some kind of indie connoisseur, due to my line of work. Generally, I expect cynicism all-round for such a wild investment in trash-tastic dance-pop. I trust Aqua to repay the faith, though, in spite of the nay-sayers. How could they not? In what way, exactly, is March 15th at The Palace going to be a bad evening? I simply don’t see it. Let’s list the show’s projected highlights: Barbie Girl, Lollipop (Candyman), Doctor Jones, Turn Back Time and Cartoon Heroes. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, too. As far as Aqua’s return to Australia is concerned, more fool the cynics, I say: their show could easily rank among the most outrageously fun and juvenile experiences of 2012.

But the issue of any opposition to my attendance extends beyond talk of the group’s hit-parade, of course. I don’t wish to cast Aqua as a guilty pleasure, necessarily, as the term is one that I tend to resist. That kind of insecurity is best left to adolescence – a time in which identity really is everything and an infinite amount of time and energy may be extolled in its consolidation. I find that in situations such as these, it’s best to simply relax and acknowledge your roots. Can anyone in my early-20s age bracket honestly deny all affection for Aqua? Were you not at least a bit smitten, once upon a time, with their ridiculous flamboyance and their cheesy pop? Of course you were. Don’t lie to the Internet.

We’ve all been there: we’ve all been, at one time or another, uncomfortable in our love for song, a band or an artist that sits contrary to our character, or others’ expectations. I’m here to tell you that’s fine. In fact, it’s a lot more natural and indeed far more wise to run with whatever takes your fancy. Impulse should not be ignored. After all, it takes an awful lot of effort to rally against that purest first impression derived instantaneously from any art – the one that screams to you, instinctively and inextricably, “Yes – I definitely Iove this.” Really, who could be bothered not being themselves?

Evidently, it really isn’t easy being green.

I like to think of myself as an honest man and, come March 15th, I suspect I’ll be surrounded by honest men and women. We’ll have paid cold hard cash to sincerely acknowledge and amuse a part of ourselves, defying music snobs in the process. For me, seeing Aqua live is a nod to some of the greatest pop-architecture of the 90s and indeed my childhood. The fact that I can still remember with clarity each and every melody fifteen years on from the group’s hey-day is testament to their value where pop music is concerned. If you ask me, that deserves a song and dance, as much as being as true to yourself as much possible is cause for celebration.

Ultimately, as far as I can see, the alternative would be to live a life under the ‘guilt’ of so-called guilty pleasures, all the while exuding perceived hipster cred and adopting an cookie-cutter identity. Lord knows there’s an abundance of pressure to do just that. For one night at least, however, I know I won’t be that guy and, personally, I can’t wait to indulge in the dance-pop that arguably helped define a generation.

* This may be the only recorded instance of Aqua and Fleet Foxes featuring within the same article. Take it in.

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