Editor’s note: As a rule, we here at CREEM do not run album announcements. To even consider going down that path is to tempt madness. Nor do we, as a rule, do legwork for Big Sword and Sorcery. Both those things said, while the cool kids on staff were out of town last week, smoking cigarettes and applying pomade to their hair and whatnot, the Dungeons & Dragons contingent within the editorial team conspired to let this through. So, to avoid an onslaught of emails, here’s the NEW RULE: CREEM will run ZERO album announcements ever, UNLESS it’s a space goblin-themed double album, curated by a member of a beloved hyperliterate indie band, with a ten minute song by Shabazz Palaces at the end.
We have some great news for orcs, elves, barbarians, clerics, wizards, heshers, hipsters, non-binary ladies and non-binary lords, succubus and succubi, and anyone who has had a twenty-sided die in their pocket and was happy to see us. Spelljams, a double album of songs by artists as far reaching in their wild diversity as Shabazz Palaces, Red Fang, Osees, Y La Bamba, Califone, Deru & Arooj Aftab, and Reggie Watts, among others, is a collection inspired by the fantasy world depicted within the Dungeons & Dragons module, Spelljammer: Adventures in Space.
The album is being put out by the venerable indie punk label, Kill Rock Stars. Whether or not a collaboration between Kill Rock Stars and Wizards of the Coast (the game publishing company which acquired Dungeon & Dragons original publisher, TSR, in 1997) strikes the reader as weird probably depends on how many angry letters one sent to Netflix about supposed “nerds” in 1983 Indiana knowing who Joy Division was. (Or how high a note the reader’s heart sang at the final episode of Freaks and Geeks, when the hipster burnouts and the nerds found common ground over twenty-sided dice and a tabletop full of half-orc miniatures.) Suffice to say, rockers of whichever sub-delineation and nerds have long happily co-existed within the same margins.
Look, nerds used to be awesome
Look, nerds used to be awesome. Long ago, in the subcultures that time forgot, to be a nerd meant (or at least strongly implied) that besides not being able to catch a ball, a person had strange, singular hobbies (like studying chemistry or enjoying the music of DEVO). It also meant that a person was probably smart. At a certain point, with most historians agreeing on the popularity of the first as the beginning of the end, geekdom did what all great social movements do. It lost its mind. And, as with all the great movements, what remained were the sellouts, the sycophants, and the extremists. In other words, the dum-dums. Failing to see the mass homogenization of their once niche hobbies (such as science fiction or the study of turtles who know karate) as a validation of only their most facile aspect, nerdom embraced its newfound place of power within the marketplace.
Nerdom, today, is pure veneer, using the anachronism of its former victimhood to justify a barely disguised spirit of gormless consumption. Realizing that smarmy self-awareness was easier to accomplish than whatever emotional hassle Tom Lehrer, Samuel Delaney, or Ursula K. Le Guine was asking of them, nerds traded in whatever intellectual pretensions they might have once endearingly held for entry into an overculture prom. You know, one where adoration for “our modern myths” is divorced from any of the inconvenient demands previously associated with worship (such as honesty, fidelity, sacrifice, not looking at one’s own reflection in the river for too long…all the stuff one used to do to avoid being turned into a stag), where the quality of one’s hobby is determined by how much money it makes, and where—in a pyrrhic victory for nerds everywhere—every jock and cheerleader in spandex is the sole intellectual property of the Disney Corporation.