Cake’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle” is One of the Most Salient Pieces of Music Ever Made

When “Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle” first came out, I didn’t understand it. The year was 1993, and I hadn’t even cleared a double digit age. It wasn’t until years later that I would truly understand its significance. It was a precursor to the hipster infiltration, except, instead, lead singer John McCrea makes reference to the rich kids who obsess over a specific band and attend all their shows, buy all the merchandise and drink all the expensive alcohol sold at concerts.

It is a concept that has only slightly mutated as the years have passed. While concert culture may have shifted, the pervasiveness of the “poseur” has not. In fact, the hipster is an all-encompassing version of the type of affluent, passionless person McCrea was originally talking about in “Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle.” But now, in addition to band merchandise and ten dollar cups of beer, the hipster is willing to spend his or her money on anything popularly esoteric.

Cake was acting as a prophet of pop culture, acerbically questioning, “And how much did you spend on your black leather jacket/Is it you or your parents in this income tax bracket?” The discussion of a misappropriation of wealth on people who, let’s face it, don’t really deserve the access they have to live music and culture is a legitimate and ardent one. You can hear the irritation in McCrea’s voice as he continues, “Excess ain’t rebellion.”

The preoccupation with knowing about something first and being the one to “lay claim” to it is at the heart of hipsterdom. But the wads of available money that true hipsters have to discover something first is telling of how valueless their time is. McCrea spotted the onslaught of this trend decades away. And only now do I fully comprehend the wisdom of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle.”

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