There’s been a slight Avett Brother’s obsession happening this month, and strangely, it was brought on by videos, not radio.
Granted, I first heard “Ain’t No Man” on the radio, the Avett Brothers being a KINK favorite. I put the video on while I was folding laundry and half-watched it.
I liked the journey to the airport, which took them to another airport, a van and then into a studio. The video ends with the three of them sitting in chairs. The side bar of YouTube showed me that there was another Avett Brothers video with them also sitting in chairs. As a person who likes to put things in order, I appreciated the flow to the second video.
Though I think they might be a little young for an end-of-life song (both brothers are younger than me), I enjoy such songs. But what makes this a very good video is the flickering back to their younger selves. (Favorites: 1:08 skateboarding; 1:48 grinning; 2:10 90’s rocker look) As the video continues, the flickers transition into their young musician days, then their established musician days, then pictures of them with their children.
It’s the last bit of footage that keeps me coming back. The two of them, one still a child, one working on being grown. The arm easily slung around the shoulder. “There’s Scott causing trouble with Seth.”
These songs together, I feel like they can be taken a couple of ways. The most generous way is the way I think they are intended to be taken. “Ain’t No Man” is an upbeat affirmation of their confidence in themselves. “No Hard Feelings” is a reminder to let things go and focus on the good things.
However, the success of the Avett Brothers means I am more likely to interpret these songs in a less generous fashion. Through that lens, “Ain’t No Man” feels like the winner bragging how great he is. “No Hard Feelings” is a song about someone who has enough currency that he believes that him not having hard feelings means that no one has any negative feelings of him, so much so that he has no enemies. The line “I have no enemies” is repeated three times to end the song. It’s the kind of line that has me wondering how fast I can find some enemies of the Avett Brothers. Not just people who don’t like their music, people who know them and don’t like them. Ex-wife? Former drummer? I think they’re out there, those enemies. You can’t be that successful of a band without dragging some grudges behind you.
From that viewpoint, these two songs present life philosophy that seems more douch-baggery than laid-back good guy. It the song of a person who can sing that no one can change them, and that they have no hard feelings and also no enemies. That sounds like someone fairly confident of their own actions, and fairly clueless of the reactions of the people around them. They’re good looking men, they grew up in a prosperous family and Rolling Stone tells me that their dad was friends with fingerpicking master Doc Watson. I’m sure life hasn’t been completely easy for them, but it doesn’t look like it’s been very hard, either.
This slots these songs into the Conflicted Music category. I like them, I will probably continue liking them, but I don’t think they are as true as the people who sing them think they are.