Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Demo2Dero: Brett Wilder

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As aggressive a self-promoter as this critic has ever encountered, Brett Wilder, who records under that name as well as the Brettster, portrays himself on his MySpace pages ( and as a burgeoning underground/Internet phenomenon (“More than 700,000 music plays… more than 25,000 ‘pay-for’ downloads… all for an ‘unsigned’ artist? We must be doing something right!”) with a fascinating back story that’s part Jewel and part Kerouac: He allegedly ran away from home in Alaska at age 15 and hitchhiked across the country, busking on street corners and chronicling his travels in songs recorded on his laptop along the way, until he finally landed in Chicago.

With his adenoidal singing and enthusiastic if rudimentary acoustic guitar, occasionally adorned with a few canned laptop instrumental sounds, the Brettster comes off as a junior-high imitation/parody of Bright Eyes. “The children don’t remember the color of the sky now/The children don’t remember the ocean is a distance/The children don’t see reality/The children see everything virtually,” the artist sings. “Whoa, whoa, what’s the world coming to/I don’t wanna be just another number/I don’t wanna be a part of the system!” In fact, songs such as “What’s the World Comin To” and the more pop-oriented “Boy Meets Girl Meets Girl” play like a “Spinal Tap” or “Mighty Wind”-level satire of emo earnestness, and I’m not at all convinced that the whole thing isn’t a “Rock, Rot and Rule”-worthy put-on.

If it is a joke, it’s an elaborate one—there are a dozen songs streaming from the two Web pages, and more available for download from—and it’s nothing short of brilliant. If Wilder is in fact the real deal, well, he’d really be better off playing it as a joke. If you’re motivated enough to investigate, the Brettster claims he’ll be playing for free on the street at Giddings Plaza in Lincoln Square every Saturday and Sunday morning through the end of June—with “autographed copies of his debut album available for $10.”

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Dear Pop (music critic),

I'm sure you won't mind hitting your "approve" button for this comment, since it merely takes issue with your writing - and especially since you're our city's latest cause celebre for 1st Amendment rights, which last time I checked still includes the "FREEDOM OF SPEECH" -

My name is Mickey and I'm one of Jose Rodriguez's middle school friends he wrote about in his Blog comment here several days ago (before you started requiring "approval" prior to posting). I'm one of the "junior high" students (a straight "A" student, not that that should make any difference) who felt morbidly offended by your choice of the term "junior high" like it was some sort of insult or something (in case you were wondering, Jim, "junior high" is a type of school).

And just so you know, I'm also one of Jose's many friends who (upon learning you're a 44 year old still writing about "pop" music and playing in a punk rock group) blurted out that you're "practically a senior citizen" (sorry about that, it just popped out, but remember: it's OK for me to blurt out things like that, Jim, I'm just a kid...) But I'm not here to trade barbs with you, I'm just here to do my part as a "junior high school student" to help you recall what the phrase "junior high parody" truly means... it is after all one of the arrows in your literary quiver –

(after this I'll get right back to my homework, I promise)

To set the stage, Jose and I and some of our friends are hanging out here at the public library like we do a lot after school, catching up on what's new on the Net before we begin our studies, and we can't believe you still haven't apologized for what you said in your Blog, using a term that merely denotes our age group as if it's some kind of a grave insult (especially since Jose took the time to bring it to your attention). Wouldn't apologizing or at least acknowledging you did something wrong, be the "grown up" thing to do? Or might you too be guilty of "junior high" behavior (to coin a phrase).

Since the bent of your piece was accusing Brett Wilder (aka "The Brettster" a recording artist whose music my friends and I have now grown to love) of being "a junior high parody" and suggesting he turn his sometimes tragic life story as a former teenage runaway from a violent household into "a joke" (some of my friends are growing up in homes like that, Jim, and I can assure you it's no "joke") -

And since one might assume you yourself enjoy a good joke every now and then, perhaps say… a "junior high parody"… I'll bet you'll be amused to hear the most popular joke at our school for the past week or so... it requires two kids to tell it, one with a cell phone, and it goes like this -

1st KID: What do you call a group of senior citizens who play in a punk rock band?

2nd KID: Geezer Weezer?

1st KID: No, Vortis!

(whereupon the 1st KID hits a button on his cell phone to play back one of your group's lame punk songs from your my space)

You should hear the kids break out laughing! Works every time!

...nd that, in case you were wondering, Mr. Pop Music Critic...

That is what we all "Junior High Parody"

(To be honest, it's not very funny, is it?)

Now, how about an apology for us kids and The Brettster?

Dear Mr. DeRogatis,

I just wanted to give you an update since I left my first comment, which for some reason does not appear here but does appear under the other place on the SunTimes website where this blog appears;

I thanked you then for "turning me on" to Brett Wilder's music which I enjoy very much. Now I'd like to thank you for turning me on to Jack Kerouac. I just finished "On The Road" and I see why you compared his journey to Brett's. A riveting engrossing story to say the least. (even though I can't say I approve of Mr. Kerouac's substance abuse)

I also want to tell you how sorry I am for the joke about you passing around our school. It makes me feel very ashamed of how cruel kids can be sometime. I think it's very unfair and I'm sure it'll die out soon.

I'm sure that you took everyone's advice (on the other blog place that is) and that you've already apologized to Brett, probably in private where it should be, about how sorry you must feel once you realized how you must have hurt his feelings. I'm sure you weren't really serious that he should turn his tragic life story, brother's suicide, violent father, etc., into a joke and you probably realized a long long time ago how it probably hurt his feelings, being a high school drop out turned teen runaway, to suggest his music was like a "junior high" parody. Sometimes we all say the wrong thing. I'm sure grownups have just as much trouble as us kids watching what we say and I'll bet it's doubly difficult for a music critic.

I also want to congratulate you for your victory in court - kids like me look up to people like you and Brett who are willing to take on the system and "fight the good fight" - job well done!

Your past, present and future reader,

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on May 22, 2008 3:37 PM.

Demo2Dero: The Moses Gun was the previous entry in this blog.

Death Cab for Cutie, “Narrow Stairs” (Atlantic) [3.5 STARS] is the next entry in this blog.

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