One of my favourite bands of all time are called Alestorm. Not to be confused with the Pennsylvanian Post-Grunge band of nearly the same name, Alestorm hail from Perthshire, and specialise in the incredibly niche musical genre known as Piratecore. As the name suggests, Piratecore is a form of heavy metal (or metalcore, if you're being pedantic), sung about or from the point of view of pirates. Sure, it's not exactly top 40 material, and probably not something you admit to listening to on your tinder profile, but Alestorm's music carved them a niche among a sizeable group of loyal fans. Their musical style isn't virtuosic, and their lyrics lend themselves better to headbanging than heavy scrutiny ("Rum is the power, rum is the key, rum is the drink that will SET YOU FREE"), but they made up for it with energy, verve, and sheer inventive weirdness. I don't know what you think, but personally I think that not even Beethoven would struggle to match the heights of musical brilliance reached by a heavy Scottish accent half-singing, half-chanting about that time he fought a kraken while drunk.
Then they blew it.
Alestorm's most recent album, "No Grave But the Sea" was greeted with gleeful anticipation by fans, and at first, it did not dissappoint. Featuring thumping tunes like Rage of the Pentahook, Man the Pumps and F***ked with an Anchor, this was Alestorm at their shanty-bellowing best. Until, that is, they released the album's Deluxe Edition. This edition had ten bonus songs, which should have been a good thing. Unfortunately, these ten songs were just the album's ten original songs removed, and replaced with sampled dog barking, and the names changed by appending "for dogs" to the end. Quite a lot of fans- me included- were less than overjoyed. The vibe was: "Come on, guys. We knew you were weird. But do you have to be this weird?"
Of course they didn't. But they decided to anyway. And it was this self-indulgence, more than anything, that rankled. Rage of the Pentahook, for example, is a frenetic, stirring, bloodcurdling tale that gets me pumped up no matter how many times I hear it. Rage of the Pentahook for dogs sounds like a Chihuaha having a stroke. To turn one into the other, for the sake of what seemed like some kind of unfunny joke that nobody outside the band quite understood was close to unforgiveable for some fans.
Why, though, am I telling you this? When making friends, we are often told to embrace what makes us unique- especially at University, where you're meant to be finding yourself. And, to an extent, that is good advice- as Dr Seuss said, love is nothing but mutual weirdness. This isn't just a thing in relationships, either- if Alestorm hadn't embraced their piratical eccentricity, they'd just be one more shouty metalcore band. But this only works to an extent. Being yourself is great, exploring and finding yourself even better, and you don't deserve to be judged for it- unless by being yourself you dissapoint, or molest, or inconvenience other people. Once that starts to happen, you deserve to be judged, and not just for the sake of others. Judgement, and criticism from others can actually be quite a useful- if not always pleasant- way of keeping yourself on the right track. Like Disgust in the movie Inside Out, it helps to guide us away from behaviours that are condusive to healthy relationships, and prevents us from crossing the line between individuality and obnoxiousness. So embrace it. Embrace the fact our imperfections make us who we are, but also that we have a duty to keep them from hurting other people. Celebrate your individuality, as long as it doesn't impinge on others. And if you can't stick to this relatively simple guide to life? Then you might get keelhauled
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