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Music

The bizarre moment Lux Interior appeared on Spongebob SquarePants

Yes, you read that correctly: Gothic rocker Lux Interior did indeed feature on an episode on child-favourite Spongebob SquarePants. It wasn’t very good, but then again, neither was the show, a risible exercise in buffoonery that seemed intent on masquerading as something grander and more intellectually refined. 

But for as long as Spongebob SquarePants was on the air, it made children laugh, clearly knowing that no discerning adult would have sat through the cartoon willingly. More’s the point, it was pointless, pedestrian, and frequently rude, making its inexplicable success one of the century’s odder mysteries. Sadly, the show would go on to influence many unfunny, shoddy-looking cartoons that offered nothing to the world but toilet humour and badly-written characters to be marketed, flogged and sold in local toy shops. SpongeBob SquarePants had none of the wit or kinetic approach to animation as was seen in the contemporary Recess. No matter, it still sold and attracted many celebrities to a younger audience. 

Little wonder Lux Interior sounds so flat on the plodding ‘Underwater Sun’ , a song that was even banaler than the illustrations fizzling before the audiences. It’s hard to account for why Spongebob SquarePants hit such a cultural market, other than people enjoying the bad writing and comedic beats, but Lux Interior’s success owes to his commitment to his craft, never a note misplaced, nor a vocal harmony misconstructed. And unlike SpongeBob SquarePants, his popularity spanned decades, culminating in a body of work that prided itself on the disembodied yelps and fiery vocal deliveries that decorated his records. 

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He showed no quarter and treated the music presses with the apathy he felt their questions deserved. “It’s a little bit like asking a junkie how he’s been able to keep on dope all these years–it’s just so much fun,” he said. “You pull into one town and people scream, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you.’ And you go to a bar and have a great rock ‘n’ roll show and go to the next town and people scream, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.’ It’s hard to walk away from all that.” He may have appeared haughty, but it’s worth pointing out the degree of flippancy that cemented his work. Indeed, it was humour that persuaded him to record a tune for Spongebob SquarePants in 2002, although judging by the result, he likely wished he hadn’t. 

In fact, the roadmap for celebrity guest appearances can be traced back to 1990s cartoons, when The Simpsons nabbed all three of the surviving Beatles to appear on the show. Ringo Starr and George Harrison’s performances were harmless, enjoyable walk-in’s, but Paul McCartney’s had a more lasting impact. Espousing the virtues of vegetarianism, the bassist came in to tell fans that there were benefits to a life free from meat. One of the conditions of his performance was that Lisa Simpson remain a vegetarian for the rest of the show’s run, which the creators were good enough to honour. 

The most anodyne element of SpongeBob SquarePants is just how uninterested it was in gearing viewers to more enlightened territories, either as a viewer or a person. It was as if the creators simply put the palettes for the benefit of their wallets, offering nothing to the world but glib, juvenile jokes punctuated by the odd fish-pun. In recent years, as audiences closed themselves around a Netflix serial, or yearning for a more refined form of entertainment, there’s been a decided improvement to treat younger viewers with the intelligence they hold, rather than pandering to the cliches that kept cartoons folded firmly in a blanket of repeats that saved children from running into the rain-filled gardens. 

Some of these programmes offer a damning alternative to the walls that salvage a viewer through another pedestrian Sunday morning, where the prospect of Mass or a hill walk is briefly punctured by the buzzing sound of a television in the background. But with the assembled of Netflix televisions positioned in one tiny corner, True and the Rainbow Kingdom and Wizards: Tales of Arcadia have a more long-lasting influence on the viewers’ intellect, imagination and interest than the negligible SpongeBob SquarePants ever did. 

More happily, we can report that Tom Kenny, who played the titular character in the aforementioned show, attended Lux Interior’s memorial service in 2009. Outside, there were children tuning in to the latest episode of a show undeserving of their time or attention, as he watched a titan of gothic rock being sent off through a series of affecting salutes. Who knows what went on in Kenny’s mind as he witnessed the ceremony progress, but he must have felt grateful to have spent the time with such a sincere, singular talent because he certainly didn’t find thought or talent in his scripts.