Doing this fell by the wayside as I was wrapped up in bringing Caligula to market (The Kindle Countdown deal is going well, by the way). But having a few free evenings, I was able to clear out the notebook and talk about some stuff I’d meant to all summer. Here are the results.
Back in the 90’s, when concepts such as “youth culture” seemed relevant to me, I was known to lament the chokehold Boomers had over pop culture. Every time the same damn Beatles songs were repackaged into a new format, I got incredibly annoyed, especially when someone my age bought it.
Looking back, this exercise seems entirely natural. There are a lot of Boomers (hence the name), and naturally as they move from youth to peak earning power, their tastes will dominate the landscape. The Boomers felt the same way about the Hello Dolly/Vegas/Laurence Welk aesthetic their elders went in for. Plus, and if I’m being honest, that era had some quality cultural product. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the Classic Rock era, and I’m entirely comfortable with saying that most of it didn’t suck. Neither did late 60’s-mid 70’s New Wave cinema, although I understand why it died. There isn’t any reason for any generation to not want to look back fondly on their youth.
But here’s the twist: When 80’s nostalgia started resting it’s head 20 years ago (just let that sink in), I didn’t like it any better. Mostly because I didn’t enjoy the 80’s all that much, or relate to it while it was happening. But at any rate, I found it boring: a strange, low-cal reproduction of an era, without any of the dark parts that balanced it out. Boomer nostalgia always paid homage to Vietnam and murdered Kennedys; the struggle between order and freedom, and the memory of playing their part in it, was an integral part of the story. But 80’s nostalgia has always seemed shallow; wistful, rose-colored escapism.
It’s been a steady lamentation for most of the past decade that movie companies are unable to move product unless it’s a remake or a film of an existing IP. The question must be why this is the case. Some of it must fall upon corporate inertia/laziness, the habit of the industry to exploit a trend until its dryer than the Red Wind in August. But that dynamic also leads to hunting for new trends, the next big thing, to exploit. Sure, New Wave Cinema had its successes, but that didn’t stop studios from greenlighting Jaws and Star Wars. For some reason, though, the current Nostalgia Well hasn’t dehydrated yet. It doesn’t seem to be the normal kind of trend. This seems to be where we are now, and likely to be for the forseeable future.
You could probably assign a thousand causes to this, and all of them play their part. Large historical trends are ever thus. Single causes yield single effects. But one thing that strikes me about ongoing 80’s nostalgia (which has absorbed 90’s nostalgia, which is wierd, as much of 90’s culture was a reaction to 80’s culture), is what the manner and the persistence of it has to say about its use. And that brings us to the generation that’s using it.
There are a lot of Milennials (which shouldn’t surprise us, as they’re mostly the Boomers’ kids), so their tastes are going to be dominant. In fact, you could argue that their tastes have been dominant since the late 90’s, when the crusty, wierd, ironic grunge aesthetic was replaced, almost overnight, by the Day-Glo Autotuned Bling aesthetic that rode hard into the new century. I felt that whiplash as hard as anyone of that era, and was shocked at the speed of it. I mean, for all of Nirvana’s legend, grunge didn’t come out of nowhere. It was seeded throughout the 80’s underground years, and the mainstream 80’s rock aesthetic wasn’t as uniform as memory suggests. Guns N’ Roses, for example, was a different beast entirely than say, Poison, for all they seemed at the time to be just variations on a theme. So were Motley Crue and Metallica. You can trace the connective tissue. The techno-pop, rap/rock late 90’s, on the other hand, seemed to just arrive from a spaceship and take over, apropos of nothing. It was an odd experience, feeling like you were already on the wrong side of the Generation Gap in your Early 20’s, but there it was.
But as time has gone on, the Millenials have become very protean in their tastes. The Spice Girls/Limp Bizkit era had even less staying power than Nirvana’s heyday. By late 2001, there was a Garage-Punk Riot going on. That gave us some good fun rock songs, but the whole hipster aesthetic that gave rise to it went mainstream as time went on and forced itself to become sillier and sillier to go on. Pretty soon it was impossible to embrace anything without irony, unless it brought some level of comfort.
And the experience of Millennials, by their own admission, seems to be a seeking after comfort. If you hit your teen years at the end of the 80’s, you became keenly aware of how wicked the world was, but also that it was full of hope. The combination of Crack Wars and the Fall of the Berlin Wall made an impression on me, that things that seemed to last forever could change, and that change could be good. But if you were too young to catch that lesson, history seemed to offer nothing but down notes. The Lewinsky Scandal shredded any faith in the Political Establishment. 9/11 shattered the idea that we had reached the End of History. And the 2008 Financial Crisis exposed the extent to which our economy has become a three-card monte game.
Who wouldn’t rather look back?
There are those who argue that this just opportunity. Unlike older generations, who had no capacity to indulge in the past, and younger generations, for whom the digital world has always been there, Millenials straddle the line between a pre-internet childhood and an online adulthood. They have the capacity to live in the past, so they can.
For our parents, and their parents, that was never an option. From childhood, all the way to adulthood, there was no internet — no easy access to the experiences of their pasts. For our children, the internet will always have been there. They’ll never know what it’s like to not be able to find a friend from summer camp or rewatch a TV show they loved. But millennials are somewhere in between — we remember a time when the past was out of reach, and we’re tech-savvy enough to make full use of the resources we now have to bring it back within our grasp.Evie.com
That is as may be. But a crowning obsession with things past always hides a discomfort with the present, and fear of the future. Paradoxically, the very loss of tradition can feed this. When the future is understood to be some variation on the past, because we will do what we have done, then we can let the past be the guide it can be. But when all things are in flux, all understandings subject to disruption, the longing for Known can take over. The practical upshot of which is that there was a Baywatch movie precisely because Remember it? This is what Millenials want. The world is full of harshness and fear, and entertainment is escape (Oscar Movies are not entertainment). And it just might be that this is where we are right now, until another generation becomes dominant.
The Hulu documentary is a hoot. It’s more about the lie, the huckstering, Billy McFarland as the Incompetent P.T. Barnum of the time. The Netflix doc was more about How Not to Put On A Music Festival. This is about how people got suckered into believing something that was not physically possible.
All from the power of our mobile devices to distort reality.
A lot of balderdash about Millennials, which misses the point. Bad music festivals have happened in the past. No one died at Fyre, but at least at Altamont The Rolling Stones actually showed up and played. This Festival existed only in the creators’ mind. It was fairy dust. The belief that Instagram could force reality to conform to it comes from the age we live in. Con artists are always with us, but the cons are flooding at our eyes, all day every day.
In this episode, I talk about the future: how social media is the thing we love to hate, and how analog records came back from the grave.
1. As you age, your critical faculties improve. When you first discover pop music, it’s like the rush of first love. You’re a blank slate and the music just writes itself into you. It becomes identity. And you immerse yourself into it. And after enough songs, you start getting readier and readier to dismiss things that don’t hit you like that first one. And since very few ever will, the general sense that “music sucks” gets stronger and stronger, until that becomes the default. Also, you’ll start seeing trends go and then come back around, and this will augment a healthy cynicism about the record industry, making falling in love with a song or an artist much harder.
2. You drop out and drop back into what’s current, largely unwilling. The common idea is that people stop paying attention to popular music sometime around age 30. Either the patterns of a grown-up lifestyle (kids, house, IRA) leave you with less and less time to devote to following the latest trends, or you get sick of the trends and the difficulty of finding something that pleases you, and you throw up your hands.
Now suppose some time goes by. Suppose some young people in your life expose you to the next Big Thing. And since your behind the curve on what’s been happening, it won’t sound like anything you’re familiar with. Or if it does, it will sound like an unoriginal or weak repetition of it. So of course the stuff the kids listen to is obnoxious. You’re not in a place to how it got there, and they’re not in a place to hear anything else.
I am generally distrustful of bipartisan legislation, especially when the CEO of RIAA is this enthusiastic, but this doesn’t look too bad on its face:
A key provision of the bill is for Congress to establish the equivalent of a SoundExchange for songwriters to track credits and distribute royalties when digital services use their work. The switch to a market-based rate standard for artists and writers, closing the pre-1972 loophole that denied digital compensation to legacy artists and the addition of copyright royalties for producers and engineers are other changes widely hailed as improvements by a wide range of industry organizations, from the Recording Academy and the RIAA to ASCAP, BMI, the American Association of Independent Music and the American Federation of Musicians.
Sounds like a good compromise on the needs of artists and distributors. Establishing the means to accurately enforce contracts is what we have a govenrment for.
I know I do this randomly and seemingly out of a sense of restlessness, but this time I think I may keep it a while. I’ve soured of the giant-header themes: no one needs to scroll through an image to get to the content. This one is clean, has the content front and center, and has a nice little Connector tab up top.
So you can hunt me down on Twitter, and Google+, and read my Tumblr, which is an ongoing project of going through my CD collection, and even look at my Youtube and Vimeo channels if such be your delight.
Bonus Internet points for anyone who can name all my rogues gallery at the end of the song above.
That’s all. I’m keeping off the wider internet so as not to be spoiled before I see Force Awakens on Sunday. Enjoy your weekend.
So I mentioned that I was re-vamping my Tumblr from having a no real purpose to having a purpose. In the past 2 days I’ve gained nearly 500 followers.
Granted, it’s Tumblr, so following is easy and doesn’t necessarily lead to connection or interaction with contact. It’s like Twitter that way. Of all those followers, there are only a handful of likes, and I think one reblog. But I only have 654 Twitter followers, and I’ve been tweeting for years.
To what do I owe this success, such as it is? I think the following:
- People get what my Tumblr’s about, and are interested. People like talking about music, and my posts are short and to the point.
- Bro, Do You Even Tag? In doing music reviews, it always helps to tag the band name, the song name, the album name. Then people who check the tags see the content, and decide to follow if they like what they see.
- YouTube is the New MTV. After (which is to say, above) every review, I do a separate video post which has either a favored deep track or a live version or something else that I think noteworthy. YouTube is great at giving you options, and people like to hear music when they’re done reading about music.
So, Focus, Reach Out, and Consistent Content. Hopefully this continues.
Check out the noise at Every. Damn. CD.