Monday, October 02, 2006

Can't Be Bothered: The Questionability of Perseverance

It's true: I'm washed-up, can't write about the latest fad, the latest movie, the latest band, and, moreover, can't muster up the energy to care. Can't pass judgment on today's kids no more, as I've got no clue on what they're even doing, save for looking much better dressed than I ever did at that age (and even that's not particularly true; gentlemen, a blazer can't save a wardrobe).

An example: Can I tell what the hype is about CSS? It's not that difficult, and the equation is unbeatable: bunch of Brazilian girls, none of which seem older than my little cousin Zoe (one even looks like her - the one with the striped shirt), playing dance rock on instruments they hardly know their way around, brash and sassy as you'd think. If I had cut up my socks and wore them on my wrists, I'd be all over it (even more so if I had legwarmers). My age doesn't preclude me from appreciating it, I'm not old enough to dismiss it. In fact, I don't have a reaction to it, whatsoever.

It's this non-reaction, this apathy, that's become disconcerting. It's far from being disconnected to youth culture - that distance has proven to be rather inconsequential - but being disconnected to music in general. In speaking to a fellow music aficionado at work, it became clear that this wasn't my individual decline, but a phenomena that, from our discussions, seemed tied to age (this guy's got decades on me, and propels cynicism into an interstellar level)(more on him in other posts).

Afterawhile, some of our conversations segued into your typical nostalgic 'music was better when...' type discussions, and it became disorientating. I've bitched enough about the new 18 year olds - was I becoming Jack Lemmon to his Walter Matthau? Is our reaction to music so overtly subjective that nostalgia prevents us from enjoying the new?

I can't remember the last time I listened to an album that floored me, old or new. The ones that stay with me, that I know every note, beat and lyric to, tend to be those albums I listened to in my late teens to early twenties. I can't pretend that many of those albums still stand up - a visit through the first series of posts on this blog will prove that. Will music never have as much personal impact again? Is it me, or is it the music?

I sent this sentiment and question out to a few of you for observations. Here's the sampling:


"I agree re: albums that don't stick. Songs, maybe, but not full albums. I keep hearing a lot of stuff that just makes me go, "meh." I think there's about three to five albums released
each year that get me excited. I can only do top 5's now.

"Worse for me are all the old faves who I keep expecting to sustain their excellence, and who fall far short of that expectation (I'm talking to you, REM).

"I don't know that it's age. Although, maybe. One of the guys at work calls me a hater b/c I don't like most recent stuff. I think, having heard more and more of the canon of modern pop music, I realize how much has already been done. Really, after the Velvet Underground, what else new is there that a 4-piece rock band can do?

"And I don't think music is less important - I think there's just more that's becoming increasingly important.

"I think part of it is that there's a far, far larger volume of music at our fingertips now. So you have new releases by old faves competing with the flavour of the week competing with that unheard gem. For me, one of the joys of the old VOX days was finding records you knew almost no one had heard before, and being able to discover and fall in love with that record, and then try to tell the world about it. Now, most rock writers are lazy. Reading reviews, there's not a lot of good criticism going on, almost no real thought going into things (which is why I love the concept of the 33 1/3 series).

"I'm listening to the new Beck right now, by the way. I think that's relevant. I do try to listen, even if briefly, to New Music of Importance. I keep digging because when I do find those gems - like Novillero - it's absolutely worth it. A record I can listen to and get lost in. Such a great feeling, still."


"Check this out: David Moore's piece, "The Sad Death of the Album". I think a comment below the article touches on an interesting point - that today's artist really doesn't care as much about creating an album as a whole, but rather focussing on catchy singles and a smattering of so-so filler.

"Personally, I can't remember the last time I could recall every nuance of an entire album - the lyrics, the hooks, the vocal inflections, everything. (Oasis's Morning Glory, maybe?) Yeah, I'm getting older and more jaded. And, yeah, music doesn't have the same meaning to me as it did when I was in school. That said, my passion for music still exists in a huge way, and as much as I like my favourite albums of the past, there are times when I don't feel like listening to them. I want something new... that's as good as my faves. But unfortunately the artists that I have time to pursue and listen to - and this is key in this digital age where SO MUCH STUFF is accessible than at any point in the past - are not stepping up to the plate.

"Will there ever be another tremendous music explosion like in the late 70s or early 80s? Perhaps. Am I hoping for one? Hell, yeah."


"I feel like I've actually been re-discovering 'the album' after years of hounding singles and one-offs. I now feel that I'm a bit more removed from the whole dj culture, and now with Serato, I'm buying way more cds than vinyl. I don't care what people say, CDs are a way better way of enjoying an album (who wants to switch sides/records every 3 songs?). Actually, the fact that I have Phrenology on vinyl is probably part of the reason I didn't like it as much as other Roots' albums. I just didn't listen to it as much.

"Which brings me to my next point. How much I listen to an album usually has a direct relationship with whether or not I think it's a masterpiece. I'm just as gullible as the rest of the public who decide they like a song after hearing it 30 or 40 times. when i think of the landmark albums of my youth (Illmatic, Nation of Millions, People's Instinctive Travels, Three Feet High, etc..), man, I listened to those albums (tapes) over and over and over again, until I knew every song, every beat, every word. When's the last time you did that? But I even did with the stuff that I don't consider as classic: Brand Nubian, Digital Underground, Special Ed, Kish, whatever... With the amount of music I've been going through recently, it often seems I don't have the time to do that anymore. But within the last few months, I've been making a concerted effort to do so. I put 5 cds in my carousel, and I listen to 'em. Track after track, cd 'pon cd.

"I've actually come to the realization that contrary to logic, the more music I listen to, the less likely I am to come upon a landmark/masterpiece album, because nothing actually has time to stick. So this year, while listening, really listening to fewer stuff (but sampling an inordinate amount, and making snap judgements based on that sampling), I've actually got a couple things that kind of stick out. The Dilla Donuts/Shining combo. Arctic Monkeys (my rediscovery of
rock'n'roll. Probably fitting then that I like a band whose audience is mostly comprised of teen internet geeks also discovering rock n'roll for the very first time). Little Brother, Chitlin Circuit (probably my most listened to album of the year, even though it came out 2yrs ago or so. But I bought it at the same time as The Minstrel Show, but preferred their earlier effort). That Roots album may yet stick, I'll have to see. Latest People Under the Stairs came very close.

"The thing is, also, I know that these may not be universally heralded albums, and lots of people won't agree... and I don't care. These are my personal picks, for better and worse."

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