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Unterhaltungskultur
July 26, 2010 12:56 PM   Subscribe

I maintain that only an encyclopedic-archaeological turn can save an aging person's attachment to popular culture from descending into ridiculousness. Against Eighties Music by Justin E.H. Smith
posted by xod (144 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I curled my fingers into an o-shape against my palm and tilted my wrist to about 60 degrees. I clicked the link, I read the post, and then I moved my eyes to the most skyward orientation I could manage and began moving my hand back and forth along the axis of the tube created by my curled fingerse.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:01 PM on July 26, 2010 [29 favorites]


tl;dr -- all your favorite bands from the past suck, you are deluded for thinking otherwise, stop living in the past and listen to some new bands.

Of course, this is accomplished without any real analysis of 80s music at all, with an anecdote about a friend who has a favorite band that he doesn't like, and not a small amount of pretension.
posted by hippybear at 1:01 PM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I love '80s music! Also, I'm pushing 40.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:02 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Justin E. H. Smith is right: We live in a Glorious Age Of The Autotune. Revel in your time, old fogeys!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:05 PM on July 26, 2010


pushing 40

The horror! 40 more years of irrelevancy and decline to endure!
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:08 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


He has skipped at least one option. My favorite music is: whatever is on the radio. Played at a reasonable volume.
posted by adipocere at 1:10 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


In short, the mongoloid 80s lacked geometry and a sense of carefully circumscribed ritual completely out of step with the 16th century. Are you familiar with Scarlatti? He was, in fact, the last true musician. Now I must lay down, for my valve now begins to quiver.

O Fortuna!
posted by jquinby at 1:12 PM on July 26, 2010 [27 favorites]


There's a lot of big words and obscure references in there. Therefore, he must know what he's talking about.
posted by l2p at 1:20 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


The internet can solve this problem. We can divine personality and intelligence from Facebook profiles. We can correlate the brightest and most affable profiles with scrobbled tracks on Last.fm. We can analyze the composition of those tracks with the Music Genome Project. And we can determine, once and for all, which music is objectively good.

And we can make everything else illegal.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 1:22 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by usonian at 1:24 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Having just acquired a lawn, I think I will tell this mother fucker to get off of it.
Unless, of course, he is standing there with a radio over his head playing, "In Your Eyes".
posted by charred husk at 1:24 PM on July 26, 2010 [15 favorites]


So on a flight yesterday there was a "New Wave" audio channel. There hasn't been any new New Wave music in a decade, right? Did I stumble upon the new oldies?
posted by GuyZero at 1:25 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


There actually is a second generation of synthpop, but I think "New Wave" is dead as disco.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:27 PM on July 26, 2010


tl;dr -- all your favorite bands from the past suck, you are deluded for thinking otherwise, stop living in the past and listen to some new bands.

Close. It's actually. "You look stupid listening to bands from your youth, or bands from today, or bands from a long time ago. So, uh. Hey, did you notice I have two middle initials?"
posted by lore at 1:27 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Progress or Return?
posted by koeselitz at 1:28 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there's still synthpop (I dunno, the Scissor Sisters, I'm out of the loop here) but yeah, it was basically the equivalent of a disco channel. Which would be unthinkable of course, right?
posted by GuyZero at 1:29 PM on July 26, 2010


A second point is that no one cares

On the contrary. Someone apparently cares very much, at least enough to write a dozen paragraphs about it and post them on the internets.

worse, you're embarrassing yourself. To say 'I love '80s music' might have a different semantics than 'I'm pushing 40', but out of your mouth, dear coeval, it is pragmatically exactly the same.

There's something specifically embarrassing about pushing 40?

I don't know, here. The closing admonition to "listen to music with immediacy" strikes me as good one, but I don't find anything particularly wrong with listening with nostalgia, either. Similarly, taking the time to travel through the catalog of recorded music rather than simply camping out in a few select spots seems like a worthy enterprise. But only when the goal is more or less experience with the music itself -- it seems pretension to me if the goal is to assiduously avoid becoming something you've begun to see as a caricature. What's to avoid, if that's the music you really enjoy? Particularly as long as you're not causing trouble by telling everyone that what they listen to instead sucks.

I suspect the familiar curse of conflating experience with art and personal identity is at work yet again.
posted by weston at 1:29 PM on July 26, 2010


All the kids like 80s music these days. Just this weekend I was walking around wearing a Clash T-shirt, which has the cover of an album that came out the year I was born printed on black, and got all kinds of "hey the Clash! Awesome shirt!" comments from people of all ages. I'll slag 80s, 90s and current pop with the rest of them, but let's not forget the 80s produced some great punk as well as early hip hop and other great music, a lot of which hasn't been done as well since.

Also the Stereo MCs were kinda awesome and I'd totally ride in his friend's car.
posted by Kirk Grim at 1:32 PM on July 26, 2010


I can't be sure how serious this piece is. While I acknowledge the dilemma that he describes, the real question he's asking is what kind of pose one should take to avoid looking ridiculous. Well, gee, if it's a pose you're looking for, then it doesn't matter what you listen to; just lie and say whatever sounds coolest to your intended audience. If you really care about appearances that much, that is.
posted by Edgewise at 1:34 PM on July 26, 2010


The closing admonition to "listen to music with immediacy" strikes me as good one, but I don't find anything particularly wrong with listening with nostalgia, either.

Most of the music I listen to, no matter what decade, carries immediacy into my life. Fluffly bubblegum pop never appealed to me, but quality music and intelligent lyrics that help me process life's turns and twists will never go out of style.

I can understand railing against listening to music simply because its from a certain era -- that's as vacuous as only wanting to hear whatever is in the Top 10 at any moment, and discarding anything that slips down the charts. But music that anyone carries with them across the years because it offers depth and poetry into daily life... That should always be celebrated no matter what era the music comes from.
posted by hippybear at 1:37 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think his point is that as one ages one's ability and/or desire to stay abreast of popular culture wanes, and that cultivating an encyclopedic knowledge of the popular music of the past is one possible way to still score with chicks and impress your friends after age 40.

Or something.

But he misses the upside of aging: no longer giving a fuck about what people think about your musical taste and just listening to music to enjoy it.

Hyper-awareness of signification destroys.

Imma go rock out to The Ink Spots now.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:38 PM on July 26, 2010 [21 favorites]


Also: I discovered a long time ago that the best way to get back at my parents wasn't to listen to music they thought was grating – sometimes it was just dumb, and anyhow I was unfortunate enough to have parents that were onto that little rock and roll trick. (And who isn't, six decades after Elvis?) No, the best way to get back at my parents through music was to get into music that their parents liked.

And honestly, even now that I'm 31, that serves me quite nicely. Actually, the music of the 30s is pretty damned awesome.
posted by koeselitz at 1:40 PM on July 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


H.P. Lovecraft, music critic.
posted by benzenedream at 1:42 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've been thinking about this a lot lately.

I just turned 43. Most of the music on my master "stuff I like to listen to" playlist is from the Eighties. I know this has nothing to do with the quality of the music produced then. That's simply when I was most likely to encounter a song that had a big effect on me. Because I was being exposed to lots of new music and because I was young.

Even if U2's last record had a song on it as good as "New Year's Day" - and I'm only guessing that it doesn't, because I didn't even bother to download it - it couldn't mean as much to me as "New Year's Day" meant to me in 1983. In part because Bono is a much different proposition now than he was then. But mostly because I'm not 16 any more.

Even if the Nu Shooz song I was singing along with yesterday is somehow objectively worse than the disposable Top 40 music of today, the former evokes carefree times in a way the latter never can. I don't think that a discreditable reason for preferring it.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:42 PM on July 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


I think the "About" section (not to mention all the German at the end there) indicates that this guy is squarely in the realm of "not serious." But I'm kind of afraid to investigate further and find out that I'm wrong.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:49 PM on July 26, 2010


Ninety-Nine Red Balloons-La-la-la-la-la-la-la!!!
posted by New England Cultist at 1:50 PM on July 26, 2010


The best of what they commonly call 80's music actually came out in the bottom half of the 70's.
By 1980 it was rapidly turning to crap.
posted by rocket88 at 1:51 PM on July 26, 2010


Who is this dude and why should I care whether he thinks my musical taste is ridiculous or not?

I'm 42 and I love my 80s music (along with some 60s and 70s music, some 90s music and some current music). Like BitterOldPunk, I can't imagine why any of us should give a damn what random internet blowhards think of our taste and/or our approach to popular music.
posted by immlass at 1:51 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


How much longer will we have to listen to the cries of melancholy longing of those now pushing 40: a longing for a more authentic time, in which something we now call 'eighties music' held us all together, forged us, made us better than the current crop of manipulated stooges with their ephemeral junk?

I am not hearing those cries. Are you?

An odd, silly article (though I think I once made a similar (stupid) argument when I was back in college that radio stations should only play current music).

I can't be sure how serious this piece is.

Yeah, after re-reading it, I now see it as satire. The writer also appears to be a humorist, but I haven't read anything else yet ...
posted by mrgrimm at 1:52 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Appearing to be a humorist without actually being humorous probably means you're doing it wrong.
posted by hippybear at 1:57 PM on July 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


Bono is a much different proposition now than he was then.

Then: It is the case that heraldic mullet
Now: It is the case that wraparound shades
posted by Beardman at 2:03 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wait, that was supposed to be funny? Huh.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:03 PM on July 26, 2010


While caught between the Scylla of trying to stay with his prose and the Charybdis of tl;dr, I found myself thinking "man, this dude really hates fun." So I read some more, and now I'm caught between the one guy of "wait, this is satire?" and the other guy of "whatever, I wouldn't mind listening to some Cyndi Lauper right now."

they just wanna, they just wanna, ohhhh
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:04 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, FFS. Just because I occasionally still listen to Rebel Yell doesn't mean that I think Billy Idol should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or that he should get a Macarthur grant. I've long since come to terms with the fact that the music that still has the most emotional resonance for me is the stuff that I was listening to when my emotions were all turned up to 11, a period of time which roughly covers 1977-1987. The only radio station that I listen to, either at home or in the car, is the local public radio station, where most of the music is at least a century old, and occasionally they feature new (or new-ish) bands that I may or may not check out. Also, the occasional random live act at local music fests. It never even occurred to me to buy some magazine to Stay Hip To What The Kids Are Down With These Days.

Also, Justin Smith's German friend keeps playing that Stereo MCs tape whenever Justin gets in the car because the German doesn't really care what Justin might like these days, and somehow got the idea that he liked or might like this group.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:05 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like his screed quite a lot, actually, because apart from the overwrought polemic, it describes how I deal with music as I draw closer to dotage: cling longingly to some favorites from a sliver of the past that still resonate with me, try to sample as much new music from the new age of music-as-digital-object as I can, and dig deeper and deeper into amazing past obscurities that I would never have heard of or touched in the days before music reference material was so readily available as to be instantaneous.

On the other hand, if his post is satire, then all of my musical foraging behavior is ripe for parody and ridicule.

Which I'm fine with, because that's not at all changed from when I was 21.

Also, Stereo MCs do not suck.
posted by blucevalo at 2:06 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only hint that I see that this is supposed to be funny is the encomium from someone describing him as a parodist. I can believe this guy means it as humor, but, to borrow a well-turned phrase from a certain decade, "where's the beef?"
posted by immlass at 2:08 PM on July 26, 2010


Having just acquired a lawn, I think I will tell this mother fucker to get off of it.
Unless, of course, he is standing there with a radio over his head playing, "In Your Eyes".


Crap! I've been playing "Mercy Street" this whole time by mistake! No wonder I never get the girl!
posted by The World Famous at 2:11 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm turning 39 on Wednesday, and my "favorites" playlist is loaded with 80s music (yay class of '89!). I love the idea that I'm pathetic both for listening to 80s music, and for enjoying current music. Of course, I'm a high school teacher and TOTALLY used to people thinking I'm lame. I have CLOTHES THAT I STILL WEAR from the 80s. My hairstyle is the same (thank god my hair is super-straight so that I couldn't do the 80s bangs pouf). Actually, I'm even the same weight as I was in 1989! OMG! I'm totally trying too hard! Shit! I need to start not listening to music and sitting in silence (?) so as to not appear to be trying too hard. Maybe I'll take up knitting. Oh wait, that's cool again, right? Crap! Now I'll look like I'm trying to be cool. OK, I'll take up bedazzling. I'm pretty sure that's between cool peaks.
posted by shrabster at 2:17 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


unheimlich is a German word I like.
posted by everichon at 2:18 PM on July 26, 2010


I know it's only rock 'n roll, but I like it.
posted by gallois at 2:18 PM on July 26, 2010


* squeezes Clap Your Hands Say Yeah shirt over gut *
posted by everichon at 2:19 PM on July 26, 2010


The 80's are embarrassing? Isn't this the era where every new band is ripping off bands from the 80's?
posted by naju at 2:20 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


There is something slightly pathetic and awkward about this strategy, too...Something that, just like the other two options, no doubt is going to make the young people cringe.

The thing that is totally pathetic and awkward is a 40-year-old-man fussing about whether or not he's making "the young people" cringe.

If music really has to be some kind of in-group signifier for you instead of just noise that you enjoy, then the only way to not be pathetic and awkward is to genuinely be a member of whatever group is using that music to signify their identity.

It's not a matter of listening to "the right" music. It's a matter of having real relationships with other people.

Or, you know, you could get off that stupid Treadmill of Cool and just listen to anything you genuinely enjoy.
posted by straight at 2:21 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The best of what they commonly call 80's music actually came out in the bottom half of the 70's.

What!? I'm not sure what you're calling '80s music, but I'm guessing you're thinking punk (Clash, Ramones, Stooges, etc.) or maybe The Police or Joy Division? Sure that was the late '70s, but just off the top of my head (using WP as reference for dates).

I limited it to one album per artist, but some of these guys (imo) could be on a "best of the '80s" list several times.

1980 - The Psychedelic Furs - The Psychedelic Furs
1980 - U2 - Boy
1982 - Prince - 1999
1983 - Bauhaus - Burning from the Inside
1983 - The Violent Femmes - The Violent Femmes
1983 - REM - Murmur
1983 - New Order - Power, Corruption, & Lies
1984 - Husker Du - Zen Arcade
1984 - The Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense
1984 - Echo & the Bunnymen - Ocean Rain
1985 - Love and Rockets - Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven
1985 - The Replacements - Tim
1985 - The Smiths - Meat is Murder
1985 - The Cure - Head on the Door
1985 - The Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy
1987 - The Wedding Present - George Best
1987 - Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation
1987 - Sinead O'Connor - The Lion and the Cobra
1988 - Ministry - The Land of Rape and Honey
1988 - Nothing's Shocking - Jane's Addiction
1989 - The Pixies - Doolittle
1989 - The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
1989 - Fugazi - 13 Songs
1989 - They Might Be Giants - Lincoln

Oh ya, there was a lot (A LOT) of shitty music in the '80s. But there was plenty of good stuff too, like say .. Crowded House!! :p
posted by mrgrimm at 2:21 PM on July 26, 2010 [16 favorites]


I'm really amazed that he could squeeze that little into that much space.
posted by el_lupino at 2:21 PM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


"How much longer will we have to listen to the cries of melancholy longing of those now pushing 40: a longing for a more authentic time, in which something we now call 'eighties music' held us all together, forged us, made us better than the current crop of manipulated stooges with their ephemeral junk?"

C'mon, this is satire. It may not be funny, but it's certainly satire. Isn't it generally agreed that the record industry in the 1980s was a pioneer of "manipulated stooges" and "ephemeral junk"?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:23 PM on July 26, 2010


This is a case study in the perils of connoisseurship, and how it can destroy a person's ability to enjoy the area of focus. I believe that the author's (or possibly the narrator's-- I can't quite tell) problem is that he no longer likes music. He is taking enjoyment and interest and replacing it with having an edgy perspective.

To remedy this, I would like to declare 2010 the Year We Returned to Liking The Music We Like.
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 2:25 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy shit. The Violent Femmes Album came out 27 years ago?!! WHAT THE FUCK?!
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:26 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was not outraged by this piece of writing. It didn't particularly resonate with my own experience, but as a slightly humorous account of one person's neurotic relationship with musical fashion, it was perfectly readable and mildly entertaining.

I had the misfortune to see the Stereo MCs perform at a festival somewhere or other. It was very much an "oh, that's who used to do that terrible song" moment. And they were still performing that one terrible song, albeit with noticeably less enthusiasm.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:29 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


So I can neither freeze a moment in time and cling to it, nor can I move along with the flow of time. What then is left? There is only one thing to do, and that is to go back in time. You cannot accuse me of clinging to my past if I listen to a compilation of Appalachian jug-and-washboard music from the 1920s.

That's kinda funny I guess, because I've seen a lot of people make that transition, i.e. from newer, "rock" music to "more authentic" older music. How many people do you know who've moved on from new music to old bluegrass, or jazz, or ancient americana, etc. I've never really thought that maybe they switched their focus to older music because they just couldn't keep up with new music. That's somewhat interesting, I guess.

I'm going back and forth as I re-read it for the fourth time, but I'm thinking satire still ...
posted by mrgrimm at 2:30 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


So he's tired of his 80's music and is now into old jug band?

Did I miss something?

Oh yeah, can't keep up with the kids.
posted by Max Power at 2:31 PM on July 26, 2010


Actually, I hate to break it to you all, but the 80s revival died around 2006-2007. Now we are currently in an early 90s revival, see hammer pants on ladies, big baggy t-shirts, jam shorts and doc martins and those classic Ray Ban sunglasses.
posted by dobie at 2:37 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, this sentence from the comments on the site is hilarious:

I suspect your German friend only plays that cassette when you are in the car. Think about it.
posted by straight at 2:37 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, I hate to break it to you all, but the 80s revival died around 2006-2007. Now we are currently in an early 90s revival, see hammer pants on ladies, big baggy t-shirts, jam shorts and doc martins and those classic Ray Ban sunglasses.

In terms of the sound of current hip music, we're still squarely in the 80s. Moreover, Sammy Hagar pants, baggy t-shirts, Wayfarers, etc. are 80s styles anyway.

When the kids start wearing thermal undwear under shorts, flannel shirts, and unfortunate goatees, the 90s revival will have begun.
posted by The World Famous at 2:56 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Holy shit. The Violent Femmes Album came out 27 years ago?!! WHAT THE FUCK?!

Check the calendar and add it up, day after day.
posted by GuyZero at 2:57 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


More from the pen of Justin E. H. Smith:

"All natural blessings are either mental or physical, and there is no other category of blessing. Now it is abundantly clear to everyone that athletes have never even dreamed of mental blessings. To begin with, they are so deficient in reasoning powers that they do not even know whether they have a brain. Always gorging themselves on flesh and blood, they keep their brains soaked in so much filth that they are unable to think accurately and are as mindless as dumb animals."

"Thus for example hipsterism encourages its adherents to propose, in writing, on their t-shirts, to sell moustache rides for five cents, not because they intend to give anyone a moustache ride, and not even because the apposition of ‘moustache’ and ‘ride’ is seen as a source of humor. What is humorous is that in some imagined Country Comfort Lounge in Amarillo or Cheyenne a generation ago some big slab of a man actually sported a moustache of which he was proud, which he believed could function directly and un-ironically as a sexual attractant. (...)

I do not know whether aging is something to be thankful for, as Socrates seems to have thought, but I do know with certainty that it is not something to be awkwardly and unconvincingly denied, as balding hippies, with their scraggly ponytails and their irrelevant cultural reference points, insist on doing."

"Justin E. H. Smith is an American essayist, journalist, and satirist based in Montreal. He doesn't want to write satire, but, as Juvenal said, the world leaves him no choice."
posted by iviken at 3:05 PM on July 26, 2010


Against Eighties Music

What could you possibly have against Flying Nun Records; to begin with?
posted by elmono at 3:06 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


More from the pen of Justin E. H. Smith:

I think you meant to say "Justin E. H. Smith, quoting the second-century Greek physician Galen at length."
posted by straight at 3:10 PM on July 26, 2010


Holy shit. The Violent Femmes Album came out 27 years ago?!! WHAT THE FUCK?!

If you think that's scary: we are now as far from Violent Femmes as Violent Femmes was from "Heartbreak Hotel".
posted by equalpants at 3:10 PM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


Check the calendar and add it up, day after day.

... and the days add up to weeks, add up to months, and add up, and add up to years
posted by mrgrimm at 3:11 PM on July 26, 2010


equalpants: The world seems, in many ways, to be culturally stalled. However, those damn kids still need to get off my lawn.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:28 PM on July 26, 2010


If you think that's scary: we are now as far from Violent Femmes as Violent Femmes was from "Heartbreak Hotel".

It's like that one time in the early '90s (1993?) when somebody told me that Morrissey had been recording as a solo artist for longer than The Smiths had been around. Nonplussed I was.

Ah, aging. Good times ...
posted by mrgrimm at 3:30 PM on July 26, 2010


Against Eighties Music?

Let's see: from 1980 to 1990...

Queen. released five albums including The Game, and The Works...
ZZ Top released three albums including Eliminator...
The Rolling Stones released five albums, including Tattoo You...
AC/DC, released six albums including Back In Black, Flick of the Switch, and For Those About To Rock...

Dear Music Blog,

I'll stick with shitty '80s music, thanks.
posted by quin at 3:37 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The 1970s was the pinnacle of our civilization. There really was a high water mark - it has all been downhill since then. The forces of darkness have won.

Submitted as evidence:

this,
this,
this,
this.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:05 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Speaking as someone who is pushing 40 and currently listening to Ultravox's Rage in Eden, I have no idea what this guy is talking about. Also, what a terribly written piece. So, you're saying we should listen to old stuff and new stuff? That, my friend, is revelatory!

To come clean, I confess that I only read the comments on this post hoping jonmc would be here complaining about The Smiths.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:11 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


That was a complete waste of time.
posted by oddman at 4:34 PM on July 26, 2010


I'm currently 49 years old and run a couple of comic shops. I was 16 in 1977 and am a fan of late-'70s and '80s music. Because I own my business, I can play whatever I want at work eleven hours a day. I try not to annoy the customers with heavy metal or country or Sade or whatnot and tend to play mostly non-mainstream music from 1976- 1990. In the 22 years we've been open, I've noticed that '80s music went from passe to hip and now maybe passe again. Maybe it'll be hip in ten years again. I dunno. I do know that '80s pop is unobtrusive, quirky and peppy and works nice as background music for a comic shop so we play it a lot. I've heard it all thousands of times. But you know what? I can still listen to "Through Being Cool" by Devo or "Mirror In The Bathroom" by The (English) Beat. I can't do that with Led Zep.

(I do play a good bit of new stuff too like Santogold, MGMT, Lykke Li, etc etc etc and other current non-pop stuff... that seems to mix well with the variety that is '80s music.)
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:40 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've noticed that "Hits of the '80s" is almost always the music we could only hear on college radio. Odd that the stuff that was actually Top Ten at the time is almost unheard today...or maybe not so odd.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:51 PM on July 26, 2010


Dear author: bite me.

(I'm 44 and listen to music from about the 17th century to last week.)
(Plus, as a writer, he does not deserve to use the name Halldór.)
posted by matildaben at 4:53 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also of note, people rarely acknowledge (or possibly even realize) that one reason that the music of today sounds like 80s throwback music is that the producers, engineers, A&R people, and critics grew up with 80s music and they are creating music that they like based on tastes developed in their own youth. 90s music sounded like 70s music for the same reason.
posted by The World Famous at 4:59 PM on July 26, 2010


"whatever, I wouldn't mind listening to some Cyndi Lauper right now."

Me, just after reading this:

*stares at text*
*twitches a couple of times*
*mutters "oh, damn you"*
*fires up Spotify*

girls, they wanna, wanna have fun, girls...
posted by ZsigE at 5:01 PM on July 26, 2010


What is the alternative? Well, you can try to stay au courant.

Indulged darling daughter's taste for courant musik for a long road trip this past weekend.

Not a good alternative.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:40 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I live in a small town in the Andes in Patagonia in Argentina. Every person under 40, down to about 16, knows all the words to just about every 80s song I can come up with (I'm a DJ, among other things). I've got an excuse, that was when I was a teenager, but where these people - the majority speak no english - learn the words, I've got no idea.
posted by conifer at 6:00 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, blather.
posted by bwg at 6:14 PM on July 26, 2010


If he's worried about, at some time, being perceived as ridiculous, he is far, far too late. Get over yourself, you weapons-grade douchebag. Self-obsessed types piss me off, although I do find it humorous when people like him presume that other folks care about their opinions.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 6:28 PM on July 26, 2010


Using the The decimal numeral system, and the arbitrary calender divides it creates, is the worst way ever to divide music into genres. I wish people would stop that.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:40 PM on July 26, 2010


caught between the Scylla of trying too hard to stay with it, and the Charybdis of ridiculous nostalgia

When caught between the Scylla of his literary pretensions and the Charybdis of his ennui, I end up with a goddam Sting song stuck in my head. Thanks a lot, pal.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:55 PM on July 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


Jane's Addiction, REM, U2, B-52's, Violent Femmes, Beastie Boys, Run DMC, The Pixies, Siouxsie Sue and the Banshees, Prince, the Circle Jerks, the Dead Milkmen, Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, KLF, Men Without Hats, Mission to Burma, Los Lobos, Sonic Youth, Public Enemy, PIL, Faith No More, good crying fuck, he doesn't like the Cure? Listen to something else from the '80s! The decade was drenched in counter-culture music that can hold its own. It's not all hair bands and post-funk electro-urban dance pop and teen idols.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:34 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can attest that "archeological" taste in music can indeed make you ultra-cool. One day a fresh-out-of-college coworker was talking about some new bands he'd discovered and he asked me if I'd ever heard of them, knowing full well that curmudgeonly old Dr. Quietgal would never in a million years be so au courant. Then he asked what kind of music I liked and I told him I mostly listen to stuff by dead white males. His eyes widened: "The Dead White Males? Wow, I've never even heard of that band - they must be really cutting-edge!" I'm ashamed to admit I didn't clue him in that I meant classical music, I so liked the idea of being cutting-edge.

And BTW, the link read as satire to me, too.

posted by Quietgal at 7:40 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


a) the cure started in 1976

b) uhh... what is he saying about music sucking. I take it he must listen to the antique phonograph music program a lot.

c) yeah, it's a lot easier to not age, and to not try to even remember xyz about music culture.

d) I'm going to go listen to some unreleased, unmixed chillwave trax that my buddy just sent me.
posted by nutate at 8:05 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only bad song of the 80's was The Tubes' "She's a Beauty".

Do the dumb things you gotta do. Touch the puppet head.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:10 PM on July 26, 2010


My highly unoriginal proposition: everybody thinks that the music that was being made when he or she was 22 is objectively the best music ever.

Fortunately, I was 22 in 1981, so in this case I am correct (see: The Clash, Laurie Anderson, Gang of Four, etc.).

(Not really. I listen to all sorts of stuff, and don't understand people who lose interest in keeping up with what's new and good: it's never been easier to listen to new music than it is today.)
posted by jokeefe at 8:23 PM on July 26, 2010


just like today it had, seen from the inside, internal contours and divisions that made it entirely impossible to think of it all as belonging to the same decadal genus.

That is a first point: that you are simply misremembering when you hear The Cure in some public place, perhaps on a Lite FM station while waiting at the dentist's office, and you announce: I love '80s music!


This isn't really true. Throughout the '00-'09 decade, I was constantly aware of music being from that decade, and I would think "I love the '00s." Many people (including me) blogged a list of the best songs of the '00s.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:40 PM on July 26, 2010


My highly unoriginal proposition: everybody thinks that the music that was being made when he or she was 22 is objectively the best music ever.

I hear this a lot, and I don't get it. I was born in 1981; I think the music of the '60s is better than the music of any decade since then. I don't think this is a rare view among my peers -- many of them love the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, etc., as much as any music around today.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:43 PM on July 26, 2010


Oh, yeah, They Might Be Giants - I can forgive Reganomics for TMBG.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:00 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you think that's scary: we are now as far from Violent Femmes as Violent Femmes was from "Heartbreak Hotel".

This is exactly what scares me about music and culture in general. As our population gets bigger exponentially, our art and culture seems to be falling into a weird Zeno's paradox, taking smaller steps with every progression.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 10:04 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Not really. I listen to all sorts of stuff, and don't understand people who lose interest in keeping up with what's new and good: it's never been easier to listen to new music than it is today.)


Seconded - I'm 35 and currently making the transition from semi-pro to pro musician/producer/audio tech. (Translation: I've always been paid for my musical work, but now, for better or worse, it's my main source of income.) More than ever, I feel obligated to know what artists & genres are popular, and with whom (audiences are more fragmented than they've ever been but that's another rant for another time) - and, whether it's Lady Gaga, E-40, or The Gaslight Anthem, try to understand the appeal.*

I agree with this Justin E. H. Smith character's basic argument - don't get stuck only listening to the music of your youth - but his decision to cast the 80s as some sort of nadir of popular music is idiotic. The Smiths were every bit as good as the Beatles (better, depending on what crowd you ran with), and the New Kids were no goofier than the Partridge Family. And so on. Ever era has its musical gems and its musical Velveeta, and the 80s were no exception.






* I actually like all three, for entirely different reasons.
posted by tantrumthecat at 10:05 PM on July 26, 2010


Personally, I am being completely serious when I say that the 1920s were, I believe, the greatest decade ever in the history of American recorded music. Sidney Bechet (my personal favorite musician of all time) was recording stacks of fantastic sides with Clarence Williams, Fats Waller was just starting out making some incredibly lively wax, the Chicago scene was going absolutely nuts, Earl Hines was making incredible strides in piano technique, and Louis Armstrong... was doing THIS. The 1930s had some fantastic things – those Billy Banks Rhythmakers sides were the hottest records ever made, Fats Waller really came into his own then, and good old Sidney finally got out of jail and came back from France to continue making the greatest records of all time – but the 20s were the magic decade.

I've never actually realized that that was half a century before I was born. To me it feels like yesterday. We're so young – a decade feels so long ago for us that we talk about a time that's barely twenty years ago as though it were ancient and long-forgotten history. I met an Algerian Muslim in Spain who'd get so passionate that he'd be red-faced (not easy for an Algerian) and start sputtering whenever he'd start talking about certain things that happened in the eleventh century; that was his time, something that meant something deeply personal to him, even if it was a few dozen generations ago. I think maybe we should be more open to the possibility that time isn't quite as fleeting as we've been led to believe.
posted by koeselitz at 10:07 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


OK, new genres that took root during the '00s, go!

Ummm. Ahhh.... hmm. There's the one with the very loud instrumentals... and the other one that sort of sounds like worthless 80's techno-pop... hmmm.

New genres spawned during the '90s - Grunge, Alternative (the pop is assumed to be there), Trance, D&B, Darkwave, Industrial, Swing, Savage Rockabilly/Psychobilly, Acid Jazz, Neo Lounge, Prog Metal, Nu Metal, New Punk, Bubblegum Punk, J-Pop, alt.country, instrumental metal, rap-rock, and christ, I could go on...

Clear Channel and the RIAA actively worked to crush creativity in the '00s, in order to return control to the labels and the ones they paid payola to. We're still not out of the woods, kid.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:08 PM on July 26, 2010


Everybody's talking 'bout the new sound--
funny, but it's still rock-n-roll to me.
posted by drlith at 10:31 PM on July 26, 2010


Slap*Happy: “OK, new genres that took root during the '00s, go!”

Glitch, microhouse, ambient house, minimal, tech house, alt-country (at least popularized in the 00s), modern electropop, dancepunk, neodisco / disco revival, can't forget dubstep. Also, I feel bad, because I'm sure there are a couple dozen I'm leaving out, but half of them I probably haven't heard of yet.

I mean, Ricardo Villalobos is a genius, and he's still out there doing his thing. Absolute genius, that guy. This is incredible. There's always plenty happening; it's just hard to know it all at any given moment. Easier now than it was in the 90s or the 80s, but still hard. Sometimes I'm glad that we seem to be outgrowing our long, unhealthy obsession with guitars.
posted by koeselitz at 10:42 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK, new genres that took root during the '00s, go!

Dubstep is one.

I think the lack of new "genres" (which are kinda pointless anyway) is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Animal Collective, Beach House, Grizzly Bear, The Walkmen, Band of Horses, Yeasayer, The Go! Team, Broken Social Scene, The Notwist, The National, The Shins, Arcade Fire, The Fiery Furnaces, Life Without Buildings, Apostles of Hustle, Harlem Shakes, Deerhunter, Phoenix, Destroyer, Bloc Party, New Pornographers, TV on the Radio, No Age, Fuck Buttons, The Format, Antony and the Johnsons, The Books, LCD Soundsystem, Battles, McLusky, The Unicorns, The White Stripes, The Kills, Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown ... I don't want to think any more ...

That's an "alternative" (a "genre" that came about in the '80s) selection only, but all those artists are creating new sounds. There are lots more in jazz, hip-hop, country, folk, reggae and other genres creating new sounds.

That's all that matters. Like I said, I think it's even better that less bands can be tied to genres. I say this as a huge Nirvana fan that loved the '90s.

There are a shitload of new genres from the 2000s anyway. I'm just not going to look them all up...
posted by mrgrimm at 10:45 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I'm glad that we seem to be outgrowing our long, unhealthy obsession with guitars.

N E V E R
posted by mrgrimm at 10:46 PM on July 26, 2010


koeselitz, I'm pretty sure most of those genre's you just named I was listening to in 1998-1999... even 'newer' genres in there like "dancepunk" is sort of a throwback and not really it's own thing, and was kind of always around on the fringe. Though I guess Slap*Happy said "took root," not "came about," but still. I'm disappointed in the music of my 20's.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 10:47 PM on July 26, 2010


anyone who puts dark gray text on a lurid, but darkish magenta background has no business making any kind of aesthetic judgments at all
posted by pyramid termite at 10:50 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Er, "genres," no apostrophe... And I guess it's not as bad as I was initially thinking, there's a lot of great music from the past 10 years, but not a lot of it coalesced into 'movements.'
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 10:51 PM on July 26, 2010


... grime, reggaeton, bumbumbox, crunk, electroclash, free tekno, jump style, melodic death metal...
posted by koeselitz at 11:07 PM on July 26, 2010


Subdividing experimental and tiny, fractal recursions of existing electronica genres is foul play. Don't make me break out the great, big "techno" bin to sweep it all into...
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:14 PM on July 26, 2010


What the world actually needs is more bands that sound like She Wants Revenge. I mean, Editors. Sorry...Interpol. Oh god how embarrassing, I meant to say Joy Division! And I'm properly serious, because I actually dig that general sound. In lieu of an AskMe, anybody got any further recommendations?
posted by turgid dahlia at 11:16 PM on July 26, 2010


SmileyChewtrain: “koeselitz, I'm pretty sure most of those genre's you just named I was listening to in 1998-1999... even 'newer' genres in there like "dancepunk" is sort of a throwback and not really it's own thing, and was kind of always around on the fringe. Though I guess Slap*Happy said "took root," not "came about," but still. I'm disappointed in the music of my 20's.”

Really? You were listening to dubstep in 1998? Microhouse and tech house? Wow. But I have to say: "dancepunk" doesn't sound like either dance or punk, and is definitively not a "throwback" unless you're counting copycat coverbands like LCD Soundsystem, who are probably the most overrated band in the history of bands. And I know people are going to see the words and say that Metro Area's neodisco / Italo house is "just another old thing done again," but it straight-up isn't, and anybody who thinks it is hasn't heard that record, which is easily among the top ten best commercially-available records of the last decade, even if you might not have heard of it.

The difficult thing about music nowadays isn't finding good music. It's deciding what you want to listen to.

Slap*Happy: “Clear Channel and the RIAA actively worked to crush creativity in the '00s, in order to return control to the labels and the ones they paid payola to. We're still not out of the woods, kid.”

I appreciate what you're saying here, but I disagree strongly; music has been liberated for a long time, and if parts of it still remain in chains, it's because we choose to leave it there. If you want to check a big influence on the mainstream, go to Pitchfork, browse the reviews, and check the names of labels underneath the names of the albums. Count how many of those releases, all of which (assuming they have good reviews) will see beaucoup sales, are on major labels; that's right, almost none of them. The story is even better in electronic music, where being on a major label is unheard of. Hell, I'll bet a majority of electronic musicians actually self-release at least some of their music nowadays. And that's awesome. It's a huge, vast, open community of music. The hardest part is wading through and deciding what you want.
posted by koeselitz at 11:22 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yup. Techno it is then. Good job in discovering new and uninteresting derivations of it that lack melody, harmony, timing, pacing, pleasing tones or anything resembling a catchy hook!

I feel like a roadie for Cream in the '60s listening to a selection of hot new hair-metal bands in the '80s. Get offa mah yard(birds)!

That said, there's still some excellent stuff out there - rjd2 immediately comes to mind - but he's more in the genre-of-whatever-the-hell-DJ-Shadow-and-NinjaTunes-is genre rather than something new and mindblowing.

While we're at it, Melodic Death Metal = Symphony X + Cookie Monster. (Which actually isn't a bad thing... Folk Metal is fun, too. I just hesitate in subdividing either from prog metal.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:36 PM on July 26, 2010


Slap*Happy: “Subdividing experimental and tiny, fractal recursions of existing electronica genres is foul play. Don't make me break out the great, big "techno" bin to sweep it all into...”

How is Grime "tiny"? How is Dubstep "tiny"? Have you listened to these things? Incredible things have been done in these contexts in the last five years. Yes, they're UK genres, but there are people who live, sleep, eat, and breathe them - lots of people, some might say a whole generation of people (since that's really what dubstep is, a generation's music). That's why I'm mentioning them. If you don't give a crap about Ricardo Villalobos, fine; but don't write him or his like off as insignificant before you've given a listen to Alcachofa.

Not least because much, much more of this supposedly insignificant electronica music actually gets bought in the world than rock music now.

But that's the problem with your thesis; what makes a 'significant' genre? I think what you mean is that you don't like it, and therefore it's not 'significant.' You're intent of sweeping all of electronica into the same bin, but the fact is that there are a lot of people doing a lot of awesome things there, and you're cutting yourself off from it because you want to hear something like what people were doing in the 90s. And the ironic thing is that there are plenty of people doing what people were doing in the 90s right now. Heck, there are probably more people doing what people were doing in the 90s right now than there were... in the 90s. (If that makes any sense.)

And this isn't just about electronica. I'm not mentioning nu metal, because I imagine you hate it as much as I do, but a lot of people seem to love it, and I have to admit that there are times that System Of A Down gets close to doing something like great music. And I'm not ashamed to say that there are songs by System Of A Down that I actually really like, even if I probably wouldn't pay to listen to them. (I am a ridiculous old man at this point, but the drummer in my on-again-off-again band is 19, and he's crazy about them. Amazingly, he's rubbed off on me a bit. And thankfully I was able to get him into Van Der Graaf Generator.)

You're acting as though nothing at all has happened in the last ten years - surely you must see that plenty is always going on, it's just sometimes hard to find it. And now, it seems like we have less of an excuse than ever; it's easier to find stuff than it's ever been.

turgid dahlia: “What the world actually needs is more bands that sound like She Wants Revenge. I mean, Editors. Sorry...Interpol. Oh god how embarrassing, I meant to say Joy Division! And I'm properly serious, because I actually dig that general sound. In lieu of an AskMe, anybody got any further recommendations?”

Gui Boratto.
posted by koeselitz at 11:37 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Slap*Happy: “Yup. Techno it is then. Good job in discovering new and uninteresting derivations of it that lack melody, harmony, timing, pacing, pleasing tones or anything resembling a catchy hook!”

... said my father about punk music, circa 1989.
posted by koeselitz at 11:39 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The linked article was pretty hilarious, thanks. Too bad you're getting lots of shit from the folks who didn't get it (if you've never bought a copy of The Wire then not read it you're probably not in the target audience).

The "name me some new genres" thing is pretty funny too, too bad it seems to be happening in earnest. (I mean, seriously, you want to complain that the '00s are terrible because they didn't come up with something to equal "darkwave"?)
posted by klangklangston at 11:56 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Slap*Happy, at this point if you really think that electronica is a dead or dying genre, or that it's a bad idea or a dead end or a wrong turn or whatever, then what you need to do is you need to get yourself a copy of this albumreleased in 2001! – and listen to it once or twice or three times or however long it takes for it to blow your mind and make you as insanely happy as it makes me and so many millions of people around the world. It probably won't be that many times, honestly. And you'll see pretty quickly what genius it is, how amazingly careful and thoughtful they are in putting everything on that record together. And hopefully from there you can begin to appreciate electronica a bit more. Really, there are times when absolutely nothing can make life worth living, when it seems as though a whole lot of shit in the world is wrong... and that record brings me back, gives me life, makes me not only happy but proud to be a human being. It's so pure, so deeply-felt, and so true.

Maybe if you feel like that's too obviously pop music – or maybe if you say "yes, well, but that's not what techno is, is it?" then please listen to this record from three years ago, which has made me more at peace with myself and with who I am than anything else I've listened to in at least two decades. Resident Advisor is an Australian electronica music magazine that (unlike PFork) isn't given to bold or vague pronouncements, and generally just sticks to a careful examination of the music; but their review of this record when it came out concluded: "It'll make you a better person." And the really astounding thing is: it did. This record has reminded me of all kinds of things I'd forgotten; it's calmed me, strengthened me, made me clear in my resolve and pure in my intention.

That's the thing about electronic music, particularly in the last decade; it's been so freed from emotion, from sentiment, and it can now so much more easily focus on some deeper currents in the human spirit, at least at its best. It may seem cold, distant; you complain that lacks harmony, pleasing tones, or a catchy hook; I agree, but that's in some ways the whole point. For a very good example, take "Hireklon," my favorite track from Ricardo Villalobos' second album Thé Au Harem D'Archimède. Seriously, try listening to it once through; I know it's nine minutes long, but bear with it. You hear a clicking, bubbling track that sounds like it's made up of velcro tearing off of velcro; there are rips and tears, but it's white noise with jagged edges. It's so ambient that you barely notice it's there at all. And then... at 2:55, everything changes. There's something there that's beautiful and interesting and strange. And it's all the more amazing and surprising because Villalobos gave it that space, he put it against a white background. No, this is not music intended to provoke me to a strong emotion; it's got a purity to it, like Japanese folk music. That's what I love about it.

Or if you'd like a Ricardo Villalobos piece that I think is more immediately accessible and fun to listen to, you can try "Enfants (Chants)."

I don't know; these are just a few of the things over the last decade that I think show great promise, and that indicate directions to come in music making. You may feel as though pop music in this decade is bankrupt, and I agree with you; but more than ever before, we aren't limited to pop music. And there's a hell of a lot of great electronica out there today.
posted by koeselitz at 12:07 AM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


koeselitz, Ambient House: The Compilation by DFC, Chill Out and A Huge, Ever-Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld all came out in 1990. (I'm just sayin'.)
posted by Lazlo at 12:19 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll just throw in a pitch here for my very favourite music show, The Signal, on CBC 2 every night between 10 and 12. (The show that follows for the next few hours, Nightstream, is regularly awesome, as well.) I've literally bought music within seconds of hearing it played on The Signal; you can peruse tonight's playlist here. There's also a podcast, and you can stream shows for a couple of weeks after they air. Its focus is probably too narrow for some-- contemporary classical and the artier side of indie rock-- but it's like heaven to me.
posted by jokeefe at 12:19 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The 80's are embarrassing? Isn't this the era where every new band is ripping off bands from the 80's?

Yes. Of course, this era is embarrassing as well. Even more so.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:42 AM on July 27, 2010


When caught between the Scylla of his literary pretensions and the Charybdis of his ennui, I end up with a goddam Sting song stuck in my head.

My brother and I used to like to pretend that Sting was forcing someone to choose between "Yukon Sid* or me, the young apprentice".


*Yukon Sid, the 19th century's only Jewish Alaskan prospector.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:54 AM on July 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Trance, D&B, Darkwave, Industrial, Swing, Savage Rockabilly/Psychobilly, Acid Jazz, Neo Lounge, Prog Metal, Nu Metal, New Punk, Bubblegum Punk, J-Pop, alt.country, instrumental metal, rap-rock, and christ, I could go on...

This is something I ruminate about sometimes. It seems to me that those are all sub-genres at best, and what people actually started doing with music in the 90s, probably because of the internet, was to start dividing genres into tiny sub-genres and sub-sub-genres based on tiny, almost infinitesimal style differences, or maybe just a tempo or beat difference.

Used to be, an artist could record at different tempos and use different rhythmic techniques from one song to the next without having to concern themselves with which sub-genre their music fit into.

I'm not trying to invalidate anyones artistic integrity, but I find it interesting to see music circumscribed into what seem to me to be smaller and smaller boundaries. I see it more as a function of a fan-base, (or perhaps "arbiters of taste," like DJ's, both club and radio, and reviewers) trying to determine what it is they're listening to than to a particular artist declaiming their grubstake over Post-Punk Industrial Rap-and-Bass. But maybe I'm wrong, there. Are people who make new music these days trying to define (and thereby restrict themselves to) new sub-sub-genres just so they can claim their artistic territory?
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:15 AM on July 27, 2010


Now we are currently in an early 90s revival, see hammer pants on ladies, big baggy t-shirts, jam shorts and doc martins and those classic Ray Ban sunglasses.

Jesus Christ, people. How can you fucking fail at history when the history in question is only twenty years ago, and you've got the goddamned internet?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:30 AM on July 27, 2010


New genres spawned during the '90s - Grunge, Alternative (the pop is assumed to be there), Trance, D&B, Darkwave, Industrial, Swing, Savage Rockabilly/Psychobilly, Acid Jazz, Neo Lounge, Prog Metal, Nu Metal, New Punk, Bubblegum Punk, J-Pop, alt.country, instrumental metal, rap-rock, and christ, I could go on...

Grunge is from the 1980s. Nirvana formed in 1987, first album 1989

Alternative started in the 1980s with college radio and groups like REM

Industrial started in the 70s. Throbbing Gristle, Pere Ubu, etc. Nine Inch Nails' first album was 1988

Swing music... well, that's from the 1930s. And the New Jack Swing movement was in the 1980s. The Neo-swing movement started in 1989.

Psychobilly was making the rounds in Europe starting in the 1970s, and Reverend Horton Heat started in 1985.

The phrase "acid jazz" was coined in 1987.

Prog Metal... Queensryche and Dream Theater both rose out of the 1980s. As did King's X.

Rap rock? Aerosmith and Run D.M.C. recorded their "Walk This Way" in 1986.
posted by hippybear at 4:40 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pushing 40, and I have a cassette player in my car. You can have my 80s mix tapes when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.
posted by candyland at 5:38 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Grunge is from the 1980s. Nirvana formed in 1987, first album 1989

Not to mention that Touch Me, I'm Sick was 1988...

....and Wikipedia defines "bubblegum punk" as another name for pop punk and rightly points out that them Ramones were doing it way back when....

So we've proven that basically nothing happened in the 90s, and that all good music was invented in the 80s? That fits (says me, 18 in 1989....).
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:12 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


So we've proven that basically nothing happened in the 90s, and that all good music was invented in the 80s?

Yeah, and who cares about all the jazz that came out in the '60s, when Kind of Blue came out in 1959?
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:26 AM on July 27, 2010


I think all that's really been proven is that arbitrary delimiters based on calendar years are arbitrary.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:29 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that those are all sub-genres at best, and what people actually started doing with music in the 90s, probably because of the internet, was to start dividing genres into tiny sub-genres and sub-sub-genres based on tiny, almost infinitesimal style differences, or maybe just a tempo or beat difference.

Devils Rancher, I know a lot less about these genres than you do, but my instinct when someone like koeselitz, who obviously listens to and enjoys some of these newer genres, says "These are really different genres," and someone like you who appears to be more of an outsider says "All that stuff sounds pretty much the same to me" is to suspect there really are significant differences that you and I just don't grok.
posted by straight at 8:45 AM on July 27, 2010


What the world actually needs is more bands that sound like She Wants Revenge. I mean, Editors. Sorry...Interpol. Oh god how embarrassing, I meant to say Joy Division! And I'm properly serious, because I actually dig that general sound. In lieu of an AskMe, anybody got any further recommendations?

Throw in a twist of the Jesus and Mary Chain and you've got The Black Angels.

also:
stellastarr (myspace)
calla
Tokyo Police Club
White Lies
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

and of course, ILYBICD
posted by mrgrimm at 9:17 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, and who cares about all the jazz that came out in the '60s, when Kind of Blue came out in 1959?

I had my tongue fairly firmly in my cheek for that last bit...
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:17 AM on July 27, 2010


Me too.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:22 AM on July 27, 2010


Actually, She Wants Revenge sounds more like Bauhaus than Joy Division. But Joy Division and Bauhaus did sound similar.

And Interpol sounds more like The Chameleons than Joy Division.

And all the bands that people think sound like the Jesus and Mary Chain (especially BRMC) actually sound a lot more like Love and Rockets.
posted by The World Famous at 9:55 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


FRANKIE SAYS
GET OVER
YOURSELF

posted by slogger at 10:03 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


And all the bands that people think sound like the Jesus and Mary Chain (especially BRMC) actually sound a lot more like Love and Rockets

JAMC had more fuzz and more psychedelic/surf rock. See BRMC and The Black Angels. :p
posted by mrgrimm at 10:06 AM on July 27, 2010


Love and Rockets had more variation between albums than J&MC did, so people apparently forget about the ones that sounded exactly like BRMC and the Black Angels.

There was a good 4 year period in the 80s where Love and Rockets played nothing but super fuzzed-out psychedelic surf blues. I love J&MC. But BRMC, in particular, sounds exactly like Love and Rockets - which has a lot to do with the vocals sounding more like David J than like J&MC. But the really good Love and Rockets songs were never on mainstream radio or MTV.

It all goes back to my theory that Bauhaus and its offspring (Tones on Tail, Love and Rockets, and the solo projects of its various members) were far more influential than most of the bands that people hold up as the influential bands of the era.
posted by The World Famous at 10:18 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


My reading of the article has the author ridiculing himself, his own love of 80s music and arguing the impossibility of sustaining that seemingly pure and unmediated experience of music one has in their youth.

It seems to me he's posing the problem not so much as a difficulty of cool, public posturing, though most of the satirical content resides there, but as a philosophical problem of one's ongoing emotional and intellectual relationship to music.

In light of many of the comments here, I would slightly modify his thesis: Only an encyclopedic and/or archaeological turn can save an aging person's attachment to popular culture from descending into ridiculousness.

And finally, in all the comments defending 80s music, not a single reference to The Pixies?
posted by xod at 10:37 AM on July 27, 2010


xod, the only way that there can possibly be any problem continuing to enjoy the music of your youth is if you're spending more time standing outside yourself, watching yourself, wondering what other people think of you, than you are actually listening to the music.

A forty-year-old who's still caught up in that whole adolescent "What does my choice of music say about me?" -- that's what's ridiculous.
posted by straight at 10:44 AM on July 27, 2010


slogger, you have the right idea, but:

FRANKIE SAY
GET OVER
YOURSELF


I was there. I did have the T-shirt (and wish I still did, because I'd wear it again.)
posted by immlass at 11:06 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


And finally, in all the comments defending 80s music, not a single reference to The Pixies?

I see two references to Pixies before yours. Pixies were awesome. But there were also lots of other bands in the 80s that were just as awesome.
posted by The World Famous at 11:08 AM on July 27, 2010


Straight, I disagree.

First, I don't think the author is arguing that one can no longer enjoy the music of their youth. I believe his point is that one can no longer enjoy that music with the same immediacy and without encountering the problem of nostalgia and a false sense of unified authenticity.

Second, I don't believe the article seriously poses the question: What does my choice of music say about me? Only satirically. And only to pose the more interesting question: Having lost the possibility the seemingly effortless, authentic experience of popular culture, how does one proceed with their own, personal relationship with popular, entertainment culture?
posted by xod at 11:11 AM on July 27, 2010


I see two references to Pixies before yours. Missed 'em. Apologies.
posted by xod at 11:13 AM on July 27, 2010


Devils Rancher, I know a lot less about these genres than you do, but my instinct when someone like koeselitz, who obviously listens to and enjoys some of these newer genres, says "These are really different genres," and someone like you who appears to be more of an outsider says "All that stuff sounds pretty much the same to me" is to suspect there really are significant differences that you and I just don't grok.

That wasn't so much my point, I hope. I don't really see myself as an arbiter of what constitutes a new movement in music, and I certainly didn't want to come off as disregarding anything as "sounds the same." I go through that all the time with a very close friend who doesn't like reggae or the blues, or much of anything that's not straight time.

I think the point I was trying to make is that the definition of the word "genre" itself has evolved to mean something much more fine-grained than what I thought it means, and that this shifting of the definition really gained steam in the 90s due to the way we communicate about music now. For me, "genre" was a few big buckets -- Classical, Rock, Country, Jazz, Folk, Techno. I know Classical has its eras (Baroque, Romantic, 20th c. etc) but any stylistic variations inside those buckets was just that. There was Jazz, then under that, are sub-headings of different styles of jazz -- big band, be-bop, smooth *shudder*, electric, etc. I don't think of those as "genres" per se.

There are movements within genres as well, which come and go, but I don't think broadly define an entire genre. We had the "New Sincerity" movement here in austin in the 80s, but it was just good old rock, if you squinted. To me, Emo and Navelgaze are both just styles or Rock, and a band could move from one to the other in two songs, and on to something else in the third. My thinking is more about how we're classifying music with increasing granularity. It seems to be of use to people who seek out similar styles, especially on the web, where some reading about and searching usually precedes the listening, and probably helps zero in on exactly what you're looking for. My point was that what looks like an wave of new genres in the 90s is as much an emergence of a labeling phenomenon as much as it's an explosion of different styles.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:30 AM on July 27, 2010


There was a good 4 year period in the 80s where Love and Rockets played nothing but super fuzzed-out psychedelic surf blues.

We're gonna have to agree to disagree. How about an example or two of a surf-blues track?

Maybe you're talking about 1989+, from Love and Rockets on? I lost track of the band after that album (and the completely crush-destroying song "So Alive").

From Seventh Dream - 85:
Haunted While the Minutes Drag
If There's a Heaven Above
Dog End of a Day Gone By

From Express - 86:
All in My Mind
Yin and Yang (The Flowerpot Man)

From Earth, Sun, Moon - 87:
Mirror People
No New Tale to Tell
Waiting for the Flood

(YouTube is really failing for me, sorry if some of these are 404 or slow ...)

I guess Mirror People is getting close to JAMC territory, so maybe they did go for fuzzy surf-rock later, but I just don't remember it.

(Bonus: Bubblemen)
posted by mrgrimm at 12:26 PM on July 27, 2010


I believe his point is that one can no longer enjoy that music with the same immediacy and without encountering the problem of nostalgia and a false sense of unified authenticity.

I'm sorry, but if you find yourself pausing your enjoyment of some song from your youth and asking, "Am I really enjoying this? Or is it just nostalgia? Do I have a false sense of unified authenticity?" You've stopped talking about music, and you've slipped into self-indulgent navel-gazing.

...the more interesting question: Having lost the possibility the seemingly effortless, authentic experience of popular culture...

I can't make any sense of that statement unless I take seriously the things you claim he's writing satirically. It sounds to me like he genuinely was "intent on keeping abreast of things...a final, desperate, farcical attempt to remain with it." He wasn't just looking for music he liked and listening to it, he was trying to keep up some pretense of being a member of a community of music listeners that he was not in fact genuinely connected with.

He seems to think that if he can't maintain that pretense, then he can't listen to new music. He has to go off and listen to something else, something really old, something that he can plausibly tie into his identity in some way.
posted by straight at 1:16 PM on July 27, 2010


"...the overwhelming response to my recent post against eighties music was that I should quit worrying and just 'listen to what I like'. It would take a naïveté I can barely imagine to believe that this is what one is doing when one listens to music. Music is music, but it is also (and this is especially true of pop music) a sort of totemic cosmology: an imposition of order on the world through distinctions of value."

From the author's follow-up post, Hamburger Lady at the Tanning Salon.
posted by xod at 1:51 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also from that follow-up post: "Who would care to know that, from my perspective, the mix of music offered up by that radio station was an impossibility, a garbled code, Borges's Chinese encyclopedia. 'Close to Me' cannot, in any natural system, be preceded by 'I Will Survive' and followed by 'Dude Looks Like a Lady'."

Dude really has no clue about how all this works, does he? I hope he never signs up for the MeFi CD Swap, because it would wreck his brain entirely.
posted by hippybear at 1:58 PM on July 27, 2010


...the overwhelming response to my recent post against eighties music was that I should quit worrying and just 'listen to what I like'. It would take a naïveté I can barely imagine to believe that this is what one is doing when one listens to music. Music is music, but it is also (and this is especially true of pop music) a sort of totemic cosmology: an imposition of order on the world through distinctions of value.

In which we discover that 40-year-olds are just as pretentious about their music tastes as younger folks. It is possible to acknowledge good music that you don't like, and possible at the same time to like music that is, by reasonable objective standards, "bad" ("guilty pleasures"). It is also reasonable for 40-year-olds not to give a flying fuck about what internet blowhards think, without it being an articulated stance. Even those of us who live on the internet are not always thinking about how other people see us.

Of course people's musical taste changes over time; people change over time. The reason the sort of pop that I loved when I was 14 appealed to me then was that I was 14. The same kind of music made now doesn't speak to me because I'm no longer 14, but 42. My entire life circumstance has changed, and so have the themes/ideas/musical motifs that speak to me.

This sort of thing is why I don't like a lot of pop music criticism. I've been listening to pop music as long as I've been listening to music, but at the same time I've been involved in Celtic music (first as a fan and later as a friend to musicians) for close to 20 years now. When people in Celtic music talk about authenticity, they're frequently discussing technical and historical aspects of the music (who wrote it, who sang it, what instruments was it played on, etc.) and not matters of preference as an expression of brand management. Some of them are pretentious as all get-out but at least they're not spouting this sort of sophomoric twaddle. /rant
posted by immlass at 2:10 PM on July 27, 2010


So I'm guessing some of you are opposed to playing Throbbing Gristle at the tanning salon.
posted by xod at 2:27 PM on July 27, 2010


How about an example or two of a surf-blues track?

If you stuck The Light in the middle of a BRMC album, even the members of BRMC might not initially notice that it wasn't them.

They were playing the fuzzy surf blues live from 86 on. Again, their albums have a lot more variation than J&MC ever did, and the two bands do sound very similar at times. Love & Rockets live from 86 to about 91 was pretty much what you hear on a BRMC album. They were just a lot more creative in the studio than The Jesus & Mary Chain.

But even from the studio albums prior to their eponymous 1989 release, you've got plenty of fuzzy surf blues:

Kundalini Express
It Could Be Sunshine (particularly starting at about 2:48)
Love Me
Life in Laralay (I can't find a youtube clip for those two - sorry)
posted by The World Famous at 2:34 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


His ignorance about how other people listen to music is kind of sad. He thinks the woman in the tanning salon rejected his music because she was offended by the idea that she was a member of the group for which that music was a signifier. He's probably wrong. More likely she just didn't like it because it was not the sort of music she'd learned to enjoy.

Now, that sort of music has become familiar, and people like it as much as they like any other pop music. So they listen to it. But he can't. Because for him, it's not what the music sounds like, it's all about what it means to be a person who listens to a given piece of music.

He thinks everyone else is the same way. He thinks the reason everyone now listens to the music that the tanning salon lady rejected is that the labels and signifiers have changed. It's our music, instead of the weirdo outsider's music, he imagines us thinking. But I think for most people who aren't teenagers, it's really more just an issue of liking music that we're more familiar with.

It's sad really. He's like a guy who can't enjoy Indian food because he feels "inauthentic" and who rejects fried chicken because it makes him feel like a racist.
posted by straight at 2:48 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Losing My Edge
posted by kcds at 8:26 PM on July 27, 2010


THIS JUST IN:

"Taste" is nostalgia, romanticization of "authenticity," social status marker, or aspiration.

That's why I only listen to the sounds of kitchen appliances. TAKE THAT, MUSIC CRITICS!!2!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:48 PM on July 27, 2010


That's why I only listen to the sounds of kitchen appliances.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:02 AM on July 28, 2010


Thanks for the update. That post about the Tan-Fastic had me in tears. Playing Throbbing Gristle to Sacramento matrons in a Filipino tanning salon, and then being surprised when nobody appreciates your DJ skills? This must be satire.
posted by benzenedream at 11:37 PM on July 28, 2010


For me, "genre" was a few big buckets -- Classical, Rock, Country, Jazz, Folk, Techno.

I think that you're right that we're grouping music with greater granularity these days.

But if you look at that list there: Rock, Country, & Folk -- those three have much more in common with each other than any does with the 9 minute tracks -- minimalist, no vocals, no live instrumentalists -- that koeselitz was linking up there.

Again, I'm pretty ignorant, but it seems quite possible to me that if Rock, Country, and Folk are separate genres, then some of new categories koezelitz and others are listing (glitch, crunk, dubstep ??) might be equally distinct and worth considering as separate genres as well. It's definitely not something I'd feel confident making pronouncements about without knowing a whole lot more about that music.
posted by straight at 10:10 PM on July 30, 2010


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