Sunday, February 24, 2013

"Why listen to the new bands that sound like the old bands when the old bands will be back before you know it?"

"It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. No, honestly — it’s practically impossible, especially in an age of cyclical nostalgia and Internet-assisted memories. Old musical acts have always gone on comeback tours, but these days the disappearances are getting shorter and nostalgia is fully taking its place alongside discovery as a valid aesthetic-appreciation strategy. Why listen to the new bands that sound like the old bands when the old bands will be back before you know it?" - Jon Caramanica, in the New York Times, on the return to stages this year of Fleetwood Mac and New Kids On the Block.

Elsewhere  in today's Times, Jon Pareles on the reactivation of side project bands -- the Postal Service and The Breeders - which is to say more nostalgia / reunion / generationally-oriented marketing.

And Ben Ratliff on the resurgence of hardcore, with  a freakily large number of hardcore oriented festivals, the partial reunion of Black Flag as Flag, "the influential early-’80s band Negative Approach" playing at Damaged City Fest in Washington DC in April, etc etc.

I bought the Negative Approach LP (Tied Down) at the time (1983). I could never have imagined that hardcore punk would even exist in 2013  -- thirty years later - let alone be newsworthy.


  1. Hardcore punk is really persistent where I live. Many of the people I know are former straight edge types and many are vegans. I feel like there are so many questions to ask but I wouldn't even know where to start. Which means my assumptions are just as deeply buried as theirs, I guess.

    Apropos, if you don't mind:

  2. I was thinking about this on the bus today whilst I was listening to Haim's 'Don't Save Me' single, clearly Fleetwood Mac-ish yet it also sort of has a R&B rhythm. It comes from girls who grew up with Missy Elliot AND Stevie Nicks as well. And maybe I'm reading too much in this but in this particular song the protagonist says at some point that even though she should carry on and face the future, she's longing to 'come back to the way she was before'. It is all so strange these days, we have too many things happening all at once, however nothing is going on. I am not a pessimist by the way :)

  3. Simon, part of you must think - enough is enough, popular music is no longer worth investing in. I know why you'd want to resist cliched hyperbole of the 'pop music is dead' variety, and I understand that simply abandoning popular music would be a tad, say, difficult. Still, you must sometimes wonder "What is the point?"

  4. i suppose the needs that hardcore supplied in the Eighties are still there -- if you want to rage against stuff (your immediate environment, the System - -and there's plenty worth raging against) - then hardcore is a perennially functional format for that.

    re Haim, there was an article somewhere recently explaining why millenials love Fleetwood Mac. i didn't read it though because i thought when it came down to it they probably loved FMac for the same reasons a pre-millenial such as me loved 'em - the tunes! the playing! the emotion! i mean there's no mystery really, it's like the Beatles or the Doors or whatever.

    re "what is the point", i do have that feeling now and then.. but then there's always something (albeit usually fairly marginal) to reawaken my amazement... in some way it'd be easier if it was all backwards shite out there, then i could de-cathect / disinvest

    actually often these days it's things on the radio that reignite the flame - Dev's "In the Dark" and Ke$ha's "We R Who We R" (best dance songs of the 21st Century? i mean really, have the various Undergrounds come up with anything better?)...

    i do have a bi-polar thing with pop and have done since the mid-80s when things were really stagnant. but even then you still had prince and janet jackson

  5. Hi Simon,

    Yes, I have the same Godfather III type relationship with pop music where it "..pulls me back in!" every so often. I've had this argument many times over with people - when you register some discontent with pop music people assume that you are criticizing the quality of current pop music. Actually, I'd say that quality wise pop music now is at its highest level ever - there are generally no really awful records released, a certain basic standard of taste and competence has been achieved. I often wonder if that isn't part of the problem, because coupled with that are no genuine surprises, no lows to be sublimated.

    But really, the elephant in the room (although I know you explore this idea) is the cultural fragmentation that pop music has undergone. For the life of me I have no idea that their is a social base for popular music to develop any of the same antagonisms or resulting movements. There's no sense of a central space to be contested anymore. That to me is the really worrying fact that signals how popular music is no longer, nor can ever conceivably be again, the carrier of social signification in the way it once was.

    I don't like to sound to doomy - (it's not the end of the world, right?), but I do very much agree with your point regards the underground/overground dialectic, and how the loss of it will actually impact on the kind of music we can expect.

    One last point, before I end my waffle - I have been wondering if the next conceivable movement would be a kind of return to some kind of muso-elitism, as a response to the perceived cheapness of auto-tune and computer based music production. Have you heard the Dirty Loops? Essentially they sound like 80's jazz/pop/fusion for Wall Street bankers, but they take pop songs and then re-harmonize them and add in all manner of muso-choppage. People love it. Gimmiky for sure, but a return to muso-elitism would make some kind of sense as a next step.

  6. In terms of a better dance song than Ke$ha's, how about 'I Need Air' Magnetic Man?