"Instagram used to be strange. Before it became a “social platform,” it was billed as a single-purpose image editing tool, and even now it’s not difficult to remember how the filters (especially “Toaster” and “Kelvin”) were recognizable as poor approximations of what analog photography “looked like.” Instagram became ridiculous. Your parents and grandparents signed up, and the spontaneous aspect of the filters was all but completely forgotten as you saw them applied to so many pictures of meals and sunsets that the unchanging formula became transparent. It’s easy to see how Instagram might have once been useful for assigning affective sensitivity or a warmth of tone to an otherwise unspectacular unit of content, but now each post is a little bit of a parody. The filters have become vulgar to many, who stopped posting altogether or began posting without them. I don’t claim to understand why people want to replicate the aesthetic of instant analog photography well enough to offer criticism, and I’m definitely not elitist or naïve enough to ask that people buy cameras and film to get the “real thing.” Instagram is, to me, evidence of an obvious and banal truth: that if your understanding of the past is reductive or overly simple and you nonetheless attempt to put the past to work, productively organizing the past in the service of reframing the present, what you get is similarly reduced and simplified.
"Maybe music is just a commodity, and the vivid feelings of love and beauty and nostalgia and intensity and heartbreak we feel while listening to it are just capitalism playing surplus-value games with us. Even so, shouldn’t we be discussing an economy of affect in which even the commonest, basest commodity is worth more than the fleeting apathy of an Instagram double-tap? In which creating value requires more than the formulaic application of a filter, endlessly compressing the past into the same fixed signifiers?"
Tame Impala didn't, though - the next album Lonerism moved a little bit further forward in pop historical time, seemingly to when things got heavier in the late Sixties - well, at least, on this stompy blues-dirgey beauty which vaguely makes me think of I dunno, "Spirit In the Sky".
The Tiny Mix Tapes riff about Instagram rock reminded me of something I learned at a party in LA last year. An old friend of my wife's was throwing it - she and her husband are in a psychedelic band that's been going for a couple of decades now. Got chatting to the husband, who was hanging with some similarly inclined retro-rock types, people into power pop and psych-folk and so forth. Anyway at one point, somebody mentions how you can buy an app - pretty certain he used the word 'app', it might have been software, but 'app' is what sticks in my memory and it definitely added to the surprise effect of what he told me - that you can buy an app that will allow you to coat your home-recorded songs with the characteristic feel and vibe of the Abbey Road studio circa1965. And moreover, there are separate apps for Abbey Road circa 1966, Abbey Road circa 1967, and so on. The palette of sounds that the studio technicians had provided for the Beatles at each stage of their developments - the drum sounds and Leslie Rotary Speaker effects and phasing etc -- can be applied to your music, just like that. Very much like an Instagram filter. That blew my mind, I must say.
Always thought that retro in music was like enjoying the benefits of past breakthroughs without the aesthetic / conceptual effort or risk expended by the original innovators. But at least there seemed to be some work involved, in the craft of actually recreating those sounds. All the trouble that Todd Rundgren had to go to when he did his Beatles replicas on Faithful, for instance. But gradually that element - the artisanal graft, which must instill a workman's pride if nothing else, the pride felt by the reproduction antique maker or art forger - that too has been whittled away. If these instant-1966 apps actually do exist, it's been whittled to zero.