Tuesday, September 20, 2016

closing time

It's time now to wind up this blog. Partly because my head has been in a different space for two or three years now, with the escalating work on Shock and Awe. But also because I feel that while retro remains a prominent part of the current culture, it doesn't feel dominant to the same extent it did when I was formulating, researching and writing Retromania (2006-2010).

In retro-spect, Retromania feels like an accurate account of the first decade of the 21st Century - what it felt like to live through a time in which pop culture didn't really feel like a distinct time with its own feel or spirit;  a period when pop's pulsebeat seemed sluggish. If the book continues to have value or interest, I think it will be as a document of an era, rather than any kind of prognosis. A historical curio, perhaps - what some people worried about, or argued about, in the first decade or so of the new millennium.

In conclusion here's a video of a presentation I gave at the Selector Pro conference in Moscow this July. I took the opportunity to talk about Retromania five years on (although it has just come out in Russian only last year) and to assess what had changed in that half-decade while also exploring how my ideas had clarified or shifted or reversed. (The chap introducing me, by the way, is the legendary Russian rock critic Artemy Troitsky).

The title - Everything Is A Remix: Why Music Dwells On the Past - was something the British Council organisers came up with based on the text I'd sent through (for the simultaneous translators to acquaint themselves with in advance).  I realised  - too late in the day to change it - that the title should really be Everything Isn't A Remix - for part of the talk involves me taking issue with the proponents of recreativity.

Later on  I may add here, after the clip, the text of a lecture I gave regularly for a few years that I kept on embellishing, expanding and fine-tuning, in which I fairly definitively laid out the counter-argument to the "everything is a remix" bods.

But for now... Ciao.


  1. Nice presentation. Nevertheless, I wonder if Retromania is indeed a thing of the past, given that RAM, Uptown Funk, Blurred Lines, EMOTION (from last year), etc. were actually released after the development (and arguable peak) of Digital maximalism during the first years of the decade (Rustie, Ke$ha). And even if its not fixated in the past, quality music from 2015-2016 seems pretty scarce. I mean, I love DJ Mustard, Metro and Future but they are a few redeeming names in an otherwise grim picture for popular music.

  2. Oh I wouldn't say "retromania" as a phenomenon has gone away or anything, but it doesn't feel quite as oppressive as it did when I wrote the book - it'd dipped down a bit in intensity and omnipresence. Certainly listening to the radio here in LA, driving around in the car, when we're tuned into rap stations like Power FM or Real FM - where it's nonstop Future and Drake and R&B people like the Weekend or Jeremih - it does feel very 2016. When we listen to the Top 40 pop stations, now and then there'll be an Adelle or a Meaghan Trainor and in years before "Get Lucky" and "Uptown Funk" and "Blurred Lines" - so there's regularly things a retro feel - but a lot of what's played does feel Now-ist. in hipster music, things are as atemporal as before but there isn't such a pronounced and defining retro wave as with all the chillwave / hynagogic stuff that was at its height when i was writing Retromania. it's more like a really disparate set of eclectic raids on different corners of the past. In terms of quality.... well, i think's there a bunch of really good things in both mainstream and leftfield, but overall music culture feels a bit "flat". like it's no longer the places where things happen and important issues / ideas get worked out in public. Beyonce is trying to do that and accordingly gets huge column inches in coverage, but i don't think the punters actually care - she hardly ever can be heard on the radio here in LA, and i think radio programmers do a lot of research into what their listeners want to hear. Feels like music has slipped into a purely functional thing for most people. Even myself I find that i don't want to engage with the heavy art statements that people still attempt to make - like the new Nick Cave