Saturday, May 23, 2015

NInetiestalgia pt 456 / the shifting 'center' of classic rock

Pitchfork mini-thinkpiece on millenial nostalgia for mid-late-90s  (and even early Oughts) by Paul de Revere

"Millennials are surely as nostalgic as any other preceding generation, yet Millennial nostalgia is seemingly more self-reflective, even, and critically thinking than restorative. What they share with previous generations—particularly with Generation X and its pioneering meta observations—is a willingness to reimagine eras in which they never lived. LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy noticed it too. On 2002’s "Losing My Edge", Murphy—a Gen X’er—deadpans about "art-school Brooklynites in little jackets and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered Eighties."

"This assimilation of an era in which you never lived is what Douglas Coupland called "legislated nostalgia" or persuasion through the pop culture of preceding generations to "have memories [you] do not actually possess." Coupland, a seminal Gen-X culture critic, got this published in 1991. Indeed, Millennials and Gen X’ers are hardly the first to have nostalgia legislated onto them, then retool it. But their cultural critics have certainly mused the most about it.

"It’s the pace and frequency of the Nostalgia Cycle that’s changed noticeably with Millennials specifically, whose time frame of lived memories for which they’re nostalgic is perpetually shrinking. What Coupland called "ultra-short-term nostalgia" has been shot into Millennial overdrive. Writer-director Noah Baumbach exaggerated the concept in his 1995 dramedy Kicking and Screaming. "I'm nostalgic for conversations I had yesterday," Baumbach muses dryly through the character Max. "I've begun reminiscing events before they even occur." Instant nostalgia. Pre-emptive nostalgia. They happen on social media now, almost literally. And for Millennials, it’s almost blasé. Similar to the crew in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, pop culture is increasingly at the lip of a black hole—in this case, a pop-culture quantum singularity—where the past, present, and future are all taking place simultaneously."

"If you’re low-key freaking right now, you’re not alone. The Future Shock of 1970 has become the Present Shock of 2013. It’s why—in the face of a major tour like Third Eye Blind and Dashboard Confessional, capitalizing on the ~feels~ and meta ultra-short-term nostalgia of young-professional twenty- and thirtysomething Millennials—it might seem somehow "too soon" to get nostalgic over late-'90s alt-rock or early ’00s emo. But it’s not. Nothing is ever too soon anymore."

"....  It’s a wonder '90s rock bands took even this long to start organizing nostalgia cruises. And that the so-called present Emo Revival—perhaps a byproduct of the genre’s next wave, perhaps a fleeting moment of Millennial nostalgia—got coined as a term only recently."

Can't speak for Millenials obviously - realised recently I'm not even proper Gen X, since demographically I was born in the very last year of the Baby Boom - but one thing I've personally noticed about 9tiestalgia is that the things that were backgrounds sounds  - that you might have disregarded or been on some level opposed to  -  have now started to have an appeal... beyond even the memory-tug they trigger, they (some of them, anyway) actually start to seem objectively good

In my case that would be a new appreciation for the works of The Offspring...  Weezer ....  Sublime ... Cake ... even (amazing / worrying myself) one or two things by No Doubt and NiN and Smashing Pumpkins

Mind you I always loved this SmgPnkns tune, as surely everyone did (which itself is a nostalgia song)

But with the late-alt and grunge-lite and pop-punk stuff (lots of one-offs here -  the theme from Peep Show by Harvey Danger, "Sex and Candy" etc) - the appeal is partly because these songs were ambiently around during a time which now seems golden for lots of other reasons (personal, political, and what was going on elsewhere in music as consuming passions - ie. rave, rap, postrock etc)

and partly because of their quality of Quintessential Nineties-ness

In that respect, The Offspring are perhaps the equivalent of Steve Miller Band ... a band that was journeyman, bread-and-butter, background-radio staple stuff at the time... but with time has an appeal precisely for their echt-Seventiesness

(They and similar other groups also bring to mind the last time MTV actually had music on...  and it was my routine during my early years in New York to take breaks from work not by going on the Internet as I do now, but switching on MTV)

This personal 90s-stalgia / alt-rock surprise-enjoyment (I'd draw the line at 4 Non Blondes and still find most Green Day a bit sickly-melodious) is partly a knock-on effect, though, of what's on the radio to listen to while in the car. It seems harder to find a classic rock station nowadays, in the old sense of 'classic rock' as mostly  60s and 70s rock....   60s you almost never come across and 70s is definitely becoming a diminished presence on the dial ... instead the demographic / generational center of oldies radio seems to have shifted to the late 80s and 90s...   clearly the radio programmers know what they are doing..... they must continually monitor the age-range of their listener market, what songs get the best response, what mix of eras / styles keeps people from switching to a different station the longest

Inevitably as the radio audience ages out, the nostalgia sweet spot drifts nearer the present - a station like Jack FM for instance seems to be playing less ZZ Top and Steve Miller Band... more Harvey Danger and Blind Melon (another one I always loved)

Things you don't surprisingly hear on Classic 90s Rock  Radio (at least in this city) and I wish you did - Alice In Chains

Things you don't surprisingly hear on Classic 90s Rock Radio hardly ever (at least in this city) and for this I'm glad  - Spin Doctors, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Live, Metallica


I wonder if I lived in the U.K. during the mid-late 90s and still today that I would be having similar effects of ambient-nostalgia re. Britpop and its afterbirth...   as heard on Radio 2 which is nothing like Radio 2 when I were a lad... the shifting center of M.O.R.


  1. Kudos for the Alice in Chains compliments����
    Spent plenty of 90s listening to Radio One and their playlist. The charts really were better then, even the manufactured pop had something going for it (Girlpower!) Contrivances between heavy radioplay and subsequent delayed releases of singles helped Britpop greatly but genuine variety in charts then, not just nostalgia I feel

  2. Cool article as usual, it's funny how people classify themselves as Gen X, etc ... I've always defined Gen X in relation to another generation, as the children of Baby Boomers, and my parents were both born in 1946. But some would say that being born in 1975 I'm too young to be Gen X. But I sure as hell don't feel Millennial, and if I am then millennials are now turning 40! A weird thought and certainly one I wouldn't argue with you about as people seem to feel or identify with some generation for good or ill.

    I have a thing I call the 'Seinfeld generation' ... Those born in between The BBs and the Xers. I guess because I think cultural generations are considerably shorter than 'genetic' generations, if I can put it that way. I just googled that phrase and it seems to have been used but maybe not quite in my context.


  3. By 'Seinfeld generation' I mean the age of the show's characters during the original run, not the viewership.