Tuesday, June 28, 2022

retrotalk2022 nostalgia deathgrip

Stone the crows, here's yet another piece on retroculture -  this time by Quietus-man Luke Turner, writing for New Statesman.

 It bears the headline: "Macca and the Stones? The past has a death grip on our culture" and it starts by noting that "if you include the holograms, this week nine musicians with a combined age of 686 – Paul McCartney, Elton John, the Rolling Stones and ABBA – are once again the biggest cultural news in the UK"

Amusingly, Turner notes right near the top of the piece that "to attack nostalgia is nothing new. More than a decade ago, the critic Simon Reynolds published Retromania, an incisive look at a musical culture that seemed to wallow in ironic takes on the past rather than aspiring to anything fresh." Mark Fisher gets his due props too. 

But Turner wants to have it both ways - see things  from the viewpoint of the ahistorical young, "for whom it is all new, right now" and who feast on the atemporal banquet of streaming blahblahblah. 

He wants to be negative and positive simultaneously (difficult trick) and so as well as  complaining about rockpop's gerontocratic oliogopoly and their full-spectrum dominance of the attention economy, he also points to new shoots of growth -  small but teeming shocks-of-new still out there to be found (the kind of thing covered in the Quietus - the New Weird this or that)

I sympathise: nobody wants to be the old grouch if they can help it.  


  1. From the article: "Whatever happens, this is boomer pop’s last hurrah. We won’t see artists as culturally dominant as the Stones and Beatles again.... because culture has fragmented, with no real central narrative." Agreed, re: fragmented culture, hard to imagine a single band capturing the public like that ever again. Though I wonder if boomer/classic rock/pop will ever truly go away. It feels like as long as there are new potential Beatles fans being born every day, the industry will find a way to sell them the Beatles. Then resell them the Beatles 20 years later, while selling their kids the Beatles, and so on.

  2. I sympathize with you both, but:
    1) I think the real confusion in the piece is that Turner can't seem to decide whether 'the nostalgia industry' is the enemy or simply when it's devoted to Boomerpop - is institutionalized nostalgia somehow less objectionable when it's focused on Kate Bush or drum 'n' bass?
    2) the part about taking relief in artists like Billie Ellish and Kendrick Lamar owing little to Beatles et al is a curious one - never mind whether it's true or not, why is that inherently a positive or negative thing? Why does Boomer rock need to be 'defeated' or 'have a last hurrah', as opposed to what's arguably happening now, which is that it's being absorbed into broader musical history - something that has little to do with 'nostalgia' as such, at least on the part of its younger audience?
    3) What I also think is happening now is something aside from the popular argument about streaming rendering culture atemporal etc is that, both here and elsewhere, the current, century-old model of fandom is slowly breaking apart - we know too much about its uglier side now in the age of organized fan armies, and I've noticed a ton of younger people start to explicitly lean away or distance themselves from its tribal aspects. Even if the streaming and social media industries crash (which I think there's a nonzero chance of) and pop smashes together again, I think the after effects I'm describing will remain - so, what comes after that?