I’ve read that society’s love for nostalgia isn’t just “a thing you noticed”, but rather an actual cultural trend that for as long as I remember paying attention to cultural trends has been increasing in it’s reach.
I remember in college getting shit ape giddy over a VHS of the GI Joe movie gifted to me and previously viewed circa 1988 or maybe it was the transformers movie.
In music the white stripes were the next big thing made possible by some old thing revived.
The saying goes that fashion is cyclical, which is to say at some point people feel nostalgic for the clothes of yesteryear. My first experience with this was the formidable “grunge” era when flannel shirts were the rage and everyone ransacked their parents old clothes storage areas to find that all important plaid and worn look. Coincidentally flannel is back “in”. But lets not get into that, I will save my “how flannel came back into fashion” diatribe for a different post.
My focus today is retrofitting in music. Spawned by just having listened to the new You Blew It! album “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” I wanted to explore some thoughts on just what the fuck is going on in music with all this re-birthing.
YBI!’s schtick is the late 90’s early aught emo sound. To their credit this album sounds as much like it was actually released in 2000 as a white stripes album sounds like it came from 1970. Yet it doesn’t come close to matching the intensity of the great emo releases of the early part of the century. Still YBI is advertised as leading an emo revival. But after listening to this album I can’t help but notice how underwhelming it compares to greats like Deja Entendu and Tell All Your Friends.
Much of this disappointment is probably a mix of maturity on an emotional/personal level as well as a music preference evolution and the fact that I actually was around / aware / involved in the original scene when it broke into mainstream. Like love, nothing beats the first time … at least that could be the working title of my hypothesis.
Last year saw a revival of sorts for another bygone era of rock music. I’m not sure how to tag it, though personally I would loosely refer to it as music i listened to by myself in the 90’s cause most of my friends were into heavy bro rock and no one gave a fuck about pavement … disclaimer I too was pretty into some heavy ass rock … though I have maintained since i was 14 that i only listened to the “good” bands.
Bands like Speedy Ortiz and Pity Sex sought to reclaim that mid 90’s indie feel and judging from the hype machine’s noise they did a pretty good job at tickling that nostalgic itch.
There is also the argument to be made that a person’s preference for a genre at some point becomes closer to static than evolutionary. In fact I would consider myself in the twilight of my genre exploration era. But I would take up the argument that it’s because the low rate of return and downturn in quality of the sources I rely upon for exploration.
So now that I’ve reached the acceptance phase: There are almost no new ideas being explored by musicians in pop music any more.
It’s time to examine some questions.
Is this a good or bad thing, and why?
What is important to you for the future in music?
The good or bad question merits a lot of thought but on the surface it’s easy to tally a list of both pros and cons.
For the pros:
Yay, more music that sounds like (enter band that you really liked 15 – 20 years ago)
Oh cool, guitars!
I already went through this phase
The people reviving it are doing a disservice to the originators by making a shittier version of a genre that ran it’s course.
The band is simply trying to feed off our insatiable appetite for nostalgia to get famous more easily.
This realization leads to a stunting of creativity since music is a business and bands that make money will be afforded contractrs and fame for copycat music ahead of those forging their own way.
I guess since music is my hobby it’s a bit of a downer to think that due to current cultural tendencies I may be done finding a band that has something original to offer. Luckily the one saving grace behind all great music is the musician. Musicians might take similar paths to prominence, and share similar attributes with other musicians, but people are complex, and typically unmatched, and I think there’ll always be artists whose personality transcends their medium and offering something unique to their audience.
But then again people are pretty shitty these days. I mean just look at their addiction to the past.
For a more thoughtful and interesting perspective you can start here