February 24th, 2006


Better? Best forgotten.

This is partly just echoing/amplifying a rant that bluedevi had a few days ago, and partly thinking about whether the music scene was "better" when I was more "into" it. The answer's there in the question, of course. The landscape of the "scene" has shifted as technology and fashions (inextricably interlinked) have changed, but by any even-slightly-meaningful criteria there are plenty of bands now who are as good as or better than the bands that set my world on fire in the 1990s; and that's even before you take into consideration that I was a member of the Kingmaker fan club.

The real difference is me: I've heard more music, so fewer things seem quite as overwhelmingly new and exciting as they did then; I've started to find a voice of my own, so I'm less reliant on Suede and the Smiths (or whoever their nearest modern equivalent may be) to be my mouthpiece, so the lyrics don't necessarily seem as immediate or as world-shaking (I can still be knocked sideways by a well-turned phrase, but I'm less likely to like something just because it puts something that I feel into words); and I've got less time to sit in my room reading the NME and Melody Maker and Select (or their modern equivalents -- I recommend Clash), so maybe I'm missing half the coolest stuff anyway. Even if I'm not missing the music, I'm not picking up on so much of the social dynamics that used to colour it, round it out. It's not so much of a tribal thing for me any more; it's just (just!) music.

I guess it's partly just that my preoccupations in life are different. In 1992 everybody was singing about alienation and unrequited love, or so it seemed... and I felt alienated from my peers as I suffered the pangs of unrequited love! The songs could have been written for me! (The cynic in me is tempted to say now that in a very real sense they were, because I was right slap bang in the middle of their target demographic.) Now, I'm sure plenty of people are still singing about alienation and unrequited love... but fewer people are singing about not having time to eat breakfast in the morning, or worrying about finances (you don't need to provide counterexamples, I can think of several, but I think my point still stands), or about feeling ground down by small-talk. If somebody wrote a decent song about how the hell they were ever going to be able to afford to buy a house, or (at the other end of the scale) about finally cracking and stabbing the guy who puts the coffee-soaked spoon back in the sugar bowl, stabbing him with his own spoon, then, woah, yeah, I'd be right behind it. Maybe. If I had time in between going to work and doing the laundry and writing lists of all the things I haven't done.

In the meantime... I am fed up of hearing that music's not what it used to be. I was already fed up with that as a teenager, when I liked the old music and the new and didn't think one had to be better, didn't see why (for all my fierce allegiance to indie) why liking Blur meant you weren't supposed to like the Beatles, or Bach, as well. I'm still fed up with it now, tired of seeing tired and jaded people trying to deny the next generation -- or even just the person behind them in the queue for the cinema or the record-store checkout -- the right to have quite as much fun as they did. It happens everywhere, though: in music, in technology, in literature, in food, in anything you can put a name to. And it's boring. I'm tired of being told that Franz Ferdinand were so much better when they were still jamming in their dads' basements, that the internet was better when everybody on the street crowded round a roaring acoustic coupler, that nobody's written a decent novel since the death of Dickens, that pineapples don't taste as nice now that you can actually afford to buy them, that if you got a degree In Those Days it actually meant something, that Glastonbury "just isn't Glastonbury" without all the crime...

... That it was all so much better before we came down out of the trees. Before the garden, before the apple.

And Wagon Wheels were bigger in those days.