Saturday, March 27, 2010

Rubbish music and the cross-generational moment

The Ramones once sang: "We need change, we need it fast/Before rock's just part of the past"—and how right they were.
When you've worked all night long, then done 52 laps in the public pool (during what's known as "adult swim" time—what a great phrase; if only there were more adult-only things around) it really makes you feel alive. But once the endorphin high wears off, you feel just as wired as before—and even more exhausted.
Only one thing stood between my grocery shopping and going home and that was a pint of Guinness. As I sat in a corner booth just across from the kitchen—dear non-British reader, our pubs nearly always serve food; they are what Americans think of as taverns, and yes, you can get alcohol even at 9 in the morning—I noticed a growing irritation welling up within me at the music being played. Whoa, did I just write "music?" I meant simplistic keyboard rhythms and the shrieking of even more simplistic lyrics. I don't know quite what the term for that is, but I call it garbage. It was being broadcast from any one of a truly depressing number of contemporary "hits" radio stations. It was loud enough to begin with, but every time the door swung open and closed, which was happening a fair bit as it was breakfast time, it became even louder.
This was ruining the enjoyment of my Guinness. You've got to be in a mood to enjoy one and I was fast losing that mood. So I threw my headphones on and played my iPod while sipping my pint and working on my Sudoku. Bliss. I was now in my own little world and happy with it.
About fifteen minutes into the existence of this little universe of my own making, I saw someone approaching my booth. I don't like being approached by anyone in a pub; you never know what kind of interaction is going to ensue.
I took off my headphones and noticed a gent of about 70 smirking at me. "Don't like the music either, young fella?" he asked.
I smirked back. "No, not my thing at all. It depresses me."
"Certainly not what my generation grew up with," the elderly man said.
"Nor mine," I was proud to reply.
"Really now?" His eyebrows arched as he said this. "Young man like yerself?"
"I'm forty," I said. "I like rock 'n'roll. Real guys playing real instruments and not caring if they sounded a bit raw. That's what I grew up with."
"I'm a big band man myself. Count Basie and Glenn Miller," he said, looking away momentarily, as if in a dream or pining for the olden days. Then he looked me in the eyes again. "But at least we both agree that this stuff"—he pointed at the kitchen—"is rubbish."
I smiled at the thought that during the '70s and '80s this swing fan probably railed against the stuff I listen to and enjoy. But we found ourselves united in our loathing of the contemporary "music" on offer, a real cross-generational moment if ever there was one.
The fact is, take any song on my iPod—Billy Joel's "My Life," for example—and I could listen to it 1,000 times in a row and still not be as sick of it as I am of the first twenty seconds of anything I hear on contemporary "hits" radio. And by giving any modern "song" twenty seconds before I start thinking "next!", I'm being generous and fair-minded.
I feel sorry for kids born in the late '90s and '00s. That rubbish is going to be what they think of fondly and reminisce about when they're forty. They don't realize for one moment how laughably pathetic that is. And the reason it's laughable is because the only other alternative is to weep.
I just shudder to think how much worse the music scene is going to get under the generation being born today. It's hard to imagine how much worse it could get, but it is a comfort of sorts to think that this newborn generation might just scoff at their parents' taste in listening preferences—just as I do.
Maybe, just maybe, this generation will provide the next Ramones or Guns 'n' Roses that we so desperately need to blow every other bit of flotsam out of the water, just as those two bands did in their respective days.

5 comments:

goddessdivine said...

I have mixed feelings about the music today. Some of it I like; while some of it I'm like 'really?' I look at what my students consider 'music'....and I shudder. It's getting harder and harder to find quality modern music. I also think a lot of the crap is hyped and promoted; while the more quality stuff isn't given credit.

Sometimes I think one of the true tests of music is if you still like it 5 years later....or even one year later. There are many 80s and 90s bands/songs that I still absolutely love. If it stands the test of time, it's music.

East of Eden said...

I would like to reassure you that some children born in the 00s will have a proper musical education. In fact today we had an all 80s afternoon peppered with a bit of broadway when we felt like a change. :)

皓云 said...

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dennis hodgson said...

I enjoyed this rant, but not all modern music is crap. I have the ideal filter though: my 25-year-old son. He hates modern pop music too but knows what I like, so I get regular recommendations. I wouldn't be aware of the White Stripes, for example, if he hadn't pointed me in that direction.

I grew up in the 1960s, so the Beatles remain one of my favourite bands, although nowadays I find myself listening to a lot of punk [even though I hated it when it was contemporary].

You may be interested in my musical memories of the sixties:

http://dennishodgson.blogspot.com/2009/12/beatles-personal-memoir.html