Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Music is Hard for Old People.

[I'm apparently in passive boycott of politics today. Sorry.]

I have wrestled for some years with the unavoidable truth: I find most of today's music odious. It's a familiar pattern: I hit my thirties, and that damn popular music started to bother me. Thanks to the consolidation of the recording industry, all the decent bands were driven underground, which meant fragmentation. Finding decent bands was more work than this old man wanted to go through. I had my Tom Waits, VU, my jazz. Good enough.

But then I got an iPod, and I decided to step tentatively back into the music fray. And I found ... I mostly didn't like what was out there. But mainly, it's because it's wildly overproduced and overcommercial. It seems to be sliding backward into the hooks and tropes of past epochs, but with less verve, more slickness, and far less kick-assity.

I don't delude myself that it was different in previous epochs. The 80s, when I came to music, was a terrible barren wasteland. Out of the muck rose a few post-punk bands, a few cool bands from across the pond (U2, Pogues), but mostly it was really terrible. I guess in all epoches, about 1% of the music is worth a damn, and everything else is terrible. But as youth, we have no discrimination. We don't understand that Duran Duran is a repackaged admixture of cliched melodies and bad hair. We haven't heard those repackaged admixtures three hundred and forty two thousand times yet, so we fall prey. But then we age, and the young bands come out with their music with lyrics about lovelorn days and we think, Good Lord, kid, you've been alive less time than some of the beers in the back of my fridge, and your caterwauling is simplistic and your "emotion" was something you picked up by listening to decent bands. Harder then to fall prey.

Anyway, I assume there is good music out there, and I would love to stumble across some of it. Any suggestions?


Jeff Alworth said...

The nexus of my taste runs somewhere along the lines that I enjoy (and you'll notice how out of date they are):

Miles Davis
Throbbing Gristle
Lounge Lizards
Tom Waits
Talking Heads
John Coltrane
Gipsy Kings
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

zemeckis said...

i read an interesting article about your experience, in which they said it
happens to all ages. our parents buying box sets of their past favorites, etc.

it appears that in our teens and early twenties we come to explore and identify with certain music and then as we age our priorities change, and we just dont have the same amount of energy to spend searching out new music.

so then we get lazy and ask others to feed it to us- wink wink

Jeff Alworth said...

so then we get lazy and ask others to feed it to us- wink wink


Steve said...

It's a great time to be alive, Jeff, especially if you're an old man finding it difficult to track down good music.

Check out Pandora

I also subscribe to Rhapsody, the best of the "full-service" online music services (and I've tried almost all of them).

Jeff Alworth said...

Steve, I'm listening to Pandora even as I read your comment. It's how I discovered my new fave band (which, sadly, dates back far enough that it doesn't count as "new"): the Eels.

And Z, it occurs to me that part of getting old means devoting our brains to different things. Like, for instance, do you know who the Secretary of Education is? Without Looking? In 1987 I wouldn't have known that we had one, but I knew who the cool bands were. So part of this is that we devote our wee brainpower to different kinds of (mostly useless) information.

Margaret Spellings, incidentally.

Absent Mindful said...

You should listen to Pavement (I have all of their CD's... hint hint). I might have lent you one long ago, but if you're digging the Eels, you should try "Wowee Zowee".

Elayne said...

I've acquired most of my current music from listening to terrestrial radio, particularly a fairly eclectic local station that plays a pretty good variety of stuff. They do a stream as well if you want to have a listen.

zemeckis said...

when i'm up for new music i either listen to kboo or go to the library and check out a big ol stack.

i'm afraid most of the newer stuff i like falls into your 'overproduced' category. like the verve, or the killers

zemeckis said...

locally 'the gossip'. though they're evolving, their 3rd album is my fave. bluesey punk mmmmmmm.

Jeff Alworth said...

Thanks, folks. I think I'll abandon politics and take up the far more interesting subject of old man music blogging...

eRobin said...

I only listen to Bruce Springsteen lately because I am older than you and because he's all I need right now. His latest album - the Seeger Sessions - is fantastic. The videos from the tour currently being hosted by AOL music and available for anyone to watch are wonderful, joyous, addicting. Eyes on the Prize, Oh Mary Don't You Weep and Poor Man are my favorites.