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for July 12, 2002


Getting A Little Testy?
by Sean Carolan

It's safe to say that I'm now firmly entering the "Big Chill" phase of my life. I'm doing more, seeing more, and having more interesting interactions with people in general than I ever had before, and that's good.
 
At the same time, the people I idolized in my formative years (a couple of Ramones, for instance) are dropping like flies.
 
(Tangentially, why do things "drop like flies"? This has gotta be news to the flies, 'cause when they get into the house, they never drop - they just keep buzzing loudly between the windowshades and the windows, scaring the dickens out of the kids. Oh, sure, I see them dead on the windowsill all curled up a few days later, but can't just one of them have the common decency to give me some sense of karmic satisfaction by dropping dead while I'm paying attention?)
 
Age is an issue. Even a graceful set of phase-transitions like Elvis Costello's still amazes because it contrasts so sharply with the fact that he's been making records that are more-or-less relevant for a quarter century. (And while I don't begrudge ol' Declan his ability to shift from phase to phase, a large part of me hopes he settles on this one for a while.)
 
So there's going to be some conflict between what I think is relevant and what, say, a fourteen-year-old thinks is relevant. Maybe not nearly as much of a conflict as my father's disconnect with what I was listening to when he was my current age, but still.
 
It's safe to say I'm not as thrilled with the state of "altrernative radio" as I was in the mid-Eighties, for instance. I think I know why this is, at least from the blindered perspective of my own cloistered worldview:
 
Testosterone.
 
Y'see, in the mid-Eighties, if you wanted to take the stage in a manner that would generate a brief flurry of panties from the first twenty rows, you did so in a metal band. That was where the music about nailing the prom queen in a Corvette was being made.
 
I, however, harbored no such designs on the prom queen, at least none that could be acted upon in reality, and even if I did, I owned a VW Rabbit. Success would have meant years of chiropractic adjustments.
 
The alternative scene beckoned. Here we had Morrissey, Erasure, Bronski Beat, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys...no, prom queens escaped these halls with their chastity pretty much intact. There was also a greater chance of hearing a woman singing about what she wanted, rather than what her producer and record company wanted. Patti Smith, Chrissy Hynde, Sinead O'Connor, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson, Indigo Girls, Kirsty MacColl, Lene Lovich, Kim Deal, and Natalie Merchant were all extant, hopefully giving prom queens everywhere the idea that there was more to life than proms.
 
Fast forward to 2002. The so-called Alternative remains big-business after the grunge explosion of the mid-nineties, and so every mediocre musician that would have joined a metal band in the eighties has instead joined an alt-rock outfit that does its damndest to act pissed off. That's got people like me actually considering the hippified spawn of the "adult contemporary" format as a safe harbor, which it isn't, because it completely ignores blasts of fresh air like The Hives or The Strokes, and it's too narrow to include imaginative dance/electronica record from someone like the Chemical Brothers or Basement Jaxx.
 
(Yeah, I know, The Strokes wouldn't be where they are if not for connections, yadda yadda yadda. If they manage to break any chart records, they'll likely inherit Roger Maris' asterisk. Fine. I like the record, on the strength of its record-ness. That having been said, I'm open to hearing all the more worthy bands they stepped over to get where they are today - bring 'em on.)
 
So the Internet remains my last recourse for tracking down decent music. All because the musical gene pool's been contaminated by wannabees that are getting lucky in my favorite genre and not someone else's. Even so, I can't shake the feeling that the fourteen year-old with the Staind t-shirt would disagree with my assessment.
 
I hear Def Leppard's touring, though, so there's some hope.
 

©2002 Sean Carolan

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.

 







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