Thursday, June 19, 2008

I'll Never Catch Up

Sometimes I feel like I'm really falling behind. It seems like there's an endless amount of music to listen to and know about. I mean, new records come out every week, and that's just the new stuff. What about things from last year that slipped through the cracks? Or even "classics" from decades ago that I've yet to hear? It's a never ending battle trying to keep up.

Back in the beginning of the year, I remember going through all 5 pages of Keith Fullerton Whitman's "Best Of 2007" on his online record store Mimaroglu. I could probably count on both of my hands all of the stuff that even rang a single bell of recognition. There must have been at least 100 entries in his list, and those were just his favorites! Holy shit! There is no way I think I'd ever have that much encyclopedic knowledge about music. And again, that entire list was stuff that was released in 2007 alone (there were some re-issues, but that hardly matters). It wasn't like an "All Time Best Of" list or anything.

With the exception of The Pixies and Pavement, I've basically skipped over every seminal indie rock band from the '80s and '90s. Yo La Tengo, Built To Spill, Guided By Voices, Sonic Youth, Stereolab, Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr., Mission Of Burma, Wire, Husker Du, Meat Puppets, you name it, I don't know it. And then there's older stuff like The Velvet Underground, Faust, Can, Neu!, The Dead C and everyone else I've never heard.

Of course, there are some I'm slightly familiar with, like Brian Eno or Kraftwerk, but their catalogues are so enormous, it's impossible to know where to begin. And even when you do begin, and find out that you're in love with some artist who have innumerable releases to their name, how do decide which to take the time to explore?

I feel like the younger you are, the more disadvantage you have about musical history (or history in anything, really) and not just for the obvious reason. The younger you are, the more time has passed before you were born and that means you have that much more catching up to do. My parents didn't have nearly as much music to learn about when they were younger. I have an extra 30+ years of music history to learn! Wtf. Not cool.

And people wonder why "kids these days" aren't familiar with classics. And I'm not just talking music anymore, take any media for example. How many people under the age of 35 have read Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls or seen Fritz Lang's Metropolis? I know I haven't done either, but it's not for lack of desire. I just feel like I don't have enough time to. Not when Aquarius Records puts out their New Arrivals list every two weeks that's filled with dozens and dozens of obscure bands I can't even pronounce but need to know and love.

It seems like we have to be very picky about which classics we decide to indulge in, especially when there's so much new stuff to keep up with. It's hard to keep a healthy balance of the new and the old, especially with the uber-prolific like Machinefabriek or Aidan Baker. Should it be 50/50? Or should the youth be expected to be more familiar with the media from their time period as opposed to those of their elders?

It's easy for us to say we want to just know the new, screw the old. Sometimes the old seems boring or just irrelevant. But that's not the case, especially for me and fellow critiquers. How am I to write a proper review of a record if I can't use proper reference points? I could write about the latest Wolf Parade record and have no idea that they're totally ripping off Sonic Youth's Washing Machine, for example. I would never know (well, that's a lie, because I'm familiar enough with SY to know they don't sound like Wolf Parade, but you know what I mean).

So while sometimes I feel like there's no possible way I can catch up with all the trends, both new and old, I know I'm not the only one. There's a little bit of comfort in that, I guess. I do, however, often feel like I'm much further behind than everyone else. It's probably not the case, but that's where the insecurities shine through.

I'm working on bettering myself, though. I recently got My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything and Glider. I figured I call myself a fan, so I might as well have more than one of their albums. And I'm seeing them at ATP New York in September so I'll need to know more than justLoveless.

By the way, I've listened to Crystal Castles at least 3 more times since yesterday and it's growing on me exponentially. I can feel the love is about to burst through any time now.


Christine said...
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p.w. said...

(sorry to comment on an old entry. i just started reading your blog after you left a comment on mine. i am going through your archived posts right now...)

i sometimes have that same thought of "holy shit there's so much music out there!". there are the older bands, usually prolific artists with a large catalogue, so where to begin? then, there are new bands popping up all the time. how can i listen to it all?

then, i just tell myself that it's okay if i haven't listened to everything. i don't have to catch up. just relax and enjoy the music i like, that's all.