Thursday, January 31, 2008

Playing Catch-Up

It's not easy being a pretentious, posturing, egocentric, and elitist music snob. In part because there is so goddamn much popular music that it is hard to keep up. Every few weeks it seems that the new hipster band du jour is being touted -- and even more frequently than that if you follow the British music press -- while every few weeks I end up asking myself, "who the fuck is this?" (Answer: Arctic Monkeys, Ice Testicles, Tapes 'n Tapes, !!!, Band of Horses, Radiohead)

Now I consider myself an active music listener which by my definition means I actively seek out music. I read of lot of album reviews, I buy a lot of albums, and I attend a lot of shows. (Although the number of shows I see annually diminishes the older I get. Why do these bands have to go on so damn late? I need my rest.) To put it succinctly, I am into this shit. To put it not-so-succinctly, as Chuck Klosterman described himself at the beginning of Killing Yourself To Live, "I have more CD's than 99 percent of America but fewer CD's than 40 percent of my friends." This is an exhausting way to live...especially in the world of indie rock.

If you don't already know this, indie rock fans don't really like one another. They may in fact hate each other. It is the solipsist's genre of fandom, predicated on the breadth of one's knowledge, the obscurity of one's critical references, and the chronological superiority of one's appreciation of something. How much do you know, how abstruse is it, and how early did you know it? There is little room for genuine friendship when every person you meet is a potential reminder of your "academic" inferiority. To wit, I often go to shows alone and see the same people at the Black Cat and the 9:30 Club. I recognize them and they recognize me and we never so much as exchange a "hello." There's the guy with the beard, the guy in the leather jacket who I want to punch in the neck, the guy with the mutton chops and wallet chain, the guy in the thrift store pea coat and knitted scarf, the indistinguishable girls with Betty Page bangs...the list goes on and on and it is hard goddamn work staying hipper than the lot of them.

When it comes to hipster posturing one of my greatest handicaps is that I am always so late to the party (see: chronological superiority of one's appreciation for something). There have been the occasional moments of divine provenance where I was among the early-ish settlers; New Pornographers/Mass Romantic (dumb luck), The Hold Steady/The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me (inside information), Wilco/Being There (my subscription to Acoustic Guitar World). But in most cases I am unfashionably late to the party; GBV/Mag Earwhig, Pavement/Terror Twilight, Dismemberment Plan/Change, The Pixies/Doolittle (which I only bought after seeing Fight Club), etc. I guess I have grown slightly more in tune with "what is hip" since graduating from college those many (many) years ago but I largely remain woefully ignorant.

The most egregious example of my musical tardiness is the fact that all of my Elvis Costello albums (and there are many) are reissues that I purchased in the 21st Century -- it is pretty ridiculous to longingly opine that "few new albums are as awesome as Get Happy!" when said musical touchstone was acquired less than 5 years ago. So, what is the post all about? A confession, really, because I bristled when someone shit-talked the Buffalo Tom show I was at last week even though I thought the band was kind of lame when I heard them on My So Called Life a hundred years ago. I could have been Jordan Catalano...


At 2/01/2008 11:30 AM, Blogger hotrod said...

I saw a quote from this in the Post Express this morning. Well done.

At 2/01/2008 12:52 PM, Anonymous dabysan said...

If only there were a social-networking/blogging tool that would make it easy for your friends/admirers to find and comment on this impressive bit of polemic.

...maybe someday

At 2/04/2008 10:03 AM, Blogger Jason said...

Something that could also provide as a forum for handicapping karaoke performances? Is it possible that such a thing could exist on the interweb?

At 3/13/2008 1:06 PM, Blogger SuperNOVA Music Review said...

Jason, you rock. And you know you do. I love your writing man. That line "the guy in the leather jacket that I want to punch in the back of the neck..." HA! Awesome.

You capture the strife and lack of respect we obsessive music snobs get from the rest of the world. Like, hello! Modest Mouse was also great LAST CENTURY you fools! :)

I'm posting a link to your blog on my blog, so that other bloggers can blog about these blogs. Yeah.


At 8/18/2008 2:02 PM, Blogger dara said...

Don't ask me how I found this, but you got quoted in the Hindustan Times, which is pretty friggin' random. And awesome.

At 8/20/2008 8:26 PM, Blogger Jason said...

That is incredible.

At 7/22/2009 8:11 PM, Blogger Laura Paragano said...

I, like yourself, thrive on finding incredibly obscure indie rock bands to name drop on others. However, musical elitism has never gotten such a big push as from the recently created social-media-meets-music site which allows you to be your own DJ and choose songs to show others. I think you would love it too!
I found your blog randomly from the Arrested Development post from 2005 and your writing is very entertaining.


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