We’re still listening to music and doing radio shows. One of these days, I’ll get around to posting a show list. I’d like those names to get on the Internet, because otherwise, be you not a big buzzy artist that media likes, no one outside your immediate circle will ever hear of you.
It blows my mind how often I look up an artist I remember from way back in the last decade and realize that they have vanished. Remember “Baserock Baby” by Beeda Weeda? They be gone. Great song too, from right around the time Calvin did “Born In the Eighties.” There are others, one offs by local groups whose songs got picked up by some mp3 blog (how I loved them) and got a tiny bit of buzz for a little while. If I have a genre, that’s it — small, underloved, great things. Hmmmm, who does that remind me of?
Well, that is neither here nor there. Music moves on, although as far as I can tell, it hasn’t changed all that much in that whole long period since 2001 when I reconnected with it after leaving Boston for small town Vermont. Gone the insane (and insanely affordable) club scene, where you could see anybody, man! All the great indie bands came through, annually, semiannually, whatever. You could stand right there in the front row in a hot dark smoky club and listen to Pavement or Yo La Tengo (I’ll never forget the night White Zombie opened for them at the Channel) or Low or Stereolab. So many fucking bands, that looking back on it, it amazes me that I was lucky enough to be there during that golden era music of accessibility in real time (4 track!), ownable media (records!) and real space (night clubs from here to there). You could make it, you could hear it on the radio, you could buy it and play it and tape it for your friends, and you could start a band, a zine, an e-list (IndieList baby.)
But walking back along Memory Lane into the present, I see a much bleeker landscape, less colorful, more fake, more flash, less excitement, more fear, less freedom. And sure, we can do all that creative shit today in some digital way, but it’s just not the same when corporations hold all the keys. And this sucks.
And I listen to songs like “7 Days til Sunday” and “Queen of New York” and I can’t help but hum a few bars of “Showbiz Kids.” I mean really, who the fuck cares about the lives of people that self-absorbed? So much of pop seems banal, unnaturally focused on the lives of demi-celebrities that most of us will never be. Nor should we want to.
But not everything sucks. I do like whatever King Tuff (from my present home town) is doing on “Psycho Star.” Heck, he seems almost as jaded as me. I also really like “Tambalea” by Nina Dioz — an amazing Latin hip hop record with attitude that transcends words (it’s in Spanish but it still manages to say fuck twice because if you’re hiphop, you have to swear in English). “Apples and Apricots” by ATLYS is probably the only song I’ve ever heard where the band is a string quartet. In a similar vein, I like the crosscurrent of influences on Simian Mobile Disco’s “Caught In A Wave.”
Which brings me to Frightened Rabbit, a Scottish band that have now reached the status of minor legend, but were once just cranky upstarts with a great breakthrough single — swim until you can’t see land. In early May, their lead singer and founding member Scott Hutchison did just that. He left behind today’s equivalent of a suicide note and killed himself, to the great sorrow of many. Ironically, the day I heard this news, I ran across “Notes on a Live Not Quite Lived” by his new band Mastersystem. And then it all seemed to make sense. The roar of the finale is like a final primal cry into the wilderness. And then, silence.
Music both depresses me and cheers me, which seems contradictory, and kind of unfortunate. Then again, maybe it’s just an indicator that music is like water to me — something I need, no matter what, and without which life is less worthwhile. Which is why I continue to sift the waters of the stream, looking for those nuggets of gold, even as they get fewer and fewer and harder to find.