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The Best Years Of Our Lives

I was emailing back and forth with Mike Nessing when he said “Too much music,man..not enough time. It’s a never ending struggle to hear it all..That’s one of the main reasons I dont listen to much new stuff, because I find myself going back to all the shit I missed.”

Look at it this way: get a handle on Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams, Chuck Berry, James brown and The Beatles, and you will have a handle on modern pop music and you can move forward because these days are better than those.

My argument has always been, now not then as an an axiom in popular music and the difference to me as the difference between the living and the dead. Classical and jazz are great art forms but dead and dying art forms – to dismiss them them because they’re dead is like dismissing your parents solely because they are dead. We can, we do, we must, love the dead.but not to the exclusion and not above the living.

The artists I love today are in the middle of their careers. They can surprise because they are still doing it just like we are and sure they can let us down because of that as well but so what? Why do we watch baseball games? To see who wins. Same reason we listen to new music… it is the thrill of the new and even in the dead 80s we had enough thrills to make it worthwhile -in the 00s there has been a musical explosion very impressive, very exciting.

The problem for the average fan is twofold. a) as people grow older they want what they already have and b) the music scene is sooooo wide it is hard to keep a handle on it. I was hanging in the city yesterday and went by a country hangout “Rodeo Bar” and outside they had who would be playing soon. Maybe twenty bands and I hadn’t heard of one. Then a little later on I saw a billboard for a series of concerts at Webster Hall , maybe 50 bands, and I hadn’t heard of any either.

A coupla weeks ago a reader noted my blog was useless. The person was 100% correct. “Stop writing about it and enjoy the show”. Fine but I can’t and this blog is for people who can’t help but analyze what is happening to them, and, more important, what is happening to music. It’s useless but I believe the unexamined music isn’t worth listening to. Nostalgists, those who, unlike Mike Nessing, only listen to their handful of faves are fine but are stuck: it doesn’t MATTER as compared to, say, your daughters Bat Mitzvah, but it matters to me and if you’re reading this it must matter to you on some level..

But even if you do want to get a handle on modern music, how dya go about it? There is an information overload: it’s like the choices are so many you are paralyzed. So let me make it easier:

2008
Dear Science – TV On The Radio
Conor Oberst
Evil Urges – My Morning Jacket
808s and Heartbreaks – Kanye West

2009
Far – Regina Spektor
Bitte Orca – Dirty Projectors
Party Rock – LMFAO

That’s all you HAVE TO HAVE to get a handle on music…. I mean, if you have good ears to understand the myriad directions of NEW sounds. So it is not out of your hands. But why bother? It’s useless right?

Years ago I was at a fancy restaurant with my nephew Samer Diab and he said, and I believe, we eat better today then Louise XVI did in the 1700s. His point is well taken but worth repeating. The Human race has steadily improved the quality of existence over 5000 years. Sure, we don’t have the privacy we once had and I myself would preferred to have lived in a world without nuclear weapons, and, sure, the movies killed off literature (which has been relatively naff since at best the mid-60s) as the primary source of entertainment for the masses, but EVEN IN THE MIDDLE OF A RECESSION, the middle class a standard of living the envy of the entire world from the beginning of time to right now this minute.

Same is true of music… to a degree. Here are my fave music decades in order:

1970s
1960s
2000s
1990s
1950s
1980s

but that is based upon depth not width, not on choice. Based upon amount of choices (put it this way: if there were 500 teams in the American League, the Yanks record would be a lot more impressive) it would go like this:

2000s
1990s
1980s
1970s
1960s
1950s

If I was told by some omnipotent bored God I could only listen to recorded music today and forward into the future or recorded music from today backwards and all of the past I would choose the ffuture despite the chances being excellent that I have NO MORE THAN FORTY YEARS before I croak and therfore less music to choose from. I’d bet on the future because music is like one gigantic meme and ideas are being shared and added to as it expands forever and takes what it needs and transform and adds to the concept of what is popular sound. Why would I give that up to hear the Beatles sing “She Loves You” for the millionth time?

My Morning Jacket, a Southern boogie band, have been around since 1998 and they have always been OK with a steady following, fourth on the bill at your average jam festival. But in 2005 they released the real good “Z” and broke pop and then songwriter Jim James moved to NYC and the band followed him and recorded in NYC and released “Evil urges” and bam! Overnight they were a world conquering rock band with a unique meshing of Prince/Sly/Mayfield falsetto soul and Allman’s/Skynrd Southern rock. Isn’t that why we’re in it? To watch My Morning Jacket become great? As a music lover I get both Gene Clark and My Morning Jacket but if I could only have one, which appears to be the Nessing conundrum, I can’t choose Gene Clark over Jacket when I get the Byrds along with all the other bands I mentioned above with Jacket and I can see Jacket kill at Radio City but all I can do with Clark is visit his grave.

Earlier this year I had a lunch with another nephew, twenty year old Jeff McColl, and he was raving about never-was rapper Fabolous new album, so I bought a coupla songs off “Loso’s Way” and was baffled. When did Fabolous become this good? How can YOU not want to hear it? He is you and me. Not Tupac, no
t Biggie, not Lennon or Cobain: just this kid who figured out how to make us feel in ways we hadn’t before.

Fuck the past… the best is yet to come.

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