Sunday, April 24, 2011

Insights from a Record Collection

We are very much the product of our times. Or so my record collection told me after I exhaustively cataloged it. Coming of age in the late-sixties and seventies as I did, it is not very surprising that my largest collections are from the likes of the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan and Neil Young.

What is surprising is that despite my continued interest in pop music, I have but one artist who released a debut after 1990 whose collection numbers in double figures—PJ Harvey.

In the twenty-one years since the beginning of that decade, history would suggest that I would find at least a couple of bands whose career I would follow into a double-digit CD collection. Yet it hasn’t happened.

Why? Do bands have shorter careers now? Less-frenetic recording schedules? Am I too old? This question gnaws at me because I am as enthusiastic about the New Pornographers or TV On the Radio as I am about Led Zeppelin and the Temptations.

First off, it’s an ADD world. Both fans and musicians become bored more quickly than was the case in my youth. Another reason is that record companies are not as likely to shepherd an artist through a sales or creative slump as they once were. Bands must arrive at a label fully-formed and produce immediately, which means that for bands not named U2 or REM, they must do their growing and experimenting (ahem) off-the-record, which also means fewer releases.

Number two, taking years between releases is the norm, not the exception, these days. This is especially true of established artists. To put things in perspective, consider that the Beatles dropped thirteen LPs in a little over six years. Kind of puts the three-albums-a-decade megastar aesthetic into perspective, doesn’t it?

Finally, I am old. After forty-some years of listening to pop music, it gets harder to find something that doesn’t sound derivative. Just as one generation heard diluted impressions of Elvis or Chuck Berry or Bo Diddley in everything that followed, I am likely to hear echoes of the Stooges or Nick Drake or the Velvet Underground in much of what has come since.

But harder doesn’t mean impossible.

There are fresh recombinations of elements that make for new and exciting music, and unique and original visions. And the inspired refining of existing formulas is happening every day. You’re just not likely to hear them on the radio (which for all intent and purposes is dead as an outlet for rock music).

Finally, I/we have changed. Fifty-somethings aren’t very likely to get together and talk about the new Strokes album, are they? Which sadly eliminates the biggest source of the music we enjoyed in our youth—our friends and word of mouth.

Whatever the reason, these are the post-1990 bands and artists I have collected the most releases from:

PJ Harvey

Pearl Jam

The New Pornographers

Guided By Voices
Nine Inch Nails*
TV On the Radio

Foo Fighters
Mercury Rev
St. Etienne
Lisa Stansfield
The 3Ds
The Verve

Built To Spill
Cat Power
The Chainsaw Kittens
Massive Attack
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
You Am I

* released debut album/EP in 1989

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Pet Peeves

Like most people, I have pet peeves. Unlike most people, I keep mine in a zoo. A petting zoo, to be exact. The kind where rabies shots are highly-encouraged prior to admission.

My pet peeves range from justifiable homicide (well, almost) to the merely annoying. That said, allow me to present the seventy-five fascinating and multitudinous things that piss me off:

1. Right-wing conservatives
2. Big Business
3. The impunity of Wall Street
4. Corporate welfare
5. The NRA
6. Executive compensation
7. Stoplights
8. Insurance companies
9. Looking for work
10. Our refusal to address the cause of skyrocketing health care costs—only the symptoms.
11. Credit card companies
12. Oil companies
13. Hyperbole
14. Cable TV providers
15. Corporate banks
16. Pharmaceutical manufacturers
17. The clean coal lobby
18. Saggy jeans
19. Pick-up trucks/sport utility vehicles
20. Congress
21. The Los Angeles Lakers
22. Pro-lifers
23. Bird shit on my car
24. Control freaks
25. Defense contractors
26. Terrorism
27. Impatience
28. Parents who, evidence to the contrary, think their children are incapable of failure and bad behavior (up to and including premeditated murder) merely because said children sprang from their loins.
29. Habitat destruction
30. Bullies
31. Selfishness
32. One-issue voters
33. The New York Yankees
34. Cheapskates
35. The popularly accepted re-imagining of Ronald Reagan as great president and visionary.
36. Reality TV
37. Violent computer games
38. People who use their cell phones a.) while driving b.) while shopping c.) while going to the bathroom d.) in movie theaters e.) in restaurants.
39. This persistent idea that fowl is food.
40. People who say they’d continue working even after winning the lottery.
41. Barry Bonds
42. Liars
43. Climate change deniers
44. Psychology-as-fashion (namely, positive thinking)
45. The owners of professional sports franchises who hold cities hostage for publicly-funded stadiums for what are privately-owned businesses, and the municipal governments who let them.
46. Being labeled a racist because I oppose illegal immigration.
47. Fake boobs
48. Golf
49. Weak drinks
50. People who belch in public
51. The price of concert tickets
52. Drama queens
53. Professional wrestling
54. Arrogance
55. Budweiser
56. The weather in the Midwest
57. The San Francisco 49ers
58. Carrie Prejean
59. Gangster hip-hop
60. Women who complain about guys in Speedos
61. Early-release programs
62. Being interrupted
63. Sour cream on Mexican food
64. Reggaeton
65. Monster truck shows
66. The New York Mets
67. Sale items that don’t ring up at the advertised price.
68. Jerry Jones
69. People who insist on dragging two-foot wide shopping carts down three-foot wide aisles.
70. Competitive eating contests
71. Fart jokes
72. The words devastated, extreme, legacy and iconic.
73. Music videos
74. The names real estate developers give their developments.
75. Smooth jazz