05 January 2009

While I’m here

I just did that rare thing and read a blog post from start to finish in one go. I know, whoopee-do. But it’s good for me. All too often, I will scan and/or read some, deciding ‘yep, I’ll read that later’. Sadly, ‘later’ all too often turns out to be the twelfth of never. What am I trying to say? That’s right, Impostume did his albums of the year!

As you’d expect if you’ve read his blog in the past, even Impostume’s idle thoughts are wrapped up in grand narrative and context. That’s not a bad thing, as I’m trying to get more of that in my writing, but I’m sure he summed up 2007 rather more tacitly (‘get the Oxbow’, as I recall). I know where he is coming from, anyway.

For a long while I have been dismayed at the way people (including me) listen to music this decade. I started downloading on peer-to-peer in late 2004. Very quickly I amassed quite the collection. If a connection was slow, I’d leave the computer running and be amazed at all the Fushitsusha/Swans/La Monte Young suddenly on my hard drive.

But there was a sense of ennui I could not escape. For the more music I heard, I was listening to less than ever. So I had a top 70 albums of 2007, a top 100 of 2005. But what did it mean? I attempted my top 50 albums of 2005 theme (of which I wrote enough to justify completing. Then I can move on to other, non-groundhog, years), but realised soon that I knew little about albums I had already ‘judged’.

Much like Rowdy Roddy Piper in They Live, I see the evil of instant judgement everywhere. It wasn’t like this back in the day, I’m sure of it. I lend people albums now and they don’t bother getting past track two. While this is disheartening, I at least know I can take most peoples opinions with more than a pinch of salt. Yeah, you listened to it once and decided it was number 38 of the year? Kiss my arse.

Which reminds me: Impostume also mentions the insanity of having a top 150 of a year. He questions how (and why) a person who considers himself* sane would justify positions at such an irrelevant end of a list. And, while I admit to my own top 50, I also wonder why anyone would give a rat’s behind about what a single person considers their 43rd favourite album of a year. I understand when The Wire does it – they pool many people. But the individual top 50? I’m now old and ugly enough to realise the folly (both Narcissistic and Promethean) of such a move. Top 20, max. I don’t care how many albums you’ve heard.

Let’s not forget that little correlation: the greater amount of albums you have heard means less time available to actually digest each one.

Impostume also throws this bone of intrigue:

Every now and then you need to go elsewhere for a while to feel excited by home again.

Just before I read that, I was thinking about how metal-focused my lists have been over the last few years (certainly since 2004, when I got back into the scene). I used to be a right little eclectic: at the turn of the century I was consuming all and sundry, having decided metal was getting too popular for me.

I got into metal, to a serious degree, in the mid 1990s, at the absolute nadir of its popularity. So, when the likes of Linkin Park and Slipknot were all over tellies and t-shirts, QOTSA playing venues larger than pubs, I decided the scene was no longer mine.

So, inspired by the fantastically-timed release of Radiohead’s Kid A, I set off listening to all of those genres I had once considered out of bounds. It helped that I was in a new city, so none of my existing friends could ask ‘why the hell are you listening to that?’ It was all about DJ Shadow, Warp Records and Ninja Tune, XL and reading The Face. Garage music, Neptunes and a still-good Timbaland. I’d shop on Oldham Street and club at Music Box. Not only was it new to me, but there was seriously cool stuff to listen to.

And that’s without getting into post-rock. What is now a shit vacuum where only a few bands are decent (pretty much none who aren’t Japanese) was buzzing: Godspeed, early Sigur Rós, Múm, Lift To Experience, Xinlisupreme, Lali Puna, Labradford, Laika, Broadcast, Add (n) to (x)… what is there now?

At risk of sounding like an old man, I’ll end it there. But it seemed there was a lot more going on in 2000-01 than there is now. In the oh-four I got back into metal. Not a moment too soon, I decided, as its qualitative fortunes were rising as everything else was dropping off.

Is it really all dropping off though? Perhaps, as the quotation says, I just needed that musical holiday before an inevitable return ‘home’. I’m not sure though. Mainstream ‘indie’ rock is pretty much as godawful as it was: The Strokes and JJ72 are now just Kings Of Leon and Snow Patrol. Chart house is the same as it ever was. And in the garage’s place, we had grime, dubstep, bassline, funky, donk… it seems to me that the ‘ardkore continuum is becoming self aware to the point of eating its own tail, Ourobouros-style. The forced evolution is certainly faster than rave…hardcore…jungle. But that’s for another post.

I’m gonna mention Reynolds’ EOY stuff when I’ve done more listening, because it’d be an interesting context in which to drop more thoughts in. Who said cross-posting was dead?


P.S. I wish I had entered a ballot for the Rocktimists thing, but alas it coincided with my holiday. And my list would have been more premature than it was on this blog. Hopefully there will be a 2009 ballot to enter.

P.P.S. I have that Tricky album ordered. Having less luck with the Bug: if I'd known he'd get Wire's album of the year accolade, I'd have bought it when it came out, like I was going to. Damnit.


* Let's face it: we're mainly male.

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