Pop Playground

By: Ross McGowan

Posted 08/10/2005 - 10:00:38 AM by wmdavidson:
 Strong, strong article. Maybe the best Pop Playground "theme" essay yet. Thanks! Funny that you center on "Pet Sounds" though-- it touched off a controversy at Pitchfork a few years ago when a reviewer made a comment to the effect of "If this came out on some indie label in 2000, instead of 1965, no one would give it a second thought." There's some truth to that, but it's also incredibly short-sighted: history does inform modern music, and even though there are many other albums that are "just as good" as "Pet Sounds" from a context-free, pure songwriting perspective, it *is* important that breakthroughs and "firsts" are not forgotten over the years. Nostalgia is not a bad thing, although you are correct that it needs to be kept in mind when evaluating the canon. I'll stop there because you really already summed up my thoughts beautifully.
Posted 08/11/2005 - 12:32:51 AM by johnny_burma:
 excellent article, particularly the conclusion. safe.
Posted 08/12/2005 - 06:17:42 AM by joeyjeremiah:
 I'd like to take the idea of the 12 year old obsessed with Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness a bit further. It's interesting that you set the period in time of your example to 1995. I would say that a similar example could've been made with a 12 year old and a Nirvana record in 1992, or a 12 year old and Michael Jackson's Thriller in 1983, the White Album in 1967 or Presley in the late 50s. I would be surprised, however, with a 12 year old taking such enthusiasm with a new record in 2005. No doubt he would aldready have friends with massive collections of their music on ipods, seen endless clips on MTV and whatever else, and probably already have an MP3 CD with hundreds of albums on it, most of which he might never listen to. Further, he probably owns a lot of great music by a lot of great bands, and is only moderately interested in new music. If it only costs a dollar to download something, and he only listens to it on his computer and ipod headphones, would he respect and spend six months getting to know it? It has been said that the average teenager hears as much music in one month, that someone living before the 20th century might have heard in a lifetime. I asked my father (who now copies CDs whenever he can) whether he thinks kids today are as excited with music as he was as a child collecting records in the sixties & seventies, and he replied without hesitation that it was very unlikely. Will 2005's 12 year olds have nostalgia for the mountains of trash they'll download to their MP3 players? Do they even know all the songs on their MP3 players? 'Cause a lot of my friends don't. You write that you find it hard to be as excited with music now that you hear one hundred new releases a year, and a lot of older music. What if you'd never had the period of saving up for a record, and skipped straight to drowning in music? I fear for musical nostalgia, although I realise this argument extends beyond what I've written here.
Posted 08/12/2005 - 09:11:53 AM by wmdavidson:
 Joey, great comments. This is the reason I keep my music collection grounded in the physical. I'd rather have 1,000 CDs that I know and love than 1,000,000 MP3s downloaded on a whim and listened to once. Music doesn't seem real to me unless it's something I can hold, buy, take home, unwrap, etc. (I do love my iPod though!)
Posted 08/13/2005 - 02:16:42 PM by moobear:
 there are very few albums that are "just as good" as pet sounds on a context-free, pure songwriting perspective. show me another album (especially "on some indie label in 2000") with a "caroline, no" on it. i'll wait.
Posted 08/13/2005 - 08:06:24 PM by wmdavidson:
 Moo, to stick with the same time period, I could start with "Rubber Soul," "Revolver," and the Kinks' "Face to Face." Really though, I wasn't trying to trash "Pet Sounds," I think it's great, just not the best ever. Feel free to disagree. The "indie" diss was a quote from Pfork, not my opinion of the album.
Posted 08/16/2005 - 04:34:46 AM by moobear:
 ah, i take back most of the hatred there then. sorry about that. still though, rubber soul has some real clunkers.