2004 Year End Thoughts
Is This It?
ucking Wilco. He recalled for a moment the extent to which that record—from its pretentious adoption of avant garde sensibilities to the Restrained, Emotive singing—had rubbed him the wrong way. But that wasn't even what really bothered him. Rather, it was the rush to herald it as some latter-day masterpiece that really got on his nerves—in his mind, it didn't even sound like their best record.
That was two years ago. He shifted in his seat, remembering how a year later he came across a particularly well-written and suggestive review of a laptop record that had set his imagination afire; with possibilities of futuristic textures and genre-transgression, he could have hardly conceived the mundane samples and four-square beats actually contained therein. Just to be sure he wasn't missing something, he listened again. Still, nothing. As 2003 gave way to 2004, he began to notice a pattern; one heralded release after another made its way past his browser—Marz, The Arcade Fire, Jason Forrest—without making so much as a dent on his regular playlist. Filled out by the likes of Todd Rundgren, John Cale and Brian Wilson, his "new" record collection increasingly appeared as if it had been exhumed from the trunk of a weird uncle. Even the current bands he liked had a trad veneer about them, a sense of proper songwriting and melody with nary a hint of hip-hop's structural innovations. Before long, he found himself arguing regularly with a friend about the merits not of The Streets and The Fiery Furnaces but of new artists in general and whether they were offering anything quantifiably "new" at all. Surely, this was no way to live.
Then one day, his friend came out and said it: "You hate new music."
He pondered the thought: you hate new music. "That's not true," he responded curtly.
"No," the friend said, "you definitely do. You're not even bothering to listen to half these records anymore, and you're constantly complaining about them anyway."
A twinge of vulnerability came over him. Whether it was Burt Bacharach or Giorgio Moroder, his voracious musical appetite and cognitive abilities when it came to parsing pop music's ins and outs had long satisfied him both socially and intellectually. But at the moment, none of that seemed particularly relevant—pop music was about what was happening now, and he was feeling awfully stuck in back then.
He was sure about one thing when it came to new music—there was too damned much of it. Marveling at others' capacity for keeping track of every possible trend and up-and-coming artist, he wondered with a mixture of spite and envy how anyone could process it all. He considered how much more they had invested in the career of music journalism—in those records—and wondered how they might have dealt with such a crisis of faith—surmising they'd have likely just ignored it out of necessity.
But still: tuning out new music, the Next Big Thing, the Now Sound? Heresy.
Besides, he'd gone to school with music assholes like this—poofters insisting with baton in hand that pop music was the worst kind of trash, as if their experience with it had been some Miami Bass compilation they heard after taking a wrong turn downtown. Back then, he saw his senior year composition professor's tossed off affection for Prince for the lazy grasp at relevance that it was. Perhaps like them, he was merely afraid to make a judgment for himself, preferring instead to adopt for himself tastes already well-established.
Then something hit him that shook him to the core. Maybe this had nothing to do with any of that—his analytical skills, tastes or petty insecurities. Perhaps it was simple as this: he was getting old.
Now he was genuinely upset. Fucking Wilco.
Reviewed by: Matthew Weiner
Reviewed on: 2004-12-24