Wednesday, August 10, 2005

BULLETPROOF NOTHING:Old Man's Game

Again, something that I sent to Troy to run in his zine. I haven't asked him if he minds me putting any of this stuff on here, but I doubt he does. I dunno, Troy, if you ain't kosher with me posting this stuff up here, just email me and I'll take it down.

This was written in July of 2004

Hey hey, kiddies, time for some more blathering. Today I'm here to pose the question: why is this whole RNR/punk rock thing such an old man's game now? Why are all the "scene big shots" so many summers removed from their teen years? When and how did they take over? Isn't rock'n'roll, and by extention, punk rock supposed to be by and for the kids? Don't trust anyone over 30? Wild in the streets, running, running?

Back in the day, kids would start in bands fairly fucking young and acheive awesomeness quickly. For example, when Minor Threat started, Ian MacKaye was the only member over 18 years of age. In some respects, you could've even called them a high school band. Could you ever possibly imagine a high school band nowadays that was even one quarter as good as Minor Threat(The Teenage Rejects?)? Look at the Jam, Joy Division and the Germs as well, all of them had established their legend before well they would've been of legal drinking age in this country. The same goes for most all of the Back From The Grave type bands, too.

Those were the days of "The Al Bundy Syndrome". Kids burned insanely bright for a few years, they were in awesome bands. They made history, blazed the trails and changed the world, but then, by the time they hit their mid-20's, they had all either died, burned out, given up or started making shitty music(again, take all the individual members of Minor Threat for example).

Thing is, you just don't see ABS that much nowadays. In general, people seem to start slow, gradually build up and really hit their peak sometime in their early thirties and then continue on for at least another decade or so past that at a somewhat disminished level of "awesome". What is so different about NOW, how did it all change? When did it go from "young" to "old"?

Could it be that the "musical awesome-ness" of all those earlier bands was tied directly to the movement which they were involved in? And once that initual movement died, they tweren't left with shit? I mean, hardcore, at it's peak years between '81 and '83, could really transform a person. It made gods out of fools. Somehow, when the magic was just right, three kids that couldn't play & a fourth that couldn't sing somehow all gelled together, their adolescent ids banging off one another and creating something really fucking ace.

We've all heard it a million times before. Look at the Heathens' songs from the "Get Off My Back" comp; bizarre, they can't really play in time, fairly random but it's totally fucking fantastic. doesn't make sense on any logic level, it just "works". That's what a new musical movement can do to a person when it's going strong.

In modern times though, we have no new, wholly original musical movements that come along. Everything's been fucking done already. There is nothing so alien & fresh that it can suck us up, transform us and make us mere mortals into mythical beings. Sure, we have the mini-movements like the "neoteric"-arty keyboard bands, and the recently unearthed proto-punk treasure-trove(Simply Saucer are my god!), but none of them are all that revolutionary, they weren't so much a change as they were just a mere extrapolation on things that already existed.

How then do people achieve "musical greatness" then in this day & age? I'll tell you how:they have to soak it all in. They have to spend years studying it, practicing it, BECOMING IT to the best of their ability. We live in the information age, and well, thats appropriate because we've all got a lot of learning to do. The kids back then, they were accidently "great". Nowadays, we are charged with the task of doing it all ON PURPOSE, and lemme tell ya, that's a whole fucking lot harder.

So WHO exactly nowadays is doing it all "on purpose"? To a large degree, it's the people that have been around for years and years. It's "old people" who have, by hook or by crook, figured out a little piece of the vast, ungraspable concept that is "a really fucking good record". Ya know, they've been around long enough to figure out something like, "Hey, some reverb or maybe just distortion on the vocals sounds good." Old bands had distortion or reverb on the vocals, but often times, it wasn't there because they CHOOSE for it to be there and they couldn't have gotten rid of it even if they wanted to.

We have so many choices now, and time & time again, the inexperienced "young" people will fall into a trap and be stuck there for whoever knows how long. Back in the day, there wasn't the OPTION of being in a shitty screamo band, so obviously, no one would ever waste their time on that type of thing. There was ONE CHOICE if you wanted to rebel, where as now, there's hundreds. Problem IS, there's still only one RIGHT choice to made musically(or well, there's a couple, but not many) and most of the time, the experienced, savy folks are the only ones that make it.

We are a generation of sifters and choosers; and for good or ill, old people are making the best sifters because of a vary of reasons. First of all, they've been around, they've seen a lot.
Just look at Larry Hardy of In The Red Records. If I read that interview in Terminal Boredom correctly, he said he's been going to shows since 1977, thats amazing. Never underestimate some life-experience. Old people know which choices are mistakes, because well, they've "mistook" before. They've fucked up, and now, hopefully, they know better. "Oh god, what was I thinking incorporating jazz influences?"

Second, old people are generally better with money than kids are, they have more of it and are better at holding onto it. This is extremely important considering a lot of those "ancient texts", i.e. old, amazing records, are going for insane amounts of money today. Obviously, one needs to learn at the foot of the masters, but what do you do if can't afford to get to that uhhhh, foot?

Finally, and this is the most important factor: old people have their shit more together than kids do. They aren't as fucking flakey. They firmly know who they are and what they want to do with their lives. This is of utmost importance when it comes to doing something both significant AND long term in the music arena. How could a kid keep a band together long enough to record three full lengths when he can't even keep a girlfriend for more than three weeks? I mean, sure, flakery is a double edged sword, it might lead to some impressive performances/songs in the short term, but it's all gonna burn out once he gets his shit FIGURED out.

Now, obviously, even way back when, there were always "old people"(do I need to point out how ridiculous it is that I'm refering to people in their early 30's as "old"?) in the scene that posessed all three of these chacteristics. Tim Yo, Larry Livermore, the Slash Records folks, they were all mainly ex-hippies, campus radicals from the 60's. The thing was though, people like that were more the EXCEPTION, than the rule. Old people did exist in prominent roles back then, but by far and large, the bulk of the scene, the bulk of the people that are now labeled "great", were young, super-enthusiastic kids that were, to some degree, just bumbling their way through shit.

The climate's changed though, conditions are different and the young bumbling kid just doesn't have the dominance they once had. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, "the kids" just DON'T produce any great music anymore. No longer is the scene about kids jsut barely outta high school, now is the age of the seasoned, road hardened(yet not weary) vet that can take whatever the fuck you throw out at them.
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EPILOGUE:
Although, even THIS current climate is starting to change. Every middle class family has a computer now and what with high speed internet access and soulseek, kids can listen to as much great music as they want to. They can download an upwards of a 1000 free songs a day if they wish to put the time & energy into it. Within the next five years, this alone should serve to severely cut down the time on the learning curve.

The kids will have their revenge and they will once again start producing better, if not "great" music en-mass.

Or well, hopefully they will...

Anyway, end of column, see ya next issue maybe

IF YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS ON THIS COLUMN, FEEL FREE TO WRITE ME AT:crparson at hotmail