Tuesday, September 18, 2007

They Just Don't Make Good Music Anymore

What a crock.

If you're around my age, though, you might believe that it's true. So I'll be writing for you.

Lots of good music is being made all the time, but it’s not likely that you’ll find it on the radio anymore. Radio is too busy fulfilling a set of rigid expectations in order to hold an audience share than to challenge listeners with something even slightly different, and risk having them change the channel. They’re in a very competitive business and heads roll at the drop of a Nielsen point. Their motto is “What you don’t play can’t hurt you.”

The trouble with always fulfilling expectations is that over the long term, it leads to some very boring art. It’s the artist who’s supposed to be creative, not the audience. How can you continue to have good art or ever surprise an audience if it's that same audience that decides what is to be created?

This is not easy for my age group to swallow. We grew up in the sixties and the music then seemed to expand our horizons painlessly. Maybe we were just blank slates and it all hit us at the right time. In any case, it may have spoiled us. Not in the sense that we got used to great, and then we stopped getting it. But rather that great took on different forms and we stopped being able to keep up with it. We expected everything to just come to us. I don’t think we can do that anymore.

So you can't just have good music find you. You have to seek it out. Read reviews, find critics who you can compare your tastes to and use the web to track things down about the stuff that you like. Now, you may just be too busy to do this, so I guess this is where I come in.

And just who the hell am I, anyway? Good question. No one special, really. Just someone who loves music and has tried to keep keep things fresh by trying out new things. It's paid off in a big way, because I can honestly say that I still get the same intense pleasure from music that I did during the sixties, and don't think that music has gotten worse since then.

So I'll be writing about albums that have affected me in some way, usually good. Of course, I’m limited by the size of my record collection and my own very subjective taste. So think of these albums not only as “Jaybee’s favorite albums”, but also as points of departure. Not everyone is going to love every bit of Talking Heads' "More Songs About Buildings and Food" the way I do, but maybe it can be your doorway to punk/new wave/whatever like it was for me.

And, oh yeah. It works both ways. You have to open your goddamn ears, and maybe your mind, too. If your expectations are very rigid, no amount of research will help. You just won’t like what you hear, and reject it on first listen. Then you’ll find yourself with a very finite pool of artists to draw from. And when even you admit that their records are starting to suck, you’ll have nowhere to go. If however, you don’t let, say, James Mercer’s startling wail near the beginning of the Shins’ "Chutes Too Narrow" throw you, you’re in for a real treat.

Because the bottom line is to have fun. You know, find joy and stuff. And don’t you usually find it in the unexpected?

I want to make you love music again. I don't mean like music. I mean love music. Don’t tell me you like music. Everyone likes music. Who cares? I hate people who like music. They are responsible for the billions of CDs that sit unused on bookshelves, ruining the environment. They buy a CD and perhaps enjoy it, but are never obsessed with it.

Life's so much more fun when you occasionally obsess about something to the point of foolishness.

--------- Now playing: The Shins - Kissing the Lipless via FoxyTunes

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