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June 24, 2007


more mad

that's o.k. i was chastised by someone born in 1981 awhile back for not knowing who the roots were. to be fair i was aware of them, just not that interested. this was coming from the same girl who had never heard of wham so go figure...

social epidemiology

even though I don't share your propensity to listen to the same song over and over, I have the same problem keeping up with/track of contemporary indie rock. Actually, i thought it might just be that I wasn't getting all my music tips from you like I did a couple of years ago, so its sort of a relief that you can't deal either. But there is this to consider....maybe the music isn't really changing. Its probably always been difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, and always easier in retrospect, when its been presorted by what survived. Perhaps our problem is not that the music has become nondescript, but that we no longer have the social sources to tap into that help us keep track. In other words, we are experiencing the common alienation from pop culture that happens to people who get old enough that said culture is no longer marketed in their direction. I like to think I have a chance of staying "forever young" in spirit if not in body (by the way, I bought that song of itunes not two weeks ago), but I'm beginning to wonder.


Digging through my files, I just found this oldish piece of writing on Benjamin and the notion/experience of newness:

In his Expose of 1935, a preliminary articulation of the main components of the Passagenwerk, Benjamin writes that, “[n]ewness is a quality independent of the use value of the commodity. It is the origin of the illusory appearance that belongs inalienably to images produced by the collective unconscious.” Benjamin situates this newness and its correlative ‘images’ in the 19th century, with the manifestation of those images in commodity forms. The newness of particular commodity forms in a given temporal moment masks the sameness of those forms with previous ones. It is, for Benjamin, the ‘eternal return of the same’: forms altered only superficially but with each incarnation, praised and promoted in similar ways. [...] Such newness is materialized most transparently with fashion and the ideology and changing ‘styles’ and trends; newness is “the source of that illusion of which fashion is the tireless purveyor.” Benjamin argues that through our position in the present, we are able to see how those past valorizations of ‘the new’ are and were problematic and shortsighted – and how, ultimately, ‘the new’ operates as an empty category into which different, everchanging forms are inserted.

um. anyway. I think that a forum such as MySpace exemplifies the strange ways that music is at once more accessible (even if it's not directed at our age group specifically) and completely about packaging so as to feel new/different/unique/whathaveyou. And there are so many music profiles out there ... how to distinguish? Technology gives us more ways to separate wheat from chaff, but it doesn't make that work any easier, it seems.


I don't know if newness is at the heart of your (our) indie music woes. The problem is: Indie has become mainstream - such that any new 'indie' band popping up immediately enters the commercial. This has more than a little to do with the prevalence of 'quirk' and the otherwise unfathomable appearance of cephalopods in design. The idiosyncratic is what the market desires.

It seems much more subversive to like Beyonce or Britney, no? They, at least, posses more identity than any 'Cold War Kid' or 'Fall Out Boy' combined.


i don't know, despite the fact that i'm growing older, i still can't shake the feeling that music is just simply not changing/progressing as much/as fast as it used to. a few months back, i was struck by the fact that "sgt. pepper" and "never mind the bollocks" are separated by less than *ten* years. ten frickin' years. consider for a second the whole series of revolutions/innovations between the two. now consider what has happened since 1997 (pick your favorite indie album from 1997, i don't feel like looking stuff up right now...the shins' first album is already *six years old*). and it's not just indie music of course. yesterday i was listening to notorious b.i.g.'s "ready to die" (don't ask) from 1993, around the same time as "slanted and enchanted" i think, and basically nothing's changed in hip-hop (or indie music) besides a series of retro-nostalgic revivals. that's 14 years and the same amount of time separating "anarchy in the uk" from "love me do". what's happening?

you might think these are unfair choices and in some ways they are, but i think the point remains. and it's a really fun game to play with yourself...


i don't want to reduce any of this discussion, or my own thoughts, to simple formulas or platitudes, but i do think that to a great extent, the new isn't really about the new but about the next. and that doesn't address the entire problem of what's happened to music, but i do think the market has conflated new and next to the point that it's not about what hasn't been seen/heard before in an originality context, but what hasn't been seen/heard before in a purely heretofore-unseen/heard context.

1997: ok computer, either/or (elliott smith), i can hear the heart beating as one. sigh.

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  • If Ayn Rand and Walter Benjamin got in a cage fight and then made up over foie gras, single malt scotch and indie pop, you'd have the delightful adventures of "That Was Probably Awkward." Plus or minus the single malt and foie gras, depending on the week's finances. But always the indie pop. Sad, stirring indie pop. And a decent happy hour.

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