Monday, June 25, 2012

Late 1990's Nostalgia

Because of my age, and because of my tastes, there's a certain amount of backwards-looking in my dealings with western Pop Culture. I'm too old to be hip, or  otherwise the primary demographic target. On top of that, my generation are notorious for nostalgia. So, I understand how me talking about the new Everlear and Guided by Voices records might seem like some kind of exercise in nostalgia, for when I was younger, and was the target demographic for a certain subset of Pop Culture. It's true that I still like a lot of music from my early 30's, but I also like a lot of music from my 20's and my teens as well. It just so happens that some of it was popular in a zeitgeist kind of way about 20 years ago. However, I can see a real consistancy from A to B- I don't see how what say, The Dream Syndicate was aiming for is all that vastly different from what A Place to Bury Strangers  is aiming for. Sometimes, also, the band is quite exhausted, yet, even though their time in the Sun is either almost done, or completed.
This is where we come to "Class Clown Spots a UFO" by Guided By Voices. Is there any doubt that Robert Pollard's garage fantasies of The Who playing Wire songs will never be fully realized, so will never be finished? But, I'm not listening for him to get it right. I think that misses the point entirely. If he ever got it right, it would be like some godawful tribute band. No, the point is in the half-finished sloppy joy of standing on the shoulders of those you , and only you, consider giants. Pollard's vision is all about seeing what you see, not what others see- from the name of the band on down. I think it's absolutely beautiful hearing the original band back together, yes- but not for the reasons you might think. These are the same group of "almost made it' dreamers that were doing Guided By Voices before college radio took a shine, before Spin magazine gave them love, before it all- the point is in hearing the guys in the garage chasing the ghost of a genius idea, not in hearing some group of really good musicians trying to perfect the ideal version of some entity called 'Guided By Voices". Ever heard "Joe's Garage" by Frank Zappa? Well, this group is that song come to life, and that's what draws me in- the Art is in the Artlessness. It's in hearing people I could actually meet trying to realize dreams I would have never guessed they had. It doesn't matter if you call that "Punk Rock", "Grunge", "Garage Rock", "Indie Rock" or whatever- the core of it is the same dream- for just a few minutes or seconds we can all see Valhalla, and so, we should try to get that glimpse.
Now, to a certain degree, Art Alexakis is capitalizing on Nostalgia. Have you seen his "Summerland" Tour? Yeah, that's a pretty blatant attempt at doing a "Beatlemania" on 1995. I totally understand why, mind you- Art has some serious bills, the kind you can't ignore. So, what else is he supposed to do? become a bartender?
But, the new Everclear record probably won't sell like the tour. Sure it's got that "Everclear Bounce"- a ping pong beat with heartland rock melodies. Yes, Art is still singing on the same topics- discontent, failure and recovery. What it really sounds like is a kind of completion. This sounds like the 50 year old man's answer to the questions he, himself, posed at 25. So, yes, there's continuity, as opposed to departure from what Everclear did in 1995. But the sound is fuller, less reliant upon dirty guitars. For some, that's problematic, but I can hear Art trying to echo his heroes. I know Art a bit ( when we were younger, we actually got confused for each other a couple of times) and I know that he was a big fan of Led Zep and AC DC on the one hand, and X and Tom Petty on the other. Along the way, he liked other stuff, but ultimately, his tastes are classic rock, mixed with a little New Wave. So, no it's not indie or Punk Rock in sensibility, he's after Big Rock.
So, judged on that scale,  this is much better album than John Cougar Mellancamp has released since the 1980's.  That may sound like a slam,  but it's reflection of how different the values are. So, why do I like it? Because I come from the same place, even if my tastes are a bit different from his.  So, it's not exactly nostalgia- more like re-connecting with an old friend.

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