No Music for Old Men
And other overused titles for blog posts
Watch old movies and you’re a connoisseur.
Read old books, and you’re sophisticated.
Thanks for reading. Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work. Listen to whatever music that speaks to you.
Play old video games, and you’re retro.
Listen to old music, and you’re stuck in the past.
🎶 One of these things is not like the other . . . one of these things just doesn’t belong . . . 🎶
It’s interesting that, of all the art forms, music is the one that is most associated with youth, with ephemera, with now.
The other day, “Yeah!” by Usher, featuring Lil’ Jon (2004) came on and I tried explaining to my son all the Lil’ Jon jokes from that era, including the Dave Chappelle bit about how Lil’ Jon’s contributions to music seemed to be shouting “What?”, “Yeah!”, and “Okay!” in his inimitable style.
I mean, he made a career out of it. Good for him.
But remember Lil’ Jon? Remember Usher? They were huge. Massive. And now? Does anybody listen to them? If they do, they probably don’t advertise it. If they are a young person into such ancient music, they probably get ribbed by their friends for being way behind the times. Such is life.
Music is the most disposable form of art. Styles and trends come and go every summer. Remember when indie rock was a thing? I do. I blame those anemic-looking ball-less sad sacks for helping make rock music so uncool.
Watch this video for “High School Lover” by Cayucas (2013)1) with the sound off and tell me you don’t want to smack these dorks:
Compare with something like, I don’t know, Van Halen, and you won’t be surprised why guitar-based rock music doesn’t hit with young men anymore.
How about this: “Starry Night” by Turtlenecked:
They’re the kind of dudes Slayer fans would literally beat up.
Who is really into indie rock anymore?
I’m not saying the entire genre was awful. Some great bands came from that era. I personally like Interpol, The Strokes, The White Stripes, and Secret Machines. Sure, those bands were on the heavier side of the indie spectrum, but I still listen to them despite them being passé. Their cultural moment has passed. They’re not setting the trends anymore. They don’t matter.
Music, it seems, requires a movement to accompany it. Or as Frank Zappa adroitly put it, “No change in musical style will survive unless it is accompanied by a change in clothing style. Rock is to dress up to.”
Interpol, remember, was as big for their fashion as for their music.
But then again, so were The Beatles, right?
Check out the lead singer of that band Turtlenecked again. He’s a young chap named Harrison Patrick Smith. He is now a DJ going by The Dare and he’s the next big thing, the return of “indie sleaze.”
Danceable music a la The Rapture or Fischerspooner LCD Soundsystem (remember all of those guys? It’s okay if you don’t). He traded the sensitive guitar-boy image and sound for songs about getting it on in hedonistic, depraved ways and he sounds like this now:
He’s the next big thing. He’s also under fire for a disturbing album cover I won’t reproduce here.2 The point is, he was savvy enough to see which way the winds were blowing, and because he wanted a career in music, he set his sails in that direction. Who can blame him?
Remember when ska was a thing? When big band revivalism was a thing?
Trends come and go. A merry half-decade ago, neon 80s revivalism came into full swing. Remember that? Do you remember?
I’m fully aware that metal is still a thing. But musicians, like all artists, want to matter. They want to impact the culture. Music, above all, might be the most powerful. It’s also the most transient. Why is that?
Is it the internet’s fault? Is it streaming? Is it the business itself? Maybe it’s a combination of everything.3 At some point, music started to equal youth. Maybe it was the 50s? I don’t know. But ask yourself the last time anyone, say, over 35 broke into the business.
Maybe you have a great example. I don’t.
Pete Townshend of the Who went crazy in his old age of, uh, 30 dealing with punk and all of the new bands who made him feel like some out-of-touch geezer. Forget that many bands supplanting him were heavily influenced by him. The thing was, suddenly, he wasn’t relevant. For musicians in that business, relevance is currency. Push those boundaries. The actual notes, to my ancient ears, become secondary.
Some bands deal with being uncool by keeping on keeping on. My beloved Rush weathered 40 years of shifting musical trends, going from cool to uncool to a punchline and then back to cool again. Stick around long enough and that’s bound to happen. They were lucky.4 Many are not. Many can’t handle it.
What I do know is that there’s an odd quasi-stigma about “old people” music that’s not really there with books or movies. It feels weird as someone over 40 really being into new bands. I’ve become fond of black midi. I’d feel weird going to one of their shows. I felt weird enough going to see Coheed & Cambria a few years ago. But that’s okay. I’ll keep listening to Led Zeppelin and Primus and Faith No More and Smashing Pumpkins. Did you know Blur has a new album coming out next month?
When I first came across this video, it auto played sans volume on some website I was browsing, and I couldn’t stop laughing. I didn’t listen to the song until almost a decade later. It’s all right, but still totally devoid of balls.
It’s really gross.
Spoiler: it’s the business itself.
Ditto Iron Maiden, Metallica, AC/DC, and several others I can’t think of right now.