Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rock and roll: catch up or give up?


If you ever stop by this little-frequented blog, you will know that I am quite a music fan.

And I'm not closed-minded. I have the requisite eclectic tastes: jazz, classical, la chanson française...But I'm quite sure you know what I know: ROCK AND ROLL RULES.

Now that I've gotten that out of my system, let me also tell you I used to be a fountain of rock knowledge. I could tell you the original names of a ton o' groups, knew which albums were coming out when, and was the type of person who could hold my own in A-side vs. B-side debates. Of course that was about 25 years ago, but I like to think it counts for something.

But it doesn't count for being "up on things." So, a year or so back, I decided the Internet would be my route to Catching Up With Rock and Roll Since 1990. I mean between Deezer, Allmusic, and unlimited access to cool people's playlists, how hard could it be?

Unfortunately, it's proving to be very hard indeed. Sure, I write down group names, log in dutifully to Deezer planning on checking them out, and end up listening to my splendid Jackson Browne playlist, or doing a little more research on the many cover versions of "Hallelujah," even though I know Jeff Buckley's is the best.

As for Allmusic, it's a great place; I'm always going there to refresh my memory on burning and oh-so-current questions like "Did Highway 61 Revisited come out before or after Bringing It All Back Home?"

Don't get me wrong. I'm not totally ignorant. I can wail "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with the best of them -- oops, that's not really new anymore, is it? It's, like, from the last century? Oh well.

A few groups do keep coming back on my "must listen to" lists: The White Stripes, The Hives, The Strokes. I know they're out there! But I have come to realize that I will never listen to these groups if someone doesn't just stick a CD into my hand. And that never happens to people my age, right?

Yes, it does! I was at a school Christmas party this year, and one of my students came up to me and handed me a White Stripes playlist he had put on a CD. "I made this for you, I thought you might like it."

He was right. I liked it very much. Maybe I should "get into" this group.

But then again, there is so much music from 1960-1990 that I am ignorant of. And I've started to forget some of those "fun facts to know and tell," like the differences between UK and US releases of 60s albums. One can only keep up with so much.

So what's the best choice: to try to catch up, or just to give up?

10 comments:

Elisabeth said...

A great sampler of good recent Indie rock is Dark War the Night, actually done as a benefit for AIDS research. I would be glad to send you a couple of compilations of recent stuff that I like (I am not a huge White Stripes fan, though, just to warn you.)

The whole issue of how to keep up with what's new and fresh is a bit hard. Keep on monitoring who Letterman has on as a musical act, his producers tend to invite hot and new Indie rockers. They're not always great, but some of them are. Also, Pitchfork.com is a good source. The NPR site devoted to the show "All Songs Considered" is also a gold mine, and has audio tracks that you can listen to. That's basically how I keep up with stuff.

p.s.- My verification word is "uncesse." Does that mean "never end"?

Randal Graves said...

Neither. Think of it as a journey, an exploration. I remember when I started really getting into classical years ago, and I was overwhelmed once I started going beyond the usual suspects: there's just so much out there!

As for rock and roll, I see that when people do random 10s and whatnot: I've never heard of most of these artists, so I check them out. Some I don't like, some I do, but you never know when you'll find that next thing you dig. As long as you don't think of it as a work project, it can be groovy. :)

spacedlaw said...

It's like books. Plenty are coming out every day and there is just no way - no physical way - that you could know all of them.
Don't give up. Just don't expect to know them all.

Holly A Hughes said...

Well, there are very few things to be said for the being the parent of teenagers, but they do have one benefit: they're always playing those new artists you wouldn't otherwise be able to keep straight. What else are car trips for but tormenting your parents by making them listen to the new Vampire Weekend CD for the hundredth time? So long as I don't try to follow them into the mosh pit, they even let me come along to some of the concerts. (After all, who's paying for the tickets?).

On the other hand, my playlists are already too full to let just ANY new bands on. So Motion City Soundtrack and Of Montreal, yes; Jack's Mannequin and Silversun Pickup, no. And I get a lot of mileage out of bands like the Kooks, the Baskervilles, Locksley, and Blur who I really only know because they claim to be Kinks influenced; even Coconut Records gets an automatic pass because Jason Schwartzman was in Darjeeling Limited, which had all that Kinks music on the soundtrack. That saves me having to train my ear to listen to anything really new and different. The aging brain only has so much elasticity, after all.

And when all else fails, I fall back on the "not enough RAM left for back-up" defense. After all, you could hardly expect me to delete "Kind of a Drag" by the Buckinghams or "Pretty Ballerina" by the Left Banke just to make room for the Fleet Foxes...

Betty C. said...

Elisabeth -- Thank you for the links and ideas. Of course I would love to have a compilation CD from you someday, but whenever you have time and feel inspired. I get alerts from "All Songs Considered" but can't keep up with their Song of the Day. I have an MP3 player I actually like now (my iPod didn't work out for me), and have listened to a few of the shows that way. But I hated Bill Boilen's "Best of 2008" show! I thought hey, this is going to be great, but I pretty much disliked everything. For example, I cannot listen to the Fleet Foxes without laughing hysterically.

Betty C. said...

Randal, it's not that I exactly think of it as a work project. I guess I would just like to be back in the state of awareness I was "back then." For me it's fun to know about music. But, as with everything, the field has gotten so immense. I mean when I started listening seriously, the Beatles' career had only kicked off about ten years earlier!

I do like your exploration idea, though.

Betty C. said...

spaced -- I think books are even worse, actually. I mean, you can listen to a couple three-minute songs and get a working impression of a whole group. Six minutes won't get you very far in the book domain.

Betty C. said...

Holly -- Thanks for chiming in. So I'm hearing that I can cross Vampire Weekend off my list? My niece, who has excellent musical taste (highly influenced by her mother and aunt) just said some disparaging things about them, so they're dust for me.

I have teenage daughters too, but I think my tastes influence them much more than the opposite. I also find a lot of my students are more into older rock than new stuff, which does sometimes make me think "why bother?"

The Kooks seem to have great potential. The Baskervilles, Locksley - -I've only just heard of them. I can't really stand Blur, though. "Son, you're no Ray Davies."

Elisabeth said...

Betty - I seem to remember a comment that you had made on Facebook about Fleet Foxes, and their eponymous album that made the top 10 lists of more than one CD reviewer. I do own that CD, but I wouldn't say that it's one of my favorites. My top one, so far this year, is Andrew Bird's Noble Beast. I love, love, love, this album, but, then again, I do like Andrew Bird.

Holly - I do agree with you about the benefits of having kids who are young adults or teenagers. My daughter helped me discover a lot of current music, but now I kind of do it on my own. Of Montreal is pretty good, but a bit too repetitive for my taste. I have one ex-student who is a complete Of Montreal groupie, she must have seen them over 25 times already, and goes backstage after every show.

Aaron Compton said...

the problem is there are so many new bands coming out everyday, and so many are talented--if not your cup of tea...
as a New Zealander I would be remiss if I didn't try to turn you onto:
Fat Freddys Drop(kiwidub), Fly My Pretties(honest, simple folk/pop/rock) and Goldenhorse(ok just pop but beautiful). Oh and for real rock attitude and strange timings you can't go past the Mints Chicks album 'Crazy? Yes. Dumb? No!'