I read two things this week that re-planted the notion in my head of giving this up.
The passage of time is, by its very nature, an elusive thing. It’s been widely suggested that, as you age, time seems to speed up. One year to a small child can seem like a vast swathe of time. That very same year, to an adult’s perspective, meanwhile, can seem to flit by like a gazelle being pursued by a famished cheetah. It make sense, I suppose. When you’re young, you’re still in a chrysalis stage of development, and the world is gradually lengthening and expanding with you. Once you’ve crossed the Rubicon of adulthood and you’ve stopped growing, however, the process seems to reverse. Time itself seems to contract.
Before I spiral down a rabbit hole of histrionic introspection, let me put that in context. When you’re in your :::cough::: late, goddamn 40’s, five years is not a long time. Five years ago was 2011. That seems like last Wednesday to me. It’s really not a big deal at all.
Be that as it may, LCD Soundsystem –- a band I actually quite like -– returned this week, playing a warm-up show at Webster Hall (a venue which old farts like myself like to wax nostalgic about in regards to its comparatively ancient tenure as The Ritz). You may remember, LCD hung up their instruments five years ago with great dramatic aplomb, culminating in a big, sold-out show at Madison Square Garden that was recorded for posterity and released as a grandiose film called “Shut Up and Play the Hits.” The notion to be celebrated, I assume, was that the band was admirably going out on a high note, and not subjecting their legacy to waning enthusiasm, eroding quality and diminishing returns. Whether you appreciate them or not, you have to admit that it takes a sizable pair of balls to pull the plug on a venture when it’s at its height. I was certainly surprised by the decision.
Well, fuck all that. After a few short of years of being bored and pursuing projects that evidently weren’t as satisfying as making music as LCD Soundsystem, primary singer-songwriter-strategist James Murphy decided to re-assemble the band and go on tour and record a new album and blah blah blah. They’re certainly not the first to do that. When was the last time a band really stuck to the tenets of a “farewell tour”? It’s almost a given that it’s a hollow conceit.
I have no problem with that. Many of my own favorite acts have done it. And I liked LCD Soundsystem the first time around, and I’d probably like the band now. No, what bothers me about the whole thing is the RAPTUROUS, BUG-EYED AND INCREDULOUS RECEPTION the band’s return has prompted, as if to suggest they verily came back from the goddamn dead. I mean, for Christ's sake, they parted amicably and they were only really gone for about ten minutes. Get ahold of yourselves, everyone.
But, y’know, that’s the old man taking. I suppose that if you were 11 when you enjoyed your older sibling’s copy of 2010’s This Is Happening, a veritable ice age of growth, experience and development has transpired and you’re now a budding teenager less concerned with “Harry Potter” and more concerned with …er… teenage concerns (something that a 48-year-old like myself no longer has much of a grasp on).
I’m sure there’s a perfectly legitimate and commensurate equivalent from my era, but looking back through the eyes of someone arguably already too old for a proper midlife crisis, it seems like an overstated amount of enthusiasm for an unsurprising return after not-that-long an absence. Perhaps my failure to glean why this is so significant is an indicator that I need to vacate the sandbox.
The second thing I read that hit me on more or less the same level was via an outlet I’m starting to have a long history of getting upset by, that being Vice’s music site, Noisey (who I bitched about, most recently, here).
In a post from late in 2014, a Noisey writer by the name of Kim Taylor Bennett wrote a review of a performance by Interpol in the hallowed Temple of Dendur wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now, for a start, I have absolutely zero recollection of ever hearing about this, but I’ll admit that it’s a cool idea (although Interpol wouldn’t have been the first band I’d have cited to play such an august venue). Again, be that as it may, Interpol played there, and I’m sure it was quite an occasion. Good for them, and all that.
No, the part of this review that really stuck in my craw, so to speak, was the purple-prose-laden passage below.
Until [Interpol then-bassist] Carlos I didn’t even know basslines in indie rock could be so powerful or inventive. Along with The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Walkmen, and countless acts from that era who emerged, burned bright and flatlined, Interpol glamorized the grit and romance of New York City. Now those streets are just another sanitized metropolis, but back then it was the capital of everything where gangs of cool kids were making music informed in part by a post-9/11, edge-of-it all intensity. They partied hard and drank till dawn—at Lit, at 2A, at Black & White, at The Dark Room, at Don Hill's.
Once again, LET’S DO PLEASE GET AHOLD OF OURSELVES, shall we?
Beyond Miss Bennett’s flagrant disregard for proper usage of the comma (I really had to stop myself from inserting a few), the perilous leaps in perception here made my eyebrows practically arch right off my head. While, yes, the early 2000’s were a comparatively fertile period for New York City bands of a certain pointedly derivative stripe, it should be noted –- nay, emphatically carved in cement -– that, in the grand continuum of rock-related music in this city, the eras of those bands’ storied forebears from the 70s, 80s and early 90’s -- from the percolating scene at Max’s Kansas City to the Bowery punks at CBGB to the No Wave noise-merchants at the Mudd Club to the hardcore matinees at A7 to the multiple genre-splicing floors of Danceteria to the riots in Tompkins Square to the insurrectionist metal-against-metal mutation of pigfuck cacophony at the Lismar Lounge to ________ (insert your favorite bit here –- I fully realize that I am leaving out of whole volumes of stuff) -- far exceed and positively DWARF the relative blip on the radar that was the already quite staid and antiseptic 2000’s. Sorry, but there it is. Sure, Interpol, the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s were fun and cute, but they didn’t make as comparable an impact as, say, Television, DNA and the goddamn Ramones. Not even close.
But then I hear myself figuratively uttering that last sentence above, and I think -– holy shit, I’ve become that guy. The very guy my friend RK was strenuously admonishing me about gradually becoming in this ancient post from 2010 (y’know, back from when LCD Soundsystem were still a going concern).
Sure, it’s easy to get all uppity about the relatively inarguable significance of places like CBGB to the history of rock music, and I don’t think anyone’s arguing against its rightful place in New York City history – whether one gives a damn about the Ramones or not. But so much of this other stuff is all relative. It’s almost a given that for every time I sang the praises of bands from my era like Cop Shoot Cop or Kraut (above), there was some grizzled reader gnashing his teeth and asserting that neither of those bands would’ve existed had it not been for the earlier contributions of, say, Von LMO or Suicide or the Fugs or _____ (insert your favorite obscure-albeit-canonical counterculture-rock luminary from NYC here).
I suppose it’s the simple fact that I’m spending so much time lionizing the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s that I’m having a tough time swallowing the fact that we’re now entering an inevitable age of a particular brand of nostalgia that pines for the New York City (and its accompanying music, art and culture) of the 2000’s. Are we really there already?
Lest I become the blogging equivalent of one of those cloying hippy types in Washington Square Park still earnestly playing woefully out-of-tune renditions of Don McLean’s goddamn “American Pie,” maybe I should bow out now.