Against Eighties Music

6a00d83453bcda69e20133f28a49ae970b-800wiJustin E. H. Smith over at his eponymous blog:

There is a bind in which not every generation has found itself, though the one I know best certainly has: one is, in respect of music, caught between the Scylla of trying too hard to stay with it, and the Charybdis of ridiculous nostalgia for that period of life when one did not have to try at all.

How much longer will we have to listen to the cries of melancholy longing of those now pushing 40: a longing for a more authentic time, in which something we now call 'eighties music' held us all together, forged us, made us better than the current crop of manipulated stooges with their ephemeral junk? The problem with this way of remembering things is that it wasn't 'eighties music' at the time, and it didn't hold us together. It was mostly garbage, just like today; and just like today it had, seen from the inside, internal contours and divisions that made it entirely impossible to think of it all as belonging to the same decadal genus.

That is a first point: that you are simply misremembering when you hear The Cure in some public place and you announce: I love '80s music! A second point is that no one cares, and, worse, you're embarrassing yourself. To say 'I love '80s music' might have a different semantics than 'I'm pushing 40', but out of your mouth, dear coeval, it is pragmatically exactly the same.

What is the alternative? Well, you can try to stay au courant. You can do the 2010 equivalent of what Houellebecq's protagonist did in Le plateforme, just seven or eight years ago, when he stretched a Radiohead t-shirt, having never listened to Radiohead, over his 40-year-old gut. Hell, if you are really unconcerned with maintaining credibility you can just try it with a Radiohead shirt today and see what happens. You can try to get tips from your younger coworkers or from your students about local bands or about obscure imports. As if anything had to be 'imported' anymore! You can try your best to overlook the fact that you will always remain rooted in a now defunct system, in which music was an object that could be collected, owned, and traded, rather than something whose tokens might be gleaned as desired out of the universal storehouse of the Internet.