I was talking to a friend yesterday about whether or not you could say there’s already a distinctive noughties style of music. He didn’t think so, but I’m pretty convinced you can already detect something very new and interesting emerging from that awful decade of grunge, crappy dance, and R ‘n’ B (shoot them all, I say, and let God sort them out).
Of course being the noughties, it’s not something as simple as a music style, more a style of sampling and referencing other work in new and different ways. You could argue that’s what every always does, but let’s not get bogged down in discussions about what’s original or authentic, we’ll be here all day.
Artists as diverse as Ladytron, Interpol and Melbourne-based Cut Copy I think are all part of an emerging new style of music that doesn’t seem to have a name yet; I call it post-post-punk for reasons which will become obvious if they aren’t already. These bands to varying degrees all owe a lot to (sample, reference, rip off, as you prefer) early ’80s post-punk bands like Joy Division/New Order, Human League etc, but they also add bits and pieces from grunge, and all over the place.
There’s a similar trend in dance music to incorporate snippets of ’60s and ’70s dance that’s been happening for quite some time, but I’m not a big dance music listener these days. Of course this isn’t entirely chronologically accurate; Stereolab have been doing this sort of thing for more than a decade.
Another band that I think has a noughties sound is The Polyphonic Spree. Sure, there’s little original in their musical style — 90% ripped off the Beatles’ exuberant late ’60s sound. But I’m a Gen X-er and young people today are not. The Polyphonic Spree are a perfect example of Gen Y: upbeat, optimistic, somewhat conservative, and maybe a little bit Christian — but in a nice way. And that’s another difference between me and smarmy Gen Y kiddies, it makes no difference to them that their favourite artist has ripped off their style entirely from some band that was cool 20 years ago or that their favourite single is a cover version of some band that I used to listen to.
I realise I’m so old that all this ’80s retro stuff is being aimed at me because now I have enough money to buy all those CDs I couldn’t when I was a teenager (oh yeah, they didn’t have CDs, they were called “records”, kids!). People made fun of new romantic bands like The Smiths and The Cure because they were all gloomy and depressed, but by crikey, we had stuff to be depressed about!
We had Reagan and Thatcher and the cold war. We had movies like The Day After keeping us convinced we were all going to be vapourised by hydrogen bombs or die a long, painful death from radiation. We had a worldwide recession and massive unemployment. After Reagan died, suddenly everyone was blabbing on about what a brilliant leader he was for ending the cold war. But only because history proved him right — what if he had been wrong?! He brought us closer than anyone else to nuclear oblivion, and fucked his country over by privatising everything in sight and wiping out the public health and education systems — an example we see the present Australian Government trying its hardest to emulate.
Whereas today, the only thing they have to worry about is some sort of nebulous terrorist threat and the possibility that their mortgage payments might go up. Oh yeah, people younger than me have mortgages because their parents got rich on the property boom and they lived at home until they were 25. And I have lived in a country that faces real terrorist threats, not just a scare tactic to get those conservative cunts re-elected.
The point is, I love some of this new music, but why do I feel so old and bitter?