No, I am not going to bore you with stories of ex-girlfriends.  Rather I am going to bore you with stories of ex-favorite bands.  We all have them.  Bands we once loved with a passion.  Maybe the poetic, deeply-personal lyrics spoke to us.  Maybe the raw energy and unbridled enthusiasm brought us out of our doldrums.  Maybe we just found the lead singer exceedingly attractive and he/she filled the void where an actual girlfriend/boyfriend should be/used to be.  Whatever the case, now we hear their latest song and it does nothing for us.  We tell ourselves that we are giving it an open-minded listen, but it doesn’t make a difference.  And what’s worse is that the critics are heaping mounds of praise on the album/band/song, so we can’t join in on any bashing.  We simply have moved on.   Probably for greener sounding pastures.

This isn’t a bad thing.  It’s what allows for an expanded musical appetite.  Times change, tastes change, styles change and your love for Duran Duran or Nirvana or (in my case) The New Pornographers changes too.  And it’s not like you can’t stay friends.  You can meet for coffee every few months and check in, but things tend to go a lot better when you reminisce about the good ol’ days instead of trying to catch up on the new stuff.  (Why NP bore me now – how they now seem hollow and uninteresting and predictable where they were once fresh and wholly unique.)

Usually this surprise breakup happens with recent exes.  Long-ago exes often come around to become really good friends again when the fingers of nostalgia are long enough and gentle enough to massage and tickle, if not in the same way they originally did, then in a way that can still trigger pleasure and joy.  In musical terms, at least 15 years needs to pass for this type of rekindling.  I thought maybe 10 was enough, but that’s way too soon.  New Pornographers’ debut “Mass Romantic” was released in 2000 and was a milestone album for me;  I must have played that CD at least 100 times during the first few months after I bought it (this was before the download maelstrom).  But even now, when I can still recognize the greatness of that album, the disconnect I feel toward their later 2000’s albums and their latest too, make it difficult for me to separate the wheat from the chaff.  I’m just not ready to be friends again.  It’s too soon.

The 15 year (at least) separation is necessary because it takes that long to be able to re-love the albums of the past without letting the more recent musical misfires to contaminate the feelings.  In fact, what this added time allows, is for me to come to respect (albeit grudgingly) the newer catalog and to able to hear it with less critical ears.

I’m finding a lot of the music I loved deeply in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, or more accurately, the bands I discovered during that period, is falling flat on my ears today.  I wonder if this is a factor of age; I was in my early 30’s in the late 90’s and mid-40’s now.  Most of the bands I discovered back then (The Decemberists, Death Cab For Cutie, Okkervil River) I rarely listen to now and when I play their newer music, I neither love it nor hate it.  It’s all just OK.

I can attribute it to my transition from my 30’s to my 40’s, or is it less personalized than this?  If it’s an aging thing, can it be any generational shift?  20’s to 30’s?  25’s to 35’s?  I don’t know.  I just am looking forward to 4 years from now when the New Pornographers’ debut, Mass Romantic, reaches its 15th birthday.  I’m gonna play it all day long – on CD – over speakers – and hopefully with a shit-eating grin on my face.


6 thoughts on “Exes

  1. I hear you brother! I agree there is something to the idea of a different kind of appreciation for albums as one gets older. I also think that the technology of this era in music has made finding those special albums (Mass Romantic is a face of mine as well) much more difficult. We live in a world where one can buy music from someone living in the slums of Rio, just as easily as Lady Gaga. It is wonderful yet, reducing the impact that a great album might have.

    • Yeah – I plan on writing more about the effect immediate access to music has on my appreciation of it. How much does form/format play in one’s deeper connection to the music? I expect that it is less a conflict for those younger than 30, people who maybe have CDs, but never had the experience of listening to albums, of flipping the album over when one side has finished.

      And being a Spotify user I have a lot to say about being able to hear anything anywhere on any computer/phone device. Stay tuned.

  2. Hold up Karen Meyer! I’ve already burned them to my hard-drive and backed them up to THE CLOUD….oh you meant actually burning them! Like with fire! HAHAHAHAHA! This is what an actual burn is.

  3. Your thoughts have resonated with me sensei. The past few years I’ve moved away from a lot of the indie rock and have gotten into other kinds of music, (world, psych, funk, soul, r&b). Through friends and music blogs, I’ve gone back in time and have discovered Turkish, African, Asian, etc. psychedelic rock from the late 60’s that has blown my teency weency mind into shreds. Record labels such as Soundway, Analog Africa, Soul Jazz, Sublime Frequencies, Vampi Soul, to name a few, have wonderful compilations that have changed the course of my musical journey. Discovering virtually unknown 1960’s American soul singers like Don Covay and Anna King and recognizing their influence, has been a musical history lesson. Going back and listening to Dirty Mind, Purple Rain and Sign O the times and finally, after 46 years of loving music, understanding that Prince is a GD genius, has also been tons O fun. Keep posting and I’ll keep listening.

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