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.