In the car a few days ago, I was listening to Nirvana’s In Utero. It is a pretty great album that I have barely ever listened to.
Like nearly everyone in my demographic I had Nevermind (on the other side of a tape with Fugazi’s 13 Songs in my car) for most of the 1990s, so I have listened to that album a lot and know it quite well. From the follow-up, I know “Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies” because those are what got played a lot on the radio and MTV, but that is basically it.
It must have sucked to be Nirvana trying to record another album after Nevermind. Do you try to make another one like that and replicate its success to keep the train going, or do you make the album you want to make? I imagine it was hard at that point for them to even know what kind of album they really wanted to make.
Once again, I am struck by how old all of this music is. It is all older now than any of the stuff was at the time that got played on the classic rock or even the oldies stations when I was a kid. It still sounds relevant and vital to me, but the same can probably be said of the 1960s music that people of the generation prior to mine grew up with. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, the Who—I can appreciate that stuff, but I have have never found it to be revolutionary or all that interesting, certainly not in the way that I do with the music of my generation. Of course, it does not feel like it is “of my generation” to me, but I am sure it sounds that way to my kids.
I think I am mostly okay with that. I am comfortable admitting that I am attached to most of my favorite bands and artists because of when and where I first heard them and what was going on in my life at the time. I listen to plenty of more recent bands and albums and am nearly always finding new stuff that I like, but if you asked me to pare down my collection to what I consider to be the bare essentials, that list would be heavily weighted toward stuff that came out during the years I was in high school an college. Of all the more recent music that I enjoy, I am not sure I could say that I love or feel any of it as deeply as I do albums like Nothing Shocking or Pretty Hate Machine.
What I do not want to become is the Gen X version of the Boomer or aging hippy lecturing everyone about how They Don’t Make Music Like That Anymore. I want my kids to be aware of older music and I will always be happy when they find bands and albums and songs among it that they like, but I fully expect them to move beyond that. I do not want to be so un-self-aware as to be secretly trying to train them to like only the music that I like.
What I am not sure about is how much time and energy I really want to spend on continuing to find new music, or more specifically, expanding my tastes and staying aware and abreast of current tastes. I am okay with admitting that every Friday morning when I look at the New Music section in Apple Music, much of it looks to be alien and unappealing to me. Is it bad? Who knows—I find I can barely get past the album covers and the odd capitalization choices in the song titles. More and more, I find myself looking at these lists and thinking “This is not for me.”
That is a perspective I try to maintain broadly. It is far too easy—especially as I get older—to pass an objective judgement on music (or writing, or any other creative endeavor) that seems unfamiliar to me. The real question for me is how much of that I want to accept.