The future of Sonic Youth seems to me to be the least interesting aspect of the whole “Kim and Thurston separate” story. Unless the break-up brings a new element of danger into the music, I won’t really care if the band calls it quits. As much as I like Sonic Youth, their output has been hit or miss for nearly twenty years.
Feeding My 160
When the members of R.E.M. recently announced that they were “calling it a day,” I was surprised—not by the fact that they were breaking up, but that I was thinking about R.E.M. at all. Though the band was once one of the most important in my little world, I had long ago ceased paying attention. Of course, R.E.M. was constantly shedding one layer of dedicated fans even as it gained new ones. As far back as 1985, it was a cliché to say that the band was “not as good as they used to be.” Just as the group pioneered and virtually invented alternative rock, they were one of the early targets of indie snark.
Sam Phillips produced Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88” (sometimes described as the first recorded rock ‘n roll song), “B.B.’s Blues” by B.B. King, “Moanin’ at Midnight” and “How Many More Years” by Howlin’ Wolf, “Tiger Man” by Rufus Thomas and “Just Walking In The Rain” by The Prisonaires. Had he never met Elvis Presley, Sam Phillips could still have claimed a formidable place in the history of 20th century music. But of course he did meet and record Elvis, as well as Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Charlie Rich, among others. That’s a hell of a second act.
Ever since its release, Nirvana’s Nevermind has been declared significant in one way or another: the spark that ignited the alternative rock revolution, a generational benchmark, a pop culture turning point and a release as transformational as Sgt. Pepper’s and Never Mind The Bollocks. But Nirvana’s music hasn’t aged well. Instead of opening up and revealing its layers with repeated listening, Nevermind gets a little less interesting every time I play it.
As a New Jersey native who was a teenager during the height of Bossmania, I feel duty-bound to say a few words to mark the passing of E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died last week from complications due to a stroke. Duty-bound, but dubious. The problem is, for most of my life, I’ve hated Bruce Springsteen and his music.
Our brains are like iPods: we can only fit so much music into them. To like something new, you will eventually have to jettison something old. And the music you fell in love with during the impressionable years around age 14 is stubborn: it takes a lot to dislodge it.