It’s very hard to talk about music when you’re my age without coming across like a cantankerous old fart. But that’s what I am, so you know, fuck it.
Okay, so I’m not that old, but I’ve been recently listening to the current crop of songs which have topped the charts via that old war horse, Rage and, frankly, I’m stumped. It’s not that there aren’t talented individuals involved, nor is it that the songs are terrible. Nothing like that. I don’t believe in throwing slings and arrows from the sidelines of middle age and I appreciate the artistry involved in anything genuine.
It’s just that the mood is so dour.
The charts are entirely the dominion of the youth market these days and I worry about their mental state. The music that dominates seems to be so devoid of anything resembling an emotion, besides a general sense of apathy and cold distance. These are glacier songs, drenched in technology and punctuated with emotionally abstracted vocals. They sing of love at a remove or sex like it was the equivalent of getting a high score in Subway Surfers. There is a confidence, a technical proficiency which evaded my generation. The majority of these artists are in their early twenties and the professional quality of their songs and their production are beyond the rickety, sweaty, messy sounds anyone I knew at that age (including myself, obviously) could ever produce.
But where is the fire?
Where is the hair on the knuckle? The skin on the teeth? Where is the heart and the anger; the voice that shouts out from the crowd? Where is the feeling?
We live in a world and a time capable of prompting some depth of feeling, some sense of outrage or a need to celebrate joy or a voice to comment truthfully on the world around us. Trump. Isis. Paris. Trump. Standing Rock. Homeless crisis. Trump. Increasing violence against women. Refugees. Cost of living. Trump. Surely, 2016 alone has given enough fodder for a litany of emotions in music?
Maybe I’m too old and, perhaps, music no longer serves the same purpose it once did. For me, music was a voice, one that echoed my own. It communicated what I felt and broadcast it to a larger audience. It provided me with a connection to the world around me; threw me headlong into groups and concerts filled with like minded folk. It triggered my curiosity and sent me out, like a horny bloodhound, eager for new information, to read the writers my favourite bands mentioned in lyric or interview; to follow the white rabbit back through their influences, expanding my world, both musical and otherwise.
It was something that pulled me out of myself. The music i hear today seems to do the opposite. It internalises. Perhaps it mirrors the abstracted sense of isolation enforced by the internet, by social media, by the ever present smart phone. Maybe this music is the soundtrack to that sense of being one step removed from the world around you. Or perhaps i’m just getting old.
When i was younger it was the parents job to complain that the music was too loud, too aggressive, too everything. I give the opposite opinion; play it fucking loud kids. Express some anger, some joy… something. A life without the full range of emotions expressed is not a life. It is a soft drone. Be a symphony.
Make some fucking noise.