Friday, February 12, 2010

Classic Disinterest

In the last number of years I've been reflecting and attempting to reconcile a particular realization of my less than casual music listening endeavours.

I really hate classic rock.

The thing is, I'm not even sure what "classic rock" even means anymore. I'm accutely aware of the fact that I live in one of the most vibrant cities in North America for independent music, but also how that fresh and creative energy is generally drowned in the recycled playlists of not one but two classic rock format radio stations in a city that should be ill equipped culturally to support even one. This point would be more relevant of course if I could say I have even bothered to dial into an actual AM/FM radio station in years. Regardless, it hardly seems necessary to me that I should ever have to hear "Fly Like An Eagle" by Steve Miller, "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, or "Two Tickets to Paradise" by Eddie Money ever again in this lifetime. Is it a question of overplay and aging ears with song fatigue? Perhaps, but not entirely.

I have always had a hard time with the idea of digging in stubbornly and deciding that the original bands can never be outdone by newer bands. Sabbath and Zeppelin made some interesting heavy music at a time when no other bands had really quite gotten there, but "Dazed & Confused" and "War Pigs" sound dated and dare I say silly compared to folks Tool or Soundgarden, neither of whom I really listen to much these days either. Will their stuff hold up in thirty years? Time will tell. I just don't believe older artists should get a free ride or be held in sacred regard because they're "classic".

The Stones and Beatles deserve much respect and large portions of their respective catalogues still hold up quite (Tattoo You and back for the former in my opinion, since they've now sucked for longer than they were good), but can we as critical listeners still say with straight face that they're still the two best of all time? Radiohead have taken anything interesting or innovative The Beatles did and turned it upside down 50 times over while still respecting that original melody and form and not falling into the innovative yet unlistenable trap that some experimental artists subscribe to.

The key reminder for myself and for others as part of this discussion line is how I was actually a fan of most of the music with which I've become disinterested. I have the Zeppelins, Bostons, Aerosmiths, Van Halens, and Skynynrds still very much in my original vinyl collection. This is the part that seems most curious to people. Many people I speak to in my 38 year old age bracket (give or take a year or two), seem to still love their 70's blues based hard rock stuff. Fair enough, to each their own and all that. I just find, quite honestly, that most music released before 1980 is terribly boring compared to music being made today, and over the last thirty years in general. Listening to Aerosmith and saying it's better than Tv On the Radio is like saying you think the Commodore Vic-20 is still better than the MacBook. If you like the Vic that's cool, but don't say it's better just because exploring new computers isn't your thing.

So taste and preference semantics aside and other things that can't be proven or quantified even though they're fun to chirp about, I have assembled a list of artists who released music before 1980 that I still listen to actively. I used to flippantly say I could count them on two hands, but upon closer refelction and scrutiny the tally is probably around 25. So here is a list, if only to prove to myself it can be done, of the artists with pre-1980 output that I think still hold up well. Because it makes for a better list, I have also assigned an album by the artist from 1979 or earlier that represents my favourite work by them in that timeline (or at least what feels like favourite as I type this).

25. Magazine - Secondhand Daylight
24. The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
23. Prince - Prince
22. Split Enz - True Colours
21. Ultravox - Systems of Romance
20. Gang of Four - Entertainment
19. Squeeze - Cool For Cats
18. The Police - Outlandis D'Amour
17. Roxy Music - Roxy Music
16. Michael Jackson - Off The Wall
15. T. Rex - The Slider
14. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Damn The Torpedoes
13. The Cars - The Cars
12. The Cure - Boys Don't Cry
11. The Beatles - Revolver
10. Television - Marquee Moon
9. XTC - Drums & Wires
8. Big Star - Radio City
7. Elvis Costello - This Year's Model
6. Brian Eno - Here Come The Warm Jets
5. Gary Numan - The Pleasure Principle
4. Talking Heads - Fear of Music
3. David Bowie - Low
2. Cheap Trick - In Color
1. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures

In the event that someone reads this, and in the even more unlikely event that they feel like verifying release dates, please feel free to correct me if any of those albums came out in 1980 or later. It's 1:00 AM and I can't be arsed to check them at this point. :)