As an obsessive music weirdo, you start to notice some odd patterns as you get older and contemplate the way that most people contextualize music in their lives. I’m not sure how much research has been done on this, but as far as I can tell, in most cases, whatever stuff someone happened to get down to during their formative developmental ages of say, 14-24, apparently permanently burns itself into their psyche and leaves an indelible mark on their opinion as to what constitutes “good shit” for the rest of their lives. This is the sort of secret psychology you’ll never read about in text books but I’m sure sketchy uptight rich dudes talk about behind closed doors 24/7. The one thing I can say about pursuing psychology in college was that I quite quickly picked up on the fact that the real people who understand how to bend the human psyche work at PR firms and press agencies, not universities.
I have an uncle in law that reads Rolling Stone religiously and still buys every new record by every 70’s rock artist he dug back in the day that still puts ‘em out. Anytime I want to impress my wife, I throw on some 90’s shit because nostalgia. After I wrote my last piece whining about the music press, in predictably synchronous fashion, the same week The Seattle Weekly ran a cover story on the 90’s nostalgia boom. The other big feature in that issue was an interview with Marilyn Manson (how the hell could you not ask the dude about Columbine with what’s going on right now politically, just saying?). Then guess what, later that week Pitchfork gave a re-issue of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album a perfect 10 out of 10. They actually cited it being a huge influence on people like Courtney Love and Billy Corgan as justification for this score…I’m not even going to touch that.
What I will do is admit that I’m not immune to this psychological weirdness. Christ, last week I wrote about how a remote viewing exercise made me address my deep rooted professional basketball obsession. Truth is, I’m personally of the opinion that music is better right now than it’s ever been. There’s more amazing stuff out there and it’s way easier to get access to that stuff instantaneously. Guess what else? All the great music from the past is still here. See, it’s better. Also, I personally think digital music is the coolest thing in the history of ever, so keep that in mind when you go on your “I need everything on vinyl man, you’re killing record stores” rants. You’re simultaneously judging me on my insidious “favorite thing ever” when you say things like that, and I don’t give a fuck if you want vinyl. That’s your thing. Some people have rooms full of comic books and I check them out from the library most of the time. Have fun listening to your vinyl walkman on the beach. I’m thirty fucking five and I’ve never owned a record in my life. My brother’s two and half years older, same deal. There is exactly zero nostalgia there for me, but I get it.
What I do have nostalgia for is the music of the early to mid 90’s, for reasons we’ve already covered. That’s when I first started doing things like smoking weed, eating acid, and banging actual girls. Obviously that’s going to stick with you. What’s funny though is that with me, these days I barely give a second thought to all the heroin-rock-tween-angst-fashion stuff, which I did in fact like at the time. Never thought Nirvana was much more than a pretty good band fronted by a guy with piercing blue eyes and cheekbones you could cut diamonds with. Just my opinion and as much as I constantly devour new auditory information, I also hold records by acts like Kyuss, Sonic Youth, Massive Attack, The Future Sound of London, Monster Magnet, Bardo Pond, Alec Empire, and Meat Beat Manifesto in insanely high regard. That was my go to stuff back in the day, and I think you can still see the lingering influence on pretty much everything I do.
Well, that, old Verve, and Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. Now we’re starting to get to the point and here’s where it gets into bizarro psychological case study territory. First things first, in my world, A Storm In Heaven by the Verve was the only high profile psych-shoegaz-ish record that I’d say was better than Loveless in the early 90’s. In fact, the sequential trio of their first EP, that, and A Northern Soul is some pretty un-fuck-with-able shit that I’ll always hold on probably way too high a pedestal. Even Urban Hymns was decent, although they’d clearly started to lose the plot by that point. Richard Ashcroft started to actually believe they were good because of his song writing. Wrong answer man. Same mistake Billy Corgan made. Nope, the fact that the entire rest of your band owned on their instruments had more than a little to do with it. Maybe like, hire someone to help you write lyrics or bury them under a shit-ton of effects like you did on your first few records.
Anywho, truth be told, it’s almost impossible to be as big of colossal fuck ups as the Verve turned out to be. They got big at a really young age, what can be done about matters such as these? They made an overly commercial record with the entire intent of cashing in and ended up giving most of the loot to the richest band on the planet. It’s impossible to be this stupid.
It’s even more impossible to like, not read any reviews of your shit and make a comeback album giving the fans exactly what they didn’t want. Unreal (although Jane’s Addiction did the same thing). Nick McCabe’s probably one of the biggest influences on my guitar playing, what’s he been doing for the last 20 years? He must have something going on right? Well, apparently he had a band called The Black Ships, but I couldn’t find dick about it or his involvement in anything new when I searched. What a champ.
Then there’s Kevin Shields. This fucking guy? Makes a landmark record which takes two years and nearly bankrupts his label (everyone should be this lucky), just to you know, never follow it up…until nearly 22 years later. Honestly, kudos to the guy. I was sort of irritated when the re-release of Loveless got another perfect score on Pitchdork, but what the fuck, it is at least an incredibly deserving disc. What confused me was the top 10 rating for Isn’t Anything. That’s some revisionist history going down. Yeah, no more than a 7.0 max or I’m calling bullshit and I’m as long as I’m calling bullshit, let’s point the finger at Mr. Shields. When I first heard about the new MBV album (aptly titled mbv) finally dropping, I was like, yeah, I’m on that. Then I realized the guy has the freaking gall to charge 16 dollars to download his new 9 song masterpiece. Fine work sir, you just priced me out of giving a fuck.
The thing is, it’s a rather brilliant marketing strategy on his part. People have been waiting 22 years for this bitch. The press has whipped them up into a healthy froth by rim jobbing your re-releases. 90’s nostalgia is starting to reach its apex. Motherfuckers will line up to drop 16 dollars for this. For point of reference, Soundgarden’s new (and quite brilliant) album debuted with a download sticker tag of 4 bucks on Amazon. Same deal with Aesop Rock’s also excellent Skelethon. I very well might not have picked up either without that extra pricing incentive. Glad I did. Those prices might seem low, but there’s barely any overhead with downloads, so you can totally pull it off if your volume’s high enough. Radiohead demonstrated that years ago. MBV are releasing this on their own label, so all the cash is going to them.
Sort of genius, but there’s also some extremely bizarre psychology afoot. 90’s shoegaze nostalgia’s so hot right now, so why can’t we resurrect A Storm in Heaven? Well, because the Verve embarrassed themselves by actually putting out new material. They even made a comeback record and refused to tour on it, because I bet they kind of got the drift that it sucked. They might be able to read. But MBV are almost more fucked up. Jesus, how many albums has Spiritualized dropped in the last 20 years, and that guy’s basically made out of pills. How in Jesus’s name could being this horrifically incompetent actually pay off in such an enormous way for someone? Only in the music business, the land of popular myth making.
When people say weird shit like, it’s such a tragedy that Kurt Cobain died so young because we’ll never get new Nirvana albums, I see where they’re coming from but on another note, Kurt Cobain was a depressed heroin addict. If he’d survived, he probably would have ended up being forced into rehab by his label, getting fat, and putting out increasingly horrible music. He’d start showing up at stupid red carpet events and I’d probably be writing something like this making fun of his dumb ass. Actually maybe it’d be even worse, maybe he wouldn’t clean up at all and end up like Courtney Love. Fuck man, there’s not many occasions in life when you can say that a shotgun to the head’s a better fate than something, but that’s one of them.
Aiiight, enough snark, the real reason I write hyperbolically insensitive shit like this is to point out that the other psych-shogaz-ish band I hold in ridiculously high regard is Voyager One. In the early ‘aughts they made two absolute classics albums, From a New Nation of Long Shadows, and Dissolver. They also put out another awesome EP called Geography, and two other fairly great but not quite as essential discs, Afterhours in the After Life, and Monster Zero. They then “dissolved”, reformed as a new band called Tokyoidaho and dropped another godhead classic last year. Last time I saw them was on a Wednesday night in front of like 40 people. I would have totally jumped on that gig.
Now, do I like Voyager One and now Tokyoidaho so much because the first time I ever listened to V1 I was quite literally fucking on acid? Did I mention that? Or is it because they’re just that mind-blowingly awesome? These are the greater philosophical questions we need to address when confronting our perception of art and how it further relates to the nature of consciousness and therefore reality itself. First though, go check out Tokyoidaho, download New Nation and Dissolver (just as essential as Loveless in my world), and think twice about giving more of your money to the infinite crapfest that is corporate rock. Just a thought tripsters.