Charles Taylor is Hilariously Wrong About Music


It's just too easy sometimes:
Music continues to be the prime cultural vehicle each generation uses to identify itself. It’s also the means each generation uses, no matter how hypocritically, to proclaim its superiority over succeeding generations. Nothing has ever summed up that attitude like the installment of Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury that ran in Sunday papers on August 26, 1979, in which Mark, the radical DJ, is ordered by his station manager to play more disco. “Let’s start out with the Village People’s ‘YMCA’ and Donna Summer’s ‘Bad Girls,’” he says, “two exciting testaments to the social sensibilities of disco. One of them is about meeting adolescent homosexuals in a public gymnasium, and the other is a celebration of prostitution.” A strip to make William Bennett or Donald Wildmon smile. Trudeau is telling us that the drugs and sex he and his contemporaries engaged in was about changing the world. This new stuff? It’s just hookers and queers cruising the showers.
Music has lot a great deal of cultural importance over the last decade or so. And if you want to see where the culture is headed, look no further than the fact that I can find five Game Stops any day of the week but I can't find a single place to buy new music that isn't a severely over-priced retail outlet like Target or Wal-Mart that seems to actively shrink the size of their music department on a monthly basis.

Remember the days when Best Buy and Circuit City had a price war over CDs and that meant being able to find virtually every title available by damned near every good band for $11.99? Yeah, me neither.

I do think Taylor is honest about wanting to make the band Wussy relevant but there's no way to do that without coming across as being old and grizzled and out of touch. No matter how hard you try to get people to care, they just don't anymore. The last three albums of original songs by The Church, for example, were absolutely stunning works of art. If you stacked Untitled #23, Uninvited Like the Clouds, and Forget Yourself against everything out there and judged them fairly, you'd have to conclude that the Church are criminally ignored everywhere in the world, and have been so for over twenty years. People tuned them out and moved on, and nothing they do seems to catch on anymore, no matter how good the work and no matter how often they go on tour.

This is because music doesn't matter anymore. Entertainment has to be a video game or a television show to resonate with people. They have their throbbing beats in their ears but that's only to drown out other sounds and isolate them from weirdos on the street. How is it that Dr. Dre can get rich slapping his name on headphones with heavy bass built into them and virtually no one making the music played through those devices can ever count on a decent royalty check for providing the very thing that makes the headphones relevant in the first place? Device makers and streaming service providers are filthy rich--iPods, Spotify, Beat Sounds--you name it. If you are the maker of some product that can steal music from artists or change it in any way, you can count on making cash. But if you actually make that music, go fuck yourself for wanting to get paid. See Sean Parker on your way out the door for an explanation as to why you're stupid for thinking you should get paid for making him a billionaire douchebag.

For every ten listeners of music, is there one person who could engage something like Wussy? Good luck competing for that person's attention.

I get that people want to be in their forties and still get excited about bands and albums and vinyl and continue working retail jobs and not having kids, but when you actually grow up and pay attention to the world, stop condescending to anyone with a different path through life. The central conceit of the Baby Boomers was the supremacy of all of their cultural touchstones. On further review, none of their bullshit could stop wars, end poverty, end racism, or change the hearts of the record company execs who stood by and let Napster, et al, eat their business and shit it out before their eyes. Where there were once piles of cash and cocaine now sit pennies from Spotify. Suck on that and try to live.