A past and a future

I’ve been brooding on this for a couple of days and am not entirely sure how best to address this — but nothing ventured, etc.

First, I’ve already spoken in detail here and here about what Trent Reznor’s already been up to this year, and he’s done it again — yesterday he let a full-on new single emerge out of nowhere, “Discipline.” It’s good, not great but it already beats the hell out of “Survivalism” as an initial single — and that’s the thing, it looks like it IS an initial single since the implications are that a full new album is on the horizon in the next two weeks. Which I’m all for.

I’ve already made a joke over on Idolator
about how if he wants to become the new Muslimgauze in terms of turnover of releases, he can go right ahead — why not, after all? But combined with what’s almost certainly going to be an even bigger haul than Ghosts I-IV made on initial release, Reznor and his crew are sitting so pretty going into their upcoming summer tour that it’s really kinda crazy. I’ve outlined in my previous posts exactly what this all means and how Reznor’s in a strong position to have this approach work for him in the first place, but I still often think about how many artists and managers would just kill to have that level of committed devotion that translates into immediate cash returns. If as I suspect he goes from there to selling immediate show downloads from the tour, as opposed to those demi-clunky LiveNation setups, then the sky is really the limit — but let’s see if that happens, it’s just a guess on my part. And there’s nothing to say he wouldn’t have yet another album out soon as well. And did I mention the inevitable remix collection. And…

My contrasting story really isn’t comparable, but it did happen around the same time, so. The fact that My Bloody Valentine’s reuniting and touring and all that is its own thing, and I’ve felt oddly flat about it for some time. Part of the reason is selfish, of course — the sense that a certain ‘special’ moment that I was lucky enough to catch through timing and an accident of geography (the latter helping establish that I caught the ‘last’ show, as I wrote about in Marooned) is no longer quite so special. If anything I guess I know what people who saw the Velvet Underground with Lou Reed in 1970 at Max’s Kansas City or wherever the last show was felt when 1993 rolled around. Further, as there’s been some vague talk that the lineup coming together for the tour wouldn’t be the exact same one, I’ve felt more than a little discontented — while you could argue that a full-on reunion of the original lineup would therefore have to include Dave Conway, it’s more straightforward to note that aside from his departure after the first EP the lineup stayed unchanged through to 1992.

What’s left me feeling really deflated, though, was the announcement of the New York festival that they’re playing at and curating, another in the series of ATP festivals that pop up as they do. And one look at the lineup was enough for me to know that something — for me, at least — had gone wrong:


Let me put this in an appropriate context, if I could.

Let’s say it’s 1998, ten years back. Allow for the fact that a couple of these acts didn’t exist then — and those acts make up the minority of the bill. Let’s say someone had forwarded an e-mail of this to me with a “HOLY…!” subject line or whatever. My jaw would have dropped, and my thoughts would have been along these lines:

My Bloody Valentine coming back? Damn, so great! Tortoise, whatever, but Thurston Moore, the Meat Puppets, Built to Spill, all playing albums straight through, cool. Mogwai! Low! Hell, even Shellac!

And so forth. I would have been scrounging for plane tickets and making plans as I could, or at the very least hoping like hell there would be something on the West Coast like it. This was the same year that I attended my first Terrastock festival, the second overall, up in San Francisco, and that would have been an amazing complement to it.

Now, it’s 2008 and…well, I am going to Terrastock again. Being frank, a lot of the appeal of Terrastock is its familiarity, and it’s something which has been discussed both positively and negatively in recent times, about how it’s the ‘same’ acts each time and all. Not true, but there are many acts that do appear every time, and many people who always attend, and so forth — it is a social function as much as anything else, it does rely on comfort and certain expectations, though some of the best performances often come from those who reappear and try something different each time out, working with their new albums and releases and so forth.

Which is a key part of my unease with the ATP festival. Over on ILX, John D. and Sean Carruthers have been able to articulate a little more clearly than I why I’ve felt so down about that festival news, though, so let me quote them first (alternating between John and Sean, with John’s last quote being a response to another poster, Matt):

Jesus Christ but the indie/alternative kids really are becoming the “I want to hear the classic music of my youth ’cause it was the best music” generation without making any bones about it, eh?….the people getting excited to go see a bunch of people who haven’t made any new music in ages come from the generation who Nelson Muntzed at oldsters going to see Clapton drag Layla out of the grave for the millionth time – for me, I don’t care how good the band doin’ the “here’s the great music we made when we all were young!” was: if they’re not making new music, it’s sad & pernicious nostalgia


I’m constantly vigilant about exactly what you’re talking about above — I hate JackFM and the whole “we’ll play nothing but that awesome shit you grew up with 24 fucking 7” so this lineup (especially considering the really good chance that MBV is going to pull a baileroo) is only marginally more appealing to me than sitting at home and pulling out albums by Velocity Girl, Chapterhouse and the 24-7 Spyz. I mean, yeah, it would probably be a great concert but I’m not THERE any more.


I am totally in favor of old bands still working, and I don’t say they have to be always innovating. (It’d be pretty ripe for me to be the guy demanding that bands always be branching out, right?) But it’s this revivalism that icks me out…when the bands and albums in question were iconoclastic signal moments whose very motivations, in some cases, were the tearing down of dwelling-in-the-past modes of thinking – well, y’know, it’s like I’m sure that last Sex Pistols tour was a fine rockin’ time, but how sad for it to have come to that. You know? It’s not that I ONLY want CONVULSIVE! INNOVATION! – fuck dude I listen to death metal, that shit has been stagnant for ages and I like it that way – but (and I say this as an old dude!) once you start making a point of reliving the past, it’s just strikes me as really conservative.

There are other points to raise but these capture it pretty clearly for me. Something just seems WRONG about all this. Part of it is the play-the-classic-album-straight-through gambit — as I said on the thread, I can be of two minds about this; Sparks is doing its upcoming 21 night stand of going through all its albums, but in the last few years all their shows have been centered around touring and performing their current album at any given time in full, something that strikes me as wise anti-nostalgia, and which I think has done them a world of good.

But Sean’s comment — “I’m not THERE any more” — cuts to the chase. I almost can’t add to it. It’s not like the THERE in question is a bad thing, and neither is it the case that I don’t still like a number of these acts, though in many cases I now do so far less intensely than before. That’s just how taste changes. In terms of my listening, whether driven by review work or by random word or curiosity, I’m mostly elsewhere now, and I hope to be elsewhere down the line still more; I’ll never claim to be the most diverse listener in the world, but I’ll hope to not be completely in the box which my past words and obsessions have inevitably marked me as. They capture snapshots and thoughts, not necessarily conclusions of any sort.

To quote a comment of my own from the thread as well: “if Kevin Shields made the final decision on who played…I dunno, it’s just that here was the guy who was talking about Public Enemy as the wave of the future in 1988 and raving on about jungle tracks back in 1993 and so forth.” Something about the promise of MBV as the Creation releases happened was a sense of obeying the time, responding to it and incorporating it, and that meant a lot of things in the pot. But if you look at the festival lineup…the dance/hip-hop/rave element in MBV gets reduced to a ‘here’s Edan, enjoy’ moment. This in a world where you have Daft Punk, one of the most widely known/referred-to/sampled/imitated acts out there right now, talking about how it was hearing “Soon” that led them to explore dance music more thoroughly in the first place, for instance. But instead of those destabilizations and incorporations and sense of wider awareness and all that implies, there’s stolidity and formalism. Now, let me say again — I prefaced my statement with ‘if.’ How big his involvement is with this bill I don’t know. But just having it exist as it does is cause for a sigh.

Again, trying to connect this with Trent Reznor’s latest steps is a stretch, there’s no exact parallel to e drawn here. But in a conceptual way, you do get a sense that Reznor is obeying the time brilliantly, maybe less so musically than socially, culturally. Anyone can see he’s figuring out what to do now in a way that keeps a wide variety of people happy and interested while keeping himself solvent. If that means merely praising him and his manager for a good business sense, then hey. In contrast, the ATP festival is a huge ‘remember when?’ activity at work. People will go, and they’ll have good reasons to go, and there’ll be good times. But I’m not there anymore. I’m glad to be here. I’ll be glad to find out where I end up. I just idly, frustratedly wish that all would be so glad in the end.


8 Responses to “A past and a future”

  1. StanM Says:

    Breaking news! NIN to play The Downward Spiral album in its entirety on their Summer tour!

    just kidding 🙂

    I have similar doubts about this whole classic-album-live thing. In this case, Millions Now Living and Perfect From Now On are their best albums IMHO and of course it’d be great to hear them again, but albums are albums and live shows should be live shows, something isn’t right here.

  2. Ned Raggett Says:

    Breaking news! NIN to play The Downward Spiral album in its entirety on their Summer tour!


    Oh wait.

  3. david schwarm Says:

    This has got to be seen as good news, no?

    The reissue had all sorts of new stuff, the recent solo work is very solid, and I cannot imagine that he will play the record like the record.

    I understand the general concern, but I really do not think it applies to the 34th best guitarist in music history, if you know what I mean (and I know that you do).

    Thanks, David S

  4. Ned Raggett Says:

    This has got to be seen as good news, no?

    To me it’s indifferent news. I’m honestly surprised at the reactions I’ve read to people going “oh boy!” over that album in particular, which was released to general shrugs first time through.

  5. nariposa Says:

    Album performances means we get to hear tracks rarely or never played live before. No rehashing about it. And the only band on that list I’d ‘whatever’ is Built To Spill. Djed > Idaho.

  6. Sean Carruthers Says:

    I may not be there any more, but apparently I am here. And I am here to collect my royalties. I was going to add more but really, gimme my money, hippie.

  7. Sean Carruthers Says:

    I say that with love in my heart. You damn punk. *hugs*

  8. Ned Raggett Says:

    Ah you’re drunk. Oh wait so am I. (Sorta.)

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