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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Serve the Servants

If your life was changed in 1991 or 1992 by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, you shouldn't be surprised there is renewed interest in talking about how good things were back then. You know, it's only been twenty years. (Cue rolling of eyes and head-slaps to those that remember this era like it was ten years ago.)

From here on out for the rest of the year (and maybe some of next year too), you will hear plenty of reminders about how much albums like Nevermind and Ten were game-changers. Writer Simon Reynolds recently wrote an excellent piece about 90s nostalgia, tying it in with his book, Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Past. He starts off talking about how Nirvana's '92 performance at the Reading festival will be shown at this year's edition of the festival. Then he throws in plenty that is well worth your time.

This got me thinking about how I have responded to news about Nevermind's reissue, Pearl Jam's forthcoming documentary, Twenty, and the deluxe reissue of U2's Achtung Baby. I will definitely want the Nevermind reissue (mainly due to the DVD moreso than the B-sides and alternate mixes) and the Achtung Baby reissue (mainly because the original CD version sounds very thin and quiet) and I would love to see the Pearl Jam documentary (because I can't say no to documentaries on bands I like).

Am I falling into a trap of nostalgia here? I don't think so. I think I'm briefly circling my wagons, but not parking those wagons with a resigned attitude about how things were better in 1991 and 1992.

Not to sound narcissistic, but with my own books, I'm trying to not give off an impression that everything was better "back in the day." I'm trying to give a perspective on how things were and point out differences with the present. I know intentions can get lost in the interpretations of the final product, but I definitely did not want to sound like an old codger who hates all new music and new bands.

When I began writing and researching Post, I was reminded every single day how nostalgia is sold (and resold to future generations). Working at a radio station that specialized in the oldies format, groundbreaking artists with a plethora of hit singles were reduced to only a couple of songs in medium or heavy rotation. And they were songs you've heard all of your life and you tend to get sick of them.

Plus, knowing how people love to talk about one-hit wonders ("It's a one-hit wonder weekend!"), I had the bad feeling the first and final word on emo would be with Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle." (Not that I think Jimmy Eat World is a bad band or "The Middle" is a bad song. It's just there was a lot that led up to this: a whole book's worth.)

Consider my efforts noble to get the story straight, and not give into compromises I knew I'd regret down the line, but I had to self-publish Post to get my ideas out there. I'm happy to say I have no regrets, though I wouldn't object to reworking the cover and write a new afterword.

Now with another book almost done, set between 1993 and 1997, I don't want to make it sound like I'm this kind of guy who constantly pines for the past. Sure, there are some things I miss about playing music when I was learning to play the drums, but there is a hell of a lot I don't miss. More than anything else, I want to show how people like me and my friends got on the path we are today because of coming of age in the 1990s. I especially want to make things clear with the choice of years When We Were the Kids is set in, because too many rock critics think American rock music 1993 and 1997 meant less and should be made light of.

I write about what I know best and I try to at least put an effort into something rather than whine all the time. If I choose to revisit records that greatly turned the tide for me as a seventh grader, that doesn't mean I'm trapped in the past. I'm merely taking a look back while also looking forward to many other things down the line.

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