Sunday, August 3, 2008

Does It Offend Me? Maybe. OK, not really!

There’s a crotchety old notion floating around with crotchety old vinyl collectors, djs and disco dancing experts. It is this, that these damned hipster kids are starting to steal our music from us and are talking about acid trax, Nu Groove, R&S Records, Larry Levan and what have you. And I’ll admit it, I’ve entertained thoughts like that myself (hell, some of them have even spent the night), but every time I do I am whisked back to the balmy summer of 1985, and the words of a long deceased friend of mine. 

His name was Mario Da Silva and he was a very cool Scots-Italian dude who had great taste in tunes, threads and other stuff. He came over to Ireland in ’84 or ’85 to kick a certain habit, and as Major Tom experienced, the planet was still glowing. Regardless of that proclivity, he always said, “Don't knock the young team,” meaning, if the kids are giving it a twirl then leave them to it, hope that they enjoy it and wish them the best.

And as I was a kid myself way back when, those words didn’t really resonate with me, but I remember them to this day, and now they do. Mario passed away many years ago, in a car accident in Portugal in ’86. All my friends and I were crushed and saddened by the news that our super cool, insanely funny friend was gone forever. And though this sounds corny and superstitious —Hey I grew up in Ireland and Scotland, you don’t need to tell me about superstition — about six months after he passed away I was walking down a road in Galway, Ireland, where I went to university, and there was Mario sitting in a passing bus, mutely looking out at me, not smiling, just blankly gazing out and reminding me of the things he said and his accepting view of life. And as I wasn’t even thinking about him at the time it made me think that it wasn't my overactive imagination. I still believe it was him and I cherish those words of wisdom even more after all the years, and tears and beers.

So every time I get an earful from a crotchety old dj about “these goddam kids and their f#*ing electro blah blah blah,” I always remember Mario and his thoughts about the young team. I do this too when I pick up magazines that criticize an entire youth culture as vacuous, dumb and in the thrall of its corporate masters. And I’ll entertain the notion and maybe even agree with it for a while, and then I remember not to knock the young team. Yeah, maybe the hipster look is contrived and a lot of the kids dress the same, but ditto for mods, skins, punks, new romantics and ravers.

Perhaps the youth tribe has fallen too much under the influence of mainstream media and its inescapable pull: so has everything and everyone else. Haven’t you noticed? Youth culture reacts against what preceded it, and it embraces what it sees around it. In the case of hipster kids it was jazzy house, tasteful downtempo collections and dotcom bullshit (I mean excess). And what does that bloody word, hipster, mean anyway. Hipster, what is this, North Beach in the 1950s? It is the latest youth subculture that has absorbed most of the sub cultures of the past, and thankfully jettisoned others. 

It is young and keen and unsure of its place in an increasingly crass, cruel and greedy world. It embraces some of those reptilian tendencies and then soul searches about them. It wants to be noticed, celebrated and adored, just like the celebrities or artists whose lives seem to transcend the tedium of no money, a broken home, a broken heart, rich parents who didn’t care, poor parents who couldn’t, boring retail jobs and unrequited desire. But that's entertainment, huh?

It fawns, fucks and fights, and the crotchety old critics wish they still could, perhaps that is the source of their criticism. It struggles to see the point in a world where your fifteen minutes are up as soon as you blink and life seems like one long tunnel from triumph to mundanity. But as Tom Robinson once sang; “Only the very young and the very beautiful can be so aloof, hanging out with the boys all swagger and poise.” We can afford the kids the swagger and the poise that we afford(ed) our heroes, from Elvis and The Who to Public Enemy, Justice and Does It Offend You, Yeah? It would be bad form not to.

So let’s take some time out from hating on the kids, and why don't we hate on other things that are more deserving of it, like poverty, starvation, war, the gaping maw of income inequality, our calcified political system and a media that projects the vacuousness we criticize in our young friends. Yeah, ignore the plank in the eye of the media and focus on the splinters in the eyes of the kids. The Who said it and it’s true, the kids are alright. Alright?



lydiaw said...

Ah, you must've read the latest Adbusters feature.

I think in the end, all it really comes down to... is that the kids just wanna have fun. And what is more fun; jumping up and down to terrible music, or sitting around kvetching about the good old days?

Alona said...

More importantly...look at it this way:
As far as we think we have come, humanity only has like 100 years of recorded music to look back on. We all learn from our predecessors, and the more that was left behind, the more we can jump UP from where they left off.

Imagine in 500 years when anyone making music or researching a thread can LISTEN to an archive of what was done before them.

It's all an evolution, and all we can hope for is that the future will do the past justice.