Feb 052008

I spell M-…

Last night I was flipping channels, and I came to a screeching halt at the 1978 Paul Mazursky-directed period piece, An Unmarried Woman. Man, I hadn’t seen that movie since it was still considered mainstream cutting edge. Alan Bates’ hair and beard were a show unto themselves, not to mention Jill Clayburgh’s newly liberated nipples!

Anyhow, I got to thinking how representative that movie was of the ’70s age of self-discovery and how so much popular music of that time was geared toward themes of post-hippie culture, middle-class self-discovery by women and men in their late-20s and early-30s: Carol King, James Taylor, all that Psychic Oblivion stuff… What a clear period in terms of cultural themes. My childhood was smack dab in the middle of that period, with my newly divorced Mom “finding” herself a few years later than she would have liked. Better late than never…

Then I got to thinking about other periods of music and popular culture, during which clear themes emerged. I lived through some of these periods, as I’m living through whatever period we’re in today, but I can’t put my finger on what our present cultural theme is, circa 2008. The themes an artist like Beck represented in the ’90s are appearing in the rearview mirror, aren’t they? U2 and The Boss already healed the nation post-9/11. Neil Young‘s attempts at establishing themes during the Dubya era were hampered by lousy music, and now Bush is about to appear in the rearview mirror along with Beck and Alanis Morissette. We may be post-ironic, but’s not like we’re living in the Age of New Sincerity quite yet. So my question is, What music today represents – for you – a theme you think is particularly relevant to our time?


  5 Responses to “A Theme for Today”

  1. Most of my favorite albums of the last few years are actively engaged in reflecting a particular view of the world as it is today. I really value the albums that try to leave a mark, to articulate what our times feel like, rather than didactic polemics.

    For this reason, I’d stack Jarvis Cocker’s first solo album up against anything else mentioned here, particularly the songs “From A to I” and “Running the World.”

    Also, Sonic Youth’s Rather Ripped contained a perhaps surprising amount of love songs where the backdrop is pretty apparently a world gone totally mad. A slightly older album, PJ Harvey’s Stories from the City, Songs from the Sea also touches on this, especially the song “This is Love.”

    Another olderish album, Rilo Kiley’s The Execution of All Things was helpful in the early part of the decade for getting my head around the apparent uselessness of my liberal arts degree.

  2. My pet theory, and it followed me home so I’m keeping it, is that basically all grunge and post-grunge psychodrama music (including, but not limited to, Staind, Korn, etc.) is about the fallout of divorce on children. The “you” the narrator is always lambasting is one or both of his parents.

  3. meanstom

    Do the themes of Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’ still hold?

  4. Mr. Moderator

    I can’t say I know what the themes of OK Computer are, Townsman Meanstom. Something about technology and alienation? Maybe those are still current themes. Bummer. Not the sort of themes that would open the doors to Alan Bates’ Sensitive Caveman Look again, are they?

  5. BigSteve

    Watch the news — the theme for today is Change. Where is (are?) our Ch-ch-ch-changes? Our Forever Changes?

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