Reheated Leftovers

THERE ARE NOW, WITHOUT a doubt, young people studying sculpture at Central Saint Martin’s College who are younger than Pulp’s infamous song. It’s now two decades on since two very different musical movements, on their respective sides of the Atlantic, kicked over the bloated, too-made-up remains of eighties white rock and roll, and gave guitar band music an injection of sweat and pills and insufferable self-regard. In the UK, cosmopolitan nightowls in bands like Blur, Oasis, Supergrass, the Stone Roses, the Verve and Pulp took the canonical three-minute pop song and added post-Thatcher ennui, designer drugs, and never quite enough self-deprecation. In North America, or at least its north-western corner, grungeists invited pop, rock and roll, and overdone heavy metal into their garages, strangled them in their own matted hair, and emerged in a cloud of sweaty nicotine stench with bands like the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., Soundgarden, Faith No More, Nirvana, Mudhoney, and Alice in Chains. In Australia it was the hyper-macho pub rockers who got it in the neck, raising their middle fingers in futile, man-agaist-machine competition. Flanking maneouvres by hip-hop, new kinds of metal, and electronica mopped up the last remaining resistance and established Generation X’s musical canon. It was a burst of glowing-hot creativity that came together into quite a decent cultural casserole.

Perhaps if you remember all of this without my recapping, you’re excited by the prospect of a Big Day Out lineup involving Blur, Pearl Jam and Snoop Lion (née Dogg). Readers, I am here to tell you that Your Favourite Band Sucks. Your excitement and enthusiasm is nothing more than the passing of a baton from one hyper-privileged cultural hegemonic age cohort to another. Take it and run.

You’ve already been pigeonholed and circumscribed by people like Douglas Coupland and Mark Davis. There’s something to be said for the conflict theorists of generationalism: to paraphrase another theorist, generationalism doesn’t explain nothing, and doesn’t explain everything. It explains some things. The baby boom produced an age cohort with an extraordinary diversity of experiences and values, yet as as a mentality shared by the dominant voices and cultural icons, it has been hegemonic, stifling, reactionary. It’s a mentality of a forever Beach Boys song, or an eternal American Graffiti: when Western society invented teenagers after the 1945 peace, it also moulded its future values and mentality, letting drunken leather jacketed toughs turn into stiff reactionaries with investment properties without even needing to change their look.

But here’s the joke. We, who’ve been whining about how unfair it is that Paul Kelly and Dennis Shanahan still have jobs at the Australian, and that George Lucas keeps making movies, are all set to follow their lead. When Ryan Heath wrote the gloriously titled Why Don’t You All Just Fuck Off, It’s Our Turn Now he hinted at the inevitable merciless future of our own entitlement and squalid, grasping self-regard. Generation X are going to be so very much more insufferably culturally monopolistic than the Boomers ever conceived of being. We made our casserole, put it in the fridge and are serving it up as reheated leftovers to everyone who’s coming after us.

It’s our turn, and we’re dominating mercilessly already. Are there no bands with members under forty five years old available to headline a youth festival? Will the high schoolers of this year’s Big Day Out genuinely relate to Damon Albarn, Eddie Vedder and a man still so high from all the weed he smoked during Bill Clinton’s presidency that he can’t decide on a totem animal anymore? Are there going to be a crowd full of thirty-five year olds with the night off from the kids boring everyone else shitless about the time they saw the Jesus and Mary Chain? Is there going to be yet another Red Hot Chilli Peppers album, lurching zombie-like from dick metaphor to major key power chord?

Somebody stop us. For our own good, put the cannons against the canon.

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Jason Wilson · 4 August 2013, 07:23 · #

I’ve been thinking about this more, and without getting all vulgar Marxist, I wonder if base is determining superstructure here. ie, are huge bloated festivals actually sustainable on the basis of Gen Y customers. I have no data, just the observation that this nostalgic turn is happening to all festivals everywhere. Is it possible that Gen Y just aren’t that into live rock music, or not enough to fill up the Spit or the Showgrounds? Anyway nice post except you forgot shoegaze.

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Fyodor · 5 August 2013, 16:19 · #

Jason may have a point here. Why TF are there so many 30- and 40-somethings at rock festivals these days? They should be at home knitting or praying for an early death.

We used to whing about the eternal adolescence of the Boomers, but Gen-X is getting seriously jiggy creepy with it.

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Liam · 7 August 2013, 10:20 · #

Jason, I suppose I must simply have neglected the shoegazers because they’re pretty easy to miss. Sitting in the corner in corduroy like that.

Fyodor, be careful who you agree with around here. You’ll catch structuralism.

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Fyodor · 9 August 2013, 11:22 · #

Damn straight, Haiku. Next thing you know I’ll be calling for a glass of Merleau-Ponty poncy merlot faster than you can say half-caf neo-post-retro-structuralacanism with a twist of lemon.

Unrelated, but fun all the same:

Get lucky

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Casey · 9 August 2013, 20:06 · #

Liam, aren’t you Gen Y?

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Fyodor · 9 August 2013, 20:40 · #

He just looks Gen Why. He’s actually 43.

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Casey · 9 August 2013, 21:37 · #

He’s 23-25 max. MAX.

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David Irving (no relation) · 11 August 2013, 01:00 · #

I think he keeps his gravatar forever young, Casey. There’s probably a picture in an attic somewhere …

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Liam · 11 August 2013, 14:24 · #

Casey, Fyodor, David, I am intrigued by your guesses and a bit weirded out by the curiosity. Put it this way, in generational touchstones; I can remember the Simpsons on its first run through.

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Casey · 11 August 2013, 14:40 · #

You think he’s Dorian Grey eh David? I think he’s more Jeckyll and somewhere out there, there in the dense green jungle of the republic, roams his diametric opposite, a dark dark soul otherwise known as the Hyde. Liam knows this too.

Okay, so Liam, I win a prize for guessing your age, right?

Okay so you can remember the Simpsons. I say you were born 1982. Or 1981.

okay okay 1983.

Any of those or 1984 max but probably 1982.

Then again you could have a very good memory so let’s say 1986, but if you are one of those genius kids I reckon 1987 even.

But probably 1982. Maybe.

Anyway, if I guessed right in any of those years I win the prize. Okay then.

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Fyodor · 12 August 2013, 10:45 · #

“Casey, Fyodor, David, I am intrigued by your guesses and a bit weirded out by the curiosity.”

It’s not that weird. You’re l’infante terrible, the clown prince of Ozblogistan. The curiosity/speculation is understandable. The slashfic…not so much.

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Liam · 12 August 2013, 10:54 · #

No prizes, Casey. Despite such a large spread of years.

the clown prince of Ozblogistan

Aristocrat of a disappeared country; as pathetic as a room full of emigrés nostalgising over their lost estates.

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Fyodor · 12 August 2013, 15:53 · #

Heh. The age of Logres is past.

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thewetmale · 17 August 2013, 21:14 · #

Surely Liam was born in 1984, just as Louis Armstrong was born on the 4th of July, 1900.

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Pete · 22 August 2013, 15:06 · #

Speaking as a ‘hegemonic, stifling, reactionary’ Boomer, I heartily congratulate Gen X for taking the baton – and I will be there at BDO (for the first time in five years) watching Blur too. In the meantime, I’ll be cutting down on my porklife so’s I can crowdsurf.

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FDB · 4 September 2013, 23:22 · #

Great post Liam.

I’m guessing late ’85… November?

A shamelessly positive hippy type might suggest that a preponderance of Gen X headliners at festivals full of Whys, along with crowds full of Gen Xers at Springsteen/Cohen gigs, merely shows up the phoniness of the supposed Gen-gaps.

Maybe the soixant-huitards weren’t so far from the mark?

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David Irving (no relation) · 10 September 2013, 23:46 · #

Gotta say, though, Liam, you’re right about us Boomers (and our GenX and GenY children) furiously recapturing our lost youth at Big Days Out. It can be a bit fucken sad.

Still, as long as you don’t posture and just enjoy the music, who cares?

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Pete · 11 September 2013, 12:00 · #

Don’t worry FDB and David, I was only joking about the crowdsurfing. Last time my boomer mates and I went to BDO in 2009, some GenYs asked us if we were plain clothes drugs police. So I guess Jack Weinberg’s 1965 maxim ‘never trust anyone over 30’ still applies. But yes I think the artificial pigeonholing of the generations is facile and meaningless.

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