Thursday, August 07, 2008

generations

A couple of days ago I bought the new album by Conor Oberst, the singer/songwriter from Bright Eyes. I am always impressed at how each of his albums has a sounds distinct from each of the others, and yet they all have a common thread, mostly due to Conor's voice and lyrics I think. I have four of his albums and this is true for all of them, including this latest one. The thing that first struck me about this latest one is how conventional it sounded, more tuneful I suppose. Getting further in I have revised my opinion, it is not conventional as such, it just has a style that seems very firmly rooted in the music of the '60s.

This is where I feel a lack of musical knowledge, I'm sure that there are others who could tell me if this was correct and give me more precise information, but the drums and guitars just shout to me of some decade from the late 20th century. Conor Oberst's music has always struck me as somewhat 'old-fashioned' in this way, but while his previous albums have struck a country/folk chord (apart from Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, a foray until electronica), this one moves toward rock. Folk rock mostly, I would say, but genres are slippery things, so it's never easy to say. I thought that Bright Eyes, though rather obscure, would perhaps be a good band to introduce my parents to. I tried this, but they were not greatly impressed. I was surprised, thinking that it seemed to encompass many elements that they talk about in their favourite bands, my mum especially. But then I thought about it some more, and I don't know why I was surprised, because I've never really liked Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, even though I used to really enjoy my dad's more traditional folk stuff.

It all made me think of something I just read, in a book about writers in the 20's and 30's by Malcolm Cowley, who says "They all felt... a sharper sense of difference in regard to writers older than themselves... [i]t seems to me now that the feeling was insufficiently grounded in fact". That in fact different generations are not so different. This sentiment was shared by a tv critic writing about the show on SBS, that I forget the name of, about 'generation y'- which is my generation. Everyone seems so critical of my generation- we are drains on society, staying at home too long, apathetic about politics, handed everything on a silver platter.

Well obviously as one of these people I protest at such characterisations. In my time at Uni I met many people who were very passionate about political issues and active in pursuing their cause. Most people I know care about the environment and are doing various things to help, usually small I guess. I haven't lived at home since I was 13, and although I know many people who live at home I am also very aware of the property market being particularly unaffordable at the moment.

There are probably some differences in broad social trends, I haven't looked into it myself. But I feel that we get this rap because we're just past being teenagers, we're still young and therefore of course irresponsible, and in any case every society throughout history seems to have seen the world as declining (except perhaps for the Victorians). So maybe it is natural to view the younger generations that way? I thought it was interesting though, because we all grow up influenced by the previous generation, and then express ourselves in new ways, or old ones, and there is a common thread but not always understanding. I think that it is always better to look for common ground. Maybe something to remember when I have kids?

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous7/8/08 22:58

    I completely agree with you, especially your last comments about each generation thinking ill of the one that follows it. I sometimes observe gen-Z kids (those who are children right now) and completely despair of the world, even though I know that the gen-X people think feel exactly the same way about us. I guess stereotypes are hard things to see around, sometimes.
    -Ronni

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  2. Anonymous26/8/08 20:07

    Catie,
    I have digitised that Julie Felix album. Do you want a disc of it?
    D.

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