Lots of stuff to digest in this ILM thread addressing what must look like a precarious situation to a twentysomething still infatuated with music: what happens when the consumptive urges inevitably wane with age, partners, and children? Created, naturally, on the same day as this thread about harshly judging people whose tastes don’t coincide with yours. I’ve taken the latter point for granted. As I wrote, “Like politics, my musical tastes so rarely coincide with the people I see every day that I take my isolation for granted.” The Internet has exacerbated this trend towards aesthetic and personal fission.
Which is to say: the friends and colleagues with whom I share the consumptive sensibility aren’t the ones I see every day, let alone every weekend. When my friend Hector and I discuss music, it’s almost always about older acts we’ve discovered or shared rediscoveries (the transient glories of Steve Winwood’s “Valerie,” say). Chris, whose tastes run closer to Pitchfork’s, will opine on this Sleigh Bells song or that Vampire Weekend album. Meanwhile my professional responsibilities — part of which involve overseeing a student radio station — require me to fraternize with college radio kids. As I noted on one of those threads, our sports director spent ten minutes begging me to reconsider the Drake album, with which he’s infatuated despite acknowledging all of my demurrals (Drake’s below-average voice, blah lyrics, uninspired flow). For the first seven minutes I got frustrated and thought, “Why the hell does he care so much about my liking it?” Then it hit me: he respects my opinion, is moderately aware of my background, and is thus genuinely interested in what I have to say. Flattering, naturally, but it worked both ways: I’m giving Drake another shot thanks to him.
So often the task of assessment happens in solitude that it’s a relief to get involved in arguments. Stylus Magazine’s message board still lives, an often stuffy cloister in which comrades, good friends, and fellow-travelers can still debate the topicality of Laurie Anderson’s latest and, right, the merits of Drake. Likewise The Singles Jukebox allows for an exchange of views which, while not dialogic, at least allows for the possibility of mediating between poles of enthusiasm and disdain. In most cases though I work in what Warren Zevon called splendid isolation, writing and thinking without interfering, especially now as many of the professional outlets on which I relied have become casualties of the post-Internet’s leveling wind. I remember a line in my Stylus obit: “Consumption is not thinking.” Discussion isn’t always thinking.