Confessions of a Classic Rock Whore, or One Man’s Journey

Categories: Whatever

When the Press cast its net for a new Assistant Music Editor, the editors probably assumed they’d reel in one of those sniffy indie types who worships either Bright Eyes or Death Cab for Cutie and thinks Boston is a place with a lot of nice bookstores. Instead they got me, who within two days of working here had Eddie Money blasting out of my desktop speakers. “What’s up with the Eddie Money?” asked my brand-new boss, obviously appalled. Dude’s got two tickets to paradise, that’s what’s up.

This band is supposed to be big right now, but you’ll have to ask someone else why.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate Conor Oberst and Ben Gibbard’s ample songwriting talent. The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” may be my favorite song of the decade. Still, I think the former suffers from diarrhea of the mouth and the latter better hope his balls descend before he’s 40. Once upon a time, I listened to Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American nonstop for a solid month, and even tried to understand why people were wetting themselves over Dashboard Confessional. That little experiment failed because I’m not a 15-year-old girl (anymore), although I still like that Spider-Man 2 song a little.

Plenty of my favorites have barely been around since 2000: White Stripes, Interpol, the Faint, Hold Steady, My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire, Killers, TV on the Radio, Queens of the Stone Age, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mastodon, Black Keys, New Pornographers, Donnas, Arctic Monkeys. I fell in love with Wilco, Spoon, Radiohead, Old 97’s, Flaming Lips, Guided by Voices, Blur, Drive-By Truckers, and Beck way back in the 90s. I adore Rilo Kiley, and not just because my future ex-wife Jenny Lewis happens to be the singer, and on a good day I can tolerate a Ryan Adams song or two. For all the eligible young ladies out there, I can’t get enough of the Shins; in fact, I’m listening to Chutes too Narrow right now. OK, not really. I’m listening to Billy Squier. See?

The fact is I’m in my 30s now, and fewer bands join that list every year. I can’t even bring myself to figure out how my iTunes works, let alone expend the mental energy necessary to care about the Clientele or Of Montreal or Times New Viking. Eventually I might get around to listening to that National record; I’ve heard that’s pretty good. Maybe I’ve just killed off too many brain cells. And I still stumble across enough new stuff I like – Amy Winehouse, Battles, Art Brut – that my critic credentials are safe for the time being. But what it really boils down to is that most of the time Def Leppard or Tom Petty is just fine with me. Or even Scandal and Sammy Hagar. That’s right, I said it.

For one thing, after 14 years in Austin, I’ve got a pretty bad case of hipster fatigue, which I realized when I came home one weekend and listened to nothing but my dad’s REO Speedwagon greatest-hits CD. And loved it. Now I have to fight back the urge to plant my foot square in the middle of every pair of skinny jeans I see, and I’m not even violent. Plus, as a critic, it’s nice to listen to music without automatically analyzing it into the ground. Pretty much everything meaningful there is to say about Van Halen or the Black Crowes has already been said; namely, that they kick ass. Since starting this blog alone, listening to XM radio’s “Later Classic Rock” channel – which I prefer to the one that plays the Beatles, Stones, Who, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, and so forth – I’ve heard Blondie, U2, Cheap Trick, ZZ Top, Traveling Wilburys, Kinks, Elvis Costello, Heart, Peter Gabriel, Georgia Satellites, Blue Oyster Cult, KISS, and Bruce Springsteen. I’ll take that playlist.

The prevailing opinion in most critical quarters is that people like Bon Jovi, Bob Seger, Styx, and Journey are nothing more than hacks who only sell records and concert tickets because their sheeplike fans don’t know any better. Not only does that reek of both snobbery and jealousy – and no doubt the repressed memories of several schoolyard beatings – it’s just wrong. Each one of those bands has a deep catalog of songs that resonate with hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people and continue to do so 20 or even 30 years after they were written. Somehow I doubt Tapes ‘n’ Tapes or the Rosebuds will ever have that kind mass appeal or staying power. But who knows?

So that’s how I feel about that. I didn’t even get into my obsession with horrible 80s pop, but I listened to Billy Ocean’s “Get Out of My Dreams (Get Into My Car)” twice yesterday. Next time. – Chris Gray

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