Music is one of the things I have a strong passion for in my life. This becomes readily apparent whenever anyone starts to really get to know me. I exhibit a plethora of introverted traits, especially when it comes to meeting new people. I’m not overly talkative and am fairly quiet until I’m comfortable with the people I’m hanging around. Conversation about music is an exception, though. I will dive deep into the discussion and you might find it difficult to get me to stop, but I’ve spent the majority of my life immersed in different sounds and scenes trying to absorb everything I can about bands and the eras in which they were prevalent. There are very few types of music that I don’t have an interest in, and that makes it an easy topic to start a conversation…because really, how many people don’t at least like some kind of music? (There are a few out there like that, and it truly baffles me)
I love music…I said that right? In so many words? I’ve crossed into my 40’s and music is still a constant, but I can definitely see a shift in the creative output of the last decade. New sounds might not resonate the same, but I’m not down on newer artists. I just have a stronger connection with the bands that carried me through my ‘coming of age.’ I think that’s something that gets missed sometimes in our musical discussions. It’s not that the popular music of my youth was so much better than now (I think it was but my parents felt the same about theirs too); it’s that we develop connections to bands and songs that scored the soundtrack of some of the best moments of our adolescence, and maybe a few of the worst too. That connection often overrides any sort of objectivity when we look back at that era of our lives. It’s not a bad thing at all, but it is something that should be considered when you can’t understand why someone holds on so tightly to songs and styles that you think are out of fashion.
Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to go to several great shows by bands that had definitive impact on my developmental years. I may have missed the chance to see these performances as a teenager, but it’s been awesome to see them now as an adult and experience, not only some truly wonderful live events, but also a wave of wonderful memories of these bands and how their music has impacted my life. It’s staggering to think about sometimes, that I’ve been carrying some of these songs with me for the last 25 years and they still mean as much now as they did the first time they rumbled out of the speakers in my bedroom.
All of my high school and college years happened in the 1990’s, and it was a really great time for music. I still spend a fair amount of time listening to the same bands now that I loved then, and my enjoyment for it has never dimmed. It was the last great age of radio, and I remember countless nights trying to capture a current favorite song on tape when it came over the airwaves…hovering to pause the recording at just the right moment. I remember the art of the mixtape and all of the awkward romanticism we ascribe to it, and it’s a glorious thing that lives on in the nostalgia we sometimes cling to. We all hold on to that era of our lives, regardless of the decade it happened to be. I don’t think it’s solely nostalgia, though. Pure nostalgia doesn’t really last beyond the reminiscence and eventually we have to acknowledge that there are also less than pleasant memories from the same time.
So, what is it then? What else could it be that sparks such a connection for us? I’ve been giving it quite a bit of thought recently, after I picked up tickets to see the Get Up Kids play later this month. I have always enjoyed their music, and have spent many hours playing through their catalog. After I got the tickets, it occurred to me that this year is the 20th anniversary of their album ‘Something to Write Home About,’ which is probably my favorite record that they put out (yes, it hurts to think of that record being 20 years old). It being my favorite doesn’t mean it’s necessarily their best work, though that argument could be made. It did give me pause to think, however. Why does it resonate with me so strongly? Why can I still sing back practically every word of the eleven songs on the album?
It’s the ‘coming of age’ thing that surfaced more prominently during this period of reflection. At the time ‘Something to Write Home About’ was released, I was in my early 20’s, the last gasp of American adolescence and the beginning of life as an adult (age-wise anyway). That was the last time I could truly think of myself as a kid, the last time I could claim any sort of naivete. My innocence may have been lost much earlier, but this was the last time I could lay claim to such a notion. I was full of idealism and jukebox romanticism, and I was in love with the idea of being in love with someone even though I truly had no idea what kind of commitment that really required. It was a time when there were no limits on the horizon, driven by the vitality of youthful dreams and adventures. It was a time before responsibility became a burden we had to learn to carry well, and before the ill-fated relationship that led to a failed marriage. It was a time that teemed with the promise of unending possibilities and The Get Up Kids provided the soundtrack, along with a myriad of other artists.
I don’t want it to seem like I’m living in the past. I’ve had some fantastic experiences over the years since then and I’m quite happy these days with my life and the people I spend it with. I’m not trying to go backwards and reclaim anything – You can’t ever completely recapture those times and it’s folly to try. That doesn’t override the good times I had and it doesn’t make it a bad thing to reflect and reminisce on them. The benefit of age means I can do that now from a different vantage point and remember it all – the stuff that was amazing and the things that brought painful lessons – and smile knowing that it all brought me to the place where I am today. Plus, I have a pretty kick-ass soundtrack to score those road trips down memory lane.
Incidentally, The Get Up Kids also released a brand new record this year and it’s amazing! One I hope to still be listening to over the next 20 years.
Other records from my ‘coming of age’ era that were new music at the time – If you haven’t heard these then you have a new assignment:
- Jets To Brazil – Orange Rhyming Dictionary
- Sunny Day Real Estate – How it Feels to be Something On
- Jimmy Eat World – Clarity
- Hum – Downward is Heavenward
- The Stereo – Three Hundred
- Mineral – End Serenading
- Weezer – Pinkerton
- Better Than Ezra – Closer
- Alkaline Trio – Maybe I’ll Catch Fire
- Further Seems Forever – The Moon is Down
- Hot Water Music – Forever and Counting
- Quicksand – Manic Compression