As I write this I'm sitting in a pub listening to an acoustic set by a pair of gentlemen I guess to both be about eight years my junior, barely out of college at best. They're actually pretty talented. Steve Vai wouldnt' be impressed but they're both competent guitar players with better than average voices.
What's odd is that they're set consists almost entirely of indie-rock hits from the nineties, music that was popular when they were in elementary school. Since I've arrived I've heard Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Oasis, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Porno for Pyros, Smashing Pumpkins, Dave Matthews, Barenaked Ladies, 4 Non Blondes, Goo Goo Dolls, Offspring, Counting Crows and Bush. Sure, quite a number of these bands are still active today but the particular songs being played were all radio singles when I was in high school.
What is it about this era in music that persists? I understand why I like it; it's the music with which I grew up. It was the soundtrack of my adolescence and early adulthood. Each of these ditties is tied to a distinct and vivid memory of my coming of age.
That is likely not true for the two guys playing, who were barely done watching Mr. Rogers when these songs were first popular. It's also not true for most of the rest of the people in the bar who all seem to be much older or much younger than I. Much of the music of the eighties has faded, or at least has been forgotten and reclaimed by the twin spirits of nostalgia and kitsch. Most of the music of the still-young twenty-first century has receded from memory like a cultural tide. Not so for the flannel-clad rockers and cosmopolitan lamenters of my youth. They've never gone away. Songs like "Jeremy," "Lithium," and "Spoonman" have been on heavy rotation for more than fifteen years.
Some of these bands have been putting out albums continuously for the last decade and a half but the singles rarely last six months while songs from their first or second record continue to be imbibed by entirely new generations.
Someone please tell me why I hear more of Dave Grohl's drums than I ever do of his vocals?
I'm not making a judgment about the quality of the music. I'm wondering about why it endures when so much music that preceded and followed it has either faded away or become artifacts of a bygone era. I was in the middle of the generation for whom this music was first composed. To us it was simply what was on the radio. Do nineteen and twenty year olds get the same musical experience out of these songs or is something different going on? Has popular music become less sophisticated and I'm only interacting with the most tasteful of listeners as they cling to the superior works of days past, or perhaps exactly the reciprocal? Am I simply not paying attention to newer music and thus only perceiving that with which I'm already familiar?
Someone enlighten me please.