Some recent posts by Spice and J.Po about young dorkhood had me thinking about the music that I grew up with, and how those albums still have a special place on my shelf. The thing is, I think I've lost the ability to form the sort of spiritual bond with an album that I could when I was 16. I still love music, sure, but albums are good or they're bad or they're mediocre - they don't change my life.
There's only a half-dozen of those albums - some are still pretty good (Portishead - Dummy) and some are just embarrassing now (AC/DC - The Razor's Edge). Some I would still count among my favorite albums (Pearl Jam - Vs.), but most are just good for nostalgic value. I haven't listened to Whip-Smart by Liz Phair in years, but I bet I could sing along with the entire thing. All the lyrics, all the chord changes, all the intro riffs - they're stored in the same part of my brain as old TV show theme songs ("Chaaaarles in charge - of our days, and ooouuur niiiights..."). I listened to those albums over and over and over - while I was reading, studying, mowing the lawn, playing video games, driving my first car, etc.
It's all over, though - Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral was probably the last album that got to me that way. I've found some great bands since then - Pavement, Modest Mouse, Beck, Cake, The Flaming Lips, Ween, The Pixies, Wilco, Neko Case, New Pornographers, Bright Eyes, and lots of others - but I don't think I've listened to anything that I'd add to that half-dozen from when I was a teenager.
I can think of two things that might explain it. First, I have a lot more music now and I expose myself to a lot more new music. More music means that everything gets listened to less. I just don't listen to albums 55 times on repeat anymore, so they don't get into my head like Nirvana's Nevermind did. Second, listening to more music has made me a better music critic. There are lots of new bands with smart lyrics and catchy hooks that I like, and would recommend (Franz Ferdinand, TV on the Radio, The Liars, Secret Machines, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grasshopper Takeover, The Shins, The Faint, to name a few), but their CDs just don't hold up to the same repeated listening. Not because they're worse - because a track that TV on the Radio decides isn't good enough for their album is probably better than the best track on The Razor's Edge - but because I can hear what critics are talking about and understand the faults.
Was it just Simon and Garfunkel for you, you young dorks? Will there ever be another S&G for you?