Monday, October 4, 2010

Pop, Pop, Pop Music (Part 2)

My history with music is a probably not uncommon one, where the music I was listening to was supposed to somehow be hugely relevant to my identity. So relevant, that I closed my mind (or at least tried to close it) to almost anything else and ignored developing my personality in other important ways if it didn't come up on a Clash record. But somehow it never really seemed to take. The closest I could get to an idea of what I was like was to write my own music and listen to recordings, comparing them to what I was listening to.

Over the course of high school, I sat in my room listening to old Killed By Death compilations and ordering CD-Rs from Hyped to Death records, reading books on punk rock and looking for whatever bands I could find on the Internet. And I tried in vain to write my own songs to match the ones that I thought were so cool. Listening to my old recordings recently, I was actually kind of impressed that the songs weren't quite as bad as I remembered. But it was definitely an awkward take on the music I was listening to, what is now obviously a mixture of the music I was listening to and the music I wanted to hear but couldn't find.

All this time, I had one CD by the Ramones: Ramones Mania. I somehow never really got into them, despite my fascination with punk rock. After seeing the movie End of the Century, I picked up their first seven records and listened to them obsessively. Around the same time, I had been listening to the band Neutral Milk Hotel. These two bands were probably close to the only things I listened to for my last two years of high school. I went from learning Ramones songs to learning the Neutral Milk Hotel songs. At the time, I thought the two bands sounded about as distant from one another as possible. The discovery that the music for all of the songs by both bands were largely the same was an important one for me, and would have an enormous influence on the way that I listened to and understood music.

I spent a year writing songs, now trying to combine my fondness for the tempos and melodies of the Ramones and Neutral Milk Hotel, rather than copy the oblique pseudo-intellectualism of bands like Sonic Youth. It was like I had found the state of mind I should've been in all along. But I didn't have a lot of frame of reference. There weren't a lot of bands I knew about at the time who made this kind of music. I had a couple records by the Apples in Stereo and Teenage Fanclub, but it wasn't the same. I had a Beat Happening CD, but I wasn't crazy about it. As far as the kind of music I was making, I was just deafly speeding into what was new territory for me, figuring out how much you can do with three chords, spare time, and no idea what you're doing.

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