Thursday, May 12, 2011

The thrill of discovery.

You know what I miss? Genuine surprise in music. At this point the closest I get is being genuinely surprised a band is better than I expected. But there's no more of that "I've never heard this before" going on. I realize a large part of that is simply me being ancient in terms of pop years and musical growth, but I think that another undeniable reason is that, quite simply, music isn't breaking amazing new ground any longer. I'm not even sure that it can.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked the question, "Why aren't critics looking for the next Kurt Cobain?" My flip answer was that he wasn't out there. And the more I thought about it, the more I began to believe that's true. Nirvana was one of the last times a band actually surprised -- genuinely surprised -- people. In our fractured times, with its sped up success cycle and ironic posturing, I'm not sure someone like that can exist any longer. It's telling that the most passionate band of the last decade, the group to create from as honest a place as they could access, was LCD Soundsystem. And when they launched, they did provide a little jolt of discovery.

Now that I'm talking my way through this, maybe I need to redefine discovery. Perhaps it doesn't need to be something brand new or unexpected. In the case of LCD Soundsystem (and to be honest The Killers, and The Cult when I first discovered them, and Jane's Addiction in '88) it wasn't so much that a band was creating something new; it was that a band was creating something I felt I had always heard and the thrill was in hearing it actually manifest itself. It's kind of like not realizing you are starving for a particular flavor combination until it actually hits your tongue. I think that there is still genuine surprise there.

I typed a whole 'nother paragraph where I tried to argue back against the above point and convey that its relevance to the current climate is much different than it was when the last of the bands I listed above surfaced. But you know what? It's 5 a.m. and I'm going to start the day on an optimistic note. P.M.A. Let's just say I'm ready to be surprised, to feel the chill of discovery, either through something groundbreaking and brand new or groundbreaking due to its expert alchemy.

I'm keeping an open mind.

Photo via 3 Veehills

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