I’m worried. There’s this book out now by famed socio-economist Francis Fukuyama that confirms everything I’ve feared about hipster retro-culture.
See, as technology makes possible what was once thought impossible as little as 15 or 20 years ago, the once-distant future begins to seem, well, not so distant. Actually, it kind of seems right up our rumps. As humans, we react in two opposing ways: smile, raise a pint (or 12), and hope for the best, or lock our families – and our brains – in an airtight fall-out shelter and bite our nails. Naturally, most open-minded, educated folks aren’t too scared. They know that, even though Progress is painful, it is necessary – many of them wouldn’t be alive if not for advancements in medical technology.
But most close-minded, successfully bamboozled, or poorly educated people are scared to death. They don’t want the future’s most significant byproduct, globalization (a.k.a., “damn, dirty immigrants”), to take away their fancy cars and houses and will endorse any extremist policy that preserves The Great White Way of Life. Or the fearful are so economically destitute that they’ll believe anything that might either a.) put food on the table or b.) give them something to believe in, like an after-life where the virgins grow on trees and every man has a beard a mile long. As right-wing nut-jobs try to turn the clock back to 1950, Islamic fundamentalists try to turn the clock back to 500 B.C. – and hipsters try to turn the clock back to 1975-’85. I’m not saying that Florida-by-way-of-Denton rapper-songwriter Astronautalis is planning to launch a jihad against cloning or anything, but I wonder whether, in his own, utterly hipsterfied way, he is not complicit in the fundamentalist campaign to retard progress.
Just look at him and cooler-than-thou bands like him: A lot of them wear vintage clothing, mine vintage pop-music styles, or display vintage attitudes, like being politically incorrect or downright offensive, and living the filthy, unhealthy, drug- and booze-soaked Bohemian lifestyle. Why mine the past? Because everything’s already been done and the only thing new is old, right? Bullshit. Everything hasn’t been done. It’s just that authority figures, especially record label execs and commercial radio program directors, are as fearful of change as any hardened reactionary. Until the captains of mainstream media begin spinning album-length punk songs or dissonant R&B improvisations, the sheople will continue expecting and accepting the same ol’ same ol’.
There’s a certain art to writing and performing a four-minute pop song well – nobody is saying otherwise. A lot of bands do it brilliantly, heartbreakingly. But when pretty much every band we see in our neighborhood clubs and listen to on our iPods is doing four-minute pop songs, well or poorly, shouldn’t we wonder why? There has to be more to pop music than brilliant bursts of four minutes and Chuck Taylors.
Catch Astronautalis Saturday at Hailey’s, 122 Mulberry St., in Denton (940-323-1160) with PPT, Tree Wave, Cartright, Lions, 100 Damned Guns, Ghosthustlers, The Villains, Sarah Reddington, and Sara Jaffe; and Monday with retro-rappers PPT at The Cavern, 1914 Greenville Ave., in Dallas (214-828-1914).
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