Friday, July 10, 2009

Haunted When The Minutes Drag

The music of the late eighties remains an important touchstone for me, mostly because I was just at the right age to soak it up, i.e., young. I was enamored of British pop music of the period but at the same time deeply identified with a completely different strand of American pop music. The former was seemingly intellectual, the performers harboring aspirations of "high art." British pop stars seem to think that they were doing something enduring, something transcending the genre of disposable pop music. Most of the American music I liked, on the other hand, was much more self-consciously low-brow. This was the apex of American indie rock, converse shoes, and stupid but awesome songs by Camper Van Beethoven.

So, recently, somebody gave me a subscription to and I thought I'd revisit the late eighties, which rock critics commonly see as a fallow period. It's seen either as the period when a lot of synthetic pop shit dominated MTV (remember them?) or simply as presage to the revolution to be ushered in by Seattle. I remember neither. For me, the revolution had already happened in my head. Music was incredibly exciting, thrilling even, between 1986 and 1990. I'm not sure that if I heard the same music today I would find it exciting at all, but that is part of what makes youth so peculiar. Youth magnifies the resonant moments, the moments when you think that a piece of art (book, music, movie) deeply moves you into believing (some would say, tricks you into believing) that that piece of art is something essential in your life. You get older and these identifications seem, not so much trivial, but unattainable. After the age of thirty, how could a mere song (a song, imagine that!) mean anything more than a pleasant diversion for three or four minutes?

So I'm listening to a playlist of commercial pop music of the late eighties, the music of my youth, but I decided to go with the British spectrum of my tastes, exemplified perfectly by "Haunted When the Minutes Drag," the 6+ minutes epic by the band Love and Rockets, released originally in 1985 on an album with the particularly unwieldy title Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven. As uncool as it was to like them, I always loved Love and Rockets. Every one of their albums had some tasty morsel, something fun about it. And indelibly (and unapologetically) British. Most laypeople remember Love & Rockets for their only Top 10 hit "So Alive" but their albums were all surprisingly fun to listen to, full of wry psychedelic touches, Syd Barrett-isms, and forward-looking atmospherics. They even had a couple of great techno albums (Hot Trip to Heaven and Lift), but really, their archetypical touchstone was the first album, Seventh Dream, and in particular, this epic track, worthy of many youthful indiscretions.

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