writing about music and movies among other things in hopes of selling ad space in the future or getting a job writing about music and movies among other things

Sunday, January 10, 2010


My last post touched on something that deserves more than just another post to fully explore. Possibly a college course or a book. But let me try anyway. I inadvertently suggested that age is somehow a cause of music that isn't worthwhile or - simply - made fun of "old people." The point I mismade about age isn't really the case.
Let's absolve Stephen Malkmus for starters. I don't want him to stop making music. As Andrew already pointed out, his work with the Jicks is really good. It's good because it suits him as he's aged. He's older, more experienced in this world, his music should reflect that. It doesn't sound weird when he muses on fame and age through the voice of Yul Brenner on his debut's brilliant "Jo Jo's Jacket." He even has a song about basically giving up on the kind of youthfulness Pavement embodied about two lovers mismatched by age ("Jenny and the Ess-Dog"). He sings,

Neither one listens to 'brothers in arms.'/ The ess-dog waits tables and he sold his guitar./ Jenny pledged Kappa and she started pre-law,/ and off came those awful toe rings.

It's a lament for older times in a lot of ways, but it's also a recognition that those times are supposed to go by and be lamented. Lyrically, even on his first album, Malkmus had achieved a philosophy where Pavement had eschewed one for its entire career.
To sum up and move on from Malkmus for a while, it's with this in mind that is sounds so weird to hear him sing "We Dance." That song captures emotions of excitement and nervousness linked to young life*, feelings I'm not at all convinced Malkmus feels anymore (I'm not saying he doesn't feel excitement and nervousness just not in the same manner). So I wish him the best in going forward with his life and continuing to write his solo albums which have all been pretty brilliant.

*But no one will dance with us
In this zany town
Chim-chim-chim-cheerie sing a song of praise
For your elders, they're in the back
Pick out some brazilian nuts for your engagement
Check that expiration date, man,
It's later than you think
You can't enjoy yourself, I can't enjoy myself (lyrics from "We Dance")

Now, some people can sing their old songs and sell it to me still. Leonard Cohen for one. He just recently pulled off a world tour at age 75. That doesn't read as remarkably as it should on a computer screen. At 75, my grandparents had to cut down on playing golf because it was too taxing physically. Golf. You get to ride a cart when you play that. Mr. Cohen was not interested in slowing down though, he instead went globetrotting playing 3 hour-long sets everywhere he went! 3 hours! Most bands need to be on psychotropics and amphetamines for that! Here's what else is impressive. He can still sing "Suzanne" and not once give the impression that he is banking on nostalgia. Watch this:

His eyes still look full of amazement, tension, horror, and elation. The way a young person faced with fleeting love feels. Why is it that he can do this? Well, precisely because while Stephen Malkmus grew up, I don't believe Leonard Cohen ever has. Nor needs to, really. We're talking not only about a great songwriter, poet, Buddhist, etc., we're talking about a man whose conquests in the bedroom have led almost every lyric he's ever written. And we're talking about a man about whom I have heard women in their 20s say they would "still totally do." But most importantly, we're talking about a man that has never been married and views almost all of his romantic encounters with some sense of regret. Now true, he has a daughter, with whom he has a great relationship, but his views of women and relationships has always been firmly rooted in the psyche of a young adventuring man. Like a tragic Peter Pan. While I won't comment on whether or not I think this is good for him (I don't care), it does provide us with an elder songwriter whose oldest songs will never lose their weight and whose words will never ring false. Though I'd be remiss not to point out that his largest audience seems to be happily married middle-aged couples and young depressive loners in equal measure. The implications of that will have to wait for another time.


  1. So where do the Rolling Stones enter into the picture? They are old. Really old. Yet they still sing songs like they are hard rocking 20 year olds. Do you feel like they are pulling it off as well?

  2. Well the Stones were vital artists back in their time, definitely, but they're basically just showmen now. They aren't writing any new material worth mentioning unlike Cohen and other artists like Tom Waits or even Dylan. They get away with what they do just by putting on a god damn good show, regardless of whether or not they're bringing anything new to the table.