Sunday, March 16, 2008

I'm Anti-Nostalgia

I'm am. I'm anti-nostalgia.

I'm not against old things, and I'm not against the past, though I am probably less interested in the past than most people. I'm not anti- the nostalgias of others, really. What I'm against is nostalgia in myself.

I say, "anti-" rather than just "I don't like. . . " because my feelings are more complicated than just not liking, and it's my active stance that is, well, anti-nostalgia. I don't want to feel nostalgic; I don't want to engage in activities that indulge desires for nostalgia, and I don't want to encourage in myself any nostalgic participation in art, music, books, and so on.

I'm not totally clear why I have this stance. Part of it has to do with my feeling that nostalgia for me is like a bad drug: it's kind of fun and interesting while it's going on, but when I wake up and look out the window I feel the awful crash of the mood-that-is-no-mood and the feeling of wasted time. I hate that.

Then part of it is also my engagement with the item of nostalgia becomes an engagement with myself, rather than with something else, and this depresses me.

Also, when it comes to culture and its producers, I feel an obligation to support the people around me. I mean, there are people writing books, making music, etc etc etc; if I spend my music dollars on the Rolling Stones what will happen to all that?

Obviously this last couldn't be the whole story on its own, because like I said, I'm not against the past. Many of my favorite things are old things: the novels of Trollope, the music of Mozart and T. Rex, old movies.

The important thing is these are all things I currently engage with for what they are. I don't locate them in any special time and place of my own to which they recall me. So my love of them has nothing to do with nostalgia, and everything to do with just liking.

Other things I try to avoid. When I was young I was obsessed with The Velvet Underground, and the other day in the cafe I go to they had on an album. . . some mix someone had downloaded, as it turned out. The songs were so, so good, and they didn't sound dated at all, they just sounded, you know, awesome.

I briefly considered going out and buying a Velvet Underground CD.

But I gave that plan up. Because I have a rule: no old things that evoke your own past. Old things are OK if they're new to you, or if they transcend the past, but those songs are forever super-glued in my mind to a certain time and place. A certain me. No, the rule says, no, you can't indulge that.

This example makes me remember another reason I'm anti-nostalgia, which is fear at being left behind. The world is moving on; if you're at home listening to your old Velvet Underground CDs you're not going to have anyone to talk to, and you're going to be unhappy and lonely every time there's music you can't understand going on around you. Much better to keep up, keep moving.

So even though I tolerate the old, when it's not nostalgic, I have a preference for the new.

Today I was at the mall, and I was shopping at Express, and they played a song, "I know that you want the candy; I know that you want the candy . . ." da da da da da.

My first thought was, "Oh, it sounds just like the Jesus and Mary Chain, only new!" I was way, way into the Jesus and Mary Chain, like, I don't know, a million years ago. I remembered how much I loved the Jesus and Mary Chain, and I thought, I could go buy one of their records. But then I thought, "Oh, no, no, that's nostalgia, that's no good. Can't do that."

Fortunately, I was right that this song was the Jesus and Mary Chain, only new. I got home and googled it, and discovered it's by the Raveonettes, a current group, and the iTunes review describes their sound as "Phil-Spector-meets-Jesus-and-Mary-Chain."

Since The Jesus and Mary Chain are described on Wikipedia as "reminiscent of Phil Spector" but with a "noisy post-punk treatment," I'd say the comparison is about as apt as it could be.

So, for me, the best of all possible worlds. Tomorrow I'll buy their album, Lust Lust Lust.

I an anti-nostalgia, but I had a powerful wave of it comes by when I read this sentence in the Wikipedia entry on, as they call them, JAMC:

"Playing in front of small audiences, the Mary Chain earned their notoriety by playing very short gigs, some lasting no more than 10 minutes and consisting of a constant wall of feedback and distortion, as well as playing with their backs to the audience and refusing to speak to them."

Ahh, the 80's. Such a kind and gentle era! Wasn't it?


Captain Colossal said...

See, and we've discussed this a fair amount, but I'm actively pro-nostalgia. My ideal music collection would, in fact, distill everything I've ever liked into some kind of platonic essence.

Which is why right now I'm listening to Billy Joel. And before that it was Perry Como, Magic Moments, which is itself a pro-nostalgia song.

But, on the other hand, I also like eating too much sugar and then falling into a low blood sugar coma.

Noko Marie said...

One nice thing about being pro-nostaligia, I'd imagine, is that it gets more fun, rather than less, as you grow older. Since you have more to be nostalgic about?

That's one of the perils of being future-oriented. What happens as the future time dwindles? Maybe "the present' is more where I should be focusing.