Old Man-itis and music today

Last week, an old friend baited me into a conversation about “why music sucks today.” “There isn’t anything good out there anymore,” he insisted, “not like in the 90s.” It’s a case of classic “Old Man-itis,” an inflammation of age that causes the patient to dismiss and the icons and leanings of the up-and-coming youth culture. 

His dismissal of modern music is, of course, unfair. Good music is always “out there.” The difference between now and then is that today it’s almost imf***ingpossible to ferret out the good stuff.

Major labels were (and for the few hours they have left on this earth) diabolical. For decades, they pushed substandard, prefabricated, acts on radio, MTV, and the media. As a result, they (for the most part) set the national agenda for what music was consumed by culture. 

It was easier in the days before the venerable MP3 to understand what was expected of us as music consumers. You either bought into the program and dutifully bought your Collective Soul and Silverchair albums, or you sought solace in the underground-approved channels of labels like Touch and Go, Dischord, or Sub Pop.

The problem that people face today is that music traffic has no guideposts or signs along the way that point in the right direction. The internet has truly changed everything. People over 30 (see also: me) who want to hear interesting new sounds have to troll the web for self-indulgent, grammar-poor, MP3 blogs for a taste of a potentially cool album. Finding good music has become an Easter egg hunt that would drive the Easter Bunny into a spastic, tongue-swallowing, fit. It requires a work ethic that’s not unlike taking on a second job.

National magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin are no help, which is no different than before. Good reviews are given to mediocre albums by “star” bands out of sheer politics. After all, what band would want to do a cover story for a magazine that doomed its new release with a one-star review?

It’s easy to understand why my friend thinks that music today is awful. He has no idea where to find it, and is stuck in the meantime bayonetting his way through the My Chemical Romance and Daughtry morass. 

While I acknowledge that there’s a lot of great music floating around “out there,” these days I’m too busy to spend hours in front of the computer and too proud to read Pitchfork. I’m fighting off the early stages of Old Man-itis, but it hasn’t been easy. Can anyone recommend a salve, ointment, or pill?

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