Progression of Taste 03/28/21

I woke up around 7am today and drove to the nearby coffee shop. I had Mezzanine by Massive Attack on the stereo. I’m at a point where I don’t want to hear new music anymore, except for that new one by Lil Nas X where he gives a lapdance to the devil, because it’s an earworm, and having a nice little earworm in your head helps keep the demons out (ironic).

My musical tastes never really evolved past my mid-20s, which is true of most people, I think. Rap music for me peaked with Danny Brown and Das Racist. By the way, some people insist on pronouncing their name like Das Boot, when it’s clear, from literally every time they say it in their songs, that it’s pronounced “dass” like “that’s”…but who cares? Me, that’s who. I will settle this score.

Mclusky and Future of the Left are the peak of rock music, Burial is the best that ambient/dubstep/garage ever got. Charli XCX is the best pop music. System of a Down and Incubus are the kings of nümetal, and also the Deftones of course. I don’t listen to country, never really have and never really will. That’s live music to me, a backdrop to smoky bars, but not something I’d willingly put on my headphones.

Even with this new conservatism, there are still hundreds of albums to revisit, back catalogues to dig into. I’m done looking for new things. I’m happy that they exist, but they serve a function for me, and that function is to be slightly different from the last earworm, but nothing more than that, not music in the sense that I’ll listen to an album, or put it on while I’m writing, or really give a shit.

It is so, so freeing to be out of the loop.

There are two types of progress. One of them is internal, where you’re constantly working on yourself, understanding that you don’t know as much as you think you do, that you’re not quite as good as you can be. This type of “progress” is more of a game, two steps forward and one (or three) steps back. You’re pushing against your own limitations.

The other kind of progress involves keeping up with the latest trends, movies, music, games, whatever. And unfortunately, the Mad Men behind the marketing have convinced us that the two are inextricably intertwined. Gnosis through consumption.

It gets complicated, because new art often does both reflect and influence culture, though my gut tells me it leans more towards “reflecting” than “influencing.” But what do I know? I’m not a kid anymore. I was definitely influenced by, say, Rage Against the Machine when I was a teen. It’s so tangled up that thinking about where to even start makes me feel tired.

I guess a way in here is to say that at the end of the day, no matter what kind of art is promoting what kind of progress (or conservatism), they all at their core (the successful ones anyway) are promoting the idea that you have some kind of influence through your buying power. Products don’t live or die based on your dollar, ideas do.

Cui bono?

It feels to me like maybe the best way to create a healthy outlook on the world, a web of interconnected, emergent beliefs and interactions, is not by following a strong marketing trend. The trick here is to not progress as a rule, but when the idea presented within the progress makes sense to you. To go back to my musical taste: let’s say a new band comes along and just works for me. I can listen to it, buy their merch, and enjoy it outside of what it “means” to like that thing. I have progressed as an exception to my rule. And that makes it actually mean something.

That’s the key, there. The alternative is “growth as a matter of course,” and I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen these dudes shaped like barrels who inject deer velvet into their balls, but growth should not always be a matter of course. It should make sense.

To avoid turning yourself into the ideological version of the Steve Buscemi “fellow kids” meme, you must first reject the idea that the newest thing is the best thing. There’s a reason capitalism, especially as it accelerates, has found a common ground with progressivism.

This idea occurred to me with the stuck boat. There were some great memes about it, and I enjoyed reading up on international trade routes, something I had never researched before. But I found out about that like, yesterday, and so did the hot take people on Twitter, who were all of a sudden experts, able to take this idea and explain not only what it means for the world, but what it should mean, and and and… Can you stop for a second? You’re doing the thing.

There’s nothing wrong with having a different web of thoughts than the one you had five years ago. I’m not so sure whether it’s right to have a different web of thoughts than the one you had five days ago. You didn’t even break those shoes in yet. With our goldfish memories we hop from one thing to the next, never staying in place long enough to live in an idea, or understand it, ever progressing, one-upping, stacking our trash up higher and higher.

I’d propose a healthy mindset to be one of either cautious progressivism, or malleable conservatism, with a healthy dose of either “I don’t know” or “that’s none of my business” thrown into the mix. Oh, and not being a dickhead. That’s an important one. But you don’t want to be progressive or conservative as a rule. Otherwise you end up like, well, *waves hand at everything*.

That’s enough for today. I’m going to listen to Mezzanine again. Then maybe some Sunn O))).

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