Feature :: Do Not Miss The Chelsea Clintons
April 25th 2013
An over-analysis of a video no one will remember in a week by Bart Denaro.
The Coachella vox-pop from The Jimmy Kimmel Show is unarguably hilarious.
But does it also say something a bit disheartening about how we consume culture in this heady age of unfettered access? Probably not, but as I was chuckling at this procession of indie lunkheads, I noticed I was also DYING INSIDE and this troubled me enough to have a think about why.
When asked their opinions about a string of fake Coachella bands these chronically hip interviewees oblige without skipping a beat, offering up petrified generalities so general that a sideline writing horoscopes beckons. Why were they so ready to perjure themselves on national TV? Was it just that, as Jimmy Kimmel says in the intro: “music fans in general love knowing about bands that no one else has heard of,” or is there something new to be learned here?
The desperate need to be ‘in the loop’ isn’t particular to this generation.
It’s probably been hardwired into every generation’s youthful ID, way back to Viennese countesses with their Rondo No. 1 in G major sheet music on pre-order, rushing to schedule their parlour parties. But in a cultural marketplace characterised by digital hyper-consumption, this generation’s FOMO is more acute than ever.
In this new saturated environment, what it means to be a music fan seems to be undergoing a structural shift. The technologies that comprise the Internet offer the music enthusiast access to every song ever recorded whenever they want to hear it, and while this is ostensibly a good thing I’d argue that this relatively new ability implicitly favours breadth of experience over depth. When all of the music ever made is only a click away, can you really be serious about music if you don’t try to touch on all of it? And the FOMO-fomenting corollary of this is that everyone else has access too – so you’d better bloody keep up! In effect you’re stuck in a never ending pie-eating contest with no liberating blueberry spews allowed.
Access unrestricted by commercial, temporal or geographical barriers encourages us to pursue an omniscient musical overview which, as a matter of course, discourages us from spending too much time on any one song, album or artist. The baseline requirement for a claim of credibility is to have at least heard about every dissolute teenager that ever played a glockenspiel into Garage Band.
To be a music lover is to be cursorily acquainted with everything rather than to have a passionate, sweaty, messily codependent relationship with the particular music you have identified as worthy.
The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn spoke about the changing nature of peoples’ engagement with music in Chris Ruen’s book “Freeloading”. Lamenting the lightning dissemination of leaked tracks from their 2008 record Stay Positive, Finn said:
“It took six months to make the record… So to have it all consumed like a McDonalds cheeseburger, like, ‘Okay, checked it off my list. It’s on my iPod so I’m done with it.’ It’s almost like people want to capture it rather than experience it.”
As we continue to subsume the Internet into our lives (or is it the other way around?), we are tending to mirror its logic in our behaviour; acting more like storage media than critical consumers of complex cultural experiences. We work hard at “capturing” experience so we can invoke its memory at a later, more socially beneficial date. Maybe the vid of our hapless friends from Coachella should be taken as a (piss-funny) lesson in not merely capturing your culture and wearing it as a badge on your vintage tweed, but rather to invest a little deeper in your cultural experiences, give them time to reveal themselves to you, give yourself time to really evaluate them and to critically incorporate them into who you are and how you see the world.
If depth of engagement rather than breadth of familiarity again becomes the standard for being truly serious about art and culture, then maybe when a microphone is thrust into our faces at Splendour we’ll be able to say without shame, “No, I have never heard of Get The Fuck Out Of My Pool”.