Changing Cells March 25, 2010Posted by Matt in random.
Tags: cell phones, Generation X, Motorola Karma, upgrades
To those of us Generation Xers who grew up in small town America in the 1980′s and 90′s, cell phones must have seemed like a strange novelty. I mean, we had old rotary phones at home and none that were wireless. When we were out places and needed a ride, we had to fish a dime out of our pocket and call someone on a payphone to come pick us up. But, sometime in the mid-90′s, that all began to change.
I got my first cell phone when I was a senior in high school, back in 1996. I was one of the first of my friends to own one and my parents got it for me following the serious car accident I was in at the beginning of the school year, when a call from a friend’s phone let them know what happened and might have even saved my life. It was a bag phone (remember those?) that was confined the seat of my pickup truck, but it did the job and that was all we could ask for. I’ve owned a few other cell phones since then, but I’ve always been content to use what I could get for free from A&T. I mean, it’s just a phone, right? Of course that was before I learned of the upgrade I was eligible for and decided that it was time to move into the 21st century.
Diana upgraded several months ago to a new one that I have to admit I was a bit jealous for. It had a full keyboard, unlike my phone which only has ten digits and forces you to push buttons up to 3 times for a single letter, and it was internet capable. I know that these things are old news to 95% of the world, but for me with this little Samsung I’ve been tied to for the past few years, it’s a big deal.
First of all, we considered some of the phones that everyone seems to be getting nowadays – Iphones and Blackberries and others that can singlehandedly accomplish any task you wish them to – but they would have cost more than we were able to spend and the data packages would have increased our monthly payment by about $30 per phone – ouch. So, instead, I took a step downward from those and picked up the same phone that Diana has, a Motorola Karma, which is light years ahead of anything I’ve ever had before. Since I was eligible for an upgrade, it did not cost us anything and the data package only ran us an extra $10/month, which is not bad at all.
Sure it may not be the most stylish or top-of-the-line cell, but it’s a radical difference from what I have grown accustomed to and I think it’s pretty cool. Now I just need to figure out how to work the dang thing…
No More Sell Outs? November 13, 2009Posted by Matt in music.
Tags: Generation X, music artists, Pearl Jam, selling out, Target
I came across an interesting article today and wanted to share it with you. Generation Xers like me, who came of age with the music of the early-mid 90′s, have always been a little wary of corporations and of our beloved artists “selling out” to make a profit. According to the article, today’s younger generation tends to shrug their shoulders at the idea. To them it is no big deal that the music artists they enjoy partake of corporate profits. The article specifically talks about one of my favorite bands of all time, Pearl Jam, and their progression from a mid-90′s boycott of Ticketmaster’s corporate policies to today, when their latest album was released exclusively through Target (at least it wasn’t Wal-Mart).
So, what do you think? Though I still have a gen-x anti-authority, anti-corporation streak running through me (believe me, don’t get me started on Wal-Mart), it doesn’t really bother me as much anymore regarding the artists I enjoy.
It also doesn’t hurt that the new PJ is incredible, regardless of who they released it through…
Looking Back from Backspacer September 22, 2009Posted by Matt in music.
Tags: album ranking, Backspacer, Binaural, Generation X, No Code, Pearl Jam, Riot Act, Ten, Vitalogy, Vs, Yield
Over the decades, music has always been an integral part of American culture, from sock hops to hippies to big hair to the multiplicity of styles available today, and each generation has their artists with whom they self-identify. For me, and I reckon many others on the younger end of generation X, there is one band that has long stood above the others – Pearl Jam.
I was 14 in 1991, the year their debut album Ten broke into the mainstream, and I have been a dedicated follower ever since, for some 18 years, over half of my life. It’s as if we’ve grown up together, and they are like friends or family that have always been there. I remember driving up to Searcy to the only music store within 40 miles of my house to buy the Vs. album on the day it came out back in 1993 and then later that year waiting in line outside a car audio store to buy tickets to their Little Rock show. Their songs of disillusionment and disnefranchisement seemed to speak to me, despite being a teenager in small town rural Arkansas and far removed from Seattle.
A few years later when I was in college I discovered a little used CD store in Little Rock where I was able to purchase two imports full of cover songs and other performances culled from the archives that I still have today. I had the chance to catch them live again in 2000 and then saw Eddie Vedder solo earlier this year, so I feel quite confident in recommending that you see them live any chance you get.
With the upcoming release of Backspacer, the latest album from Vedder & Co, coming this week, I wanted to give you my rankings of their 8 other albums spanning the past 18 years. Let me know what you think.
8. Pearl Jam (2006) – Though certainly not a bad album by any means, this one ranks last on my list due to the fact that it just is not as a memorable as their other releases. It is their political, anti-war rant that was timely when released, but that may not stand the test of time against their stronger releases. There are still some real gems on here, though, and it is definitely worth owning.
Favorite Tracks: World Wide Suicide, Unemployable
7. Binaural (2000) – For some reason, Binaural did not resonate with me from the beginning and it was not until after I saw them live later that year and went back and truly listened to it that I discovered how much I enjoyed it. The material is heavier and darker than previous releases, and lacks the anthemic tunes of the early 90’s, but it still serves a nice bridge during a commercially quieter time in their recording career.
Favorite Tracks: God’s Dice, Insignificance, Thin Air
6. No Code (1996) – I’ve long held that the oft-maligned No Code is PJ’s most misunderstood album. Their previous release, Vitalogy, had some moments of experimentation, but this is where the band stopped flirting and delved into the world of experimentalism full throttle ahead. While I will admit that it can feel a bit disjointed at times, the overall product is truly a work to be marveled at.
Favorite Tracks: Hail, Hail, Off He Goes, Red Mosquito
5. Riot Act (2002) – As much as PJ disliked the Bush Administration, he did provide quite a wealth of material to the band, as this and the aforementioned Pearl Jam are evidence of. Politically charged tunes like Bu$leaguer are products of the time and will no doubt prove to be dated over the years, but plenty of other great songs will stand the test of time.
Favorite Tracks: Love Boat Captain, I Am Mine, Thumbing My Way
4. Yield (1998) – PJ followed up their venture into experimentalism with this more conventional rock record which captures them at their ferocious best. It also doesn’t hurt that “Do the Evolution” is one of the coolest songs ever and the very best one ever recorded about evolutionary biology.
Favorite Tracks: Given to Fly, Wishlist, Do the Evolution, Low Light
3. Ten (1991) – Yes, I know it is a borderline heresy to place their most popular album all the way back in third place, but as time goes on I find myself listening to it far less than the others. This is the album that launched the band into the stratosphere with early 1990’s anthems like Alive and Jeremy that I’ve heard enough to last a lifetime, so it is quite nostalgic for this longtime fan.
Favorite Tracks: Evenflow, Porch, Black, Release
2. Vitalogy (1994) – This first foray into experimental music may have its missteps (Bugs and Foxymophandlemama, to name two), but the overall product is a veritable feast for the ears. The diverse sounds, from the quiet beauty of Nothingman to the heaviness of Not For You somehow work together to form a cohesive whole that, along with Nirvana’s Unplugged, puts the nail in the coffin for early 90’s grunge.
Favorite Tracks: Last Exit, Not For You, Corduroy, Immortality
1. Vs. (1993) – Vs. occupation of the top spot may have more to do with my nostalgia toward the album as the one for which I first saw them live, than it has to do with being their best, but it remains a real testament to the band’s greatness, even 16 years after its release. The album has a diversity of styles that their debut lacks, while not yet embracing the noisiness of their later works. This is the band in all of their flannel-clad, crowd-surfing, mosh-pitting glory, and I love it. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I bought this album on cassette the day it came out and actually even had one of the early-run tapes with the Five Against One title imprinted on it. So, that’s pretty cool too.
Favorite Tracks: Animal, Rearviewmirror, Elderly Woman, Indifference
All of that being said, Pearl Jam remain an important part of the American music landscape, even after almost 2 decades as one of the, if not the, preeminent bands of an entire generation. Here’s to 20 more years!
Sound of a Generation – pt.6 August 8, 2008Posted by Matt in Sound of a Generation.
Tags: alt-country, Generation X, Uncle Tupelo, video
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Part 5 of our series can be found here (You can link to 1-4 from there).
As we’ve seen from the dirge-rock of Seattle, the hopelessness of inner city rap, and the audible nihilism emiting from the industrial music scene, the early 90′s was an era of great angst among America’s youth as they struggled to find some sembelance of identity amid the plastic culture surrounding them. As many Generation X-ers engaged in this wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout the cities and suburban wastelands, another seed was sprouting in the fertile soil of middle America.
While not to the extent that they are today, musical tastes among early 90′s youth was quite diversified, especially when compared with those of prior generations. It was not uncommon to see various styles of music – whether they be rap, country, or rock – intermingled in one’s collection of cassettes or CDs. That being the case, it was unavoidable that soon genres would begin to merge, begetting hybrids that crossed the once-unpassable boundaries between them.
The unassuming city of Belleville, IL, soon became a birthplace of one of these genre-bending styles of music when two young artists joined forces to form a group that, while never becoming hugely popular at the time, would take some of the first steps in the alt-country movement. Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy were and are enormously talented songwriters and visionary artists, so it is obvious that their short collaboration in the band Uncle Tupelo would be great. Taking some of their influence from Gram Parsons-era Byrds and some from that time’s punk bands, Uncle Tupelo’s sound was an interesting conflagration of the two – at times sounding like the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and at times rocking out with heavily distorted guitars (sometimes even in the same song). Though their partnership would only last a few years, both Tweedy and Farrar would go on to form their own influential bands – Wilco and Son Volt.
Below is a clip of them playing “Whiskey Bottle,” circa 1992.
Sound of a Generation – pt.5 July 25, 2008Posted by Matt in Sound of a Generation.
Tags: Generation X, music, Nine Inch Nails, video
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As we have seen from the past few weeks, the dawn of the 90’s was a revolutionary time in the music world, but these changes were not just occurring in the murky mist of the Pacific northwest or in the long-neglected inner cities, suddenly movements seemed to appear across the country, taking sounds into new and different directions than they had previously been and turning a youthful multitude on its ear.
While the idea of hopelessness may be one that pervaded much of the music of the time, the response to the realization of the futility of life varied greatly. Nirvana and much of the Seattle scene reacted with anger, the angst of a generation realizing the world wasn’t all the great after all, the music aimed toward black America seemed to diverge into two directions: either crying out for justice or reveling in rampant materialism. Though, at this time, one person went another way, delving deep into the pit of despair and wallowing in the darkness.
Industrial music had existed for some time prior to 1989, but it was Trent Reznor who pulled the shadowy genre into the mainstream with his band (which was really just him), Nine Inch Nails. Employing a mix of synthesizers, percussion, and crunching guitars, Reznor’s nihilistic tales of gloom and woe found its niche with much of America’s disaffected youth. And it was this song, Head Like a Hole, that began his trek to the top.
Sound of a Generation – pt.4 July 18, 2008Posted by Matt in Sound of a Generation.
Tags: Generation X, NWA, public enemy, rap music
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As we have seen over the past few weeks, the (mostly) white youth of generation X in the early 90’s faced the world about them with disillusion and discontent, struggling to find some sense of identity in a world that no longer made sense. It was a time of angst and anger that was reflected deeply in the music that we listened to.
Meanwhile, other musical movements were rising from the black community.
While rap music had been around for some time by the early 90’s, it really came to prominence during that time period – beginning on the East Coast. While white suburban youth longed for something more, some bit of metaphysical meaning in a plastic, disposable existence, black Americans were still standing face-to-face with the same problems they had been dealing with for generations – poverty, injustice, inequity, and the fulfillment of basic needs. Leaders had risen and fallen, but change was slow and laborious. The ghettos of the most prosperous nation on the earth were still filled with those who had been forced into their situation for no reason other than the color of their skin. So, with this sense of frustration in mind, many in the black community turned to music as a catalyst for change and nobody represented this more in the that time period than Public Enemy.
Around that same time, though, another force was brewing on the West Coast, in the ghettos of Compton, but this one would take a different track to infamy. Where Public Enemy and other socially active groups looked at the situation and demanded action, those from the other coast looked upon their circumstances with hopelessness, denying that change was even possible within the current paradigm. Eschewing any call to action as a failure, they instead adopted a nihilistic worldview, in which hedonistic gain became the greatest good and violence was not to be avoided, but rather embraced. In the wake of Rodney King and the subsequent acquittal of the officers involved (along with decades of inequity in the justice system), policemen and figures of authority became the utmost of enemies. It was from this environment of brutality and disorder that a new genre of rap music arose into the mainstream and it was led by four men from the streets of Compton who identified themselves as NWA. With a style that was brash and profane, Ice Cube (before he was doing kids’ movies), Dr. Dre, Easy-E, and MC Ren took the nation by storm for a few short years. I wanted to use the song Straight Outta Compton for this, but decided against it due to the language (this is a family blog!), so instead here is their rather tame video for Express Yourself. Go to YouTube and search for the aforementioned song if you really want to get an idea of what they were all about.
Sound of a Generation – pt.2 July 4, 2008Posted by Matt in Sound of a Generation.
Tags: 1990's, alice in chains, Generation X, grunge, music, Pearl Jam
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See part 1 of the series here.
With the ascension of Nirvana in the early 1990′s, Seattle was suddenly thrust into the spotlight as a sort of musical Mecca, with the youth of America suddenly turning to the Pacific Northwest for some sense of direction in their aimless walk through life. Soon, the airwaves were inundated with Seattle bands, many of whom had been toiling in obscurity for years in the dismally overcast city. The sound itself was something far from that which had dominated for the last several years, with loud, crunching guitars tuned so low it sounded as though they were being beaten in a mud pit.
It was a dirty-sounding, depressing sort of tone that soon rose to the forefront of generation – one that encapsulated the feel of a generation struggling for some sense of identity. The songs of bands like Alice In Chains were slow, dirge-like and very, very heavy – bearing a great similarity in sound to earlier groups like Black Sabbath and others. They combed the depths, searching for some sense of purpose in a life of despair, but seemingly coming up empty
Around the same time, another group of young men suddenly broke through into the mainstream with a classic-rock sound, reminiscent of bands like The Doors (without the overbearing, cheesy keyboard) or The Who. From seemingly out of nowhere, Pearl Jam quickly became an internationally famous band, with Eddie Vedder’s Morrison-like singing and penchant for crowd-surfing atop his legions of adoring fans. Here’s a clip of them doing the unreleased track “Porch” from their incredible debut album.
Sound of a Generation – pt.1 June 27, 2008Posted by Matt in Sound of a Generation.
Tags: angst, Generation X, music, Nirvana
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There are various descriptors tossed about to describe generational differences – whether they be akin to values or judgments or worldviews or any other number of characteristics that set one group apart from another. There may be no arena in which these differences are more pronounced than in that of the music we listen to.
It is through the arts, and, at least for this entry, music in particular, that this overarching worldview is proclaimed – sometimes in an almost inaudible whisper, sometimes with a tone of reasonableness, and sometimes with a violent, challenging cry to masses for change, a veritable call to arms in the battle for supremacy.
The music of the 1960’s and early 70’s was especially important in this way as it aided the civil rights struggle and strongly fomented the anti-war movement. It was music of hope, and spoke of an unbridled idealism that people could make a difference in the world. Entire movements were formed around the sounds of the time as young people tirelessly worked for change.
But something happened along the way.
By the 1980’s, popular music had moved from being a rallying cry, to something empty and vacuous. Superficiality and rabid materialism infected the masses, suburbs grew, fences went up, and the idealistic dream of the 1960’s died a painful death.
By the turn of decade, the nation was at war, the economy was in recession, the plague of AIDS was spreading and the youth of America were feeling more disaffected than ever. They were angry and disappointed and coming to the realization that our generation, Generation X, would be the first one that was not better off than our parents.
But then, something arose from the fog-shrouded city of Seattle that changed everything and gave us, the disaffected youth of Generation X, a new type of music displaying our angst and anger and rocking the proverbial boat as few had before. It was empowering, revolutionary, and announced our generation, not with a megaphone, but with a ragged, disquieting scream. And, so, to end part one of our series – the song that defined a generation: