Friday, February 20, 2009

X Saves The World

Just got back from a short vacation, which, alas, is pretty much the only time I get any leisure reading done these days, and enjoyed a quick run through X Saves The World: How Generation X Got The Shaft But Can Still Keep Everything From Sucking, an entertaining and frequently spot-on analysis of Gen X culture & relevance by journalist Jeff Gordinier. [Full disclosure: I knew Jeff in college some 25 years ago, when we both worked at the college radio station, and have been reading his musical & cultural musings ever since.] I was inspired to make a mix of some of the music celebrated (or at least name-checked) in the book, with a couple spoken-word interludes from movies & tv shows written about as well. (Music, tv, and movies are only part of the book's focus; Jeff looks more broadly at various cultural, ideological, and philosophical touchstones of the post-boomer crowd which had a hot media run in the '90s before being overtaked by a more complacent, commercially-exploitable batch of cretins.)

I should note that I didn't spend my post-college years in a post-modern ironic existential haze, working a McJob while spending the evenings contemplating the desert skies (like the characters in Doulas Coupland's iconic, if ultimately disappointing, 1991 novel Generation X) -- my own course was more prototypically yuppie (law school, legal practice, house in the 'burbs). Still, I share the cultural waypoints and some of the mindset taken on by Jeff, from indie rock to Tarantino to Stewart/Colbert to, yes, Obama, and was definitely nodding my head in agreement (or at least amusement) with much of what he had to say. Obviously, we all have our variations. When it comes to great albums from 1991, I'll still take Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque over Nirvana's Nevermind, and, for all its obvious impact on the commercial radio scene, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was not as much of epiphany for me as it was for Jeff (far less so than, say, Pavement's Slanted & Enchanted, the album that most strongly affirmed the continuing relevance of rock & roll after the 80s college radio scene faded). And I don't share his reverence for the Smiths; when it comes to a musical wake-up call in the 1980's, it's R.E.M. all the way for me (though we see eye to eye on the Replacements and Sonic Youth).

Anyway, the mix came out pretty nicely, both as a stand-alone piece of music and a soundtrack to the book. Tried to be as sprawling as possible, capturing various facets of the Gen X vibe (both 90s heyday and 80s forerunners) while limiting myself entirely to songs or artists cited in the book.

Incidentally, my favorite part of the book was probably Jeff's analysis of the rise & fall of Gen X culture in the media consciousness by juxtaposing the videos for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (1991, malcontented youth wreaking pure anarchy in the gymnasium) and Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time" (1999, conformist teen sex bombs dancing joyously in the gymnasium). Very, very sad.


At 7:33 PM, Blogger tod said...

Thanks for introducing me to a bunch of bands I've never heard of. Nirvana? REM? I had my head down in Amy Grant's lap for most of the 80s and 90s, until she left Jesus for Quincy Jones (or was that Kinski's daughter?).


Post a Comment

<< Home