Well, this is my first post of 2010, which means I am continuing to set a terrible example for bloggers everywhere. I have been legitimately busy — I moved to Brooklyn in February and now commute to the Ogilvy office in Manhattan — but that’s still no excuse for no posts at all. How much effort would it have taken to throw up some miniscule political update, or SEO tidbit, or talking dog video? It’s just laziness. I’ve said it before, and it’s always been a lie, but I will do my best to rectify this.
Last September I wrote a post about the year 2000 in music and what it meant for me personally. It was pretty extensive, and at this rate I’m not going to be able to cover the entire ‘00s decade (whatever we’re supposed to call it) until it’s time to start looking back on the ‘10s. But that said, 2001 was a major year for me and it’s probably worth digging into a little bit, even if I never get around to writing about the other eight years. So I’ll give it a shot and we’ll just see how it goes.
It’s difficult to know where to start with 2001. Once, that year had strictly futuristic, sci-fi connotations. Even more than “the year 2000,” a phrase which had been well overused by the time the actual (rather ho-hum) year came around, 2001 sounded like something bold and new. It was a strong and foreign looking number, no less novel than 2000 but somehow more serious, and more unknowable.
Starting the year off with George W. Bush’s inauguration brought 2001 back down to Earth, and fast. Now he is remembered mostly for the absurd amount of damage he caused to the world and to his country during his interminable reign, but prior to September 11th he was just kind of a joke. The image of awkward, bumbling incompetence is one he was never able to shake, but in early 2001 that was his only image. Remember That’s My Bush? He was a sit-com character, a charmingly inept doofus who had the presidency handed to him. John Ashcroft as Attorney General? It was laughable. Not that many didn’t recognize how dangerous the situation was, but it just didn’t seem possible that this administration would have a chance to do too much irreversible damage.
Of course, it did, and the only association with 2001 that matters now in this country could not be further from A Space Odyssey. But this post is supposed to be about the music, and about me. So where was I? Still in high school, getting my driver’s license, spending time with my girlfriend. I was on the upswing from the worst of my experiences with depression. I was engaging with people more, relaxing more, and just generally doing more. Musically, I was more confident than ever — my Bob’s Discount Furniture gig (and I’m not knocking it — that was a great high school job) allowed me to spend more on CDs than I’m sure I should have, and as a result I was starting to explore some of the depths of rock music that I’d never gotten to before. It must have been 2001 when I discovered XTC and bought their entire catalogue, a couple pieces at a time. And I must have bought music by Neil Young, and Television, and The Stone Roses, and Love, and Big Star — still all physical copies, though my pre-iPod MP3 library was beginning to get serious.
My personal memories of 2001 are really very positive. I’m sure I had meltdowns, and panic attacks about my future, and made stupid mistakes. But looking back, the pieces were coming together a little bit, and I think you can see that in the music I was listening to. It wasn’t all just broody and introspective anymore — I was opening up. If you had asked me at the time I wouldn’t have told you I felt dramatically better or different from a year prior, and I really would have meant it. But I didn’t have perspective.
So how to reconcile the 2001 I experienced personally with the 2001 we all wish we could forget ever happened? Let’s take a look at the contemporary music I was listening to at the time, and see if it helps to make any sense of it.